"That's me," Buster Keaton said.
My mouth dropped. I turned to the professor. "If he's Ivan Erdos, then you're—"
"That's right," the professor said.
Tobias Stone! The great international player! The man who co-invented the Roth-Stone system. The widely known eccentric genius who taught his wife how to play bridge and then partnered her to more master points in a single year than any novice had ever won before. The terrible-tempered Tobias Stone who burned partners at the stake and squelched opponents with the most fiendish ripostes! The same Tobias Stone who many claimed would be the best player in the world except for his temper tantrums, and many others claimed was the best in the world, temper tantrums notwithstanding.
I turned puce, or so the professor said later. I overheard him telling another expert, "And when this guy found out who I was, he turned puce. He literally turned puce!"
The rest of the day was anticlimax. After you've played Stone and Erdos and lost by 10 points, nobody else is likely to rattle you. We lost our third match in a row, finally won a match by holding stupendous hands that even a Jukes-Kallikak team could not have messed up, and came into our fifth match of the tournament with a stirring record of one win and three losses. Right away we began losing again, and soon we were so far down that in desperation I pushed Cave into two contracts that Charles Goren, playing double-dummy with Ely Culbertson at his elbow, could not have made. Under this pressure, Cave revoked, and immediately one of the opponents, a wizened man who looked like Uriah Heep after a luncheon of pickles, leaned forward and said in a voice choked with happiness, "I'm afraid, sir, you revoked!" He jotted down the penalty with a big flourish of the pen, announced that at this juncture we could not win the match even if we grand-slammed, and departed our company, his feet barely touching the floor. Cave said, "Listen, Jack, if you ever—"
"Calm yourself," I interrupted, "and remember: have fun!"
Somehow or other we managed to win our sixth and last match of the day and finished the first session with a record of 2 and 4. At the next table Oswald Jacoby, the undisputed genius who has accumulated more master points than any other player in the history of bridge, finished the day with a record of 1 and 5. We might be dogmeat, but we were plainly better than Jacoby.
That night Cave and I had one of our innumerable skull sessions. "Look," Ray said, "we played six matches and we're 2 and 4 and all that keeps us from being 3 and 3 is a match we lost by 10 points to the best team in the tournament. Doesn't that tell you something?"
"Yeh," I said. "It tells me that God is not dead."