On the first day of spring a clammy blizzard of wet snow knocked out all power and light in Atlantic City, N.J., where the Vanderbilt Team bridge championship (the Spring Nationals) was scheduled to begin. But it did not stop the bridge players.
At 7 p.m. frantic engineers restored emergency power service to the Hotel Traymore, and the first round of play got under way. By midnight the starting field of 48 teams was trimmed down to 32 and the second-round matches were begun. By 3 a.m. half of the second-round matches had been played and the weary gladiators staggered off to get caught up with their sleep, reassembling at 11 a.m. to get the tournament caught up on its schedule. By 3 p.m. Friday the third round was in progress as planned, and then the only thing that stopped the teams was a knockout defeat.
Lee Hazen of the winning team missed the last three sessions because of business. So the brunt fell upon Harry Fishbein, Sam Fry Jr. and Len Harmon of New York and Ivar Stakgold of Washington; the latter pair carried off top laurels when they also won the second most important title, the Open Pair championship. The Men's Pair was won by Sidney Silodor and Norman Kay.
Earlier in this 1958 Spring National Championship meeting of the American Contract Bridge League a new star was born. Mrs. M. J. Novak, a Shreveport, La. bridge buff who had never before played in a national tournament, came to Atlantic City in quest of partners and experience. Just before the Women's Pair event she was introduced to Mrs. G. R. Nail, wife of the Houston Life Master, and they formed a last-minute pickup entry. Result: they won.
Next day another Houstonian, John Gerber, creator of the ace-showing convention, made a last-minute decision to enter the Mixed Pair championship if he could find a partner. Mrs. Novak was available. At the halfway mark John asked me when I planned to write up his partner. My answer was: "When she pitches another no-hitter." Then Gerber and Mrs. Novak won!
Result: I am now writing up Mrs. M. J. Novak, the Shreveport, La. housewife who, playing with partners she had never met before, won the first two national championships she ever entered.
The difficulty of winning a national tournament with an unfamiliar partner is emphasized by the oddity that, since Mrs. Novak had never played the Gerber convention, the inventor of the four-club ace-showing call agreed to play the Blackwood four no trump. This is the bridge equivalent of Henry Ford agreeing to drive a Chevrolet, but it worked out very well in getting the Mixed Pair winners to a grand slam on this deal:
Both vulnerable East deals
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[2 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]