Four youthful new kings

April 14, 1969

If last month's Vanderbilt team championship proved anything, it is that there's a new breed of player ready, willing and apparently able to take over from our veteran bridge stars. And, based on recent World Championship disappointments, this may not be an entirely unhappy state of affairs.

As a member of that fading generation, I did not look with satisfaction—or even equanimity—upon, the spectacle of 10-time Vanderbilt winner Howard Schenken bowing out before the quarter-finals. I saw George Rapée, who played on the team that won the first Bermuda Bowl event for us, eliminated in the semifinals, even though his team included five other players who represented us in the World Championships: Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, Eric Murray, Sammy Kehela and Sidney Lazard.

What beat the Rapée team, however, was not age; two of them are under 40, three more under 45. Rapée himself is in his early 50s. But the four young Californians who beat them and went on to win the Vanderbilt—Richard Walsh, Jerry Hallee, John Swanson and the winner of the McKenney Trophy for the most master points acquired in 1968, Paul Soloway—behaved like a team of destiny from the moment that they barely escaped elimination in the qualifying rounds. Their ages run from 26 to 33 and, since there were only four of them, they played straight through the Vanderbilt without substitutions.

Murray-Kehela's reputation for opening the bidding on very light hands hurt them in this deal from the semifinals, even though, on this occasion, Murray had full values for his bid.

It is most unusual to leave in a takeout double of a one-bid, but Walsh elected to do so because of the vulnerability and the Murray reputation for shoestring openings. The defenders followed up by plucking Murray clean.

East won the spade lead with the ace and returned the 10 of hearts! Murray might have done better by ducking this trick, but he figured that both the king and queen were behind him, so he went up with the ace and led the king of diamonds. West began an echo by dropping the seven, and East let the diamond king hold. On the following lead to dummy's diamond queen, East won with the ace, cashed the king of hearts and led a low spade. South ruffed with the 4 of hearts and got out by leading the jack of hearts to West's queen, dummy and East discarding spades.

West cashed the king of spades, on which South threw a club, and exited by leading the 10 of clubs. East continued to make it difficult for South to read the hand by playing the king of clubs, coaxing South to win with the ace.

At this point, Murray wrongly visualized the opponents' cards as:

— [Spade]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
— [Diamond]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]

— [Spade]
— [Heart]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[6 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

He led the jack of diamonds, expecting that after West ruffed he would have to yield a trick to declarer's club jack. But when West ruffed the diamond he was able to put East in with the high club. West discarded his last club on partner's good 10 of diamonds and won the last trick with his remaining trump. Down three, for 800 points and 121 MPs. At the other table, East-West bid and made one no trump.

The Walsh team went on to meet another powerhouse of international stars in the finals: Sam Stayman, Vic Mitchell, Tobias Stone, Phil Feldesman, Ira Rubin and Jeff Westheimer, and the match was extremely close for a while, but once Walsh had overcome a small deficit after the first quarter the inevitable result was apparent to all.

North-South vulnerable South dealer

NORTH

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

WEST

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

SOUTH

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

EAST

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

SOUTH
(Murray)

1 [Heart]
PASS

WEST
(Walsh)

PASS
PASS

NORTH
(Kehela)

PASS
PASS

EAST
(Swanson)
DBL

Opening lead: 7 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)