Search

Old hands with new tricks

Dec. 07, 1964
Dec. 07, 1964

Table of Contents
Dec. 7, 1964

Yesterday
Notre Dame
College Basketball 1965
Scouting Reports
Pro Football
Boating
Bridge
Pop!
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

Old hands with new tricks

At the Trials in Dallas to form a North American entry in the 1965 World Championship, three seasoned pairs whip some younger rivals

Last week in Dallas 18 expert pairs competed in the six-day, 340-deal Trials for the three positions on the 1965 North American world championship team. For many of the better-known pairs, the Trials were a disaster. The entire 1964 U.S. Olympiad team was eliminated. So were all seven pairs from Canada. Of the six pairs I had selected as my pre-Trials picks, only one made it. And yet, as any grueling test must, the Trials produced a team that should do well when the championships are played next spring in South America.

This is an article from the Dec. 7, 1964 issue Original Layout

After a slow start that buried them in next-to-last place at the end of six rounds, Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt of New York rallied strongly to finish first with a total score of 619½ points. At 61, Schenken, a bridge writer and travel agent, long recognized as one of the world's top-ranking players, has represented America in six previous world championships. Leventritt has played in three and once (in 1955) served as non-playing captain of the American team. The two played as partners in 1961 and again in 1963, have developed an artificial system somewhat along Italian lines and are a thoroughly practiced as well as a world-class seasoned pair.

In second place, with 617, was the dark-horse pair of Californians, Ivan Erdos and Kelsey Petterson, who played with poise throughout. Erdos, born in Hungary and possessed of an innate feel for cards, learned bridge in London during the war but did not achieve top recognition until he came to the U.S. in 1951. Now 40, Erdos makes his living from teaching bridge, writing about it and making professional playing dates with student-partners.

Petterson, a California attorney, is a relative unknown. His only national championship win was in the men's team event in 1962. He qualified for the Trials, playing as Erdos' partner, on the team that finished runner-up in the Vanderbilt Cup matches this spring. At 53, Petterson is a calm, steady player who is a good anchor for Erdos, whose temperament is as Hungarian as his flair for the game.

Third, though very nearly the victims of a smashing defeat in the final round, was the couple that has had the best record in major pair championships during the past two years: B. Jay Becker, 60, a syndicated bridge columnist and a member of four previous international teams, and Mrs. Dorothy Hayden, an attractive, 39-year-old Hastings-on-Hudson housewife with four children and a degree in mathematics, which, she cheerfully concedes, has little to do with her bridge proficiency. Mrs. Hayden is the first woman to qualify for the team since the Trials were adopted and only the second—Helen Sobel was the first—to play on our championship team.

The youth movement, evident in the last three teams to represent the U.S. in international play, was derailed. Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson, virtually everybody's No. 1 pre-Trials pick to make the team after their fine performances in St. Vincent in 1963 and New York in this year's World Bridge Olympiad, never got moving. Robert Ham-man and Don Krauss, the young Coast stars who shook up the bridge world by leading the entire field in the 1963 Trials, proved that last year's victory was no fluke when they came close, but not quite close enough, finishing fourth. So the team we will send to South America averages 50 years in age and includes throe players new to international competition. Nevertheless, it is a team that should give an excellent account of itself.

The winners of the Trials, Schenken and Leventritt, picked up points on this hand in their match against Jordan and Robinson when they collaborated in a smooth defense against a good gambling bid by Jordan.

After Jordan's redouble had elicited a bid in the only suit in which he was weak, he shot for the moon with a three-no-trump contract and stood his ground when Leventritt doubled.

Jordan won the first heart trick with the ace, but West was not to be fooled. When he got in with the king of clubs, he shifted to the jack of diamonds. North covered, and Hast won with the king. To beat the contract Schenken had to credit his partner with the diamond 10 and return a low one. He did, and the live diamond winners put Jordan down 300. Without the diamond shift. South could have made five no trump for a 750 score, a gain of 300 over the pairs that reach the more normal four-spade game.

A tremendous lead by Dorothy Hay-den of the Becker-Hayden team prevented the. opposition in this match, Sam Stayman and Vic Mitchell, members of the 1964 Olympiad team, from taking third place. This was the deal:

Both sides vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

NORTH
(Mitchell)

1 [Heart]
2 [Heart]
3 N.T.
PASS

EAST
(Becket)

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Stayman)

1 [Spade]
3 [Diamond]
4 [Spade]

WEST
(Mrs. Hayden)

PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: queen of clubs

Mrs. Hayden realized from the bidding that North held an honor in clubs and South was weak in that suit. Instead of leading a low club, however, she made the brilliant lead of the queen. North covered with the king, and East was able to win two clubs and lead a third round of the suit. Stayman ruffed, led to the diamond king, discarded a diamond on the heart ace and played a second diamond. The queen dropped, but this did declarer no good. East overruffed the third diamond with the jack and returned a trump. The finesse for the king lost to West, and that was the setting trick.

Had West opened a low club, declarer could withhold dummy's king. Now, when East won with the 10, if he continued with the ace of clubs he would establish the king for a second diamond discard by South. When the diamond queen appeared, declarer would have no need to ruff a diamond and could play the spades to lose only one trick. Or, if East failed to cash the ace of clubs, declarer could discard his second club on the heart ace and could afford to lose a diamond overruff to East and a trick to West's king and still make his game.

The sensation of the tournament, perhaps, was the biggest set ever recorded in such an event. It occurred on the second board of the final-round match when Cliff Russell and Harry Harkavy were trying desperately for a blitz that might have given them one of the top three places at the expense of Erdos-Petterson. The situation called for daring tactics, but Russell and Harkavy overdid it. Their bidding (see below) had the weird look of the mad scientist.

East's opening bid of four clubs asked partner to bid four hearts—based on the theory that it would help to have the lead come up to the hand that might have strength. Of course, Petterson was far too strong to bid only four hearts and instead chose a Blackwood bid of four no trump, to which Erdos declared "no aces." Petterson settled for six hearts—but at this point Harkavy wheeled into action with the "unusual" no trump, asking partner to take his choice of the minors. Russell bid seven clubs and Petterson, of course, doubled.

The opening lead of the 9 of clubs was the best possible. Erdos took dummy's queen with the king and continued by leading the jack to force North's ace. A spade lead to the king put West in, and West made the brilliant return of the queen of hearts. Had Erdos overtaken with the king and drawn the trumps, Russell would have made only one trick, dummy's ace of clubs. But East ducked. South was able to trump the continuation of the heart ace. but that was his second and last trick. The result was 3,200 points—a gain of 1,770 over those who merely made slam. Erdos-Petterson coasted to a 48-12 win, an easy second-place finish and an expenses-paid trip to South America next spring.

ILLUSTRATION

Neither side vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Jordan)

1 [Club]
REDBL
3 N.T.

WEST
(Leventritt)

PASS
PASS
DBL

NORTH
(Robinson)

PASS
1 [Diamond]
PASS

EAST
(Schenken)

DBL
DBL
PASS

Opening lead: 8 of hearts

Both sides vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

NORTH
(Harkavy)

PASS
PASS
6 N.T.
PASS

EAST
(Erdos)

4 [Club]
5 [Club]
PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Russell)

PASS
PASS
7 [Club]
PASS

WEST
(Petterson)

4 N.T.
6 [Heart]
DBL

Opening lead: 9 of clubs