There exists a small group of individuals who can combine successful professional careers with stellar bridge talent, evidenced by a long line of tournament victories, while maintaining a sense of humor and dignity.
Lee Hazen was one of that group.
Hazen, who died in 1991 at the age of 85, earned degrees from Columbia University and New York University Law School and practiced law for nearly 50 years. He learned to play bridge in the early Thirties when he was a young attorney.
His impressive tournament record leaves no doubt as to his ability.
Hazen had four wins in the Vanderbilt, three in the Spingold and two in the Chicago (now the Reisinger). In addition to those outstanding team victories, he won the Master’s Individual in 1941 and the national Men’s Pairs in 1945. He was runner-up in eight North American championships.
Hazen represented the United States in the Bermuda Bowl twice (1956 and 1959), finishing second on both occasions.
He was the non-playing captain of the first-place North American team in the 1971 Bermuda Bowl in Taipei, and of the silver-medalist team of the 1972 World Team Olympiad in Miami Beach .
Hazen’s contributions as a bridge administrator are equally impressive. He served as an ACBL director in 1949 and vice-president 1945-47, was a member of the ACBL Laws Commission for more than 30 years and was ACBL legal counsel for more than 40 years.
Hazen is widely credited with helping the ACBL modernize during this tenure in the late Forties.
In addition, Hazen was named ACBL Honorary Member in 1958, served as trustee for the ACBL Charity Foundation and was also the founder of the Greater New York Bridge Association.
Hazen’s reputation as a bridge raconteur and humorist separated him from other experts.
He explained his bidding philosophy as follows: “If I like my hand, I bid. If at the next round I still like it, I bid again. As soon as I stop liking it, I quit bidding.”
Another example of Hazen’s humor: “I remember getting up from one table, still thinking hard about the hand I had just struggled through. A pretty lady with dark eyes asked how I was doing. I mumbled some perfunctory reply and moved on to the next table.
“Suddenly, as I took my cards from the first board, it hit me. That lady was my wife (Sylvia)! Being a bridge player herself — and a good one, too — she understood and forgave me.”
Hazen liked to tell the following story, as told to him by an acquaintance, Charles Duffy. “Duffy and his wife were playing against a pair of long-pause bidders. The opponents stopped on one hand in three hearts, making four, after an agonizingly long auction. They then began to bemoan their failure to bid game. ’You never could have bid it,’ Duffy assured them. ’You just didn’t have the time.’ “
Recounting the stories of other players was a favorite pastime of Hazen’s. This now-classic George S. Kaufman talk was part of his repertoire.
“After one hand, Kaufman asked a rather inexpert person playing as his partner, ’By the way, when did you learn to play, partner?’ And before she could reply, he continued, ’I know it was today, but what time today?’ “
This may summarize Hazen best. “I’ve had two great romances in my life. More than 50 years ago I was able to persuade a perfectly beautiful, charming, bright girl to throw in her lot with me.” His second romance was bridge.