For Edgar Kaplan, a mild-mannered professional bridge expert, the two-week period that encompassed the Team Trials and the Fall Nationals was filled with as many ups and downs as the city where the events were held—San Francisco. Kaplan's fortnight began on a note of high optimism. He and his partner, Norman Kay, were regarded as a reasonably good bet to finish among the top three in the Trials and qualify for the North American team that will play in St. Vincent, Italy next April, but they never found their touch and finished ninth in a field of 18. Losing a trip to Italy as a team member, Kaplan was informed that he will go anyway as assistant team captain, a position for which he is well qualified by his thorough knowledge of Italian bidding methods and his theories on how to cope with them.
Trials over, Kaplan, along with his wife Betty, entered the first event of the Nationals, the Mixed Pair title. A record number of couples entered—814—but the Kaplans won easily. Next came the Men's Pairs, and Kaplan, playing this time with Vic Mitchell, racked up huge scores in the qualifying rounds. When the two men scored well enough in the first round of the final to take a lead and then posted a creditable score of 413� points in the last round, they looked like certain winners, but they had to settle for second when Alex Tschekaloff and Paul Solo-way, both of Los Angeles, scored an amazing 433� in the last round.
Undaunted, Kaplan entered the board-a-match Open Team event with Kay, Howard Schenken and Peter Leventritt, but the best they could do was fifth. The title went to another California team: Eddie Kantar and Marshall Miles of Los Angeles and Lew Stansby and Mike Lawrence of the Bay area.
One interesting hand that helped the two Kaplans to their Mixed Pair victory was this one (below), in which Edgar demonstrated good playing technique.
West led the king of hearts and continued with the ace, which Kaplan ruffed. Had he led two high spades, the contract would have been unmakable. A third spade lead would have left declarer without a trump to stop the heart suit; abandoning trump leads would let East score a small trump as well as the trump queen, and the diamond ace would set the hand.
But Kaplan cashed only one high spade. Then he led the spade 9, giving East an opportunity to win his queen. Then if East continued trumps, South would win, get to dummy with a high club and draw East's last trump, discarding one of his diamond losers. The club suit would win all but one of the remaining tricks. Or if East returned a heart, forcing South to trump with his ace of spades, the defenders would never get another trick. South would enter dummy with a club, discard both losing diamonds on the jack and 10 of spades and win the remainder with good clubs.
East tried his best by ducking the 9 of spades, but Kaplan turned his attention to the club suit. Fortunately East held three clubs and could not ruff in until the fourth round of the suit. By that time Kaplan had discarded dummy's third heart, and South's master trump could not be forced by a third heart lead. The best East could do was lead a diamond to let his partner win the third and last trick for the defenders and give Kaplan his doubled contract, a high spot in an up-and-down week.