Ira Rubin is one of the great theorists of bridge. Rubin invented two-way two-bids, gladiator responses to notrump, and gladiator and extended Landy. His main interest was bidding. He says, “Defense comes with a brain. It’s instinctive.”
Rubin learned to play bridge (in German) from a group of refugees when his mother took him to Lake Placid in the 1930s. His mother was not a card player and his father played everything but bridge. When he was 9, he and some friends “from around the block” played using their own made-up variations.
Rubin played his first tournament bridge at the age of 16. “I played a lot in college to the detriment of my marks,” he says. His parents disapproved of his playing during high school and his early undergraduate years, but by his later college years, “the tumult had died down” – largely because Rubin was making some money playing cards.
Rubin began achieving tournament prominence in 1954 and accumulating a number of national titles, including a victory on a Spingold team that went to Turin for the 1960 World Team Olympiad.
From 1961-1962, Rubin played with Phil Feldesman and their results were remarkable. They won the Men’s Pairs (now the Wernher Open Pairs) twice, the von Zedtwitz Life Master’s Pairs, and the Open Pairs for the Cavendish trophy. Yet it was not long after these successes that the word was out: the Rubin-Feldesman partnership was through – a victim of its own explosive tensions.
This may have contributed to Rubin earning the nickname “The Beast.” In The Bridge Bum, Alan Sontag wrote,“ . . . The Beast, a title he knew, appreciated, and lived up to. He was a terror to play against: when his partner made a mistake, he rattled the windows with his screams, yet he was most generous when a hand was played well.” Rubin says, “I forget who first called me The Beast. I would get mad at people when they started blaming me for errors and I hardly ever made an error. That’s the truth, too, not false bravado . . . despite my beastly outward nature, inside I was different.” Rubin takes great pride in the fact that one of his favorite partners, Oswald Jacoby, “once called me the ‘best player in the world’.”
Rubin did go on to win the Bermuda Bowl in 1976 playing with Paul Soloway who, according to Rubin, “had a temper, too!” This was the first American team to defeat the famous Italian Blue Team in 20 years. And as one might imagine, Rubin says, “It was the highlight of my career.”
Rubin represented the United States in three Bermuda Bowls and three Olympiads earning three silver medals and one gold, and a total of 19 NABC titles. Over a span of four decades, Rubin enjoyed successful partnerships with Chuck Burger, Phil Feldesman, Bill Grieve, Freddie Hamilton, Ossie Jacoby, Vic Mitchell, Curtis Smith, Paul Soloway, and Ron Von der Porten.
Rubin has three children – Loribeth, Eric and Jeff.