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In Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film “Rashomon”, a murder is described four different ways by four different eyewitnesses.  Professor Brandon Garrett examined the first 250 cases where DNA tests led to exoneration for his book “Convicting the Innocent”. 190 of these cases involved witnesses who were wrong.

Using the closest thing we have to forensic evidence, the hand and play record, (I hope it is right :) this is an examination of an eyewitness account by Al Roth.

This post will examine Roth’s claim “I never made an overtrick against the Italians”. I know he made this claim because I heard Al make this statement in a speech. Of course, I am just another witness.  An earwitness at that.

Roth played in four Bermuda Bowls. The first was against Britain. The other three against Italy. In the 1958 event held at Lake Como, he would partner with Tobias Stone. This was the only time this pair played together in a Bermuda Bowl.

Bd#75-1958 BB

West
84
74
Q32
AQJ974
D`Alelio
KJ109
AQ985
74
62
East
Q53
106
AKJ1098
K10
Chiaradia
A762
KJ32
65
853
W
N
E
S
P
3
P
P
P
D
75
3 West
NS: 0 EW: 0
7
1

The Italian North, D’Alelio led 7 (who leads the beer card?) and three overtricks were scorred up. Not a good hand for claiming nefarious lead signals. At the other table, 4 was off one when Becker led the A. It was a slow auction and South raised hearts twice.

Oh, wait! Declarer was Toby Stone, so maybe the Italians just let him make overtricks. Roth said he never got a overtrick.

How about this next one?

Bd#99

Siniscalco
K72
K109
A65
K954
Stone
A10
Q543
KJ107
AQ6
Forquet
QJ84
J86
Q4
J1072
Roth
9653
A72
9832
83
D
99

West led a club.  Dummy's queen held and the ten of spades was led, ducked around to West's king.  A low diamond was played and Roth did well to put up the king.  Another diamond went to East's queen and a club around to the ace.  Diamond to ace and a spade back.  It is not recorded what Forquet pitched. on the diamond.  Roth ruffed a club, played ace of hearts and another.  Somehow, Roth came to nine tricks.  So either

  • Forquet pitched a spade (implausible) on the diamond,
  • Siniscalco played K and a spade (implausible)
  • Siniscalco ducked the second heart think Roth held four cards and had a trump guess (probable).  But Roth came to 9 tricks went Italy got something wrong.

Oh wait. Al is still right! Even though Italy let this contract through, Al was actually playing in a contract of three hearts. Al psyched, Stone made a forcing, but not the psych control, raise and Al passed. Technically, the Italians have not conceded an OT. Which leads me to the question of why that overtrick even matters at IMPs.

Bd#108

Siniscalco
K94
986
98652
63
Stone
8762
KQ1074
3
KJ9
Forquet
QJ3
532
AK107
Q72
Roth
A105
AJ
QJ4
A10854
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
2
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
108
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
3
K
4
2
0
1
Q
5
4
2
2
0
2
3
10
K
6
0
0
3
9
4
2
A
3
1
3
Q
5

Al has 11 tricks on the club hook through the bidder. I bet Al scores 11 tricks in the Reisinger. Playing IMPs, he claimed his contract without taking a hook. Diamond lead, Q shift, ducked and ducked again. Roth conceded a trick to the diamond ace. When the spades broke, he had his 9 tricks without risk. Well played. No OTs but Al did not want to risk his contract for them.

Notice that no one claimed the USA pair was doing anything unethical to land in the best spot even after the off-shape take-out double. I do not know why Roth did not overcall 1NT.

At the other table, the Roman pair must make a TO-X since 1NT for them was a big hand (17+) and does not promise a stopper. Belladonna & Avarelli (“stares” and all) did not achieve their legendary bidding accuracy. Here was their auction:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
1
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
4
?

Belladonna went down in 4 because he needed the hook and guessed wrong. K led, Q shift, ducked and won the continuation. A and another. Diamond back. Belladonna had to ruff. Three rounds of trump. 13th spade. Belladonna now cashed his last trump and East shed a club from A Q72. East was third seat favorable. Belladonna decided to play West for Kxx/xxx/xxxx/Qxx. Down two.

Rather than continuing to jump around, lets just look at every hand Roth declared in the 1958 contest against Italy, starting from the beginning.  After all, this is supposed to be a forensic examination.

Bd#2

Siniscalco
A1062
983
Q86542
Stone
KQJ63
94
652
J97
Forquet
842
J8753
KJ4
A10
Roth
A10975
KQ
AQ107
K3
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
P
X
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
2
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
7
A
3
2
0
1
1

Contract was 4 at both tables.  Both West players led a club to the ace.  Crawford returned the 10 and Forquet returned the 4.  Both players were defending intelligently.  Not surprisingly, the American player did not overcall.  Crawford had no reason not to hope for club from king fifth, ruff the third round and pick up a red suit trick for the set.

Forquet knows the overcall is headed by just one honor and will be a six-card suit.  Especially with the re-opening double.  He needs to get diamonds going for a set.  Opener might be A10xxx/AQ10/Axx/Kx or A10xxx/AQxx/Ax/Kx.  It will not matter if the West has K or Q, continuing clubs will be wrong.  When Forquet shifted to the diamond, Roth naturally put up ace and ended with 10 tricks,  D'Alelio with 11 since he could win the club, draw trumps and double hook diamonds safely.

Bd#8

Siniscalco
K10853
1053
862
43
Stone
QJ42
9842
KQ94
7
Forquet
96
Q6
AJ107
Q8652
Roth
A7
AKJ7
53
AKJ109
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
8
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

The bidding is shown as the same at both tables.  I am not sure about this.  Kaplan has D'Alelio & Chiaradia as a Neapolitan pair (1959, maybe not in 1958?).  The conventional response to the strong club would have been 1 to show 1 control.  In any event, Siniscalco led the 6.  Roth scored 11 tricks.  The record has Becker leading a spade.  D'Alelio scored 11 tricks.  Roth had an OT too, but apparently it does not count.  Play was diamond, E ducked, club to ace, diamond up losing.  Spade back, ducked to king.  Diamond was ruffed.  Roth played AK of trump and when Q dropped claimed his 11.

Bd#9

Contract was 4 in both rooms. Roth got lead of K from KQJ). Chiaradia fplayed rom the North. Crawford led A from AKJ. Ten tricks for both.

Bd#10

Siniscalco
9842
97
10
A109752
Stone
QJ75
A85
KJ52
86
Forquet
103
J1063
9874
KJ4
Roth
AK6
KQ42
AQ63
Q3
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
1
P
2N
P
3
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P
D
10
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Not surprisingly, Siniscalco led a club.  No overtricks for Al.  The Italians got to 4 for a pickup when their bidding figured out there was no club stop.

Bd#11

Siniscalco
A104
10
AQ953
9863
Stone
K98
AKQ982
864
7
Forquet
J762
J753
72
Q104
Roth
Q53
64
KJ10
AKJ52
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
1NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
11
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

3NT by S at both tables.  Both Wests led a diamond.  (3 for Italy, att 4th best 5 for USA). Both declarers won, cashed two high hearts in dummy and hooked the club. 

On the second heart, Siniscalco threw a diamond.  Roth cashed two high clubs and threw West in with a club. A diamond return was won by South who cashed the last club and threw West in with a diamond. West could cash only one more diamond and the spade ace, Roth making his contract.

At the other table, Beck threw a spade on the second heart.  Now declarer can - and did - make an overtrick.

Maybe the Italians just defended better. 

Bd#13

Both North players declared 1NT on the same diamond lead.  Crawford & Becker got it for -2.  The Italians slipped a trick and only nicked it one.  

Maybe the Italians do not always defend better.  Oh, wait, that was Stone declaring.

Bd#16

Last board of the segment.

Siniscalco
872
J9
A962
J1092
Stone
K5
AQ76542
Q43
4
Forquet
A106
8
KJ875
AQ53
Roth
QJ943
K103
10
K876
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
2
P
P
P
D
16
2 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Roth, ahead of his time, went for the pressure preempt and made a WJO on the South hand.  This would have worked better if partner did not have an opening bid.

A led and Roth ruffed the continuation.  He played a spade up and Forquet ducked.  Roth now led a club off.  If Forquet ducks, he can hold Roth to just eight tricks.  He went up ace.  So Roth scored up the OT for nine tricks.  But I suspect this is not a board one wants to remember.

Note:  According to Roth's 1953 book, 11 HCP, 3 DP & 2.5 defensive tricks is an optional opening.  This is calculated as "two plus" DT.  It is technically a hair under an optional opening in R-S.

Third Segment

Roth & Stone were back in for the third segment.

Siniscalco
Q104
A872
9863
J7
Roth
A963
Q109
A42
Q108
Forquet
72
K654
Q75
K652
Stone
KJ85
J3
KJ10
A943
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
33
3NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
3
A
9
0
0
1
1

Heart to ace and they let Roth win the second round. A and hook losing. Roth lost two more hearts and still had to lose a club. Down one. The hand can be made double dummy, starting clubs first. Roth’s line seems best. Especially if he does not know that hearts are 4-4. The exact spots played are not given. The Italian pair seemed to be leading attitude.

Four spades went down at the other table. Roth also has a decent position given that if the spade finesse fails, the board will be a push. But if it works, 4 might still fail but 3NT wins.

Bd#40

This is a well known hand.

Siniscalco
QJ9
105
KQ2
KQ654
Roth
7
KQJ84
96
109732
Forquet
106532
9
AJ108743
Stone
AK84
A7632
5
AJ8
W
N
E
S
1NT
2
2
3
P
3NT
5
5
P
P
X
P
P
P
D
40
5X North
NS: 0 EW: 0

The contract was 5H by N in the other room.  Silador led the A.  Forquet led the diamond trey.

“Given the bidding and the system, it was an inspired, but perfectly logical lead. To this day the Americans haven’t forgiven him for it and there were dark hints of hanky-panky at the time.”Victor Mollo, The Other Side of Bridge. (1984)

If this hand came up today, everyone in the Bermuda Bowl leads a low diamond. Someone had to be the first to do this at the table. Apparently it was Forquet.

Bd#42

Siniscalco
A
4
10954
QJ98753
Roth
82
KQ8753
KJ62
A
Forquet
QJ10543
A1096
1064
Stone
K976
J2
AQ873
K2
D
42

Both tables were in 4 by North.

The Italian auction was 2 (wk) - P - 3 - 3; P 4

At the OT, Silador also opened 2 this was passed and North reopened 2NT (conventional).  

The auction continued 3-3; 3NT-4D; 4

Both tables led the Q ducked to West's ace.  Siniscalco returned a diamond.  Ruffed, spade ruff. diamond ruff and A for down two.  Crawford returned a club and Italy scored up the contract.

I do not find it strange that Italy found the ruff.  I am mystified that America did not.  North pulled 3NT to support diamonds, Crawford sees five in dummy and four in his hand.  That, and if East does hold the club ace for his weak-two, it is highly unlikely they have a 4th trick.  Silador still needs to also hold a heart trick and if so, what is North bidding on?

Siniscalco made much better use of the available information.  He has bid clubs, Forquet might well lead Ace and another.  He wont be void in clubs, because we already know from two boards earlier that he might well lead a low spade.  We could also expect Forquet to lead a stiff diamond or club.

Segment 5

Bd78, Roth opened a 4-card heart suit in 1st seat.  Stone dredged up a F-1NT response on with 4 HCP including a stiff jack and over 2NT bid 4.

Chiaradria was on lead with J642 K32 A43 J94 and led the club four.  A spade or the A beats the contract.  The defenders just have to not be careless to defeat the Moysian overbid.  Italy played 2 in the other room for +140.  

This hand will be in its entirety in my next post.

Bd#85, both tables played a club partial.  Both South defenders found a diamond lead from AK3.  Dummy hit with QJ75, ten-deuce from partner and a ruff.  Both declarers claimed the balance.  Italy was in 4 making.  Roth bid only 3.  Wonder if this counts as an OT.

 

Segment 6

Bd#94, Roth declared 1NT.  Italy held AK AKQ in pointed and just kept plugging diamonds allowing Roth to score two overtricks for a total of nine.  It seems with AK/AKQ that Italy slipped a trick in their notrump defense.

Bd#98, Roth was in 6.  Siniscalco led A from AK87.  Sat back and waited for his trump king.  No overtricks, I suppose.

Bd#99 was listed earlier.

Bd#105 was 2 in both rooms on a diamond lead for +110.

Bd#106

Al Roth will make on less trick than his Italian counterpart.  (Al bid one more.)

Siniscalco
3
A985
7654
Q853
Roth
AJ962
J42
QJ2
A7
Forquet
KQ875
73
A98
J109
Stone
104
KQ106
K103
K642
D
106

Against 3NT (P-1S; 2N-3N) , the three of clubs was led by West. (And lead will set.) East won and returned the club ten which was taken in dummy. Three rounds of hearts were led, West taking the third round. A low spade return was won by East's queen. The club return was won by declarer and the last heart was cashed. The defenders were able to make another spade trick and the diamond ace to defeat the contract.

Avarelli made nine tricks.  The 4 was led.  (South responded 2).  Dummy's honor was allowed to hold.  When a heart was led, Rapee did not duck and nine tricks can now be made.  If Rappe holds up as did the Italian West, 8 tricks are maximum.  Belladonna passed 2NT.  (P-1S; 2C-2S; 2N-P}  So I guess this was the all important OT.

Though 3NT looks like a good spot.  Both spade honors were wrong.

Bd#108 was earlier.  Roth disdained trying for an OT for the security of his contract.

Bd#109

Siniscalco was on lead against Roth's 3NT contract holding:

A105 KQ743 10 QJ84

looks like a totally normal heart lead.  Which is what the American West chose.

Siniscalco led the 4!!!

And hit partner with nothing.  Roth scored the ten of clubs for the overtrick.  Only a low club allows 10 tricks.

hmm....

Segment 7

Bd#121

Stone
AQ82
K2
8432
A85
Belladonna
K963
843
KJ65
93
Roth
J1075
QJ97
Q7
QJ2
Avarelli
4
A1065
A109
K10764
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
X
P
1
2
P
P
2NT
P
P
P
D
121
2NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
5
9
J
1
1
0
4
2
K
3
3
2
0
2

When Roth won the club ace, he cashed three rounds of spades ending in his hand.  He played a heart up to the king and Avarelli ducked the heart back to his hand.  Roth ended up -100 as the defense slipped two tricks.  (But this apparently doesn't count for the urban legend.)

It seems Avarelli was defending thinking or catering to Roth holding K.

At the other table, Becker opened 1 and Forquet overcalled 1.  This was raised and Italy scored +110.

Bd#123

Stone
AJ3
K10875
Q8
KJ4
Belladonna
8754
AJ9
93
9753
Roth
Q109
Q4
KJ762
A108
Avarelli
K62
632
A1054
Q62
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
123
3NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Both tables produced the same auctions.  Becker led a low spade from the South hand.  Against Roth, Avarelli led the 6.

While the auctions were identical, the information is not.  Avarelli does not have much of a hand and needs his partner to hold something.  But he knows that Belladonna would climb in with a 1 overcall, especially at favorable opposite a passed partner.  As the Italian overcall style was dramatically different, Avarelli opted to led a heart.  Hoping hearts were very wrong and Bellaonna had a useful minor suit shift.

It was a thoughful lead, but idid not help.  Roth made an overtrick.  His Italian counterpart did not.

Bd#125

Stone
K73
A1093
Q853
64
Belladonna
1092
2
J974
KJ1073
Roth
Q54
KJ5
K2
AQ952
Avarelli
AJ86
Q8764
A106
8
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
P
P
P
D
125
1X East
NS: 0 EW: 0
6
1

Not sure why Stone passed the double.  Roth made no overtricks, but he did score up the contract.

The other table had an interesting auction:

W
N
E
S
P
1NT
X
P
1
P
P
X
P
P
P

Siniscalco's 1NT opening bid showed a balanced or semi-balanced hand with clubs.  Less than the forcing 1 opening.  Becker's double was presumably for takeout of clubs.  Crawford took it out to one insufficient diamond.  Now, had the Italian secret smoke signal and staring system been operational, we can see that obviously East should not accept the insufficient bid.  This would led to either 2-X or 1NT-XX (making 2 for +1,160) because South would be barred.

As it was, Italy defended 1D-X for one trick less than optimal.  A heart  or trump lead could have scored +500.  East led a spade and with that start, only +200 was possible.

Bd#127

Stone
KQ2
Q8
KJ1084
J72
Belladonna
AJ
J7432
9732
106
Roth
10865
A109
A6
K954
Avarelli
9743
K65
Q5
AQ83
D
127

Here we go!  The Italian declarer at the other table made an overtrick in 2NT and Roth did not make any overtricks!

The auction at Roth's table was all pass.  For there to be an overtrick, there needs to be a contract.  Roth had a "casino count" of 15.  This looks wrong, but it is the systemic call in the Roth-Stone system.  (More on that in a part2 post).

Conclusion

 What can I say?  Lets cue Barbara:

Mem'ries, may be beautiful and yet

What's too painful to remember

We simply choose to forget...

 

In a subsequent post, the criticism by other bridge authorities of the day regarding Roth-Stone and their performance at Como will be examined.

Their eyewitness testimony is likely no more accurate than any of the witnesses to the murder of that Samurai.

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