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.
What a lousy way to start the New Year! I’m laid up with the worst case of a “code id de dose” since I was a kid and that’s a long time, believe me. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing and I know each call is from someone in the office. Dick Frey wants my copy for the column; Alvin Landy wants my preliminary lineup of staff for the Olympiad in May; Nat Cohen wants my budget for the Spring Nationals in Portland; Dick Goldberg wants to know who I’m using in Portland so he can assign the other for tournaments in the East that week; the shipping department wants the list of supplies to be packed for me for the Goren Caribbean Cruise. And all I can do is sit here with my feet in a basin of water and my head in a cloud of steam. Pfui!
Oh well, to hell with this year. Let’s go back to last year which started off very pleasantly and ended the same way. We just knew it would be a pleasant year with Jerry Lewis as president. First of all he is a Texan, and secondly, we know he likes to travel. Item number one meant that he is a great host, and item number two meant that he would be travelling a great deal and so would not be o our necks too much. Both predictions came true and he made a great hit as leader of the ACBL in Hawaii, Mexico, Canada and Europe. I know this for a fact because I was with him in three of the four places. Now let us review 1963 and see what kind of year it was bridgewise.
1963. The first time we held an invitation event — the Blue Ribbon Pairs — since the days of the Masters Individual. Actually this was not an invitation event but a restricted event. You had to finish high up in some red point event the past year or be among the top 60 in the masterpoint ranking. And as predicted in advance, those who finished high up praised the event and those who didn’t finish, rapped it. Maybe I 1993 in 360 Days I will write of a new event that made a hit with everyone entered. Wanna bet?
1963. The first time in the history of the ACBL that our charity fund raised over $200,000. A multiple Sobell Prize to all organizations, clubs, directors and individuals who made this possible. Wonderful, is all I can say. If I may reminisce for a moment, I would like to recall our first organized charity activity in 1942 — War Orphans Scholarships. I believe we raised the munificent amount of $5,000 that year.
1963. The first time we applied the new bylaw that the retiring president becomes Chairman of the Board for the ensuing year. This was a great piece of legislation because it kept Max Manchester active in the top echelon for another year. It always seemed a shame that we took years to qualify a man as a League executive and then after a year in office, six months of which he spent learning the ropes, he was ditched. This new bylaw is a sure step in the right direction.
1963. After five years of promising them to you, the new Duplicate Rules finally went into effect. This is the first new rule book since 1948. The Laws Commission met once every month for the past six years. We let everyone know that we were doing so, and asked for suggestions or ideas. Not one new thought was sent to us. BUT the day after the book was published we were inundated with letters, telegrams, and long distance calls. All of a sudden, every bridge player in the United States became a budding Blackstone and either suggested new laws, or additions and deletions to the newly-published code. Our players were running true to form — they were even post-morteming the rules!
Well, that was the year that was. I will now go on to the pleasant task of presenting the Sobell Awards for personal achievement in the bridge world during 1963. I make no apologies for my awards I paid for them and I can give them to whom I wish. If you don’t like my selections, buy your own time and give out your own Oscars.1st – Men’s Life Master Pairs
1st – National Men’s Pairs
2nd – Spingold Master Teams
3rd – Open Teams
4th – Men’s Teams
And mind you, all of these events took place in the United States. Look out for Sami when we play in Toronto this summer where he really knows the opposition. This was one of the reasons I chose Sami. It is tougher playing against opposition that you’re not so familiar with. Besides Roth’s two firsts were in team events where you have more people helping you than in a pair event. Incidentally, Eric Murray of Canada was very close. Sami’s second in the Spingold was the deciding factor. Cogratulations, Sam if I may get familiar. You sure deserve the award.
Winner of the year. If I knew it was going to be the same winner this year as in 1962, I would have advised the printer to keep the type intact. But that wouldn’t have been the true story either. Last year Oswald Jacoby just nosed out second-place Barry Crans by a few points but this year there was no second. Jake ran away with it amassing the astounding total of 1062 masterpoints in one year. I probably should have mentioned this earlier where I listed all the “firsts.” Incidentally, this is the third year in a row that Ozzie has garnered the Sobell Award, which, secondarily, of course, also carries with it the McKenney Trophy. And by the way, Mr. J., you will have to win this title six more times in a row to equal my record in winning successive Sobell Awards. I won the bridge column of the year award nine times in a row. Let’s call an armistice. If you promise not to win the McKenney Trophy next year I promise not to award myself a Sobell. But, congratulations for 1963.
Hand of the Year. Here’s a cutie pie that came to my attention during the past year. It was played at a duplicate and although 11 declarers played in the same contract, only one made it. The N-S cards and the bidding were as follows:
|♠ A 6 5 4 3 2|
|♥ 9 7|
|♦ 6 4|
|♣ K 8 7|
|♥ A K Q J 10 8|
|♦ A K 8|
|♣ A 4 3|
West opened the ♠K. The play looks routine. You win with the ace, draw one round of trump, play the ♦A K, hoping no one ruffs, ruff a diamond in dummy, get back to your hand with the ♣A, draw trump, and concede a club trick making six
Simple isn’t it? I hope I don’t coffeehouse you into going down one, as 10 of the 11 declarers did. Did you forget that West overcalled with 2♠ He could have six of them — and he did. The full deal:
|♠ A 6 5 4 3 2|
|♥ 9 7|
|♦ 8 4|
|♠ K Q J 10 9 8||♣ K 8 7||♠ —|
|♥ 3||♥ 6 5 4 2|
|♦ Q 3||♦ J 10 9 7 5 2|
|♣ Q 10 6 5||♠ 7||♣ J 9 2|
|♥ A K Q J 10 8|
|♦ A K 8|
|♣ A 4 3|
By now I guess you see the right play. You must duck the first spade and allow West to hold it. A Sobell Award to the unknown declarer who made the correct and unusual safety play. By the way, I believe it is the correct play even if West didn’t overcall.
Team of the Year. This goes to Florida without anyone being close. It’s hard enough to win one of the double knockout events, but to win them both in one year — that’s colossal. It was done by five “regulars” with a different sixth in each event. The five double-winners were Cliff Russell, Alvin Roth, Mrs. Edith Kemp, Harry Harkavy, and William Seamon. Albert Weiss was the sixth member in the Vanderbilt, and Russ Arnold made up the sextet in the Spingold. A terrific achievement and well-worthy of a Sobell Award.
Worst team of the year. This is an extra-curricular award and has nothing to do with bridge. The New York Yankees — nuf said?
Cutest comeback of the year. A Sobell Award to my nephew, Jerry Machlin for a quick recovery while lecturing to beginners aboard the S.S> Independence last year. After a few lectures Jerry decided to give a quiz. He wrote the question on the blackboard and to his dismay one of the pupils called out. “Those are the same questions you gave us last year.” While Jerry was thinking up a quick one the same voice said, “Aren’t you afraid that we’ll know the questions?” Jerry, a real, live nephew of his Uncle Al, came back with, “Oh, that’s all right. In bridge we don’t mind your knowing the questions. You see, we change the answers!”
Column of the year. And now if you don’t mind I’m going to turn serious for a paragraph. As mentioned above, I’ve awarded myself in this department for nine straight years. The only reason I’ve done that was because I was afraid to award it to anyone else. I hate to hurt people’s feelings and besides who am I to decide who wrote the best column or columns of the year. But this tie I find myself in the position where I can do it.
I am going to give a long-delayed and well-deserved, Sobell Award to ALbert Morehead for his column in the New York Times. I can do it now because Morehead announced his resignation from the Times last month and the column is now being written by someone else. I am sure that all of the other columnists will agree with me that if ever a writer deserved an award it is Morehead. I am positive that I would have had more praise for his column if I had read the Times. But I happen to be a Tribune reader. (I’m only kidding, AL; outside the time that I am gallivanting around the world, I read your column regularly.) I’m glad that all my readers didn’t read your column or they might have recognized an awful lot of hands and stories. I couldn’t give you credit or else my public wouldn’t have thought I was so clever. Good luck to you in your other endeavors and believe me this is a heartfelt award.
I did have two tournaments scheduled in January but both were cancelled due to the previously mentioned cold. But I’ll have two cruises to write about and that should fill up Thirty Days