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The 1995 Icelandair Invitational
By: Fred Gitelman

Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, April, 1995


It's not every day that your typical Canadian bridge software developer (and occasional bridge writer) gets invited to a prestigious international bridge tournament to play on an all-star team. You can imagine my surprise when partner George Mittelman phoned me early in February:

"Pack you bags kid, we're going to Iceland next week, all expenses paid. Our teammates will be Zia and Tony Forrester."

Naturally, I didn't believe George, but he was being serious. To Iceland we went...

There are only about 300,000 people in Iceland, but bridge is very big there. Iceland won the Bermuda Bowl in Yokahama in 1991 and the country has embraced bridge as a national pastime. Almost every Icelander I spoke to, taxi drivers, storekeepers, tall blond beautiful girls in bars, knew about bridge and were following the tournament. As teammates of the great Zia, George and I were treated like royalty. There was major daily coverage in all of the Icelandic newspapers and on television. High ranking government officials opened the tournament.

Every year Icelandair, the tournament sponsor, invites several top foreign teams to play in their tournament. Icelandair arranged for our flights, rooms at the host hotel, and meals. The sponsor also spared no expense when it came to running the tournament itself. Everything was first class. We North Americans have much to learn from Iceland and Icelandair when it comes to running appealing bridge tournaments.

The Icelandic people are extremely friendly and most of them speak English. The level of play of the average Icelander seems to be very high. To our pleasant surprise, the temperature was comparable with that of Toronto in mid-February. Every day was sunny - the sky and clouds were breathtaking. Iceland was formed by volcanoes and is still volcanically active. The scenery is unlike anything I have ever seen - almost extra-terrestrial. Speaking of extra-terrestrial, here is a pretty strange hand from the Team Event:

You reach 5 (at our table, our opponents reached this contract rather quickly by opening the bidding with 5 in third seat!). How do you play on a trump lead?

Pretty much your only chance is to lead a low diamond at trick two and duck in the dummy. You need somebody to hold Kx to make this hand. At our table, declarer was not tested as I found the clever opening lead of the K (from doubleton king). Declarer conceded a heart trick and soon claimed his contract.

Here is a hand where we were more successful on defense:

 

George led the Q, and I overtook with the K. For lack of anything better to do, I switched to the 2, K, A. George returned a diamond, won by declarer with the Q. Declarer ruffed a club in the dummy and tried a heart to the Q. George made the fine play of falsecarding with the J on this trick. Declarer, convinced that George started with a singleton J (leaving me with K8x), formed a plan: (you might want to think about how you would continue from here)...

Trusting me to have the outstanding diamond (since I returned the 2 at trick two), declarer ruffed another club in dummy and continued the J. As you can see, George was able to ruff this trick with the 8 and cash the A for down one.

Declarer was expecting the J to hold. He would then continue diamonds, forcing me to ruff with my presumed 8. Declarer would then overruff, ruff his last club in dummy, and play the last diamond, discarding his Q as I ruffed with my K.

Yes, that would have been pretty, but there was a line available to cater to both possible heart holdings. Declarer should cash the A after winning the trump finesse. On the actual lie of the cards, declarer would make an overtrick. If hearts proved to be 3-1, declarer can now play diamonds. As long as East has the third diamond there is no defense. In any case, full marks to George for giving declarer a chance to go wrong.

So how did we do? We won the Team Event. Besides a generous (US) cash prize, we were given the only nice bridge trophies I have ever seen. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. I hope we get a chance to defend our title in Iceland next year.

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