Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

A Hand from 1964

I was thinking recently about comparing bridge in the 1960’s with bridge today.  I happened to have a rare copy of the 1964 World Championships.  It was the year of the second Olympiad.  There were 29 teams playing in the Open Division for the Vanderbilt trophy which Harold S. Vanderbilt had donated four years earlier for the first Olympiad.  There are some interesting names on the list.  Omar Sharif was the captain of the team from the United Arab Republic (Egypt), Terence Reese and Boris Shapiro,  Harrison Grey and Jeremy Flint were on the Great Britain team, C.C. Wei was the NPC of a team from the Republic of China and Alan Truscott was NPC of the Bermuda team.  The Olympiad was held at the Hotel Armericana in New York City.  Governor Nelson Rockfeller welcomed them and pointed out that they were in New York for the World’s Fair.

Looking at the bridge deals shown, the quality of all aspects of the game bidding, play and defense was not as good as it is today.   But the bidding, in particular seems primitive be today’s standards.  We have come a long way baby.

The top four finisher were 1. Great Britain (160), 2. Italy (153) 3. USA (147) 4. Canada (145). The pairings for the semifinal rounds were based on lots.  As it turned out Great Britain played Italy and the USA played Canada.  The matches were 60 boards in length.  The USA defeated Canada and Italy defeated Great Britain.  As would happen many times in the future the finalist were Italy and the USA. 

The USA team (Bob Hamman, Robert Jordan, Donald Krauss, Victor Mitchell, Arthur Robinson and Sam Stayman) got off to a huge start against the Canadians represented by Ralph Cohen, Dr. R. Forbes, Sam Gold, Jack Howell, Sammy Kehela and Eric Murray. 

The biggest swing in the match was Deal 12.  Both sides reached grand slam but Howell-Forbes playing for Canada strangely played in a known 4-3 in hearts while Stayman-Mitchell had no problems arriving in a normal notrump slam.  That was 17 imps for the US who ended the first set up by 47 imps.

Canada did come back and had some good moments although they did lose the match 133 to 117 which included a 5 imp penalty to Canada for late play.

Deal 23 was a chance for Sami Kehela to play a bit of cardplay magic.

 Sami Kehela

 I have rotated the hand to put declarer South.   



♠ Q1086  



♠ J97  
♥ A6532   
♦ Q9   
♣ 1092 


♥ —   





 With both vulnerable Robison was dealer.

Jordan Murray Robinson Kehela
    1 1 
 Pass  2   DBL 4 
 DBL  All pass    

With a partner showing a good hand and five trump to the ace, Jordan must have been visualizing quite a number.  He started the Q which held the trick and continued diamonds although a small trump seems more appealing to me.  Kehela ruffed and played the K which was allowed to hold the trick and another spade to the 10 and Robinson’s A. 

At this point the hand can still be defeated.  Do you see what Robinson must do?



♠ Q8  
♥ Q84   
♦ J7  
♣ 73 



♠ J  
♥ A6532   
♦ –  
♣ 1092  


♠ 54 
♥ —   
♦ A865
♣ QJ8 



♠ – 
♥ KJ109
♦ – 
♣ AK654


The defense already has two tricks and needs only two more to defeat the contract.  The trump ace is a sure trick.  If Robinson continues a diamond and declarer lets Jordan ruff it that will lead to at least down 1.   So declarer has to trump the diamond.  That allows Jordan to discard the J or alternatively to overruff declarer and return a trump.  Either way costs declarer a trick.   On the lie of the cards it doesn’t matter whether Robinson leads a high diamond or a low one.  The result will be the same.  However Robinson, who may have been visualizing a bigger penalty did not find this play.  Instead he returned a club.  Now Kehela was in command.  On the bidding and play to this point ot was pretty clear that Jordan was 3-5-2-3.  Kehela won the K and cashed the A and ruffed a club and then cashed his spade winner.  He was now on a high cross-ruff.  This was +790 for Canada.  At the other table Cohen and Gold competed to 4 and were allowed to play there for down 2.  11 imps for Canada.

Itale went on to defeat the USA in the final and win the event.


PaulFebruary 20th, 2012 at 1:38 pm

The British player was Harrison Gray.

Jordan CohenFebruary 21st, 2012 at 12:11 am

I too have one of those ’64 books, as my dad was one of the Canadian participants. there was a 6S slam late in the second that went down on 4-1 trumps, and which wasn’t bid at the other table. Had it made it would have capped a remarkable comeback. As a side note, they played on a 7(!) VP scale, and for Canada to overtake the 4-man Swiss team for the last qualifying spot they had to score 34 out of 35 VP’s in their last 5 matches!

lindaFebruary 21st, 2012 at 1:16 am

Thank you both for your insights. What a lovely story Jordan. You must be very proud of your dad. I did notice that deal as well when I was reading the book.

DaveChimpFebruary 23rd, 2012 at 12:49 am

I can go back further though. i have a booklet titled ‘championship hands 1950 by Ewart Kempson

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