Four players, all from different nations and all of different faiths, joined together to score a resounding victory in the 1987 Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams. The only drawback to their triumph was that they were not eligible to compete in the U.S. International Team Trials because only two of the players resided in the United States.
At the time, the winners by more than 5.5 boards in what most experts consider to be the toughest team event on the ACBL calendar were Zia Mahmood, 40, a Pakistani who divides his time between London and New York; Jaggy Shivdasani, 29, a CPA from Bombay, India; Billy Cohen, 29, a self-employed business man from Santa Ana CA who is a Canadian citizen, and Ron Smith, 34, an options trader from Chicago.
All four champions knew in advance that their multi-national team would be ineligible for a chance to represent the U.S., and none were disappointed. “It’s nice to win a North American title. The best players in the world were playing here. If you beat these guys, it’s about as good as it gets,” said Cohen.
“The best thing about this is that we had a black, a Jew, an Indian and a Pakistani playing together,” Zia said. Moreover, Zia is a Muslim and Shivdasani is a Hindu.
“It’s good to show how bridge can bring together people from such different backgrounds,” said Zia. “It shows a special magic about the game of bridge.”
Most partnerships for the Reisinger are formed a year in advance, but the winning team was composed only a week before the event Smith said. By that time, he said, “all the other good players were taken.”
In July 1987, the Spingold winners were also disqualified from Team Trials because Shivdasani was on the team.
Winning two major American bridge titles in a year is “pretty unbelievable”, said Shivdasani.
The team’s achievement prompted this verse from the editor of International Bridge Press Association Bulletin.
A Fair Wind
By Patrick Jourdain
At America’s major tournament,
Held in Anaheim’s Hilton Hotel,
The winners of the Reisinger
Had a touching tale to tell.
Bridge brings together nations,
Races, colors and creeds.
Hear the make-up of the champions.
(who were nowhere near the top seeds).
A friend said to Zia, the captain:
“Tell us how this was done.”
He replied: “All the Gods were behind us,
For this is the team that has won:
A Pakistani Muslim,
An Indian Hindu,
A black American Christian,
And a white Canadian Jew!”