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.
1962. I surely thought when Max Manchester took over as President of the ACBL at the start of 1962 that there would be some starling innovations to write about. But, alas, it was just another humdrum, though very successful administration, not very conducive to an enlightening and brilliant post-year column. But let’s see what we can salvage out of the cadaver that was last year.
1962. This was the first year we were represented in the International Match by a team who won the right by virtue of having finished in the first three positions in a Team Trials. They did no better or worse than our teams have done in the past eight years — second. It is to their credit that they defeated a very powerful British team and a coming foursome from Argentina but they still couldn’t overcome the Italians. Losing to this seemingly invincible team by a mere 26 IMPs however was quite a feather in the collective caps of the Americans.
1962. For the first time, the Bridge-O-Rama exhibition of an International Match was held in a theatre and it was an unqualified success. Admission was by reserved seat only with a separate area set aside for the press and VIPs. This type of presentation is the future of bridge kibitzing and it won’t be many years from now that you will read in the 360 Days that for “the first time the International Match was held in Madison Square Garden*“.
1962. This year saw a Canadian, Eric Murray, playing on what up until now, had been a pristine U.S. team. This naturally led all newspapers to refer to our boys as the North American team, But not Toronto. Their headlines ran something like this: “Canadian Eric Murray and five North Americans lead the International Team Match.” When the Italians took a slight lead, “North American team trails Italy by a slight margin.” When the Italians won, the story read, “Italy defeats American team for the World Bridge Championship!” In passing I might add that Eric had as much trouble understanding the British accents as did his stateside teammates.
1962. A terrific first was the holding of a charity game simultaneously with the one at the Nationals all over the United States, Canada and Mexico. Every game played the same hands at the same time. Over 20,000 players competed, and prizes were awarded to game winners. I venture to say that this year there will be 40,000 players in the event. In response to many of my readers, I am going to suggest to Dick Frey that the most interesting of the 26 hands be analyzed in the Bulletin after the results are in.
1962. The last first (sounds silly, doesn’t it?) was the World Bridge Olympiad held in Cannes, France. International teams have competed for many years but never a regularly organized pair event before. It was an unqualified success with 19 countries represented. This event will be held every four years; the next one in 1966.
That concludes the general picture of 1962. As I mentioned before it wasn’t over-exciting but the new items instituted were good, and all lead to a very stimulating future. And now for the piece de resistance — the awarding of the Sobell Prizes for individual performances. As I always say at the start of the department, I am the sole judge and jury of these awards. There are no nominations by anybody but me, If you disagree with my choices, go write your own column and pay for your own prizes — as if I do.
Player of the year. The award this year goes to the same young man who ran away with it last year, Phil Feldesman (the Ayrab) of NYC. I’m too lazy to look back at the records but I believe this is the first time I’ve had a repeater two years in succession in this department. (The record for successive Sobell winners is the “Best column of the Year” category. I believe I’ve won that 18 years in a row.) There is no need for me to extol the bridge accomplishments of Feldesman. As Al Smith said, “Let’s look at the record:”
1st — Masters Pairs, Flt A
1st — Masters Men’s Pairs
1st — Masters Men’s Teams
1st — Open Men’s Pairs
3rd — Board-A-Match Teams
3rd — Vanderbilt Cup Teams
Ain’t that a record! I haven’t even bothered looking into his Regional tournament achievements because the above was enough for me. A capital letter SOBELL PRIZE to you, Phil.
Winner of the Year. By a coincidence, the award is also a repeater. It was won in 1961 by an old newcomer named Oswald Jacoby and this year it was won by a new veteran, Ozzie Jacoby. Jake had better look to his laurels in the very near future. For a while this year it was nip and tuck between him and his son, Jim. But another veteran from the West Coast, Barry Crane made a near-Garrison finish and finished a close second. And I might mention for the benefit of new readers that “winner of the year” means the winner of the McKenney Trophy that is awarded each year to the player amassing the most masterpoints during the year. And in addition to this trophy, Jacoby receives a mythical Sobell Prize for a very distinguished performance.
Hand of the year. This took place in the Trials at Phoenix and the bidding all along the line of astounding, unusual and in some cases really brilliant. Have you ever heard such bidding as the following:
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But all the experts agree that every bid had merit and made sense. Here is the hand:
|♠ 8 4 3
|♥ Q J 8 7 5 4
|♠ A Q J 10 9
|♣ K 10 9
|♠ K 7 6
|♥ K 6 2
|♦ A K 7 6 3 2
|♦ 10 9 8 5 4
|♠ 5 2
|♣ A 8
|♥ A 10 3
|♣ J 7 6 5 4 3 2
I asked West what his pass over 7♣ should mean to East. He answered that if East held two aces he should bid his best suit. If it turned out to be hearts then he (West) would bid 7NT. As you can see, E-W can make 6♠, 6♥, or 6NT but no grand slam. 7♣X goes for only 700 if E-W snatch their tricks when they have the chance. A Sobell prize to the pair that bid the hand as shown above.
Cutest gag of the year. This also took place and the hero, or villain, of our story is the popular director, Walter Wilson. He was on the stage when some man called for a ruling. In his haste to get to the table, Walter slipped and turned his ankle, so he was in none too happy a mood when he arrived there. The recipient of the ruling did not like the ruling and Walter did not like the recipient. The latter called Walter an idiot and our hero returned to the scoring table on the stage nursing his wounded leg and wounded vanity. After the game was over, the recipient came up to the stage and said to Walter, “I’m sorry I called you an idiot”. Wilson was satisfied with the apology until Harry Goldwater, who had heard the conversation, baited Walter with, “How come you let him get away with that?” Walter said the apology was enough for him and then Harry retorted, “Apology, nothing. The guy said, ‘I’m sorry I called you, idiot!'”
Best research work of the year. Most of you read that tremendous answer consisting of 48 figures that was sent in to a quiz problem I posed in the October issue. If you remember. I asked the chap who sent in the answer to let me know how you would read that number verbally. I received a reply form a newcomer to the discussion — W.D. Maurer, Research Mathematician, Computer Sciences Corp, Los Angeles CA. His answer reads as follows:
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you one-hundred twenty-eight quatuordecillion, seven hundred forty-five tredecillion, six hundred fifty duodecillion, three hundred forty-seven undecillion, thirty decillion, six hundred eighty-three nonillion, one hundred twenty octillion, two hundred thirty-one septillion, nine hundred twenty-six sextillion, one hundred eleven quintillion, six hundred nine quadrillion, three hundred seventy-one trillion, three hundred sixty-three billion, one hundred twenty-two million, six hundred ninety-seven thousand, five hundred fifty-seven times not to bid a notrump with a singleton.
A Sobell prize to you Mr. Maurer. You took the words right out of my typewriter.
Best bridge column of the year. Refer back to “the player of the year” paragraph and change the number from 18 to 19.
Best tournament director of the year. Sobell Prize to Walter Wilson for not slapping that guy across the ear for being so rude.
That finishes the awards for the year. As usual, I threw no brick-bats, which I easily could have, but tossed orchids only. I have one big hope for 1963. Next year, I want to award six Sobell prizes to James Jacoby, Robert Jordan, Peter Leventritt, Robert Nail, Arthur Robinson and Howard Schenken for winning the International Match. I am sure every reader of my column concurs with that wish.
At the present moment I am between bridge cruises. In my next column I will tell you about bridge aboard the S.S> Constitution and the T.S.S. Olympia. I’m sure I’ll have a few stories that deal with other things besides bridge. Read all about it in Thirty Days.
ED NOTE: (*) Apparently Al Sobel has forgotten the match between France’s European Champions and America’s “Four Aces” played in 1935 in Madison Square Garden. The 52 placard-carrying “sandwich men” who shuffled about to represent the playing cards, plus the players and officials, often outnumbered the gallery. Promoter Jim Curley said it before Winston Churchill: “Never have so many been watched by so few.”