Thrills galore and a gold cup for two

The Masters' tournament was a happy one for this reporter, and a triumph for a new team
August 24, 1958

There were plenty of thrills in the American Contract Bridge League's Summer National Championships, played in the sumptuous Americana Hotel in Miami Beach early this month.

A couple of girls performed a feat unprecedented in tournament history when Margaret Wagar of Atlanta and Kay Rhodes of New York won a national title—the Women's Pair championship—for the fourth consecutive time.

A new and widely domiciled American team (two Miamians, Robert Rothlein and Cyrus Nauman; two Californians, Paul Allinger and William Hanna; one player from New Orleans, Sidney Lazard) took the Knockout Team championship. In the course of doing so, they twice defeated the Vanderbilt Cup-winning Fishbein team to force a playoff meeting in October that will decide which of these two combinations will be our representatives in the 1959 World Championship. The winner will meet the team that wins the European Championship now being played in Oslo, from which city I will soon be reporting to you.

There were other exciting doings. Charges and countercharges in the case against Tobias Stone put championship bridge briefly and unpleasantly on the front pages. A dozen players became Life Masters, the top ranking of the American Contract Bridge League. A few won their first national titles.

But, with one possible exception, no one got a bigger thrill than I when, partnered by the magnificent Helen Sobel, I helped to repeat our 1942 victory in the most highly valued of all pair championships, the Life Masters Pair title, with which goes the prized Von Zedtwitz gold cup.

The exception is Helen herself, who went on to become the first woman ever to win the Sally Fishbein Memorial Trophy awarded to the player whose individual performance is best in all events in this summer championship meeting. Thanks to her third in the Women's Pairs and our team's tie for fifth in the Knockout, Helen won more master points (178) than any other player during the competitions in Miami.

Here is the first of two hands that helped us bring home the bacon in the Life Masters Pairs.

Strict point counters may charge that I lacked 1 point for my raise to three no trump with the North hand. According to the book, responder needs 10 and I had only 9. But if the author is not permitted to take a few liberties with his own creation, who is? In fact, I had two plus values that justified the jump to game. One was the presence of a few intermediate 10-spots and other top-ranking spot cards; the other was the fact that my partner was Helen, who proceeded to make my raise look good by superb play. The deal was important, since it was played against Alvin Roth and Tobias Stone who at the time were running us a close race for the Masters' crown.

Roth opened the club 4, and Helen allowed Stone's jack to hold the trick. She won the club continuation with her ace, played a spade to the queen and led a low one back to her 9, which Roth permitted to win. Now Helen had to drive out the ace of spades in order to remove West's entry to the long club, and she could not afford to lose a spade trick to the jack as well. Did West hold the blank ace or East the blank jack? She found the correct answer, playing the king to force the ace and fell the jack at the same time.

Dummy's club king won the next trick. South came to her hand with a heart, cashed the good spade and led a low diamond, finessing dummy's eight to drive out East's king. Making four no trump was a tremendous score for us. As Al Roth himself pointed out, he could have saved a trick by playing the jack on the first diamond lead. If dummy's ace were taken, Stone would duck the next diamond and shut out North's long diamond by holding up his king until South did not have another diamond to lead. It would have been a superb play and one of which Roth is quite capable; had he made it, the caption for this deal might have been "the battle of the jacks," with the jack of diamonds rising to retrieve the damage done by the fall of the jack of spades.

In the next example, your reporter fell back on psychology to augment a small deficit in high cards.

Our bidding performed a two fold mission. We arrived at a ticklish game contract, which might have been set by no more than 100 points if doubled; at the same time, we kept the opponents from arriving at their own best spot—four clubs, at which they would have scored 130. The next step along the victory road was to try to bring home the game.

I won the ace of hearts and played a high trump. Now if I led a high heart through, I could establish a trick for the discard of a diamond—but not without having West win a trick. The danger would then be apparent, and West would shift to a diamond at once. If the ace-queen were offside, as the bidding strongly indicated, I would lose one heart, two diamonds and one club trick—down one!

So I had to lull any fears my opponent in the West might have, and hope that East would win the heart trick that had to be lost. To this end, I led the 3 of hearts from the South hand. West played his 7, but it wasn't high enough. East had to win the trick. He cashed one high club, but I ruffed the next club and led the jack of hearts through West's marked queen. West covered, and dummy ruffed. A club ruff put me back on lead to cash the 10 of hearts and get rid of one of dummy's two losing diamonds. We lost only one trick in each of the plain suits and brought home the game for a top score.

There are a great many who believe that marriage has a deleterious effect on bridge partnerships, but during these championship events two couples provided evidence to the contrary. Mr. and Mrs. Fritz J. Hopf of Ardmore, Pa. won the Flight B Masters' Pair event, and Mr. and Mrs. William Rosen of Chicago were on the team that captured the Masters Mixed Team title. Their partners were Mrs. Leonard Goldstein and Leland Ferer of Miami Beach.

Eunice Rosen had never before come through to a national title, but her young husband is a clever performer who has in the past represented the United States in world championship competition. The dexterity which he manifested on this deal accounted for one of the matches which contributed to his team's margin of victory.

Declarer at five clubs, Rosen trumped the second diamond. It required three leads to exhaust the adverse trumps, and this spoiled any chance for a strip and end play. Instead, declarer had to find a way to avoid losing more than a single heart trick, though compelled to play the suit for himself.

He found the winning combination in the assumption that West held four hearts and East only two. On winning the third trump lead in dummy, Rosen led a low heart to his hand and put in the 9, forcing West's jack. South won the spade return and led the queen of hearts. This play simultaneously smothered West's king and East's 10-spot. South lost only one diamond and one heart, winning the board for his team.

The Men's Pair title winners, Ira Rubin of Rutherford, N.J. and William Grieve of New York, were two others who annexed their first national titles. And of the five players that captured the Knockout Team Championship, only Paul Allinger had ever before managed to win a national.

High drama attached to the team event before it even began, for the reason that victory carried with it the right to play off against the Vanderbilt Cup team winners—the team of Harry Fishbein, Lee Hazen, Sam Fry Jr. and Len Harmon of New York, with Ivar Stakgold of Washington—to decide which team would represent the U.S. in the 1959 World Championship unless, of course, the Fishbein team itself were victorious on this occasion.

After eliminating the Stone-Roth combination on Tuesday afternoon, however, it was a somewhat weary Fishbein team that went into the final match on Tuesday night. After 14 straight victories, including their eighth straight in the Vanderbilt at Atlantic City this Spring (SI, April 7), the Fishbein team had been handed its first defeat by Rothlein on Monday night. This left three teams in the tourney, Fishbein, Roth and Rothlein. Each had been defeated once. Under the rules, the team that had beaten the hitherto undefeated outfit got the bye in the following round. So Rothlein rested while Fishbein successfully clawed at Roth, and the Fishbein outfit was handed an even more conclusive thumping in the final than it had received in its first victory.

Purely on results, this makes the Rothlein team the favorites for the October playoff. But in a single long match, the three veterans, Fishbein, Hazen and Fry, plus their brilliant younger pair, present a well-balanced lineup and possess an undoubted edge in experience. Regardless of the outcome, it rates to be a match worthy of the large audience that it will no doubt attract. If arrangements now pending are successful, you may be able to watch it yourself—either on an exhibition board if you attend the match, or on TV if it is carried on a network. In any case you'll be there, for I'll be reporting it in these pages.

PHOTOGOREN WITH A "MAGNIFICENT" PARTNER

South deals East-West vulnerable

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Mrs. Sobel)

1 N.T.
PASS

WEST
(Roth)

PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Goren)

3 N.T.

EAST
(Stone)

PASS

South deals East-West vulnerable

NORTH

[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Goren)

1 [Spade]
3 [Spade]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Mrs. Sobel)

2 [Spade]
4 [Spade]

EAST

DOUBLE
PASS

Opening lead: heart king

South deals Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Mr. Rosen)

1 [Club]
1 [Spade]
4 [Club]
PASS

WEST

DOUBLE
2 [Diamond]
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Mrs. Rosen)

REDOUBLE
3 [Club]
5 [Club]

EAST

1 [Diamond]
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: diamond king

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)