This pass leads not to Rome

October 04, 1959

Almost any quiz kid, asked about a pass that changed the course of history, would answer: the pass of Thermopylae where a handful of Spartans held off the Persian horde, or perhaps the 50-yard pass that Brick Muller threw to Brodie Stephens for a touchdown in the 1921 Tournament of Roses game. But an ex-quiz kid, Richard Freeman of Washington, is more apt to think of his last pass in the very last deal of the final match against Oswald Jacoby and Ira Rubin in the Masters Knockout Team championship, played this summer in Chicago.

It was a decision upon which there hinged, to some extent, the makeup of the squad which will represent the U.S. at the World Bridge Olympiad, scheduled for Rome, Italy in April 1960. Freeman had but to change his call from "pass" to "double" to write history on a trophy (the Spingold) already copiously inscribed with names outstanding in bridge history.

This observation is in no way an indictment of the brilliant young Washingtonian. On the contrary, he richly earned the plaudits showered on him as he led probably the youngest team ever to reach the finals of this event.

It was close to 3 a.m. on Wednesday, August 5, when some 350 enthralled kibitzers saw the 36th and final deal flashed on the projection screen.

It was a tense situation. Neither team knew it, of course, but a swing on the 35th deal had given Freeman's team a lead of 4 International Match Points (one IMP is approximately equal to 100 total points). At the table they were watching the bidding went:

WEST
(Freeman)

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Jacoby)

1 [Spade]
3 [Spade]
PASS

EAST
(Mike Michaels)

PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Rubin)

2 [Spade]
4 [Spade]

East opened the club 4, won by Jacoby's ace. Declarer had to lose two hearts and a diamond and eventually lost three trump tricks as well. But the 300-point set brought no joy to Freeman's teammates who had hurried downstairs to watch this last board.

Upstairs, when Freeman's teammates held the North-South hands, aggressive bids by Vic Mitchell, West, and Morton Rubinow, East, for the Oswald Jacoby-Sam Stayman group had been parlayed with a defensive error to bring a big score.

WEST
(Mitchell)

PASS
3 NO TRUMP
PASS

NORTH
(Andy Gabrilovitch)

1 [Spade]
DOUBLE

EAST
(Rubinow)

2 [Diamond]
PASS

SOUTH
(Frank Hoadley)

2 [Spade]
PASS

Mitchell huddled long before deciding to gamble it out at three no trump. His opponents had played very well against him, and he figured, correctly, that his team might need a big swing.

A heart opening would have set the contract but North led the spade seven. South's queen fell to West's king, and a diamond was returned. When North played the queen, Mitchell let it hold—a good play.

North shifted to a low heart. West took his ace, led another diamond and successfully finessed dummy's jack. Four good diamonds were cashed. With perfect defense, the contract might still have been set. But when dummy's queen of clubs was led, South covered with the king and North's ace could not be withheld. Making four-odd produced a score of 950 points. The net gain of 650 was worth 6 IMPs, and the championship was won by only 2 IMPs.

Obviously, Freeman's pass wasn't the blow that lost the match—but a double would have won it. However, the youngster may still be seen in action abroad if he and his partner are chosen by a committee of the American Contract Bridge League, whose vote will select two of the four teams that will represent the United States in Europe next spring.

PHOTO

Both sides vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

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)