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Flashback: 1981 LM Pairs

SteveFredweblarge As the Toronto NABC approaches, I’ve spent some time thinking back to the days of my bridge youth. I won my first NABC event in July 1981 in the Life Master Pairs playing with Fred Stewart, my great friend and stepfather. I was seventeen years old at the time and had not yet found the right hat. Howie Weinstein and Hal Mouser led the event after day one and day two, so the headlines read “Weinstein-Mouser Lead LM Pairs” - “Weinstein-Mouser Lead LM Pairs” - “Weinstein-Stewart Win LM Pairs.” Since this summer marks the 30th anniversary of that tournament, I decided this was a good time to share my memory.




The 1981 Summer NABC in Boston was the first of many I played with Fred. We entered with great confidence, having just won our first regional two weeks before. We had also recently changed our system from 2/1 to Alan Sontag’s Power Precision. The way we learned it wasn’t exactly traditional - Fred was sick with the flu and I read the entire book to him. We liked Sontag’s ideas and decided to try them out. I was looking forward to making the third day of the Life Master Pairs mostly because the finalists would be using bidding boxes. I had tried them out for the first time with Bill Kreps in the finals of the Blue Ribbon Pairs the previous year and I wanted Fred to see how cool they were.

Fred and I qualified for the second day and muddled our way through to the finals. That night, I asked my mom, the late Iris Stewart, if she thought we could win. She asked me what we would need to score to have a chance. With all the worldly bridge experience of a kid not yet a senior in high school, I replied “Two 185’s," (in those days almost everything was on a 156 average and scored by hand.) My mom, speaking as any good parent might, said, “Sure, I don’t see any reason why you guys can’t do that.”

During the first final session we played against the defending champions, Eric Rodwell and Bob Hamman, in front of what seemed like a whole room of kibitzers. On one hand, Rodwell was playing in 3NT and I realized early on that I would be squeezed. I smoothly blanked my offside king but Rodwell played up to his ace anyway. The moment before I dropped my king Hamman made a face I will never forget. His look said, “Eric, you must be kidding to play him to stiff his king.” As usual, Rodwell got the hand right. At the end of the first session we had scored close to the magic 185 and moved to around 10th place, having come from a position of zero carryover. As the next session was about to start I remember saying to myself, “I’m glad we’re not leading so people won’t say how we choked the event away.” I pushed those thoughts out of my head and vowed to never think like that again. I’ve kept my word to myself and now always want to be in the lead.

During the last session there was a hand that our opponents had overbid to 3NT and I was cashing my suit. I forgot to cash my last winner and declarer claimed the balance. I was pretty frustrated with myself. Later, when I looked at Fred’s scorecard (I hated keeping a personal score then and still don’t keep one in pair events) I saw he had written OOPS! rather than something angrier. That made me smile and feel relaxed. Things were going pretty well.

With one round to go, Eddie Kantar and Mike Lawrence sat down at our table surrounded by a full entourage. I took a deep breath and tried to focus. The first hand of the round was a fairly routine hand that they defended well and Lawrence said, “Nice defence Edwin.” I was sure they must have been winning the event. The next board Lawrence reached 7NT after an extended and long-forgotten auction:

Lawrence
A
AKQ9763
AK3
A10
Weinstein
1087
J
QJ1098
Q965
Kantar
KQJ53
105
754
842
Stewart
9642
842
62
KJ73
W
N
E
S
P
P
7NT
P
P
P
D
6
7NT West
NS: 0 EW: 0
Q
4
2
K
0
0
1
A
7
3
2
0
0
2
9
J
5
2
1
1
2
12 tricks claimed
E/W -50
3


He won the opening diamond lead and took stock. With two minor suit losers, the only hope for the contract was to find an entry to dummy’s spades. The only possible entry was the T. For the contract to make, the jack would need to be singleton. Lawrence had to weigh taking his one-in-eight legitimate chance to make versus how many MPs he would get for down one, beating other declarers in 7 and tying the aggressive ones in 6. Fortunately he decided to force an entry to dummy, being sure I wouldn’t duck smoothly with Jx(x). I have no doubt he was right about that. If Fred had the the (offside) jack he would have a better shot to find the duck since tempo isn’t an issue there, but still, it’s a grand slam…

After the hand, Lawrence asked me how many hearts I had and I told him I had only one. Upon hearing that he tried to rip the cards in half (if you try this, try one card at a time, not thirteen). I wonder what the people at the next table thought when they got a mangled hand for the last round! (As a side note, I think Kem Cards are unrippable)

When the scores came out we saw that we had once again scored around the magic 185. More importantly, when all the scores were combined there was a big red 1 by our names! Winning for the first time with Fred and having my dad (Art Weinstein) and mom there was even better than using bidding boxes. When I look back at it now, I can’t think of a more perfect memory.

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