A runaway victory by the Dallas Aces in the finals of the Vanderbilt team championship, main event of the American Contract Bridge League's Spring National tournament in Atlanta, proved to be something of an anticlimax after earlier fireworks.
Two conventions—the impossible negative and the Precision two-diamond—were barred in the pair events following a hassle between the League's tournament and executive committees.
Two Vanderbilt teams were disqualified on technicalities—after they had won their matches.
Giorgio Belladonna and Benito Garozzo, formerly of Italy's famed Blue Team, became the first European duo ever to win an American national title (the Men's Pairs).
And immediately preceding the tournament the International Precision Team, for which Belladonna and Garozzo are currently starring (SI, March 15), wound up its six-city exhibition tour with five wins, one loss (to an American Bridge Association team in Washington) and a close call. The close call came in an additional match in Atlanta against the team led by nonplaying Captain Lee Hazen that, along with the Aces, will represent North America in the world championship in Taiwan next month. This was also an exhibition; the Precision team's offer to meet—and defeat—any challenger for its self-proclaimed title of world's best bridge team has yet to be accepted.
Despite all this, with their sweeping victory in the Vanderbilt finals Aces Jim Jacoby, Bobby Wolff, Billy Eisenberg, Bobby Goldman, Mike Lawrence and Bob Hamman quashed any feeling that they, as the reigning world titleholders, might have a few cracks around the feet of their graven image.
Followers of the game had been anticipating the Vanderbilt competition and a possible face-to-face final between Hazen's North American squad and the world champions. The Aces had posted an excellent record in American tournament competition, but they had won last year's world championship almost by default when Italy failed to send even one member of its Blue Team to defend the title. The Aces had also been guilty of an occasional bad performance, and many Americans thought that Hazen's team, which includes Lew Mathe, Don Krauss, Dick Walsh, John Swanson, Edgar Kaplan and Norman Kay, would win if the two were to meet.
In fact the Aces sweated a few easily spared pounds off their nonplaying captain and organizer, Texas millionaire Ira Corn, by winning a couple of squeakers on their way to the final. But they did make it. Hazen's team did not.
After a smooth ride to the semifinals the Hazen group faced a team headed by Ron Von Der Porten and including Ira Rubin, Chuck Burger, Kyle Larsen, Paul Soloway and Eddie Kantar. Their meeting was a ding-dong affair. With only a few deals left to play, the Hazen team held a slender lead, when along came the hand shown below, the first of three successive deals on which Von Der Porten rallied to win by 18 IMPs.
Von Der Porten won the opening lead with dummy's ace of spades and cashed the ace of diamonds. Warned by the fall of West's queen, he returned to his hand with the spade king to lead a second diamond toward dummy, rendering West helpless. If West discarded, dummy would score the king of diamonds. Declarer could then ruff a spade to his hand, ruff a club with dummy's 2 of hearts and cross ruff with high trumps for 11 tricks. West saved an overtrick when he ruffed the second diamond, but even if he had returned his last trump, dummy would have scored the king of diamonds and declarer would have cross ruffed for 10 tricks. When, instead, West continued spades, South ruffed and trumped a club with dummy's 2 of hearts. He made no attempt to cash dummy's diamond king but simply cross ruffed five high trumps for his contract.