It was 3 o'clock in the morning when the two teams remaining in the Vanderbilt Cup picked up their cards in the final deal (below). The difference in scores was a single International Match Point, and so it was virtually certain that this last of 36 hands would be decisive.
Competition for the championship had begun eight days before, with 70 teams in the field, including many of the biggest names in bridge. They had come to Cleveland for the American Contract Bridge League's Spring Nationals, six major championships of which the most important is the Vanderbilt. To the winning team goes the huge silver cup donated by Harold Vanderbilt, but most important, to both the winners and the runners-up goes the right to compete in the International Team Trials.
The two teams in the finals were captained by Oswald Jacoby and Robert Jordan. Jacoby, who is 63, had won his first Vanderbilt in 1931, when Jordan was 4. In all, Jacoby had won the cup six times, Jordan once.
Each team had lost once in reaching the finals (it takes two losses to be eliminated). The Jordan team—Jordan, Arthur Robinson, Norman Kay, Edgar Kaplan, George Rapee and Boris Koytchou—had been upset early in the week by a dark-horse Canadian team. The Jacobys—Ozzie and his son Jim, Dr. John Fisher, Phil Feldesman, Ira Rubin and Albert (Dingy) Weiss—had lost their first match that afternoon to Jordan.
In the first half of the critical last match the Jacoby team opened up a large lead, but the Jordan team rallied to close the deficit. And so as the last board was played in the open room—the players in the closed room had already finished—the Jacoby team led by a single IMP, although the players themselves were unaware of it.
In the closed room Jim Jacoby had opened an unorthodox no trump with the South hand. Robinson (West) had overcalled two spades. Jacoby's partner, Dr. Fisher, bid three hearts, and when Jordan passed, Jacoby went to three no trump. Robinson led a diamond, and the contract was down two for minus 200.
In the open room the bidding began the same way: Kaplan opened one no trump and Rubin overcalled two spades. But Kay, instead of bidding three hearts, doubled—an excellent call. While the spectators—including Oswald Jacoby, who had benched himself for the final session—paced the floor nervously, Kaplan considered the double. Spectators could see that if he passed, the contract would be down and the Jordan team would gain at least nine IMPs and victory in the Vanderbilt. But Kaplan bid three no trump.
Against a spade opening, Kaplan took the only reasonable chance of making the contract, playing West for the king-queen of clubs and East for the ace of diamonds. He won the jack of spades, led a club to the king and ace and returned dummy's diamond 9. East played the 10 and West smoothly ducked declarer's king. Kaplan had no choice but to lead another club, and the hand collapsed.
Suppose Kaplan had not pulled out of the two-spade double. North opens the 9 of diamonds, covered by the 10 and jack. If West wins and returns the suit, South plays the ace and jack of spades, declarer goes down one or two, and the Jordan team wins the match. But Kaplan still feels he did the right thing and, since two spades can be made against anything less than topnotch defense, we are inclined to agree. And you certainly won't hear any arguments from Oswald Jacoby.