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Another Reese-Schapiro Hand

David Yates has just published an interesting article about Reese-Schapiro, looking mostly at 1955. Mr Yates also considers R-S's amazing ability to psyche often (even vulnerable) and never pay out.

https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/explainable-but-how/

 

Mr Yates writes:

Rixi Markus alleged that Reese & Schapiro were “wired”. Specifically, she claimed they always seemed to know when the other psyched. Psych bids were commonplace back then. Markus could be quite animated. But no one ever doubted her brilliance. She was apparently bothered by the fact that... no amount of research could uncover... any hand where Reese of Schapiro were ever hoist by one of their own frequent psych bids.

I agree with Mr Yates; I know of only one other top-class pair with that incredible skill - Jaïs and Trézel. I know of only one other top-class pair that psyched vulnerable with complete immunity - Belladonna and Garozzo.

 

Here is another Reese-Schapiro hand, with analysis taken from Danny Kleinman's "Bridge Internationals, Famous and Infamous". The last third of that book contains a detailed look at Reese-Schapiro's actions at the 1965 Bermuda Bowl. That was, of course, the event where that R-S were accused of using finger signals to show heart length. Alan Truscott's "The Great Bridge Scandal" covered the matter; Reese's "The Story of an Accusation" is a defence.

 

1965 Bermuda Bowl, Italy v GB, board 127.

Reese
Q54
AJ73
K75
AKQ
Schapiro
J10832
4
J63
10852
W
N
E
S
P
1
X
1
2
2NT
P
3
P
P
P

 

Kleinman quotes Reese:

The psychic bid after the take-out double is an extremely well-known manoeuvre, on which it is unnecessary to comment. West, with 19 points, having heard a double on his left and a free response on his right, was bound to suspect the heart bid. He tested the situation with 2NT and his suspicions were confirmed when partner reverted to the original suit, clubs. It will be noted that if West possesses the illicit knowledge he can take advantage of it very effectively by doubling Two Diamonds and leading Ace of Hearts...

 

Kleinman continues:

This last manoeuvre would greatly exceed tolerance. Indeed, on this deal Schapiro posed insuperable “tolerance” problems for Reese. How could Reese avoid playing in the 1-4 heart fit? Answer, no way—if he was to avoid revealing to any alert analyst that he had illicit knowledge of Schapiro’s heart length. It is the mark of extreme arrogance that Reese nonetheless brazened it out.

Reese made a terrible error here. He failed the acid test. I think I could have gotten away with finger signals that indicate heart length if I had been in Reese’s shoes. On this deal, I would have jump-raised to 3 at West’s second turn. This would result in East’s going down several tricks, undoubled and not vulnerable. If an opponent doubled 3, of course, I would have left it for East to rescue himself. If your side is going to use illicit signals to psych, it is imperative never to “read” the psych in an obvious manner, but always to let the psycher expose his own psych—when necessary. Had Reese had jumped to 3 at his second turn, then this one deal could have been used to rebut the entire cheating allegation. But Reese’s main concern at the time wasn’t rebutting an accusation he didn’t know was going to be made, it was winning IMPs.

The dead giveaway that Reese’s rhetoric cannot conceal is that Reese’s 2NT did not "test the situation" at all. Schapiro’s 3 revealed only that he had a distributional hand, not a psych. It could not “confirm suspicions” that Reese may have had. A typical hand for Schapiro’s sequence might be:

8 KQ942 J63 10852.

Even if the opponents’ bids suggested that somebody lacked proper strength, why did that somebody have to be Schapiro? And even if Schapiro was bidding on practically nothing—psyching—why did it have to be in a short suit rather than a long one? Even if weak, shouldn’t Schapiro have a hand like

8 Q9642 J63 10852 or

8 109642 J63 J852?

The auction was radically different from one that truly exposes a psych, an auction in which the psycher runs from a penalty double, e.g.

P 1 X 1

2 2 X 3

or

p 1 X 1

2 3 P P

X P P 3

Here Reese chose voluntarily, when he passed Schapiro’s 3, to play in a 4-3 club fit instead of a presumed 5-4 heart fit. Despite Reese’s rhetorical smokescreen, this one call, Reese’s final pass, greatly exceeded tolerance. I think that Reese’s initial suppression of 4-card support, with his 2NT rebid, might have stayed within the bounds of tolerance if Schapiro had only passed.

If there had been no other peculiar bidding by Reese or Schapiro in the entire match, and if nobody had noticed any variation in the ways they placed their fingers around their cards or any correlation to their heart lengths, this one deal would be enough to convince me that Reese had illicit knowledge of Schapiro’s heart length.

Try posing Reese’s hand as a bidding problem to any number of bridge players. You will find that no one, from duffer to world-class expert and anywhere in between, duplicates Reese’s calls.

To give and receive illicit signals in such a way as to escape detection and still show a profit is a delicate task. Few bridge players are up to it, and certainly not Schapiro. Reese must have considered Schapiro a clumsy oaf. No wonder he was anxious (as he says in his book) to play with Jeremy Flint instead.

 

I recommend Kleinman's book to anyone with an interest in the question:

Did or did not Reese and Schapiro use, and gain from, illicit signals?

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