Mr. Goren here reflects on his recent visit to California, where he led his team to the National Open Team Championship for an unprecedented seventh time. This was indeed a bridge milestone for Goren, the top master point winner of all time, on the 20th anniversary of his first national title.
Last month, America's crack bridge players followed the advice of Horace Greeley and the example of Horace Stoneham. They went west.
In Los Angeles, at the first national bridge championships ever held on the Pacific Coast, the visitors from east of the Rockies received a warm welcome—warmer, in fact, than they had bargained for. Although the glory days of bridgedom's Ivy League—New York, Philadelphia and Boston—are a thing of the distant past, halfway through this tourney it appeared that the East might be shut out completely.
In other respects, the citizens of Los Angeles, even while they yanked the welcome mat from under the Dodgers, played host in magnificent style. Despite the 6,152 tables that set a new record for the week's play, it was not necessary to move the tournament into the Rose Bowl. Los Angeles' Hotel Ambassador took the bridge invasion in stride—all except the bedeviled elevator operators.
The tournament player, when engaged in a bridge postmortem, is totally oblivious of time and place. No human pilot of vertical transport could be expected to select the desired floor numbers out of a welter of such remarks as: "Down three." "We got a top." "Up two." "She said six, so of course I went to seven."
The tournament results demonstrated clearly that the standard of bridge competition across the nation has risen to a point where it is impossible for one group of players, or one area of the country, to dominate the bridge wars, although for a while it may have appeared as if the West Coast might do so.
In the early events, the best that non-Californians could do was share a win in the Women's Team of Four Championship. Mrs. Mary Jane Kauder and Mrs. Stella Rebner of Los Angeles captured that event, pairing with Mrs. Charles Solomon and Mrs. Edward Cohen of Philadelphia to prove that the twain really can meet.
Meanwhile, the all-California combination of Lew Mathe, Meyer Schleifer and Ed Taylor of Los Angeles, with Don Oakie of San Francisco, walked away with the Men's Team of Four Championship. This could in no way be regarded as an upset, for Mathe and Oakie had already appeared impressively in international competition, having represented the United States in world championship contests against Great Britain and France.
Further evidence that this was no mere flash in the pan promptly followed, when Mathe and Taylor plowed through a truly formidable array of bridge talent to win the Open Pair title with plenty of room to spare.
Next, the California foursome, staging an ironman stunt by competing without a substitute in an event where a five-man entry is permitted, shot out of the starting gate to take what seemed a commanding lead at the halfway mark in the blue-ribbon Open Team Championship.