Bridge is perhaps
the only sport in which spectators are admitted free while the competitors pay
to play. Furthermore, the prizes are cups of nominal value and master points of
no purchasing power. The American Contract Bridge League frowns upon
tournaments at which cash or high-value prizes are offered.
every day of the Fall National championships now under way in Detroit, four
players will be able to boast: "I won the Cadillac." Or the Dodge. Or
one of 15 other cars. However, winning the Dodge won't mean driving it. It's
just that, since the tournament is being played in the Motor City, it was
deemed appropriate to name each of the "side games" after an
A side game is a
one-session pairs competition. Although it carries no official title, victory
in such an open game at a national tournament brings an ample award of master
points. There's a side game each afternoon and evening of the championship
meet, open to any player who cares to put up the $2.50 entrance fee. Often
these side games are the means by which young players first win their
tournament spurs. Not that these events are easy to win. Invariably, the huge
entry list bristles with names of stars practicing new partnerships or just
taking a busman's holiday if they happen to have a session off from the main
However, the big
guns will have their sights trained on the national titles, and most of them
would rather win a cup than a car. This is especially true of Leonard Harmon of
New York and Alan Bell of Chicago—one-two entering the homestretch in the race
to win the McKenney trophy, awarded to the player with the best tournament
record each year. Although Harmon has a lead of nearly 100 master points,
victory in one big event could make up Bell's deficit. The Life Masters'
Individual, for example, carries an award of 125 master points. Edgar Kaplan,
who won it last year, also captured the McKenney trophy.
Most of last
year's champions are on hand to defend their laurels. My team, however, which
also includes Helen Sobel, Howard Schenken and Harold Ogust, is defending the
Open Team championship minus the services of Bill Root whose commitments will
not permit him to get to Detroit. We are fortunate in getting Lew Mathe of Los
Angeles—the man with the best individual record in the Fall Nationals last
year—to take Bill's place, for Bill's fine play contributed heavily to our
Here, for example,
is one of his winning hands.
Both the bidding
and the play of this hand illustrate the difference between board-a-match
scoring used in the Fall Nationals and the total point or International Match
Point scoring used in both the spring and summer national team championships.
In board-a-match the only thing that counts is the difference in the point
score of opposing teams on each deal. It doesn't matter how great the
difference is; on every deal you win, lose or halve a match. Thus, with honors
in her short suits, Mrs. Sobel did not mention her six-card major but gambled
that the hand would produce as many tricks at no trump as at hearts.
If South had held
a small spade along with his king-queen, this gamble would surely pay off. But
when two rounds of spades knocked out Bill's only stopper, he could see that a
four-heart contract was bound to produce a better score than three no trump
unless the heart suit failed to break and declarer at the other table failed to
take a finesse.
On this reasoning,
South cashed the ace of hearts and finessed for the queen on the second round.
Later, when the club finesse worked and the 10 dropped, South wound up making
four-odd for a score of 430 (i.e., 130 for four no trump, plus 300 for a
nonvulnerable game) while the opponents, following the normal play for four
hearts at the other table, played to drop the queen of hearts and made only
four-odd for a score of 420.
The Women's Team
championship last year went to Peggy Solomon and Marie Cohn of Philadelphia,
who proved Kipling wrong when they teamed up with a western pair, Stella Rebner
of Hollywood and Mary Jane Farell of Los Angeles. This was one of their winning