Not long ago, about halfway through one of our less successful sessions, my most frequent and most favorite bridge partner chirped: "That's one hand we'll never see in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED." It gave me an idea.
For today I turn the podium over to her. She is, of course, Helen Sobel, acknowledged by all to be the greatest woman player of all time and, in my book, that puts her right at the top of all players, regardless of sex. Now may I introduce: my partner.
My friend Charlie Goren is a persuasive salesman. When he invited me to be his guest in this column, he didn't try to convince me that I was a great writer with a deathless message. He just said: "Helen, you know the questions people always ask? Answer them in print just once, and think of all the breath you'll save."
I really don't mind answering questions. I am in favor of crossword puzzles, conversation, dancing and many other social activities. It's just that the questions are so often the same. In bridge, at least, there are some 63 billion different hands, so they say.
The last three words are not purely feminine skepticism. Mathematics—not one of my best subjects—I think is an overrated science. This isn't part of my supposed pose as a feather-brained blonde. But I am like the little girl in a public school whose teacher asked, "Does anyone know about multiplication?" A sea of blank faces caused her to add: "You know, like four times four." "Oh, yes," responded the daughter of a bridge-playing family. "That's 16, the point count for four aces."
(All right, Mr. G., I'll leave the gags to you and get down to answering the questions. If this column turns out badly, you don't have to invite me again. But stay over on your side of the table and let me play this one for myself, the way you do in a bridge tournament.)
There, by the way, is part of the answer to one of the most frequent questions: "What makes ours such a good partnership?" We respect each other's game. We have a good partnership because we like to play together; because we have been playing as partners for a long time; because neither of us plays "fancy."
How good are women players?
Drumbeaters for masculine superiority point to the great number of men and the comparatively few women among the top-ranked life masters. This is about as logical as Moran's explanation to Mack (or maybe it was Mack's to Moran) of why black horses eat more than white horses. Sure there are more black horses—but that doesn't mean they can run faster.
The really good players among the women are just as good, I think, as the best of the men players. There just aren't as many of them—which may prove my point. Most women have more sense than to try to be the world's greatest bridge players.