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The masters go psyching in Florida

Aug. 04, 1958
Aug. 04, 1958

Table of Contents
Aug. 4, 1958

U.S.-Russia Track
Global Gamble
Wonderful World Of Sport
Nantucket
Boxing
Nature
Horse Racing
Acknowledgments
Golf
Baseball
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

The masters go psyching in Florida

In Maimi Beach this week some 2,000 of the country's top players are battling their opponents—and, in the natural course of bridge events, their partners, too—for trophies representing the American Contract Bridge League's top awards. Included among these are the famous gold cup, the trophy emblematic of the Masters' Pair Championship which donor Waldemar von Zedtwitz had to buy twice within five years, and the Spingold Cup once known as the World Championship Team trophy. That was in the palmy days of the '30s and '40s when the top American team automatically, if arrogantly, claimed to be the world's best—and readily made good that boast whenever they were challenged to do so.

This is an article from the Aug. 4, 1958 issue Original Layout

Today, after four straight shellackings at the hands of Europe's champions, the question has been raised whether the United States champions should automatically qualify to meet Europe's top team without having first eliminated possible challengers from other nations in the Western Hemisphere. This Davis Cup type of zone competition is a matter which may come up for discussion in Oslo, from where I will be reporting the European Championship later this month.

Meanwhile, the Masters' Knockout team title this year will not automatically qualify its winners as our World Championship representatives unless it is captured by the same team that won the Vanderbilt—the team-of-four competition with which the Masters' has always shared top prestige. But Harry Fishbein, Sam Fry Jr., Lee Hazen, Len Harmon and Ivar Stakgold were in the nature of surprise victors in the Vanderbilt (SI, April 7); it would be somewhat of an upset if they won the Masters' as well. Should they fail to do so, they will meet the team that wins the Masters' in a playoff match late in October; the victors in that match will represent us in the 1959 World Championship, which will be played in the U.S.

Miami will see another departure from precedent with last year's winners split into two different teams. The schism, foreshadowed by events at Como where our stars failed to shine, ends a brief honeymoon. Last year, when most frequent Masters' title-winner Howard Schenken switched from their team to mine, Messrs. B. Jay Becker, John R. Crawford, George Rapee and Sidney Silodor added the well-practiced partnership of Alvin Roth and Tobias Stone. This week Roth and Stone will team with Victor Mitchell and Ira Rubin. In their place the main body of the defenders recruited only one player, Norman Kay, the young Merchantville, N.J. star who has been one of the mainstays of the Edgar Kaplan team.

Systemwise, both the new lineups are more nearly homogeneous. Roth and Stone have their own bidding method—notably more successful in match point than in rubber bridge or total-point team play; and the style of Mitchell and Rubin closely parallels their own.

One of the features of the Roth-Stone system is the "protected" psychic which permits a player to open on a very weak hand without getting into partner-created trouble. Experts seldom use psychic bids in total-point play, and Roth cites the following hand as the only psychic he and Stone employed during the entire 1957 Knockout event. This one, however, helped to defeat Oswald Jacoby's team, which finished second last year.

The six points in high cards in East's hand made Roth's opening one-heart bid a maximum-strength psychic. South's one no-trump overcall was normal, and West's pass on his strong hand was part of the pattern of protecting the possible psychic. Thereafter, over-optimism on North's part was responsible for getting his side to three no trump. But get there they did, and the fact is that South would have made the contract against any lead except the one indicated by East's psychic bid—the low heart.

Roth won the trick with the heart king and fired a club through South's ace-queen. The finesse lost to West's king, a club return knocked out the ace, and when South attempted to establish the spades, West ran in with the ace and cashed three more clubs and the ace of hearts, putting the contract down two.

But even the protected psychic can mislead your partner, as evidenced by this hand, which helped H. Sanford Brown and Martin J. Cohn capture the Life Masters' Pair title they are defending in Miami.

The pattern of the bidding was much the same as in the deal previously described because East and West were playing the "Roth-Stone" system. West passed to protect his partner's possible psychic opening bid. Brown's one no-trump response with the North hand and Cohn's jump to three no trump on the solid club suit helped to convince West that his partner had psyched, so North-South stole the contract without even being doubled.

Aided by the spade opening, North took seven tricks for a loss of only 100 points and a top score. At most other tables East and West were in game at spades or hearts, and even those optimists who bid a slam made it with the aid of a couple of successful finesses.

A while earlier I mentioned that Waldemar von Zedtwitz had to buy two gold cups within five years. Actually it was the same cup. It seemed unlikely, when the Masters' Pair event was inaugurated in 1930, that any player would win it three times. So the fabulously expensive trophy was put into competition with the understanding that a player who won it three times gained permanent possession. In the first four years it was won twice by Howard Schenken playing with David Bruce. In 1934, with the price of gold boosted to $35 an ounce, Schenken and Bruce split up so as to double their chances. Each chose as his partner a fellow member of the famous Four Aces team. Bruce played with Jacoby; Schenken won it with Richard L. Frey.

The following year Schenken returned it to play—but not before Von Zedtwitz had ransomed it for a figure that represented a reasonable compromise of its true value. At any rate, the permanent possession angle was withdrawn. Schenken twice won it again, and his five victories are tops for the event, but no one will ever gain more than a one-year "lease" on the gold cup.

By 1954 the field of masters had grown so wide that the Masters' Pair event was divided into two flights. Last year's running of the second flight resulted in a tie for the R. L. Miles trophy between Harold Solof-Arnold Levine of Pittsburgh and Floridians from Coral Gables and Jacksonville, William T. Dean-Daniel J. Conroy.

The woods are full of record claimants for the "youngest-ever-to-win-a-title," but Conroy set one at the opposite end of the scale when he won this national event at age 75.

One record which the ladies may set this week, however, is open to Mrs. Margaret Wagar of Atlanta and Mrs. Kay Rhodes of New York, defending champions in the Women's Pair event. In 1943 Mrs. Edith Kemp of Miami and Mrs. Mae Rosen of New York performed the unprecedented feat of winning this event three years in a row. Last year that amazing record was equaled by Mrs. Wagar and Mrs. Rhodes.

Another record—one of my own—is in danger in the Mixed Team championship, which I have been fortunate enough to win more often than any other player. But my six-time record is pressed by three of the members of the defending champions team, Mrs. Edith Kemp, John R. Crawford and Harry Harkavy. Their victory last year, with Gloria Turner and Milton Q. Ellenby, put them in a tie with Mrs. Helen Sobel for the runner-up spot with five wins each.

At any rate, records are bound to fall in the huge Convention Hall at the sumptuous Americana Hotel this week. You'll have my full report a little later in the month.

EXTRA TRICK
I am frequently asked, "What about psychic bids?" Except in a few clubs, like England's Portland, there is no rule against them. But purely from the viewpoint of their effectiveness, psychic bids should be employed sparingly, if at all. Their chief effectiveness comes, not on the hand where you have psyched but on the hands where the opponents think you might have. The player who never psychs is like the batter who never bunts; he loses a lot of hits because the opponents can afford to lay back whenever he comes to bat.

PHOTO

North-South vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

EAST

1 [Heart]
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

1 NO TRUMP
3 [Diamond]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

2 [Diamond]
3 NO TRUMP

Opening lead: heart deuce

Neither side vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[4 of Hearts]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

EAST

1 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

DOUBLE
3 NO TRUMP

WEST

PASS
PASS

NORTH

1 NO TRUMP
PASS

Opening lead: spade 10