ACBL Bridge Beat #104: The Worst Play?

1986 ACBL President Tom Sanders and Ron Andersen were playing against George Tornay and Saul Bronstein behind screens in the Open Pairs at the 1986 World Championships in Bal Harbor FL. Sanders and Bronstein were on one side of the screen. Andersen and Tornay were on the other when this deal came up:

Dlr: North ♠ A K Q 6 5
Vul: N-S J 7 6 3
♣ Q J 2
♠ 3 ♠ J 9 8 4
K 4 A 10 9 5 2
A 10 8 6 2
♣ K 9 8 5 4 3 ♣ 10 7 6
♠ 10 7 2
Q 8
Q J 9 7 5 4 3
♣ A
Sanders Tornay Andersen Bronstein
West North East South
1♠ Pass 2
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass 3NT All Pass

Declarer let the 10 hold the first trick. Andersen cashed the A and was shocked when he dropped his partner’s king. He decided it was a good idea to take the entry out of dummy, so he shifted to a club. Declarer led a diamond, and Sanders rose with his ace and led a spade to declarer’s ace. Declarer tried the ♠K and shook his head when Sanders discarded. So Tornay put Sanders in with a club to the king – and, in the words of Andersen, Sanders “made the worst lead in the history of bridge – a small diamond.” Andersen and Tornay folded their cards because obviously the rest of the tricks were declarer’s. But what was going on – both Sanders and Bronstein insisted that play continue. “Why?” asked Ron. “He has the rest of the tricks.” “Not if you ruff a diamond,” said Sanders.

“My dear Tommy,” said Andersen, “you can’t do any ruffing when you’re playing a hand in notrump.” “Who’s playing notrump?” Sanders wanted to know.

After some discussion, it appeared that Bronstein had tabled the 4♠ card after Tornay bid 3NT – but neither Andersen nor Tornay saw this. So one side of the screen was playing 3NT and the other was playing 4♠.

Surprisingly enough there is a rule to cover this situation. Under WBF regulation, when the auction is not complete, there is no play. So the board was thrown out. But it makes a good story.