ACBL Bridge Beat #84: 1978 Toronto NABC

The 1978 Toronto Summer North American Bridge Championships was host to new records and innovations. It boasted the largest attendance at 18,408 tables, featured the first coordinated children’s program, introduced instant hand records and saw a break-through victory in the Life Master Pairs (now von Zedtwitz LM Pairs).

The previous record for table count was 16,403 tables at the 1973 Washington D.C. NABC. Toronto surpassed that total when the third table was sold for the Saturday evening early bird game. The single session mark was smashed too – 995 in Washington and 1094 on Thursday evening in Toronto. There were 2,138 tables in play on Thursday, a record for a single day. A total of 208 teams entered the Spingold, compared to the record on 160 in Chicago in 1977. A Swiss event had a field of 604 teams. The top three teams all won every match, but fractions awarded when a victory is by fewer than 3 IMPs broke the tie.

The children’s program catered to both tots and older children and featured magicians and musicians for the tots and field trips for the older group.

In events where duplicated hands were used, the players found printed hand record sheets available at the directors’ table as soon as they played their final hand. These sheets were much in evidence during the post-mortems, and many players took them home as a permanent record of their performance in Toronto.

For the first time in history, two women won the Life Master Pairs. Mary Jane Farell and Marilyn Johnson, already established as two of the best women players in the world, took their position at the top of all Life Masters by opening a three-point lead over Ron Feldman and David Sachs in the first final, then increasing their margin to 3 ½ points in the second final – over the same pair.

Both women were almost in tears when they received the official word.

The Master Mixed Teams saw the team of Sidney Lazard, Nancy Alpaugh, Mark Lair and Joan Dewitt successfully defend the title, despite the partner switch from the qualifying to the final.

And no hand in the entire tournament caused more uproar than Board 5 from the Golder Master Pairs. At least two pairs played at the slam level – one grand and one small – with a 0-0 trump fit! Another pair vowed to never again use artificial bids. Many a player was forced to choose the trump suit at the grand slam level. One thought his partner’s cue bid showed the ♣A, so he bid 7NT and watched his opponents take the first eight tricks – all clubs.

This was Board #5:

♠ A K Q J
K Q 7 4
A K Q J 3
♣ —
♠ 10 7 3 ♠ 2
J 9 6
8 5 2 10 7 6
♣ A J 8 6 3 ♣ K Q 10 9 7 5 4 2
♠ 9 8 6 5 4
A 10 8 5 3 2
9 4
♣ —
And this was the most disastrous bidding sequence:
West North East South
1♣ 3♣ 3
5♣ 6♣ Dbl Pass
Pass 7♣ Pass Pass (?)
Pass 7 All Pass


North, whose opening bid was a Precision Club, thought he heard a double to his left when he bid 7♣, so he continued bidding to the proper contract. However, it was determined that the bidding had been passed out at 7♣. The director ruled that the contract was 7♣, so declarer went down 8 on a deal where he was cold for 7, 7 or 7♠.

Marilyn Johnson and Mary Jane Farrell

Marilyn Johnson and Mary Jane Farrell

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