Not Just the ACBL Story – But HISTORY

True accounts of events and people who shaped the ACBL

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ACBL 75th Anniversary in 2012In celebration of the American Contract Bridge League’s 75th Anniversary, during 2012 guests of our website will revisit moments and people from our game’s history. Whether a large event or a simple quote, these are just a few of the moments and individuals who have helped sustain the ACBL through the years. When possible, there will be photos to aid in telling bridge’s adventures in North America. We hope you enjoy learning some new information, as well as re-familiarizing yourself with some of the great moments in bridge history – after all, it was you who helped write our story.

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January 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm

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ACBL Bridge Beat #139: Wrap-up

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The world’s most challenging mental sport, bridge is a game of skill, communication and infinite possibilities. Millions of people worldwide play and enjoy the competitive aspects of tournament or “duplicate” bridge.

Bridge is on the rise as more and more Baby Boomers learn – and learn to love – the world’s most popular card game. The ACBL has amassed a rich history and seen groundbreaking advances with computers and the Internet. A wealth of great leaders – and some “interesting” personalities – are all part of the world’s largest and most influential bridge organization.

ACBL traces its history from the organization of the American Auction Bridge League in Hanover NH at the 1927 congress (tournament) of the American Whist League, by a group sparked by Ralph R. Richards, including E. J. Tobin, Robert W. Halpin, Henry P. Jaeger and Clayton W. Aldrich.

Contract bridge was introduced at the second congress, held in Cleveland in 1928, during which year the infant organization acquired the services of William E. McKenney, whose originality, drive and organizational ability did much to establish ACBL.

The increased popularity of contract bridge led to the name change to American Bridge League in 1929. A merger of this group with the United States Bridge Association (USBA) was effected in 1937, with McKenney, first named executive secretary in 1929, remaining at the helm of the organization until 1947.

In 1948-1949, a major reorganization of ACBL was carried out by Waldemar von Zedtwitz, as president and chairman, aided by the steering committee of Robert J. Gill, Ralph Gresham, Lee Hazen, Bertram Lebhar Jr., Raymond J. McGrover and Albert H. Morehead and the Bylaws Committee headed by Lawrence Weiss of Boston.

McKenney was succeeded by Russell J. Baldwin, who was business manager until his recall to active duty with the U. S. Army in 1951, at which time Alvin Landy was named acting business manager. In 1952, Landy was advanced to the position of executive secretary, remaining in that post until his death in 1967.

Tom Stoddard, then executive administrator, served briefly as interim executive secretary until Easley Blackwood was appointed to that post in 1968. Blackwood retired after three years. Richard Goldberg, assistant executive secretary under both Landy and Blackwood, was named as Blackwood’s successor. Goldberg served as executive secretary until he retired in 1984. His successor was Ralph Cohen, who served for two and a half years.

Cohen was succeeded by former ACBL President William Gross. Gross retired in 1991. He was replaced by Stephen Signaigo, a Memphis businessman. Signaigo’s successor was Denis Howard of Australia, former president of the World Bridge Federation.

Howard served as interim chief executive officer for six months in 1992, at which time Roy G. Green became the chief executive officer. Green’s background was in banking and real estate. When Green retired in 1998, he was replaced by David Silber (1998-2001). Wayne Hascall served as interim CEO until Jay Baum took over CEO duties in 2002. Baum announced plans to retire in 2012, and in 2011 a committee began searching for his replacement. Robert Hartman took over as ACBL’s chief executive officer on Nov. 7, 2011.

ACBL membership grew spectacularly from the 270 who joined the American Auction Bridge League to more than 15,000 in 1947. Following the 1956 merger with the Pacific Bridge League, which became ACBL’s Western Division, growth accelerated to 170,000 in 1970 and approached 200,000 in 1993. Membership currently stands at just over 166,000 Members.

Two major forces in ACBL’s growth are the Masterpoint Plan and the Rankings, both of which were important considerations in ACBL’s consolidation with USBA and the Pacific Bridge League. In 1961, the huge task of issuing and recording members’ masterpoints was computerized.

Many other jobs formerly done manually now are done by the computer – mailing labels, new member welcome cards, membership cards, membership renewal notices, Unit report forms, special lists such as new Life Masters and Top 500 leaders, club sanction renewal forms, transaction journals, newsletters, masterpoint updating, scoring at tournaments, inventory control, sales, cash receipts, accounts payable, etc. The monthly ACBL Bridge Bulletin is the most widely distributed in the world.

ACBL’s scope and influence has increased substantially. Beyond the authorization and supervision of bridge tournament activities from the level of North American and regional championship tournaments to the games run in some 3200 duplicate clubs, ACBL activities include formulation and publication of the Laws of Contract Bridge (rubber) and the Laws of Duplicate Bridge; conduct of charity games and other activities which have raised millions of dollars for hundreds of charitable purposes; sanctioning online games; cooperation with other national bridge organizations through membership in the World Bridge Federation; and hosting three World Team Olympiads (1964, 1972 and 1984), three World Pairs Olympiads (1978, 1986 and 1994), two Venice Cups (1978 and 1981) and nine world championships for the Bermuda Bowl.

ACBL Headquarters in Horn Lake MS currently has a staff of about 60 employees and supports more than 170 tournament directors in the field. The ACBL continues its mission to promote, grow and sustain the game of bridge and serve the bridge-related interests of its Members.

Written by acbl

December 28, 2012 at 10:16 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #138: Wordless Wednesday 5

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Charles Goren and Sidney Silodor poolside at the 1950 Bermuda Bowl

Charles Goren and Sidney Silodor poolside at the 1950 Bermuda Bowl

Stella Wei, Ruth Levit and Hanita Melech

1984 Olympiad: Stella Wei, Ruth Levit and Hanita Melech

Written by acbl

December 26, 2012 at 8:58 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #137: The Night Before Christmas

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By B. Jay Becker

“’Twas the night before Christmas,
Two guest in our house
Had started to play bridge
With me and my spouse.

“Please tell me,” she shouted,
“Why didn’t you double?
“’Twas plain from the start
That we had them in trouble.”

“ ‘Tis futile my dear,”
Said I, taking no stand,
“To discuss it with you—
Let us play the next hand.”

“Remember next time,”
Said she, icing a frown,
“To double a contract
That’s sure to go down.”

So I picked up my cards
In a downtrodden state,
Then I opened One Spade
And awaited my fate.

Dlr: East ♠ 9 8 7 6
Vul: N-S 6 5 4 3 2
8 7 6 5
♣ —
♠ — ♠ A K Q J 10
Q J 10 9 A K 8 7
K Q J 10 9
♣ K Q J 10 ♣ A 9 8 7
♠ 5 4 3 2
A 4 3 2
♣ 6 5 4 3 2


The guy sitting South
Was like many I’ve known;
He played and he bid
In a world all his own.

“Two diamonds,” he countered
With scarcely a care
The ace in his hand
Gave him courage to spare.

My wife, she smiled faintly,
And tossing her head,

Leaned over the table;
“I double,” she said.

And North, for some reason
I cannot determine,
Bid Two Hearts as though
He were preaching a sermon.

I grinned as I doubled,
Enjoying the fun,
And turned round to South,
To see where he would run.

But South, undistressed,
Not at a loss for word,
Came forth with Two Spades—
Did I hear what I heard?

The other two passed
And in sheer disbelief
I said, “Double my friend,
“That’ll bring you grief.”

South passed with a nod,
His composure serene;
My wife with a flourish
Led out the heart queen.

I sat there and chuckled
Inside o’er their fix—
But South very calmly
Ran off eight straight tricks!

He ruffed the first heart
In his hand right away
And then trumped a club
On the very next play.

He crossruffed the hand
At a breathtaking pace
‘Til I was left holding
Five spades to the ace.

In anguish my wife cried,
“Your mind is growing old,
Don’t you see six notrump
In this hand is ice cold?”

By doubling this time
I committed a sin
It just goes to prove
That you never can win.

B. Jay Becker (1904-1987) was named ACBL Life Master #6 in 1936 when the rank of Life Master was instituted. The first 10 players were selected because of their record in tournament play.

A World Bridge Federation Grand Master, Becker represented the U.S. seven times in international play over four decades and won two Bermuda Bowls.

In a career that spanned 55 years, Becker won seven Spingolds, eight Reisingers, eight Vanderbilts and the three major ACBL pair events – Life Master Pairs, Blue Ribbon Pairs and NABC Open Pairs.

He won the Fishbein Trophy for best performance at the Summer NABC in 1972. During the years when the Master Invitational Individual was a prestigious major championship, Becker had the best record of any player, winning it in 1937 and 1948 and placing second in 1934, 1941, 1949 and 1955.

Becker won a major NABC title – the Fall Board-a-Match Teams, now the Reisinger – in his first year of tournament play in 1932. In that year he was also runner-up in the Challenge Teams of Four (now the Spingold) and the National Mixed Pairs. He won his first Spingold in 1936. He won his first Vanderbilt in 1944 and his last Vanderbilt in 1981 at the age of 76.

Becker’s performance in the 1981 Vanderbilt was one of the highlights of the Detroit Spring NABC. In leading his team to victory in one of the world’s toughest events, he earned high praise from a teammate who does not praise lightly. “He has an effect on the whole table,” said Edgar Kaplan. “It’s as if he has a muting effect on everyone. He conveys the air of a man who knows he’s going to make what he bids. Opponents don’t double him even when he’s sacrificing.”

In the bidding Becker was the Great Conservative, grinding out good results with a sound and careful style.

He avoided complex conventions, relying instead on impeccable judgment. His remorseless accuracy at the bridge table made him a singular legend of the game – one who was admired and respected for his quiet demeanor and immaculate behavior as well as for his monumental technical skills.

Becker was born in Philadelphia. He trained as a lawyer and took his law degree from Temple Law School in 1929. In 1937 he abandoned law and took up bridge as a full-time career. He never regretted giving up the law career he might have had. “Bridge was my life,” he said a few months before his death. “I never wanted to do anything else.”

Over the years he managed three New York clubs – the Cavendish, the Bridge Whist and the Regency. He was associated with the Card School of New York and directed bridge activities on cruises.

For more than 30, years Becker was a nationally syndicated columnist, having been invited by King Features Syndicate to take over Josephine Culbertson’s column when she died in 1956.

Four years before his death, the column began to carry the joint byline of him and his older son, Steve, NABC championship and former Bulletin editor.

Becker was a contributor to The Bridge World and the Bridge Bulletin and was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge. He also became a member of the ACBL Laws Commission in 1954.

Written by acbl

December 21, 2012 at 8:59 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #136: Wordless Wednesday 4

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Lee Hazen and Dick Frey

Lee Hazen and Dick Frey

1958 Marshall Miles, Ivan Erdos, Eddie Kantar, Ernie Rovere and Nat Cohen

1958 Marshall Miles, Ivan Erdos, Eddie Kantar, Ernie Rovere and Nat Cohen

Written by acbl

December 19, 2012 at 10:26 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #135: First Transatlantic Junior Tourney

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M.I.T. Pair Wins First Transatlantic Junior Tournament
By Alan Truscott

The first transatlantic Junior Pairs Tournament was won by 23-year-old Michael Gurwitz of Hillside NJ and 19-year-old Mark Feldman of Cambridge MA.

The two-session event, restricted to players aged 25-years and under, was held on Saturday, January 2, 1971, in London and at the Royal Manhattan Hotel in New York. Altogether, 172 pairs took part — 70 in New York and 102 in London. The same deals (48 in all) were played at the two sites, with scoring across the field. Top on any one board was 146, yielding a 3504 average for the day. The New York Times offered its telex facilities for transmitting the scores across the Atlantic for comparison, Local results were known on the spot, and the final overall placings were available in New York early the next morning.

Gurwitz-Feldman’s score of 4559 was almost a full board better than that of runners-up Phillip Alder of Monmouth, England, a chemistry student at London University, and Ceri Evans of Hounslow, London, a student at Kingston Polytechnic. They totaled 4434. Third with 4381 were two English 25-year-olds, Bill Pencharz, a London lawyer, and Ian Panto, a Brighton businessman.

Though most of the juniors used fairly standard bidding methods, some of them were prone to experiment. For instance, the winners, both of whom are Life Masters, played “Animal Acol” — a free-wheeling American adaptation of the British system.

Consider the technique of both declarer and the defenders on this deal from the event:

Dlr: East ♠ K Q 4
Vul: E-W 2
K Q 8 4 3
♣ A J 5 3
♠ J 9 8 7 6 5 2 ♠ A
K Q 5 4 A 10 8 7 6 3
A 2
♣ 2 ♣ K Q 10 9 6
♠ 10 3
J 9
J 10 9 7 6 5
♣ 8 7 4
West North East South
1 Pass
1♠ Dbl 2♣ 4
4 5 5 Pass
6 Pass Pass 7
Dbl All Pass

Opening lead: ♠9

East-West did well to reach six hearts in the face of the barrage put up by North-South. When North failed to double the opposing slam, South (Ken Lebensold of New York), decided that it was unlikely that his side held more than one defensive trick, so he opted for a sacrifice at 7♦.

West selected the ♠9 for his opening lead in order to discourage East (Steve Goldberg of Atlanta) from returning the suit. East captured dummy’s queen with the ace and shifted to the heart eight as a suit preference signal. The play was perfectly safe — South would surely not have taken a sacrifice if he held the king of his opponents’ trump suit behind the opening bidder.

In with the queen of hearts, West returned the jack of spades, both to pin the declarer’s ten and to show that he was not interested in a club return. East ruffed dummy’s king and led a second heart for dummy to ruff. Now it was declarer’s turn to shine.

It is a temptation to lead a trump at this point, but that would result in a six-trick set when West wins and shifts to a club, after which the defenders would have to come to two club tricks. Instead the declarer decided to use the missing ace of trumps for an endplay later on.

Accordingly, declarer ruffed dummy’s remaining spade and ducked a club to East’s nine, leaving the defenders without resource. East had to return the king of clubs and, as it would not have helped West to ruff with ace in front of dummy, he discarded a spade and dummy’s ace of clubs won. Now declarer led a trump from dummy to West’s ace, and that defender had no recourse but to concede a ruff-and-sluff for down only five.

Feldman and Gurwitz

Feldman and Gurwitz

Written by acbl

December 17, 2012 at 10:11 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #134: Wordless Wednesday 3

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Dick Frey, ?, Charles Solomon, Peggy Solomon, ?, Paul Hodge, ?, ?, ?, John Gerber, Helen Sobel, Charles Goren, ?, Peter Leventritt, Norman Kay, Sidney Silodor, ?, ?, ?, ?, Alvin Landy, ?, ?, Mrs. Manchester, Max Manchester (Click image to view larger size)

Dick Frey, ?, Charles Solomon, Peggy Solomon, ?, Paul Hodge, ?, ?, ?, John Gerber, Helen Sobel, Charles Goren, ?, Peter Leventritt, Norman Kay, Sidney Silodor, ?, ?, ?, ?, Alvin Landy, ?, ?, Mrs. Manchester, Max Manchester (Click image to view larger size)

Jo Culbertson and Ralph Richards

Jo Culbertson and Ralph Richards

Eric Rodwell and Jeff Meckstroth

Eric Rodwell and Jeff Meckstroth

Written by acbl

December 12, 2012 at 11:05 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #133: Quiz

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1. The title of Life Master was first conferred in:

A. 1931
B. 1934
C. 1936
D. 1940

2. The Marx two-club convention is an alternate name for:

A. An artificial forcing opening two club bid
B. The Stayman Convention
C. The Landy Convention
D. A natural overcall after an opposing opening of one club

3. The famous woman bridge player who used to be the “paying teller” on the “Break the Bank” television show was:

A. Sallie Johnson
B. Dorothy Hayden
C. Jan Stone
D. Mary Jane Farell

4. The player who stopped Charles Goren’s all-time record streak of five consecutive McKenney Trophy victories (1947-1951) by winning the trophy in 1952 was:

A. Oswald Jacoby
B. Barry Crane
C. Edgar Kaplan
D. Norman Kay

5. The name “Blue Team” is thought to have originated from:

A. The color of the jackets worn by most of the team members in the early days together
B. The décor of the club where the team met for practice sessions
C. An Italian word which sounds like “blue” and which in Italian means victory
D. An Italian team trials in which a “blue” team defeated a “red” team

6. Which one of the following bridge immortals was a national trapshooting champion, winner of the Artists and Writers Golf Tournament in 1937, and died while bidding a hand at the Havana Country Club?

A. George Reith
B. P. Hal Sims
C. Sidney Lenz
D. Willard Karn

7. In what year was the first masterpoint issued?

A. 1936
B. 1947
C. 1934
D. 1950

8. In what year was the first Spring NABC (in Atlantic City) held?

A. 1964
B. 1956
C. 1972
D. 1958

9. In the early days of contract bridge, the Summer Nationals was held annually (1930-1941) at the same site. That site was:

A. Atlantic City
B. Asbury Park
C. New York
D. Philadelphia

10. Who was the chief referee of the Culberson-Lenz match?

A. Russell Baldwin
B. Alfred Gruenther
C. Richmond Skinner
D. Al Sobel

Click here for the answers.

Written by acbl

December 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm

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ACBL Bridge Beat #132: Alphonse Moyse

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Inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame in 1998, Alphonse “Sonny” Moyse (1898-1973) was publisher and editor of The Bridge World from 1955-1966, spanning the era between Ely Culbertson, the founder of the magazine, and Edgar Kaplan.

An experienced and talented author, Moyse was the ghostwriter for two of Culbertson’s columns for more than 20 years. Moyse also wrote the humorous “Bridge with Jackie” stories, the fictional accounts of his and his wife’s bridge misadventures.

Moyse was an expert player, winning the Men’s Teams (1949) and the Men’s Pairs (1963), but generations of players will remember him best for his tenure as editor of The Bridge World.

Moyse joined the staff of the magazine in 1934 as assistant editor, and was the de facto editor from 1939 until Culbertson’s death in 1955. Moyse then purchased The Bridge World from the Culbertson estate. In 1963, he sold the publication to McCall Corporation, though he remained as editor.

Moyse was a champion of the natural school of bidding, and his views in this matter were unapologetically arch-traditionalist. Armed with an acerbic wit and an unfailing ability to analyze cleanly and clearly, Moyse took on decades of scientific-bidding advocates in the pages of his magazine.

He was a proponent of four-card major openings and 4-3 “Moysian” trump fits. Moyse recognized, however, that the advent of more scientific approaches to the auction was a regrettable (in his view) inevitability.

As editor of The Bridge World, therefore, he published the ideas and theories of expert players of the day. Moyse provided a necessary forum for the evolution of bridge theory.

As director of the ongoing bidding-panel series of the magazine, the Master Solvers’ Club, Moyse would increasingly find himself in support of minority opinions, but he accepted it all with a keen, acidic sense of humor and an unflappable faith in clear, sensible bidding.

In fact, Moyse enjoyed playing the role of the curmudgeon, criticizing in indignant tones the views of other experts.

The following excerpt from a 1960 issue of The Bridge World is pure Moyse:

“Not out of modesty but from awareness of fact we must observe that last month’s Master Solvers’ problems were not as good as we could have wished — no drama, no ’cuteness,’ and not controversial enough to warrant high indignation on our part, a state to which we’re accustomed and which therefore is healthful for us.”

Moyse died in June 1973 at the age of 75, weeks after being selected as an International Bridge Press Association Honorary Member, the first American to receive the honor.

The Bridge World, in an obituary and tribute to Moyse, praised the former editor and reminisced over his choleric disposition:

“After retiring, he kept his eagle eye on us. Only recently he called up in high dudgeon (and his was the highest dudgeon of any man we knew): ‘You’re letting the magazine go to the dogs!’— he had detected a fused participle, a grammatical form he detested.

“Sonny had a hot temper, and his rages were magnificent. But it was like a violent tropical storm — over in an instant with bright sunshine to follow. He roared at everyone and no one ever minded, for he was all bark and no bite — there was not a drop of malice in him.”

Sonny Moyse

Sonny Moyse

Written by acbl

December 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm

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ACBL Bridge Beat #131: Wordless Wednesday 2

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L to r: Gary Blaiss, Julie Greenberg, Guillermo Poplawsky, Phil Merry, Ralph Kaufman, Tom Whitesides, Bill Adams and Harry Clark

L to r: Gary Blaiss, Julie Greenberg, Guillermo Poplawsky, Phil Merry, Ralph Kaufman, Tom Whitesides, Bill Adams and Harry Clark

L to r: Margaret Wagar, Olive Peterson, Adelaide Neuwirth and Lottie Zetosch

L to r: Margaret Wagar, Olive Peterson, Adelaide Neuwirth and Lottie Zetosch

1981 Steve Weinstein and Fred Stewart

1981 Steve Weinstein and Fred Stewart

Written by acbl

December 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm

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ACBL Bridge Beat #130: The Duplicate Christmas Party

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The Duplicate Christmas Party
Author unknown

‘Twas the duplicate Christmas Party and needless to say
The punch and the season had made us quite gay . . .
“Find your seats and shuffle,” the director had said
As visions of first place danced in my head.

When I checked our position, I got dry in the mouth.
We’d been assigned table 1 – North and South.
Just little novices, my partner and me.
We’d placed fourth once but never No. 3.

Had fate decided to put us to the test?
With two Life Masters sitting East and West
We took our positions and said not a word
But I’m certain our heartbeats could surely be heard.

We shuffled the cards without blinking an eye.
I dropped a card on the floor and thought I would die.
As North I was dealer and though I was green,
I knew to open you must have thirteen . . .

I spread my hand and counted, but alas,
With only ten points I had to pass . . .
And frankly, I thought, this was a shame
I’d never before seen 13 spades in a game.

My left-hand opponent, East by name,
Opened two diamonds and I thought what a shame.
My partner, South, was trembling with fear
And the bid of two hearts came across my ear.

My right-hand opponent sat straight in his chair
Three hearts as the bid he chose to declare.
Now I had a good suit, but alas
With no help in hearts I had to pass.

My left-hand opponent now bid three spades.
You can imagine now, how I was amazed.
My partner, South, bid four hearts and, shoot,
If they take the bid I couldn’t lead her best suit.

My right-hand opponent studied his hand
And soon 7NT was his command.
It was my time to bid – and just to save face
I doubled ‘cause I knew they were missing an ace.

The next three bid were pass, pass, pass
So I was ready to lead a spade, but alas
My partner was nervous and she led the heart king.
A lead out of turn – what a damnable thing.

The director was called and I can still hear his voice
As he told the declarer he could make his own choice.
With a singleton heart, you must understand
This could be the only entry to his hand.

So he turned to me and looking so smart
He said, “Lead any suit, but don’t lead a heart.”
So, of course, I led my fourth best spade
I guess it was the best lead I ever made.

“Cause in this hand I never lost the lead
And our opponents (Life Masters) had to concede.
Thirteen tricks we took right off the top
When we won the board, I thought I would pop.
Now I ask you, with a board like this
The rest of the game – well how could we miss?
And I overheard the director say, “Who was the lass
Who had thirteen spades – and cleverly passed?”

Written by acbl

December 3, 2012 at 2:57 pm

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