Bridge & Humor: Bridge Stories by Lee Hazen

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Told to Thomas H. Wolf; From CoMers Magazine, December 1946…Grand Slam Gags

By Ana Roth
On 10 December, 2015 At 8:27

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BRIDGE STORIES by LEE HAZEN,  told to Thomas H. Wolf; From CoMers Magazine, December 1946


No matter how serious they may be about bridge, even the experts see some funny things happen. Here a tournament champion passes on some of his livelier stories.

There are millions of bridge players in America, Many of  these are duffers. But even among the top-ranking few, an ordinary stick of chewing gum may make a world of difference.

A stick of gum actually did win one national tournament It all came about during the final round of the Men’s Pairs Championships in 1934.

Most of the players were finished and were standing around the half-dozen games still in play in the center of the huge, smoke-filled Grand Ballroom of New York’s Hotel Commodore.

I was in a crowd of perhaps fifty kibitzers who were squeezing around the table at which Ted Lightner and Ely Culbertson ware playing the crucial hand against David Burnstine and Oswald Jacoby. Lightner had won the bidding at six spades.

Having played this same hand myself a few minutes before, I knew that success or failure for Jacoby and Burnstine depended entirely on the latter’s opening lead. And the tournament score was such that the outcome of this hand would determine the championship.

When the experts play bridge, the cards themselves represent only  about fifty percent of any hand’s value. The other fifty percent Is psychology. In this tight spot, Burnstine made full use of his knowledge of his opponents” weaknesses.

He knew that  Lightner and Culbertson are among the most nervous players in bridge. Ely, especially, hates to have to wait. When, as in this case, he is going to be dummy, he fidgets and frets until the opening lead is made. Then he flings down his hand, without even bothering to separate the suits, and races away from the table. He can’t stand the suspense of watching the hand played,

Realizing that the championship might well depend on his opening lead, Burnstine decided to take his time. Very deliberately he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of chewing gum. He carefully unwrapped it, put it slowly into his mouth and gave a tentative chew.

By this time Ted Lightner was actually squirming in his seat. Ely was beside himself with impatience. But still Burnstine couldn’t decide what to lead. And, in any event, he couldn’t lead until he had disposed of the chewing-gum wrapper. So he threw it down on the table.

Like a flash Culbertson threw down his dummy hand. An instant later he realized his error and hastily scooped up the cards. It was too late.

Capitalizing on his unexpected look at the dummy, Burnstine made the lead which set the hand.


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