For 30 years (begining in 1942), Al Sobel’s columns, under the headings 30 Days, 60 Days, or 360 Days, were one of the most popular features of the Bulletin. The annual Sobel masterpieces served as a summary (albeit a somewhat subjective one) of the proceeding year’s doings in the world of tournament bridge.
Another year gone by? Impossible! Why, it just seems that I was referring to the International Match in New York in January, and here the office is all decorated with holly and mistletoe for the holidays. What happened to the other 10 months? As far as I am concerned, I guess just Gone With The Wine. (Ed. Note: This is not a typographical error.)
Well, let’s see what happened in 1955. It was a very big year for bridge. It saw the integration of the ACBL with the Western Division into one body. This means that contract bridge in all of North America is controlled by one organization.
A corollary to this integration is the new scheduling of the Winter Nationals, 1957, at Los Angeles CA — the first time a national championship tournament will be held on the West Coast. An orchid to Eastern and Western committees that worked hours on end to bring this merger about.
In connection with the above I might mention that this issue of the Bulletin will go out to 53,000 readers instead of 35,000. Percentagewise, I will now receive two more fan letters per issue than I did in the past – one complimentary and the other, otherwise.
1955 saw an increase of 400 new member clubs — the same number of new ones that joined up in 1954. I doubt that you can go into any city with a population of 5,000 or more and not find a flourishing duplicate game cluttering up the social program of the town.
The League did itself proud in 1955 as far as charity was concerned. We were happy to turn over a check for $65,000 to the American Cancer Society. An orchid to all the players who contributed this money and a bunch of orchids to all the directors and scorers who worked for nothing at all of the charity games to help raise this amount.
1955 saw the United States lose its first official International Match. The British whipped us and they are now revenged for the Revolutionary War. But we didn’t do so bad in the event –we finished second. Wait’ll next year.
This same international Match saw bridge getting more publicity in magazines and on front pages of newspapers since the Culbertson-Lenz match. All because a hand that was played in the first session came up again–card for card– in a later session. I can vouch that it was not the same hand because I had 224 boards numbered in advance and not one board was used a second time.
Every high-ranking mathematician in the United States had something to say about the phenomenon and the consensus was that it didn’t happen. These mathematicians should have hear Al Roth squawk about it when he picked up the hand– they’d have changed their minds.
Well, now that the big spots have been mentioned, let’s get on with the 360 Days annual awards.
The player of the year. This award in the form of the McKenney Trophy for the most masterpoints accumulated during the year, goes to a comparatively youthful player, Norman Kay, of Merchantville NJ. Norman has been knocking at the door of this award for a few years now and I am happy to say that in 1955 the door opened for him. And opened wide, too, to the tune of over 500 masterpoints. His biggest haul was winning the Life Masters Individual. This is the first time since 1951 that an Easterner has brought home this particular bacon. They must be slipping in the West.
The best male performance of the year. This goes to no other than our good friend from way down in Abilene, Texas, way–Paul Hodge. His swag consisted of firsts in the Life Masters Pairs and the Open Teams. Add to this a 4th in the Mixed Pairs, a 5th in the Men’s Teams, and the winning of the Sally Fishbein Memorial Trophy for the best showing at the record-breaking Summer Nationals, and you have a right smart year of bridge. A great player from a fairly great state.
The best female performance of the year. As they say in show business, this was a repeat performance. Again this award goes to Helen Sobel, of New York. Among her accomplishments was winning the Mixed Pairs, 2nd in the Women’s Teams, 3rd in the Masters Teams (being the one and only woman to reach the round robin), and 5th in the Life Masters Pairs. Add to this—her most spectacular performance—finishing 14th in a local duplicate with your writer as a partner–and that’s it, brother.
The most unsung player of the year. This orchid (slightly wilted) goes to Alfred (Freddie) Sheinwold of the ACBL staff. He garnered 344 masterpoints during 1955 and he never played in one national event! Freddie came to the league in July to take over the Publicity Department in addition to editing the Bulletin.
The tournament of the year.Another repeat award. This again goes to the Republic of Texas Tournament held at Fort Worth. I’ve been so far behind in my Sixty Days column that I didn’t reach this particular tournament. It was a beaut. It lasted for four days and four nights–ans I mean that literally. After each evening session, the players were cleared out, and the ballroom set up for special entertainment. And each night, the decoration motif was different. They had a country fair one night, a vaudeville show another night, the original Brigadoon dancers the third night, and finished up with Dixieland Jazz the last night. Do you blame me for giving this tournament the award?
The hand of the year.Bridge writers usually extol the virtues of hands that have slams, or intricate plays involved. My hand of the year is most innocuous and worthless one ever seen. It came out in the second flight of the Open Teams at the recent Nationals in Miami Beach. Take a look:
|♠ 6 5 3||♠K Q 9 4|
|♥ 7 6 3||♥ K 8|
|♦ 7 6 5 4 3 2||♦ 10 8|
|♣ 6||♣ Q J 10 4 2|
Take a gander at the West hand. Now, honestly, have you ever seen a smaller hand in your bridge-playing career? But what makes it the bridge hand of the year is the fact that the only trick taken by East-West in defending against a 4♥ contract was taken by West! The singleton ♣6 was led, and before declarer, South, could set up the proper play of the hand, West ruffed a club. Just think of West’s hand if ever you’re in the mood to complain about not holding good cards.
Tournament director of the year. Another repeat performance!
Best bridge column of the year. Ditto. (To the printer: please keep the last two paragraphs set up for 1956 also.)
The best father and son performance of the year. This is a new award and goes to the Jacoby’s (Ozzie and Jim). This is the first time that a father-and-son combination has won a National Championship (Open Teams with Heath, Hodge and Fain). The way that Jacoby, the elder, is cavorting around (like Ol’ Man River) I wouldn’t be surprised that in the distant future when I write up the first grandfather and grandson winning a National title, they will have the same name as above.
Thus ends 1955. By the time you get this issue I’ll be somewhere in Europe. But whether it reaches you before or after the holidays, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everybody from Sixty Days.