The Team Trials became a Philadelphia story

And that was good news for the U.S., as two experienced stars returned to competition and showed the kind of play that may give the all-conquering Italians something to worry about at the next World Championship
October 15, 1967

There was a time in 1963 and 1964 when the brightest prospects for any U.S. bridge team were two comparatively youthful Philadelphians, Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson. They played strongly in the World Championship in 1963, and it was generally agreed that if the rest of the six-man U.S. team had performed as well as Robinson and Jordan in 1964 the invincible Italians would not have been invincible at all.

But following this excellent showing, Jordan and Robinson more or less abandoned international competition, and the chances of the U.S. ever to beat the Italians dropped accordingly. Now, happily, the dropouts are back. Early this month at Atlantic City they returned, and, amid clouds of their own cigar smoke, put on a dazzling display of ability at the U.S. Team Trials. Competing against 15 of the best U.S. pairs, the Philadelphians finished first by 36½ points and won a position on the six-man team that will play for the U.S. in the World Bridge Olympiad in Deauville, France next June.

So impressive have the Jordan-Robinson performances been in the past that they arrived at the Team Trials as favorites to win. The only question was whether or not they might be too rusty to maintain a high level of play throughout a 10-day event. As these two hands show, they were not out of practice.

In the Jordan-Robinson partnership a one-no-trump response to a major-suit opening bid (hand at lower left) is forcing. Jordan's rebid of three spades showed his greater length in that suit, but North naturally preferred hearts. Two other declarers reached the four-heart contract, but Jordan was the only one to bring it home.

At the other tables the declarer ruffed a second round of clubs and played two rounds of trumps, ending in dummy for a spade lead. West took the spade king with the ace and led a third club. If declarer ruffed with his last trump, East could ruff his queen of spades, and declarer, with only the ace of diamonds as a reentry, could never bring in the spade suit. If, instead, declarer dumped the jack of diamonds on the third club, East could shift to a diamond. Now South could take out East's remaining trump, but only at the expense of his lone reentry and once again the spade suit could not be brought home.

But Jordan foresaw the possibility of bad breaks in the majors. After ruffing the second club, he led the king of spades at once. West could give his partner a spade ruff if he wished but could not prevent Jordan from establishing his spades in time to discard two diamonds from dummy. West recognized that the ruff was hopeless and returned a diamond instead. East's king forced the ace, but now Jordan did not need to establish the spade suit. Instead, he led a trump to dummy, ruffed dummy's last club, overtook his last trump to draw East's remaining hearts and then conceded a diamond trick, losing only a club, a diamond and a spade.

From the point of view of Julius Rosenblum, the nonplaying captain of the U.S. team, the most satisfying hand of the Trials was probably the one below, on which all three of the pairs that he eventually selected for the team turned in some sparkling play.

Although the Jordan-Robinson style is to open sound one bids, their preempts are like those of the rest of the field, and Robinson's three-spade opening against Alvin Roth and Bill Root—who finished second—was duplicated at the other tables.

Roth won the first trick with the ace of diamonds and shifted to a trump, won by dummy's king. Needing a quick entry to his hand in order to ruff a diamond in dummy, Robinson cashed dummy's two top hearts and ruffed a third heart. The diamond ruff was successfully accomplished, but now declarer was in trouble. If he attempted to get off dummy with a club lead, Roth was waiting with a spectacular play. He would rise with the king of clubs, cash the queen of diamonds and lead his last heart. Then, if South ruffed low, West could overruff; if South ruffed high, West's spade jack would be established as the setting trick.

Robinson deftly avoided this situation by leading the fourth heart himself and discarding his 9 of clubs. Root now gave his side a chance by throwing away the ace of clubs, hoping to coax Robinson into thinking it was a singleton so that he would ruff a club return high. But when Roth returned a club, Robinson ruffed low, and the contract was safe.

When Norman Kay held the West hand, with Edgar Kaplan sitting East, the same situation arose—but declarer made a grave error. After ruffing a diamond loser in dummy at the sixth trick, South also led the fourth round of hearts. But he chose to discard his last diamond instead of the 9 of clubs. Kay made the same fine discard of the ace of clubs that Root had, but this time it was effective. When Kaplan's queen held the heart trick he cashed the king of clubs and led a second club, which promoted Kay's jack of spades to the setting trick.

The caliber of play at the Team Trials was good, and in the end Rosenblum had a difficult problem deciding upon which three pairs to select for the U.S. squad. Phil Feldesman and Ira Rubin had finished third. Kaplan and Kay were fourth. Both had played on teams captained by Rosenblum, with Kaplan and Kay named as the best-performing pair for the North American team in the 1967 World Championship in Miami. But Feldesman and Rubin had played very well in the Trials. An unheard-of poll of the players, taken near the end of the Trials, helped Rosenblum decide. If you and your partner make the team, he asked each of the 10 pairs in the finals, which two pairs would you like to see as your teammates? Jordan-Robinson were a unanimous choice. Roth and Root received a majority of votes. Kaplan and Kay were named by several. Rubin and Feldesman received four votes as alternates—but none as members of the team.

Rosenblum picked them just that way. Rubin pointed out that the World Championship is not a popularity contest. But the Italians have pointed out even more sharply that team harmony is the most important asset of all. Rosenblum acted accordingly.

Both sides vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Jordan)

1 [Spade]
2 [Heart]
3 [Spade]

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Robinson)

1 N.T.
3 [Heart]
4 [Heart]

EAST

PASS
PASS
(all pass)

Opening lead: king of clubs

Both sides vulnerable East dealer

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

EAST
(Roth)

PASS
PASS

SOUTH
(Robinson)

3 [Spade]
PASS

WEST
(Root)

PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Jordan)
4 [Spade]

Opening lead: 5 of diamonds

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)