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Corpus Christi:
Canadian Contingent Comes Close
By: Fred Gitelman

Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, September, 1992

June 4, 1992, 5:30 am. John Gowdy, Geoff Hampson, Sheri Winestock, and myself are happily sleeping in a limousine on its way to the airport. Our destination - Corpus Christi, Texas, site of the first ever Pan American Bridge Championships. John and Geoff are members of the Canadian Open Team. I will be the co-editor of the Daily Bulletin. Sheri will work on her tan and maybe play some bridge with me if I have any time.

As the limo approaches Keele Street, Gowdy's voice awakens the rest of us -- he had had a vision: "There will be a Canadian Gold Medal at this tournament." As I fell back asleep, I remember thinking that Gowdy must have been delirious.

Team Canada (David Lindop - Ed Bridson of Toronto, and Boris Baran - Mark Molson of Montreal are the rest of the team) does nothing to alter my skepticism in their first match. They soundly lose to another Canadian Team including Torontonians Shelagh Paulsson and Richard Chan. It's great to see Shelagh back in the spotlight after several years of minimal bridge activity. Here is a hand from the Open Pairs in which Shelagh judged well in the bidding and handled the dummy nicely:

When Shelagh found out that a keycard was missing, she doubted that slam would be laydown. As it seemed there might be handling problems in the play, Shelagh decided that stopping in 5 and making six would produce a good matchpoint score. Shelagh's reasoning was completely accurate. She won the opening heart lead in dummy and cashed dummy's top clubs to dispose of her heart loser. Shelagh now made the key play, she cashed all three top diamonds before she ruffed her diamond loser with the K. Shelagh conceded a trick to West's A and when that suit split, she had made six.

Notice that if Shelagh had cashed only two diamond winners, West could have given his partner a diamond ruff when he won the A. Shelagh and Richard received 17 out of 25 matchpoints for this effort. It was not a spectacular hand by any means, just an example of good sound bridge.

Team Canada continued to struggle during the qualifying rounds, but managed to rack up enough Victory Points to qualify for the quarter-finals. The following hand helped the Canadian cause. It features David Lindop and Ed Bridson, long one of Canada's premier pairs, combining nicely on defense:

Ed did well not to overcall 2 on his marginal hand. Had he done so, 3NT would have been played by North and would have made easily. David led the J, won by declarer with the K. Declarer continued the 8. David covered with the 9 and Ed unblocked his Q under dummy's A! David was thus able to win the defensive diamond trick and had no trouble finding the club shift. 3NT went down three! Declarer could have made the contract by starting diamonds from the dummy and ducking if Ed played the Q.

Canada was fortunate to draw Barbadoes in the quarter-finals. Canada won the match easily. The semi-finals would not be easy, however. Canada would face Brazil whose team included many-time World Champions Gabrial Chagas and Marcelo Branco. Canada was considered a serious underdog.

All three Canadian pairs played very well in the semi-finals. Canada led most of the way and eventually won by a comfortable 28 IMPs. Perhaps the best hand of the tournament occurred in this match. It featured a great duel between Mark Molson and Gabrial Chagas.

Chagas started his fourth best spade to the J and K. Molson led a club and when Chagas showed out, he went up with dummy's A. Molson led and passed the J. As the Vugraph commentators were discussing whether Chagas should duck this trick or win the Q, the great Brazilian surprised everyone by winning the A! Chagas continued spades, putting Molson back in his hand.

Notice what a great play Chagas made. If he had won the first diamond trick with the Q, Molson would have had no choice but to fall into making his contract. Chagas had given Molson a losing option and it certainly looked like Molson was due to fail. If Molson played a club at this point, Branco would win and clear the spades. Chagas still had a surprise diamond entry to cash out the spades. If instead Molson continued the K and another diamond, Chagas would win and switch to a heart. Molson would have to rise with dummy's A, and continue another heart to make his contract, not an obvious play, to say the least.

As the Vugraph commentators were predicting a game swing to Brazil due to Chagas's brilliant play, it was Molson's turn to surprise everyone. He exited a low diamond, away from his K! This play left the defense without recourse as Molson had maintained a hand entry to cash his third spade winner. Watching Chagas's reaction on this trick was very amusing. When a hand like this comes up, it is clear that bridge can truly be a spectator sport.

Could it be that Gowdy's premonition was a true vision of the future? Possibly, but there was one obstacle in the way, a very strong American Team. Canada would face Weischel-Levin, Cohen- Berkowitz, and Russell-Lev for the Gold Medal.

Canada led by 23 after the first quarter, by 28 after the second quarter, but only by 10 after the third quarter. Almost everyone at the tournament, including many Americans, were rooting for the Cinderella Canadian team as the fourth quarter started.

Gowdy and Hampson showed a lot of character, on Vugraph, in the last quarter. Early in the quarter they played a near laydown grand slam in game and on the next board played a laydown small slam in game. Gowdy and Hampson didn't say a word to each other after these results and continued to play tough for the rest of the quarter. Their results on the rest on the boards were more than enough to make up for their two earlier disasters.

Well, John Gowdy isn't psychic, and a Canadian team has still never won a Gold medal in a World Bridge Federation Team Championship. In the fourth quarter, the lead see-sawed back and forth several times, but the final result was the Americans winning by (only) 5 IMPs.

The Canadians Team was naturally devastated by the final result. They knew they had nothing to be ashamed of, however. They had played extremely well, beaten a favoured Brazilian Team in the semis, and narrowly lost to a fine American team in a match that went down to the last board.

The other Canadians in Corpus Christi were very proud of our team's performance. We have high hopes for our team in the upcoming Olympiad in Salsamajore, Italy.

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