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A pair of 26-year-old ex-intercollegiate champions, Dr. Richard H. Katz and Larry Cohen of Milwaukee, won the six-session Blue Ribbon Pairs event from a field of superstars in the Fall National Contract Bridge Championships at Coronado, Calif. last week. Katz, a lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard now stationed at the U.S. Public Health Hospital in Detroit, won the intercollegiate title with Cohen in 1966 while both were attending the University of Wisconsin.
Still, by long odds the player sensation of the tournament was 15-year-old Joseph Livezey of Springfield, Pa., who came to Coronado with his bridge teacher-partner, Mrs. W. W. Vosburgh of Bryn Mawr, in hopes of winning the 20-odd master points he needed to become the youngest Life Master in bridge history. Joey paid his own way—in fact, he'll still have to pay off part of it when he gets back home—by working weekends at a roadside restaurant where he tends the soda fountain and washes dishes. He had to take a week off from Springfield High, where he's a 10th-grade student with a B-plus average whose favorite subject is English, though his math aptitude tests put him in the 98th percentile. Most of his teachers were rooting for him, and after what he accomplished at Coronado it's hardly likely he'll be interviewed by the truant officer—unless the truant officer wants some help with his bridge game.
Joey started off by winning 16 master points when he led 664 pairs in the opening Charity Pairs event. In the Mixed Pairs, the next event, he and Mrs. Vosburgh had only a so-so game but Joey still won enough master points to wipe Kyle Larsen's "youngest-LM-ever record" off the books by a good six months. Then he went on to throw a real scare into the game's toughest expert field in the Blue Ribbon Pairs. He was fifth after the first session, third after the second session and leading the field at the end of the third. He finished 20th among 120 pairs.
Though he lost 30 pounds last summer on a one-meal-a-day regimen, Joey is still slightly chubby, moonfaced, wears glasses and is totally unabashed, even while stepping up to a table where Oswald Jacoby and Edgar Kaplan are surrounded by 50 kibitzers. At the end of the two boards played at that table some of the kibitzers left to follow Joey.
Young Livezey learned bridge at age 6, watching his mother play with friends at home. He has played duplicate for only a couple of years, is still a mite optimistic in his bidding but is a superb natural cardplayer, shining as defender as well as declarer. On the hand shown above he sat West.
North's attempt to find a contract better than one no trump was misguided. His Stayman response of two clubs when he knew his side could not make game could gain only if South bid spades. When South bid two hearts, North was forced to retreat to two no trump, a contract certain to be tenuous at best.
Joey's diamond opening was based on excellent inferences. South had shown four hearts. North obviously had four spades. East hadn't doubled the two-club bid. That left diamonds.
East's queen of diamonds was allowed to hold the first trick and West's jack captured the second. South won the third trick with the ace of diamonds and led the spade king, captured by East's ace. Mrs. Vosburgh cashed her high diamond, West discarding a spade, and returned the 2 of clubs, not only showing four-card length but promising something of value in the suit. South should have put up his king or else refused to win in dummy when Joey played the jack, but he did neither. He grabbed the queen and cashed three spades, both East and West discarding hearts.
But when hearts were next led, Joey took his ace, dropped South's club king by cashing the ace and then led the 9 of clubs. You see now why Joey played the jack of clubs earlier when he could have forced dummy's queen with the 9—but Joey saw it at the time. That earlier unblock allowed East to overtake the third club with her 10 and cash the 8. Declarer thus made only five tricks, and that third undertrick, giving East-West 150 points instead of only 100, was worth a bundle of match points.
As his teacher remarked afterward, "It's a pleasure to watch him make this kind of play because he always does it so quickly."