Sports followers in the City of Angels have complained with some accuracy that their teams in recent years have looked more supine than divine. The Los Angeles Dodgers were going to win the National League pennant last season, but stopped playing the game a week before the rest of the league did. The Los Angeles Lakers were going to be the new dynasty in pro basketball, but they neglected to kick out the old king. The Los Angeles Rams played football a little better than Vassar but a little worse than Montana State. Perhaps the trend is about to reverse itself. Last week the Los Angeles contract bridge team won the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED trophy and the U.S. Intercity title by squashing the defending champions from Minneapolis-St. Paul 211 to 160.
The visiting team was outnumbered as well as outplayed. Coming from the Twin Cities were David Clarren, Newton Dockman, Morris Freier, Farrell Green, Don Horwitz, Norman Justice and Julien Philippy, with Irving Levin as nonplaying captain. Los Angeles had its-basic seven—Harold Guiver, Robert Hamman, Edwin Kantar, Donald Krauss, Lew Mathe, Erik Paulsen and E. O. Taylor—plus a reserve squad including Ivan Erdos, Meyer Schleifer, Morris Portugal, Mike Shuman and Barry Crane. By the end of the tournament, Nonplaying Captain Kelsey Petterson, like a coach seeing that all his men got letters, had juggled his lineup to use everyone. That is how thoroughly Los Angeles dominated play.
For the first seven deals it was a contest. Indeed, the Twin City team led by 17-9. But Los Angeles scored 10 IMPs on Board 7, and after that was never headed. The crusher came as early as Board 13, which proved most unlucky for the defending champions.
Clarren and Dockman, playing East-West for Twin Cities, reached a routine three-heart contract and went down one trick when the defenders ruffed out the king of clubs and also collected one club trick, two spades and the trump ace. They were hardly prepared to hear that their teammates in the closed room had met with utter disaster.
Sitting South for Twin Cities, Green felt that he was not strong enough for a bid at the two level but could make a one-spade overcall. Thus, he suppressed his diamond suit in favor of his four-card major. This sort of bidding technique is always questionable, since it is highly misleading to the partner, but no great harm would have ensued if South had accepted the contract of five clubs doubled. When he actually looked for an escape at five diamonds, North, perhaps unwisely, felt he was obliged to go back to South's first suit, spades, and now the partnership was in real trouble.
South tried to protect his four-card trump length by winning the heart lead with dummy's trump 9, but East ducked the lead of the spade king and won the next lead with his ace, continuing a heart to knock out declarer's ace. South drew the last trumps with his queen of spades, then led a diamond to the king, losing to the ace. Another heart lead exhausted South's last trump. When East got in with the diamond queen, the defenders were able to cash three more heart tricks and set the contract 1,100. The combined result was a gain of 15 IMPs for Los Angeles, and the pattern of the 80-deal match was set.
So Los Angeles, fastest-growing bridge center in the hemisphere, will hold the Intercity championship for a year, and then go to Toronto to meet a Canadian challenge just before the 1964 Summer Nationals next July.