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During my long and happy bridge career, I have had the good fortune to play as the partner of some of the world's greatest players. Two of them were women, and when my wins are finally totted up, these two ladies no doubt will figure in a majority of them. One, of course, was the late Helen Sobel Smith (SI, Sept. 22, 1969). The other, whose name is less well known to players nowadays, was Mrs. R. C. (Sally) Young of Philadelphia. Her death earlier this year was mourned by all of us oldtimers who knew her as both a fearsome opponent and a wonderful partner—a combination that eludes most players, the men because they are too tough and the women because they are too soft.
Sally was a tiny, slender tigress (I doubt that her playing weight ever hit three figures). But she built a smattering of knowledge, a flair for the game and a fierce will to win into the epitome of everything that is needed for bridge excellence. It may astonish modern-day players to learn that Sally won no fewer than 26 national championships, a record equaled by only a handful of men. Between 1937 and 1958 she won the National Women's Team championship seven times and finished second on three other occasions. But the victory of which she was most likely proudest was the one scored in the 1947 National Board-a-Match Team event, when she was a member of the only all-woman group ever to capture one of the three major open-team championships.
The hand shown on the following page is one I remember best, however; I was Sally's partner and all I had to do was put down the dummy and admire her execution—both of the play and of our opponents.
Sally's three-heart rebid was an excellent choice. It was better than a reopening double, since she had no interest in a possible diamond response, and better than showing her four-card club suit before rebidding her six-card heart suit. Her bid enabled me to raise to game with minimal values, most of which, it turned out, were of little help in enabling her to score 10 tricks.
Sally did her best to steal a trick by winning the first spade and immediately leading up to the king of diamonds, but East had the ace. He won, cashed the jack of spades and returned the 2 of clubs. The jack of clubs lost to the king and West exited with a diamond, dummy's 10 forcing East's queen. Sally ruffed, cashed the ace of clubs, trumped a club in dummy and discarded her last club on the jack of diamonds.
Now all she had to do was pick up the missing king of trumps. She led the jack of hearts from dummy, but when East played the 5, a delicate false-card, Sally stopped to do some hard thinking before taking the "automatic" finesse. West's distribution was nearly an open book—he was known to have started with five spades, the three clubs he had already played and, judging by the manner in which he had played his diamonds, four cards in that suit, which left only a singleton heart. If this were indeed the case, then East was a strong mathematical favorite to hold the king among his three hearts.
But there was a more significant clue, and in making use of it Sally followed the famed reasoning of Sherlock Holmes in the tale of the dog that did not bark in the night. East had already shown up with the jack of spades and the ace-queen of diamonds, and he appeared to have the queen of clubs, since his earlier lead of the 2 would normally tend to show an honor in the suit. If East had also held the guarded king of hearts, he would surely have taken some action—such as bidding one no trump—after his partner's one-spade overcall. Since he had remained silent, Sally deduced that he could not possibly hold the king of hearts. So she pounced with the ace and West's king fell prey.
I'll miss Sally Young. So will all of the world of bridge.
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