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There were many who have said it couldn't be done—that a husband-and-wife pair could never win the Masters. The Portugals have now disproved the theory, but their playing partnership has had its stormy moments. Friends hearing them argue at a tournament, however, take such outbursts as a real sign that they are having a good game.
The Portugals are convinced that they don't fight. "We have given that up," says Morris, who recently left a children's-wear manufacturing business to assist in the management of the Regency Bridge Club in Los Angeles. He has ideas, however, on why other married couples squabble so much. "They're stuck with each other. They can't just shrug it off and cut a new partner. Then, too, they expect more of one another."
The Portugals expect a great deal of one another because each regards the other's game so highly. When I talked with Helen Portugal in Turin, Italy, where she played as a member of the U.S. women's team in the Olympiad, she constantly referred to her husband as the real player of the family. Mr. Portugal, after their victory in Los Angeles, said that Helen was the bulwark of their team.
True or not, she is only the third woman ever to win the Life Master Pairs. Helen Sobel, playing with me, has won it twice, and Ruth Chase Gilbert of Philadelphia won it in 1949 with Leo Roet of Irvington, N.J.
It requires courage, as well as perceptiveness, to win a bridge championship, and in a pair game the play of a mere one-bid can be as important as a grand slam. To illustrate, here's a hand that helped the Portugals win their title.
West wasn't strong enough to double one spade, but got his opportunity to convert partner's reopening takeout double via a penalty pass.
East won the first club and returned the spade 8. At this point most declarers panicked, dashing in with the high spade and hastening to ruff a losing club before dummy's remaining trump could be drawn. These players fared badly. When they came off dummy with a diamond, East won with the jack and cashed two high clubs, giving West two diamond discards. On the next diamond West overruffed South. A heart put dummy in with the ace, and South managed to make two more trump tricks for down two.
Portugal played with greater valor as well as greater discretion. After winning the trump return, he reasoned that East surely did not have another trump and that West probably did not have a high diamond. So, before dashing to ruff a club, he led the diamond 9 and passed it to East's jack. East put back a high club. Dummy ruffed and South trumped a diamond to his hand. Next he led to dummy's heart ace and ruffed another low diamond. With only the king-jack of trumps remaining against West's four spades, he exited and waited for West to lead trumps, making five trumps in his own hand, the heart ace and one ruff in dummy.