Comeback in Los Angeles

January 06, 1958

Mr. Goren here reflects on his recent visit to California, where he led his team to the National Open Team Championship for an unprecedented seventh time. This was indeed a bridge milestone for Goren, the top master point winner of all time, on the 20th anniversary of his first national title.

Last month, America's crack bridge players followed the advice of Horace Greeley and the example of Horace Stoneham. They went west.

In Los Angeles, at the first national bridge championships ever held on the Pacific Coast, the visitors from east of the Rockies received a warm welcome—warmer, in fact, than they had bargained for. Although the glory days of bridgedom's Ivy League—New York, Philadelphia and Boston—are a thing of the distant past, halfway through this tourney it appeared that the East might be shut out completely.

In other respects, the citizens of Los Angeles, even while they yanked the welcome mat from under the Dodgers, played host in magnificent style. Despite the 6,152 tables that set a new record for the week's play, it was not necessary to move the tournament into the Rose Bowl. Los Angeles' Hotel Ambassador took the bridge invasion in stride—all except the bedeviled elevator operators.

The tournament player, when engaged in a bridge postmortem, is totally oblivious of time and place. No human pilot of vertical transport could be expected to select the desired floor numbers out of a welter of such remarks as: "Down three." "We got a top." "Up two." "She said six, so of course I went to seven."

The tournament results demonstrated clearly that the standard of bridge competition across the nation has risen to a point where it is impossible for one group of players, or one area of the country, to dominate the bridge wars, although for a while it may have appeared as if the West Coast might do so.

In the early events, the best that non-Californians could do was share a win in the Women's Team of Four Championship. Mrs. Mary Jane Kauder and Mrs. Stella Rebner of Los Angeles captured that event, pairing with Mrs. Charles Solomon and Mrs. Edward Cohen of Philadelphia to prove that the twain really can meet.

Meanwhile, the all-California combination of Lew Mathe, Meyer Schleifer and Ed Taylor of Los Angeles, with Don Oakie of San Francisco, walked away with the Men's Team of Four Championship. This could in no way be regarded as an upset, for Mathe and Oakie had already appeared impressively in international competition, having represented the United States in world championship contests against Great Britain and France.

Further evidence that this was no mere flash in the pan promptly followed, when Mathe and Taylor plowed through a truly formidable array of bridge talent to win the Open Pair title with plenty of room to spare.

Next, the California foursome, staging an ironman stunt by competing without a substitute in an event where a five-man entry is permitted, shot out of the starting gate to take what seemed a commanding lead at the halfway mark in the blue-ribbon Open Team Championship.

It looked as though the country at large would have to be content with only one non-California victory—the Master Mixed Pair Championship, taken by a Miami-New York combine. Mrs. Joseph Gale, of Miami Beach out of Chicago, teamed with Howard Schenken of New York for a highly popular win in this event. My teammate, Schenken, brilliant star of a long and distinguished tournament career which included three consecutive world championships, had, by some odd quirk, never before won the Mixed Pair title. Mrs. Gale, on the other hand, is a comparative newcomer to tournament play and had never before won any national championship.

In the final day's play of the Open Team event, however, the New York team, of which your reporter was a member, came up from nowhere to overhaul and pass the Californians (SI, Dec. 16, 1957). Thus it was that Helen Sobel, Harold Ogust, William Root, Schenken and I managed the second important Eastern triumph. After two lackluster sessions in which the team barely managed to qualify, we finally shifted into high gear in the first of two final rounds, coming up with 21 out of 28 matches to forge into a half-match lead. In the final session we widened the gap to two full matches, which, in this form of contest, represents a comfortable margin.

The telecast on the final day—a novel feature of bridge tournaments inaugurated during last year's world championship event—threatened for a short time to brew a tempest in a teapot.

Out of considerations of expediency, KTTV chose to focus its telecast of the final round of the Open Pair Championship upon the activities at a single table. The table selected happened to be the one at which my partner, Helen Sobel, could be found through the session.

Mild rumblings were heard in some sections of the arena. It was argued that the show would provide us with a distinct advantage in that we were old hands at being kibitzed, whereas some of our adversaries were apt to be nervous performing before the camera. The Calamity Janes had not quite called the turn. What actually happened was that our opponents rose to spectacular heights. They proceeded to pin back our ears with such an unmerciful drubbing that the announcer's pity ruined whatever glory there might have been in my only opportunity to make a spectacular play.

This was the hand:

East-West vulnerable

NORTH
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]

WEST CHG

[Ace of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

EAST MRS. SOBEL

[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

At some tables, North and South reached the usual contract of four hearts with North as declarer. East opened the spade queen, so the defenders collected two spade tricks immediately and the diamond king later on, holding declarer to precisely four-odd for a score of 420. Against us, however, uninhibited by camera and klieg lights, North allowed his partner to play the hand at three no trump.

Had I opend a club, declarer would have enjoyed a windfall, and there would have been no way to prevent him from taking 11 tricks (12, in fact, if West, when in with the king of diamonds, fails to cash the ace of spades). My choice of a low spade avoided this debacle. South won the king and made me miserable with six heart leads. I could spare one spade and one club, but on the last heart I could escape a trick-losing end play only by discarding my ace of spades and clinging to the low one with which I was able to put partner in, when finally I won a trick.

"Well," I thought, "we won't get many match points on this board, but at least I've given the announcer something to talk about."

His comment: "Poor Mr. Goren! He's been squeezed out of his ace of spades."

I fared better on another deal in another event, thanks to some excellent bidding by Lee Hazen, who had just been honored at the annual meeting of the American Contract Bridge League by being named Honorary Member for 1958.

The two-club response asked for a four-card major and the two-diamond rebid denied such a holding. South's denial of either four spades or four hearts made it odds-on that he held at least four diamonds.

Thereafter, North's rebid showed a diamond suit and South's bid of three spades was correctly read as a cue bid. It showed slam prospects and, by inference, confirmed diamond support. After an opening lead of the club queen, the taking of 13 tricks was routine. The simple expedient was to ruff two clubs with dummy's high diamonds before drawing the trumps.

The overtrick was unimportant. At the other table, our opponents reached six no trump and South could find no more than 11 tricks.

Another hand from the Men's Team event indirectly answered a correspondent's recent question: "When is it correct not to finesse for a king?" Apparently, the only safe answer is, "When you have 12 trumps in the combined hands," for in this deal declarer had 11 and the finesse for the king was a clearly indicated play.

North had grand slam notions when he heard his partner open the bidding with one diamond. He promptly wheeled out the heavy artillery of the Blackwood four-five no trump bids. On learning his partner held only one king, however, North decided to settle for a small slam.

West opened the queen of spades, and South saw that his slam was safe if he picked up the king of trumps or if the club finesse succeeded. With only two trumps outstanding, the odds strongly favored playing to drop the diamond king, but here was an instance where the probabilities must give way to certainty.

Declarer cashed the king and ace of spades and trumped a spade with dummy's 9 of diamonds. Next he cashed the ace and king of hearts. Then he led the queen of diamonds and, when West played small, he let it ride with confidence.

How did South know that West held the king of diamonds? He didn't! But if East had the diamond king, it was safe to allow him to win it, because any lead East could make would surely save declarer from the club finesse.

The safety play paid off. Without it, West would have won a trump trick and his return of the club 9 would have compelled declarer to lose a club trick as well.

Extra tricks. Tourney gross receipts broke the former record by many thousands of dollars. Thus, the American Contract Bridge League, which has designated the American Cancer Society as its charity for 1957-58, gained a substantial addition in its campaign to contribute a total of $125,000 through tournament bridge during this period.... Charles J. Solomon, newly elected president of the league, furnished final proof of the success of tournament play on the Coast when he announced the award of spring and fall tourneys in 1959 to Seattle and Coronado Beach, with a return to Los Angeles in 1960.
East-West vulnerable

PHOTO PHOTOOPEN TEAM WINNERS are (left to right) Howard Schenken, Charles Goren (captain), Mrs. Helen Sobel, William Root and Harold Ogust. Their victory smiles are understandable, since their last-minute win earned them the highest honor in bridgedom. PHOTOGOREN (WITH GLASSES) AND HELEN SOBEL WERE A TV FEATURE ON FINAL DAY. ONLY THE CAMERA CAN SEE ANYTHING IN MIRROR FOUR PHOTOSWESTERN TEAM THAT ALMOST DOMINATED WHOLE TOURNAMENT: MEYER SCHLEIFER, LEWIS MATHE, EDWARD TAYLOR, DON OAKIE

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH HAZEN

[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Queen of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

SOUTH CHG

[Ace of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH
1 no trump
2 [Diamond]*
3 [Spade]
5 [Club]
Pass

WEST

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

NORTH

2 [Club]*
3 [Diamond]
4 [Heart]
6 [Diamond]

EAST

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

*Conventional bid and response

Neither side vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

EAST

[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

SOUTH

1 [Diamond]
5 [Heart]
6 [Diamond]

WEST

Pass
Pass
Pass

NORTH

4 no trump
5 no trump
Pass

EAST

Pass
Pass
Pass

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)