Texans lead the way as the U.S. picks a team

A tense, testing playoff in Phoenix produces a six-man World Championship squad that has a strong blend of youth and experience, likes simple bidding and could jolt the Europeans
December 03, 1962

The name of the plush Phoenix hotel where the U.S. International Team Trials was held last week is the Westward Ho, and from the way a couple of Texans charged through 14 other pairs of the country's best bridge players the tournament might as well have been called the Westward Ho, too. The unstoppable partnership was G. Robert Nail of Houston and James Jacoby of Dallas. Their victory made them impressive members of the six-man U.S. team that will play in the World Championships in St. Vincent, Italy next June. With them will be Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson of Philadelphia, and Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt of New York, the pairs that finished second and third, respectively, in the trials.

Winning when the competition is toughest is nothing new for 39-year-old Bobby Nail. He was on our last World team and was the only member of that squad who was also able to qualify for the present trials. But Jim Jacoby, 29, the son of Oswald Jacoby, has never before won an event of such standing. This time, with father Oswald—who didn't qualify for the trials—on hand to give parental support, Jim came through.

So unshakably did Jacoby and Nail maintain a winning pace that after only the 13th of the 15 required rounds of play they had assured themselves of a position on the U.S. team. Never in the tournament's six days did they stand lower than third. They played throughout with an excellent blend of caution and consistency, and, perhaps most important of all, they refused to be rattled when struck by the kind of disconcerting disaster that can unwind even the steadiest of partnerships. Getting hit with a hand like the one shown here is like being staggered by a sneak punch, and the way Nail and Jacoby ignored the damage says much for why they finished first.

Virtually all the players except Ira Rubin opened the bidding with the south hand. But, because he had passed initially, when the auction reached six clubs—which was the correct contract—Rubin felt that he had enough in reserve to try for the grand slam.

The grand slam contract turned out to be grandly successful. No expert likes to take a finesse in order to make a seven contract, and it is a scary experience to have to take one on the very first trick. But Rubin saw no other chance for a 13th trick than to let Jacoby's low spade opening lead run to his lone queen. When this desperation finesse succeeded, declarer was able to discard a heart on dummy's ace of spades.

Reasonable care was still required, however. Rubin could not afford to draw trumps at once. He led to dummy's diamond ace, discarded a low heart on dummy's spade ace and came to his hand with the ace of hearts to trump a diamond. A spade ruff put him back in his hand to trump his last diamond. Dummy's club ace was cashed and a fourth spade led. Declarer ruffed this high in order to prevent a possible overruff. Then the club king dropped the outstanding trumps, and Rubin breathed deeply for the first time since the dummy went down. He had a top score, and there was nothing Nail or Jacoby could do, except suffer.

One of the early surprises of the trials was the success of Alvin Roth of New York and Mike Shuman of Los Angeles. The two had never formally met before they came to Phoenix, and both had qualified with other partners. A couple of hours' talk was all the partnership experience they had. The deal below, on which they fared very well, was especially interesting because spade contracts were played and made both ways of the table.

The bidding by Sidney Silodor and Norman Kay against Feldesman and Rubin was fairly normal. Kay ducked the first spade lead, won by West with the king, and West returned a heart. A finesse lost to East's king and a spade continuation would have given declarer considerable difficulty, but East returned a heart. Declarer led a low club. Now another spade lead was too late. Dummy's ace won, the finesse of the diamond jack succeeded, and diamonds were continued. East trumped the third round of diamonds with the spade queen, but the only other trick the defenders got was the jack of spades and declarer made three.

At the table where Shuman and Roth held the East-West hands, Roth elected to open with a psychic spade bid on his three-card suit.

South won the trump opening with the ace and continued trumps. Roth bravely led a third trump and then led good clubs until North ruffed with the 13th trump. North made the heart ace and exited with the queen. Dummy won with the king and cashed the fifth club. Then dummy's last heart was led to put North back on lead, and North was forced to surrender to West's diamond king, giving Roth his eighth trick. So, where three spades was made one way of the table for a score of 140, Roth made two spades for 110, playing the same suit with the other side's cards.

Nobody at the trials displayed quite the boldness of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Levitt of St. Louis, and for a long time it paid off. They were actually in first place, bidding with the kind of grand élan shown at right, a hand in which Mrs. Levitt found herself playing a seven contract while holding only two jacks. The opponents were the able California pair, Marshall Miles and Edwin Kantar.

The spade opening forced dummy to ruff, but the ace-king of hearts luckily dropped South's queen. Declarer cashed dummy's club ace, trumped a club to gain the lead and drew North's remaining trump with her jack. Dummy's diamonds and remaining high club were now good for the needed tricks.

It would be nice to report that this carried the Levitt pair to new heights. The fact is, the Levitts lost this match 9-1, falling out of serious contention.

After this session Jacoby and Nail could coast, and Jordan and Robinson (at 26, the youngest player in the field) were hardly pressed to finish second. Meanwhile, Helen Sobel and I—buried deep among the also-rans—took about our only positive action in the tournament as we played a strong final match against Gerald Michaud and David Carter, enabling Schenken and Leventritt to edge into third.

With the addition of the experienced Schenken-Leventritt combination, which played for North America in Buenos Aires in 1961, the U.S. has a nicely balanced team of youth and experience. None of the six players uses any of the much too popular pseudomodern bidding systems. Schenken-Leventritt, although they have an artificial club convention, have actually reverted to one of the earliest of contract methods, originated by Harold S. Vanderbilt. Furthermore, all three pairs are experienced partnerships. They have several months of practice and matches ahead, during which they will be guided by the very able team captain, John Gerber of Houston, and they should be ready by June 1963. I have an idea that they will hand our European friends, with their highly artificial conventions, a few rather pleasing—from the American point of view—surprises.

FOUR PHOTOS

E
G. ROBERT NAIL

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

S
IRA RUBIN

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

W
JAMES JACOBY

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

N
PHILIP FELDESMAN

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

THE BIDDING

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

PASS
3 [Club]
4 [Heart]
5 N.T.
7 [Club]

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

1 [Heart]
3 [Spade]
5 [Diamond]
6 [Club]
PASS

E-W Vul. Opening Lead: 5 of spades

Neither side vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

EAST
(Feldesman)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Silodor)

PASS
1 [Diamond]
PASS
2 [Spade]

WEST
(Rubin)

PASS
PASS
1 N.T.
PASS

NORTH
(Kay)

1 [Club]
1 [Spade]
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 3 of spades

EAST
(Shuman)

PASS
2 [Spade]

SOUTH
(Nail)

PASS
PASS

WEST
(Roth)

1 [Spade]!
PASS

NORTH
(Jacoby)

PASS
PASS

Opening lead: 2 of spades

North-South vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

[— — of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

EAST
(Levitt)

2 [Club]
3 [Diamond]
7 [Heart]

SOUTH
(Kantar)

PASS
PASS
PASS

WEST
(Mrs. Levitt)

2 [Diamond]
3 [Heart]
PASS

NORTH
(Miles)

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: ace of spades

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)