Never in the history of the Team Trials has there been as exciting a finish as there was at this year's competition, held last week in San Francisco, a city famous for its bridge. Of the 18 pairs battling for the three positions on the North American team, seven were still in contention going into the last of 17 rounds. Each pair had played 320 hands and then, for the seven contenders, everything depended on the final 20.
It had begun six days before, as 36 of the leading players in the U.S. and Canada engaged in a round-robin marathon. The early pairings were fratricidal—deliberately so. Friends were pitted against friends, neighbors against neighbors, so that later, when the matches became crucial, no pair out of contention could be accused of letting down against a pair of friends still fighting for a position on the team. So it was that Oswald Jacoby, playing with Albert Weiss, faced his son Jim in the second round. Son beat father 48-12 (there were 60 points to be divided in each match).
At the start Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson, the Philadelphians who played so well for the U.S. in 1963 and 1964, won three matches to take an early lead. Veteran Lew Mathe and young Bob Hamman, both from the Los Angeles area, took over the lead after the fourth round but gave way to Canadians Eric Murray and Sammy Kehela, who moved into first after Round 7.
Six rounds later Mathe-Hamman had regained the lead from Murray-Kehela, who were second. Phil Feldesman, his onetime highly successful partnership with Ira Rubin restored, had moved into third place after Round 11, but
Jordan-Robinson retook the position immediately and then jumped into the lead by the 14th round by crushing Mathe-Hamman 56� to 3�
In the next two rounds Feldesman-Rubin, winning big, clinched a position on the team. Not even a shutout in the final round could cost them third place. By a quirk of the draw, four of the other six pairs still in contention for the last two positions had to fight each other. The team of George Rapee and Boris Koytchou, which had leaped from the pack to take over second place, had to play its final match against Mathe-Hamman, the third-place team. Murray-Kehela, in fourth, were up against Jordan-Robinson, who were fifth. All four were packed together so tightly that the winners of these two matches seemed certain to make the team. Yet, if both scores were close, say 35-25, the sixth or seventh place team could slip by everyone with a 60-0 win.
Feldesman-Rubin lost their last match but gained enough points to finish first. Mathe-Hamman overpowered Rapee-Koytchou and wound up second. And in the most exciting match of the final round, Murray-Kehela beat Jordan-Robinson to take third, a duel that was not decided until the very last deal.
Feldesman-Rubin had served notice that they would be dangerous when they beat the seasoned pair of Alvin Roth-Tobias Stone in the eighth round, mostly on the strength of the hand at left, on which Rubin was the only one of nine declarers to make his game.
After Roth had collected the ace and king of hearts he shifted to a noncommittal 5 of clubs. The queen lost to West's king, and Stone moved to protect a possible trump trick in his partner's hand by making declarer a gift of a ruff and sluff. He led a third round of hearts, which Rubin ruffed in dummy, discarding a club. This play didn't really help declarer—he could always have ruffed that club in dummy—but it led him to wonder why Stone should be so helpful. He decided that Roth must have at least three spades and possibly four, so he led the 10 of spades and let it ride.
Armed with the news that he needed all of dummy's trumps to pick up East's queen, and that the diamond suit could not be established, Rubin continued trumps, then played the ace and king of diamonds and finally brought home the contract by taking a finesse against East's jack of clubs. The swing was 11 International Match Points.
Mathe had a similar triumph—he was the only declarer to make game at any of the nine tables—on the hand above, played against last year's nonplaying captain, John Gerber, partnered by Paul Hodge.