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Psychic Bids by US Players during the 1957 Bermuda Bowl and Related Deals
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Old Bridge World magazines provide a rich source of reading material. The February, 1957, issue Eric Jannersten of Sweden in his article, “When the Match was Over” included the following deal from the recently completed Bermuda Bowl.

“This was a costly American psychic:

West
J107
K1085
AK7
A96
North
KQ83
AJ32
10
8532
East
62
Q7
QJ862
KQJ10
South
A954
964
9543
74
D

In the Closed Room, Koytchou (South) opened third-hand with one heart, Belladonna (West) passed; and, not warned by any action of the opponents, Ogust jumped to three hearts. There were two passes, and Belladonna doubled. As you see, the Americans had a rather good rescue at three spades, but how could they find that out at this time of the day?

As it turned out, three hearts doubled was a catastrophe for the U.S. team. Belladonna started with the king of diamonds, Avarelli playing the queen. Belladonna continued with the ten of hearts, covered with the jack and taken with the queen. The seven of hearts was returned, covered by nine, king and ace.

Koytchou now tried to get some spade tricks. He got three, and then ruffed a diamond in dummy. The fourth round of spades was ruffed by Belladonna, who drew the last trumps, and Koytchou conceded the rest. Four down – 1100 to Italy.”

The editor provided a footnote:

“In fairness to Koytchou, it must be mentioned that his psychic opening bid was made late in the match, when it was super-evident that America was in a desperate position. This is a simple statement of fact. Whether or not such a frantic effort, vulnerable, should have been essayed is a different matter.”

The remarkable actions by Belladonna did not elicit a comment by the reporter or the editor. How could Avarelli judge that this was a penalty double? Was that standard in 1957 on either side of the Atlantic? And how did Belladonna find the ♥10 switch at trick two? The Bridge World silence implied this was normal, every-day stuff. Perhaps a review of previous boards in match, using the tournament report published by the ACBL, will provide a clue to the bidding.

  As Bridge World editor Sonny Moyse noted, this board was played near the match conclusion. It fact, it was number 205 of 224 and the U.S. team was down approximately 8000 total points. The psychic bid was evidently a misguided last ditch effort to get back into the contest. Even if the U.S. team had the hand records, adopting an unusual tactic which attempts to average a net of 400 points over 20 deals is perhaps trying too hard. But the “frantic effort” was part of a consistent Koytchou-Ogust strategy; psychic bids were listed on their convention card.

“An opening bid of one in a suit may be psychic; and may or may not be based on length in the suit bid. If the response is a jump takeout in a new suit, the psychic bidder must make the cheapest rebid in notrump; any other rebid must be made to confirm that the opening bid was ‘legitimate’.”

This was board number 2:

Ogust
43
Q873
KQ
AK974
North
K872
J109
10875
32
Koytchou
965
K652
432
J108
South
AQJ10
A4
AJ96
Q65
D

The seats were not even warm when Koytchou ventured his first psychic 1♥ opening bid. South overcalled 1NT and Ogust doubled. After East ran to 2♣, West was justifiably suspicious of the opening bid and declined to raise clubs immediately, or even compete with 3♣, after North’s 2♠ balance came back to him.

Though not germane to the primary thrust of this chapter, it is interesting to note the auction at the other table.

East      South      West      North

             Goren                    Leventritt

Pass     1D           1H         Pass

Pass     1S           Pass      Pass

2H        Pass        Pass      2S

Pass      3S          Pass      4S

All Pass

In view of Goren’s futile 3♠ bid it is little wonder that the U.S. didn’t make a contest of this match regardless of any possible untoward Italian communication 

The second Koytchou 1♥ psychic was on board 44, again first seat, at favorable vulnerability, this time holding:

103  10765  532  10973

Partner held eleven high card points with four spades, but after responding initially, he passed as the opposition rolled into 3NT. No swing.

The next effort was on board 51.

Avarelli
QJ964
KJ1084
5
97
Ogust
53
52
Q109864
AJ8
Belladonna
AK
AQ9
AJ7
KQ654
Koytchou
10872
763
K32
1032
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1N
X
P
2
3
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6N
P
P
P
D
6NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Belladonna blasted into the wrong slam; 6NT was down a trick after a diamond was led. (The U.S. pair failed to bid a slam at the other table.) Belladonna might have been more delicate. Unless 4♥ was a cue bid, Avarelli hadn’t shown any values in the auction. But the North-South bidding had created a difficult situation; options were limited. This result did nothing to discourage the barrage of psychic bids.

It was Ogust’s turn on board 63, white against red:

Ogust
964
Q76532
J
QJ9
Chiaradia
J85
98
AK1063
A85
Koytchou
AQ
K104
85
K107643
D'Alelio
K10732
AJ
Q9742
2
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
3
3
P
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

The psychic eliminated the possibility of East-West finding a worthwhile save. But the loss was minimal because at the other table, after the Italian pair bid 5♣, Sobel-Seamon took the push to 5♦ which made with the favorable spade layout.

On board 131, at favorable vulnerability Koytchou branched out into spades, opening 1♠ with:

Q843  854  84  KJ103

Ogust held a balanced sixteen count holding four hearts with the top three honors, responded 2♥, played there, and failed by a trick. (The defense was not optimum; he should have made the contract.) At the other table North played a quiet 1NT and took eight tricks.

Next, on board 139, Ogust opened 1♥ at favorable vulnerability, holding:

J10 9653 983 K962

Both teams played a diamond partscore the other direction, taking ten tricks. Slightly more aggressive bidding by the Italians would have gotten them to an inferior, but makeable, notrump game.

This brings us back to board 205. If your opponents had systemically psyched a major suit opening against you six times would you not discuss how to defend against such deviant aggressiveness? It is reasonable to assume that the Italian partnerships decided that delayed doubles would be for penalties, at least on auctions where there was an indication of a possible opposing psychic. It is difficult to know these many years later if there was such an agreement.

There were only a couple of other reopening doubles by any Italian pair during the match.

Board 179

Leventritt
Q42
108
AJ107
10986
Belladonna
J875
J942
Q
A754
Koytchou
A103
Q765
K954
KQ
Avarelli
K96
AK3
8632
J32
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1
P
1N
P
P
X
P
2
P
P
P
D
2 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Down one, at the other table Italy bid and made 3♦ with the East-West cards.

Board 192

D'Alelio
QJ93
7
A10984
Q106
Seamon
K84
A962
2
AKJ43
Chiaradia
A75
QJ53
KQ65
98
Mrs. Sobel
1062
K1084
J73
752
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
P
X
3
P
P
P
D
3 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

An East-West 3♦ contract would have fared well. But Helen Sobel, who had psyched the 1NT response bid again. Seamon finished off two; he might well have held it to down one – he could have made it with inspired play. Forquet was even less inspired at the other table; he was off three in his 3♣ contract.  It's a challenge to figure how he accomplished that.

The previous two deals do not shed much illumination on the nature of the Italian’s reopening doubles. So let’s assume that Belladonna’s double on board 205 was defined as penalty. Even so, would you dare venture a double? What if South actually held, for example, ♠A9, ♥Q9764, ♦J93, ♣KJ3, give or take the club honors?

Board 205, repeated for convenience:

Belladonna
J107
K1085
AK7
A96
North
KQ83
AJ32
10
8532
Avarelli
62
Q7
QJ862
KQJ10
Koytchou
A954
964
9543
74
D

The explanation of the remarkable ♥10 switch at trick two, the only card which will extract the full four-trick set, is left as an exercise for the reader. Maybe that was just routine defense in the good old days of 1957.

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