A cocky kid makes a grand slam bid

April 19, 1965

Jeff Rubens, a lanky, 23-year-old math wizard who became a Life Master at 20, won his first national championship last month when he took the Men's Pair title in the Spring Nationals in Cleveland. Two days later, playing with a different partner, he bagged a second national honor—the Men's Team Championship. He won both events so convincingly that no one was eager to bet against his chances of completing the grand slam by winning the Open Pairs and the Vanderbilt Cup as well.

Rubens, for one, thought he had a chance, but then Jeff would. He is a cocky young man, as one can easily gather from listening to him talk for 10 seconds or so. When the word of his victory in the Men's Pairs reached the press room, someone remarked: "I'm glad Jeff won. It will do wonders for his inferiority complex." However, after you get to know Rubens, his cockiness is less annoying. He is as devastating in his criticism of himself as he is of others, and he has the competence to back up his enormous self-confidence.

Though young, Rubens can play his cards with the old masters, as illustrated by the hand shown from the Men's Pair event he won with Larry Rosier, 30-year-old Bell Labs physicist, for whom it was also a first national win.

Rubens himself calls the bidding weird; not having an intermediate two-bid, he violated theory when he chose to open two no trump. North's three-club bid asked about majors and his four-heart rebid confirmed spade support, but South was not entirely certain of that, and the rest of his bidding was to maneuver a spade confirmation from North. When he got it, Rubens bid the grand slam.

When South won the club ace and got the bad news on laying down the spade ace, a hand that at first appeared to involve no more than a trump split or a favorable situation in hearts suddenly became so difficult that you might try to solve it as a double-dummy problem before you read how Rubens brought home his 13 tricks.

Needing to lead spades twice from dummy, he could afford only one club ruff. He used this to take the first trump finesse. Then he got back to dummy by overtaking his heart king with the ace! Another spade finesse cleared the trump suit, and up to the time South drew East's last trump West had no serious discarding difficulties, letting go of four diamonds. But when South cashed his fifth spade, West was unable to discard safely. A club discard would set up South's jack, and a diamond discard would leave the king unguarded. Either play would merely postpone the inevitable, the eventual setting up of the heart suit. When South cashed either the club jack or the diamond 10, West would have to yield still another indispensable card. Actually, West let go a heart. South led his 9 of hearts, finessed dummy's 10, dropped West's jack under the queen and won the last tricks with dummy's 3 and 2 in the heart suit.

Jeff Rubens did not win the Open Pairs or the Vanderbilt Cup, as it turned out. It was an oversight he expects to correct next year.

ILLUSTRATION

East-West vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[2 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

WEST

[Jack of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH

2 N.T.
3 [Spade]
5 [Club]
6 [Diamond]
5 [Spade]

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

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

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: king of clubs

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)