Uruguay was bulging at the seams when a Regency Club bridge team, representing the U.S., arrived there to play in the first Pan-American championships at Punta del Este, beginning on Washington's Birthday, February 22.
Americans found a warm friend at court in the person of Miguel Paez Vilar� of Montevideo, proprietor of a chain of movie theaters and the self-appointed unofficial good-will agent of the Uruguayan people. A bridge player of some stature himself, he has done much to promote the sport in Uruguay—where, according to him, it has increased at least tenfold in the past two years. Expressing himself very cordially on the subject of my teammates, Paez Vilar� felt that the tournament made an important contribution in the field of good will, since the U.S. team, he said, was comprised of men so eminently suitable for the promotion of friendly relations between the U.S. and South American countries. He referred, of course, not only to the conduct of the individual players, but to the personification of international amity reflected by the fact that our team included Boris Koytchou, a former French champion, Constantin Platsis, shipping magnate and former ace in the Greek air force, and Ivan Wichfeld, a native of Denmark. Only half our U.S. team was native-born: Peter Leventritt (who with Koytchou was a member of my 1957 international team), Wingate Bixby, president of the Regency Club, and, of course, your reporter.
The local press was quite generous in its allotment of editorial space to the bridge championship, particularly since we dovetailed with the European Film Festival. Our final round was played amidst the arrival of movie-star delegations from France, Germany and Italy, who shared our headquarters at the beautiful Cantegril Country Club of Punta del Este.
There were five teams opposing us—one each from Argentina, Brazil and Chile and two from Uruguay. In a round-robin series of contests the U.S. team succeeded in winning all of its matches to take the undisputed championship of the Pan-American Union. The title, however, was not decided until the conclusion of our final match against an Argentine team that was very much still in the running.
At the start of the tournament the Argentines were regarded as co-favorites. Many observers rated their lineup of Alejandro Castro, Alberto Blousson, Hector Kramer, Luis A. Schenone, Alfredo Saravia and Carlos Ottolenghi as more impressive than the team which had just returned from playing against Italy and the United States in the World Championship. Two of Argentina's strongest players, Kramer and Schenone, due to illness had been unable to play in the World Championship in Italy.
An Argentine victory in the final match would have thrown the tournament into a tie. However, the U.S. team finished strongly, in a match consisting of 60 deals and won by a margin which is roughly equivalent to 4,500 points.
The first of two crucial hands from this final match is the one presented below:
North and South vulnerable East dealer
[8 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]