The 1995 Icelandair Invitational
By: Fred Gitelman
Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, April,
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
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
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,
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
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.