Bob Mackinnon

Slamming in New York (1969)

Heidi Heinz, beautiful daughter of Howard Heinz, the billionaire real estate developer, kept up her correspondence with Man-about-Town, Londoner James Woolwich. For a brief time they had been lovers, but now the letters revolved around a mutual love, bridge, as hot passions cooled to fond memories.

Hello Again from New York

First of all thank you for the advice you gave to Betsy concerning her mixed-up love life.

It’s all been resolved as Guido has disappeared from her life, thanks to a scholarship from the Melissa Heinz Memorial Arts and Education Fund to go study poetry in Palermo, a generous offer he couldn’t refuse. To make doubly sure, Daddy has kept us home at night to practice our bridge with Mel Sanford providing the training. Daddy says we can’t reach our full potential by playing only against women’s teams. Recently we are practicing using the Precision system – that’s a new system based on a strong 1 with 5-card majors which is becoming all the rage. Perhaps you have heard of it. It’s a Chinese system and they say that once you start playing it you can’t stop. Daddy insists we learn this system so as to be better able to cope against the Europeans who play a lot of Big Club systems. Of course, Daddy hates it, and swears by Goren.

Here is a deal I am proud of where Daddy and I playing sensible bridge would beat out the fancy bidders. Betsy and Mel were playing Precision, but it wasn’t a factor this time as they passed throughout, but you’ll see what I mean.

W
Me
K74
AKJ753
AKQ98
 
E
Daddy
982
102
J543
A1063
Me
Daddy
2
2
3
4
4NT
5
6
Pass

I had only 20 points, but I could open 2 because Daddy insists we play control responses, which enables me to open with strong distributional hand like this one. Daddy responded 2 to show 2 controls, obviously a black ace, most likely in clubs. That was unfortunate because if I bid 6, the lead would be coming through the spade king. (Mel is very good at opening leads.) He says that if you are going to bid a slam you have to be certain it will make. (But see what happened later!)

Betsy led the 6 which I ran to my 8. I played the K and Mel showed out, so I could ruff a heart without fear of being over-ruffed. Mel says playing for a 3-2 split is better than a finesse for the queen, so I did that, playing the AK and ruffing in dummy when Betsy followed with the Q on the third round. The rest was easy. Betsy held the A, so with the Q off-side as well, 6 would have been defeated.

‘Well done, Heidi,’ Daddy beamed. ‘Would Precision get you there, Mel?’

‘I’m afraid not,’ admitted Mel. ‘The bidding would start 1 club – 1 diamond, so the diamond slam would be wrong-sided, and go down on a spade lead. I am leading the Q from QJ872.’

‘American is the best,’ Daddy asserted, ‘but you’ve got to play controls. If I had responded 2, waiting, we’d be in the same bad situation. Controls are the best thing to come out of World War II.’ Daddy sometimes says the strangest things, but it makes a certain sense in a narrow context – otherwise not. My mother once told me the best thing to come out of World War II were nylon stockings, but my older brother says, no, it was penicillin.

Later Mel and Betsy (who’s looking gorgeous with her new pageboy hair style) had a mix-up on their Precision auction, but Mel made it come out right, with Daddy’s help. Naturally I had to take the blame.

 
E-W
West
N
Betsy
8
AKQJ87
8
AJ873
 
W
Me
Q2
542
K42
Q9752
 
E
Daddy
A10965
1096
1097
106
 
S
Mel
KJ743
3
AQJ653
K
 
W
Me
N
Betsy
E
Daddy
S
Mel
Pass
1
1
2♣*
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
6
Pass
6
Pass
6
Pass
6NT
All Pass
 
 
 

Daddy believes in disrupting all Big Club auctions on the theory that interference throws them off. It almost worked in this instance. Over 1 Mel bid 2, the cheapest minor suit bid forcing to game while conserving bidding space. It had nothing to do with clubs. Weird! Betsy forgot and thought it was natural. She doesn’t beat about the bush, so ended up bidding what she thought she could make. Mel thought he knew better as he was the only one who knew what the bids meant or were supposed to mean.

I led the Q and the slam was doomed as I held the K behind the AQ, doomed that is until Daddy overtook and led a second spade. Mel saw immediately that the only hope was a squeeze involving three suits. He cashed the KJ and K and went to dummy to run the hearts to this ending:

 
E-W
West
N
Betsy
7
8
AJ
 
W
Me
K4
Q9
 
E
Daddy
9
109
10
 
S
Mel
7
AQJ
 

Mel played the last heart and Daddy had to keep the 9, so he pitched a diamond. I pitched a diamond, too, as I had to keep both my clubs. We both followed to the A, leaving each of us with a single diamond, so when Mel played a diamond towards his AQ and Daddy played the 9, Mel knew to go up with the ace dropping my king. Everyone had a say after that.

Daddy (furious): Heidi when you lead the queen you have to have the jack behind it.

Me (contrite): Sorry, Daddy. Would a low spade have made a difference?

Mel (proudly): That was a three-two squeeze. I’ll write it down for you.

Betsy (furious): Mel, you took me out of my heart slam. It was cold. Never do that again.

Mel (defensively): I wouldn’t have, Betsy, if only you had remembered the system.

Betsy ( heatedly): Change the damn system, Mel. Just bid what you’ve got, so I know.

Mel (apologetically): You’re right, Princess. I should have bid 2.

That was strange as Mel never says he’s wrong about anything except perhaps not getting enough exercise. Recently he’s paying more attention to his appearance, trying to look more like Maximilian Schell and less like Gabby Hayes. Maybe Daddy, who fancies Betsy despite their age difference (or because of it), has made a big mistake bringing those two closer together.

Got to go now.

Love, always, your friend, Heidi

PS Say hi to your guru. I know now where to go for good advice. Love you.

[Readers may recognize the first deal as coming from the recent finals of the 2017 Reisinger Cup Final where Jack Zhao of the winning Shen team bid and made the minor suit slam (at Board-A-Match scoring no less) when other declarers were floundering in potentially more rewarding heart contracts. With regard to the second hand, the innocent West defender was a young lady, Irene McDonald, fresh from celebrating her 100th birthday.]

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