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The Mother of All Catastrophes by Zia Mahmood

World Champion Zia Mahmood analyses the incredible deals in the Bridge History for Funbridge.

This month, the bridge legend explains the deal that set two new world records.

A few years ago in Holland, the Netherlands ladies team overcame a large deficit against the US and progressed to the semi-finals of the World Championships.

They ended up winning the bronze medal, but the most famous deal of the tournament was a moment they will want to forget, but will never be allowed to do so.

S  Q 10 9 8 6 4 3
H  9
D  Q 7 5
C   7 3
S  A K
H  7 6 3
D  K 9 8 6 2
C  10 9 5
orientation S J 2
H A K 10 8 4 2
D A 10 3
C 6 4
S 7 5
H Q J 5
D J 4
C  A K Q J 8 2

There was no hint of impending disaster when the Dutch held the East-West cards in their match against Morocco. North-South sacrificed in four spades over East-West’s four hearts – that contract was destined to fail, so East-West and the spectators were happy with the plus 500 when four spades doubled went three down. At the other table, though, the auction was truly surreal.

West North East South
PASS (2) Dbl (3) PASS
PASS Rdbl (4) PASS (5)
PASS (4) Dbl (6) PASS
PASS Rdbl (4) PASS (5)
PASS (4) Dbl (6) PASS
PASS Rdbl (7) PASS PASS (5)

(1) A “strong” no trump in the modern fashion
– (2) I have spades
– (3) I have hearts
– (4) I want you to play the hand – please bid spades
– (5) No, thank you
– (6) I still have hearts
– (7) For the last time – will you please bid spades?

The deal set at least two new world records. The penalty from four hearts redoubled was 3400 when the contract went six down, the largest recorded in world championship play.

Moreover, North in effect made six consecutive calls that were transfers to spades, something no one has ever seen in any bridge tournament, whether a world championship or not. The swing to Morocco was 21 imps, which must have been a bit of a disappointment to the Dutch EastWest.