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Last week in Dallas 18 expert pairs competed in the six-day, 340-deal Trials for the three positions on the 1965 North American world championship team. For many of the better-known pairs, the Trials were a disaster. The entire 1964 U.S. Olympiad team was eliminated. So were all seven pairs from Canada. Of the six pairs I had selected as my pre-Trials picks, only one made it. And yet, as any grueling test must, the Trials produced a team that should do well when the championships are played next spring in South America.
After a slow start that buried them in next-to-last place at the end of six rounds, Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt of New York rallied strongly to finish first with a total score of 619� points. At 61, Schenken, a bridge writer and travel agent, long recognized as one of the world's top-ranking players, has represented America in six previous world championships. Leventritt has played in three and once (in 1955) served as non-playing captain of the American team. The two played as partners in 1961 and again in 1963, have developed an artificial system somewhat along Italian lines and are a thoroughly practiced as well as a world-class seasoned pair.
In second place, with 617, was the dark-horse pair of Californians, Ivan Erdos and Kelsey Petterson, who played with poise throughout. Erdos, born in Hungary and possessed of an innate feel for cards, learned bridge in London during the war but did not achieve top recognition until he came to the U.S. in 1951. Now 40, Erdos makes his living from teaching bridge, writing about it and making professional playing dates with student-partners.
Petterson, a California attorney, is a relative unknown. His only national championship win was in the men's team event in 1962. He qualified for the Trials, playing as Erdos' partner, on the team that finished runner-up in the Vanderbilt Cup matches this spring. At 53, Petterson is a calm, steady player who is a good anchor for Erdos, whose temperament is as Hungarian as his flair for the game.
Third, though very nearly the victims of a smashing defeat in the final round, was the couple that has had the best record in major pair championships during the past two years: B. Jay Becker, 60, a syndicated bridge columnist and a member of four previous international teams, and Mrs. Dorothy Hayden, an attractive, 39-year-old Hastings-on-Hudson housewife with four children and a degree in mathematics, which, she cheerfully concedes, has little to do with her bridge proficiency. Mrs. Hayden is the first woman to qualify for the team since the Trials were adopted and only the second—Helen Sobel was the first—to play on our championship team.
The youth movement, evident in the last three teams to represent the U.S. in international play, was derailed. Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson, virtually everybody's No. 1 pre-Trials pick to make the team after their fine performances in St. Vincent in 1963 and New York in this year's World Bridge Olympiad, never got moving. Robert Ham-man and Don Krauss, the young Coast stars who shook up the bridge world by leading the entire field in the 1963 Trials, proved that last year's victory was no fluke when they came close, but not quite close enough, finishing fourth. So the team we will send to South America averages 50 years in age and includes throe players new to international competition. Nevertheless, it is a team that should give an excellent account of itself.
The winners of the Trials, Schenken and Leventritt, picked up points on this hand in their match against Jordan and Robinson when they collaborated in a smooth defense against a good gambling bid by Jordan.
After Jordan's redouble had elicited a bid in the only suit in which he was weak, he shot for the moon with a three-no-trump contract and stood his ground when Leventritt doubled.
Jordan won the first heart trick with the ace, but West was not to be fooled. When he got in with the king of clubs, he shifted to the jack of diamonds. North covered, and Hast won with the king. To beat the contract Schenken had to credit his partner with the diamond 10 and return a low one. He did, and the live diamond winners put Jordan down 300. Without the diamond shift. South could have made five no trump for a 750 score, a gain of 300 over the pairs that reach the more normal four-spade game.
A tremendous lead by Dorothy Hay-den of the Becker-Hayden team prevented the. opposition in this match, Sam Stayman and Vic Mitchell, members of the 1964 Olympiad team, from taking third place. This was the deal: