The capital moves to the Coast

Los Angeles withstood a strong New York finish to win the first intercity bridge match
August 28, 1960

For years it has been presumed that New York was the bridge capital of the U.S. The presumptuous ones, I am afraid, were New Yorkers, for last week eight Angelenos produced some rather convincing credentials of their own. Never once behind during the 80-board match in Los Angeles, they upset favored New York in the first intercity tournament for the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED trophy and, temporarily at least, the title of capital rests in their city.

The two teams will meet again in New York this November, and if Los Angeles continues to play the strong bridge it displayed on the Pacific Coast there will be no city to dispute its claim—unless it is Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, or Dallas-Fort Worth. All have challenged the winner and nobody knows where it will stop. Peoria, perhaps?

The title may, of course, go right back to New York. There were a few moments in Los Angeles when it appeared that it would never leave. True, the Los Angeles team of Lew Mathe, Meyer Schleifer, Ira Rubin, Ivan Erdos, Oliver Adams, William Hanna, Harold Guiver and Edwin Kantar got off to a magnificent lead. After 20 boards it had 40 International Match Points to New York's 19. After 40 boards the lead was increased to 60-38, and after 60, the three-quarter point, it was 89-61.

But suddenly things began to happen. Trailing by 115-81, the New Yorkers—Mrs. Helen Sobel, Peter Leventritt, Howard Schenken, Tobias Stone, George Rapee, John Crawford, Alfred Sheinwold and Edgar Kaplan—won 1 IMP on the 75th board. (They could have made 6 if it had not been for an overenthusiastic slam bid.) Los Angeles, to the increasing discomfort of their 400 followers at the Ambassador Hotel, never won another point. On the 76th, New York gained 4. Then along came board 77 and the only grand slam of the match.

Crawford's opening two-club bid was artificial and showed a big hand. Stone's three no-trump response indicated close to a maximum pass, including strength in all four suits. Therefore, after Stone raised diamonds, Crawford felt reasonably sure that he would find enough in spades and hearts to take care of all his possible losers. Another factor that obviously governed Crawford's thinking was the score. He knew his side had to pick up a flock of points in a hurry or resign itself to defeat. He didn't hesitate to bid the grand slam.

At the other table South for Los Angeles had opened with only one diamond and in spite of North's two no-trump response stopped at six diamonds. As a result, New York gained 750 points for 7 IMPs.

New York pared away 3 more IMPs on board 78, 4 on board 79, and 6 on the final board of the match. But for New York it was a case of too little and too late. The Pacific Coast stars staggered to victory with the final score 115 to 106.

A fascinated capacity audience (1,600 saw the four sessions) followed the home team with avid and partisan interest, but the crowd was generous with its applause of the New Yorkers' defense in the following deal.

East-West vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

NORTH
(Kantar)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

EAST
(Rapee)

PASS
1 [Spade]
DBL.

SOUTH
(Guiver)

1 [Heart]
2 [Club]
PASS

WEST
(Schenken)

DBL.
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: ace of clubs

After winning the ace of trumps, Schenken continued with the 8. Dummy played low and Rapee withheld the king and forced declarer to win the trick in his hand. South led the spade king and now it was Schenken's turn to duck.

South cashed the ace of hearts and led another heart, won by East's jack. Rapee cashed the club king and exited with the diamond deuce. The defenders collected two clubs, two hearts, one spade and one diamond to put the contract down one.

In the other room Peter Leventritt and Helen Sobel played the North-South cards at two clubs undoubled with Leventritt making three-odd. The first two tricks were the same, but then West won the king of spades with his ace. This permitted dummy to gain the lead with a spade and let declarer take a heart finesse.

What really won the tournament for the West Coast players was their aggressive bidding early in the match. When it succeeded, as it did in the first-day hand (above right), they gained a confidence that stayed with them to the end.

Bold bidding by Los Angeles told the story of this slam deal. After Rubin opened with the weak two-diamond bid, Erdos used a Blackwood four no-trump bid to discover that his partner held an ace, as shown by the five-diamond response. Erdos thereupon bid six diamonds.

South won the opening spade lead and returned the heart 10. The jack, king and ace completed the trick. After considerable cogitation, Rubin played for a break in clubs, drawing the trumps and cashing the ace-king of clubs, then ruffing a third round. With the club suit established, the slam was easy.

In the other room Sheinwold passed with the West hand and Mathe opened North with two spades. Kaplan (East) doubled and Schleifer's mild pre-emptive raise to three spades could not keep Sheinwold from bidding diamonds. But Kaplan could do no more than bid five. Missing the slam cost the New Yorkers 750 points, or 7 IMPs.

Thus the bridge capital of the U.S. moves to California, if, indeed, it wasn't always there. We will know better about that after the return match in New York and the challenges from other cities. The capital may change more often than a rent jumper's address.

PHOTOJOHN CRAWFOD bid and won grand slam, gained 750 points for New York. PHOTOMEYER SCHLEIFER, with pre-emptive bid, helped bluff New York out of slam. PHOTOFLANKING COMMENTATORS, CAPTAINS WALDEMAR VON ZEDTWITZ AND KELSEY PETTERSON HEAR GOREN (CENTER) DESCRIBE PLAY

Both sides vulnerable West dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[Clubs] none

EAST

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

WEST
(Rubin)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Stone)

PASS
3 N.T.
5 [Diamond]
PASS

EAST
(Adams)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Crawford)

2 [Club]
4 [Diamond]
7 [Diamond]

Opening lead: spade 3

East-West vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Crawford)

PASS
PASS
PASS

WEST
(Rubin)

2 [Diamond]
5 [Diamond]
PASS

NORTH
(Stone)

PASS
PASS
PASS

EAST
(Erdos)

4 N.T.
6 [Diamond]

Opening lead: spade 7

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)