Three pairs for one team

November 23, 1964

This week in Dallas 18 top bridge pairs will compete for positions on the team that will represent North America in the 1965 World Championships. The Trials, as the competition is called, will last six days and will be a round robin. Each pair will play a 20-deal match against the other 17. The three pairs with the highest total scores will have made the team.

I will not attempt to explain the complicated scoring system used at the Trials other than to say that in any given round, the same deal is played at all nine tables, thus eliminating as much as possible the element of luck. Under the scoring system one pair can beat another by as much as 60-0 or as little as 31-29. In theory a pair could qualify for the team with four big wins and 13 narrow defeats. This may seem like a negative road to success, but it is not. The secret of winning a team match such as the World Championship is not so much the occasional brilliant play but the avoidance of errors. No team can afford partnership misunderstandings or a player who is accident prone. Thus it becomes clear that a team with three excellent pairs will beat a team with six brilliant individuals.

The task of predicting which pairs will make the team is not easy. If there can be a favorite pair in such a strong field as this it is Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson, the young men who played so well on our 1963 and 1964 international teams. Steady and cool, these two are unlikely to be beaten badly in any match. Should they make the team, they will become the first pair to qualify by trial in three successive years. Next I choose the long-established Canadian partnership of Eric Murray and Sammy Kehela. Murray was a member of the 1962 team, while Kehela, well versed in European bidding systems, coached our team in 1963. Together they beat a strong U.S. contingent in the Masters Knockout Team Championship this year.

For the third position on the team I offer four pairs. Lew Mathe, a player of great skill whom many considered one of the most effective in the world, is teamed with young Eddie Kantar. But this is a new partnership, and new partnerships often make major mistakes. Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt and Harold Ogust and Boris Koytchou form old partnerships, and either could finish in the top three. Lastly there is a dark-horse pair, that of Bruce Elliott and Percy Sheardown, both Canadians. Elliott is a lifetime victim of cerebral palsy. Sheardown served with distinction in the RCAF during World War II and was winning important bridge tournaments long before that. Elliott and Sheardown were the teammates of Murray and Kehela in their winning effort in Toronto, playing every session. As a further indication of their stamina, they also played in the Life Masters Pairs event, finishing second. This was one of their better hands from that event:

Neither side vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

Opening lead: 8 of spades

Conservative bidding landed Sheardown in a three-no-trump contract with the South hand, with slam depending on little more than a successful heart finesse. Sheardown converted this into a top score by playing for the heart king to be wrong.

East won the first trick with the spade ace and returned the suit. Sheardown cashed his good spades and diamonds and discarded all of dummy's hearts except the ace. Next he led to the heart ace. East, who realized the need to keep his four clubs, had blanked his king of hearts. When it dropped under the ace, South came back to his hand with a high club and cashed the 10 of hearts for the trick that brought his winning total to 12. Of course, whatever East played would have been of no avail. If he held a guard for the king of hearts his clubs would drop and North would make the last trick with a long club.

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)