Slam Made in Void Suit

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One of the most fascinating articles I have ever read on bridge is Richard L. Frey’s “The First Contract Man,” in the October issue of “Popular Bridge.

By Ana Roth
On 21 January, 2016 At 12:09

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Harold S. Vanderbilt + Waldemar
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The Evening Independent – 14 Sep 1970 by Paul Boardman

One of the most fascinating articles I have ever read on bridge is Richard L. Frey’s “The First Contract Man,” in the October issue of “Popular Bridge.” Frey’s article is a fond memory tribute to the inventor of contract bridge, the late Harold S. Vanderbilt. It will form a chapter in Frey’s forthcoming book about the game and those who played it best.

I cannot improve on Frey’s own words in describing today’s deal, which is one that gained fame when Vanderbilt bid and made a grand slam in clubs with a void suit in clubs in his own hand. Vanderbilt’s favorite partner, Waldemar Von Zedtwitz, was North:

“Vanderbilt’s club opening bid showed at least three quick tricks in ace and ace-king combinations. Von Zedtwitz’s jump to three clubs promised a solid suit (at least five cards headed by the four top honors). His second jump in clubs showed a supersolid suit — minimum seven cards in length with a side king, or eight cards or more in length. Vanderbilt was therefore able to count thirteen tricks in the combined hands. But he allowed for the fact that unless the hand was played in clubs the North hand might have no entry.

So, since his convention had made him first to mention the suit, Vanderbilt found himself playing seven clubs without a single one in his hand. Needless to explain, dummy was entered with a second round heart ruff, trumps were drawn and all thirteen tricks were made with ease. And with the customary increment to the Vanderbilt exchequer.”

One of Frey’s favorite stories about Vanderbilt was told by Albert Morehead, late bridge editor of the New York Times, a paper known for its accuracy: “Von Zedtwitz later called the story apocryphal. However, against the fact that Al Morehead loved to tell good stories is also the fact that Waldy was not always present when Vanderbilt played. Of one sustaining fragment of corroborative evidence there can be no doubt: although Vanderbilt could well afford it, he hated to lose.

He spent a million dollars of his own money to build the last of the great J-yachts, the Ranger, and another million attempting to prevent the late Robert R. Young from seizing the mastery of the New York Central — perhaps the only major contest Vanderbilt ever lost. But at the time of which I write, that battle was still far in the future.

On this afternoon, Vanderbilt’s private car was hooked into the Central’s crack 20th Century Limited, but Vanderbilt himself was hooked for a few points in a rubber bridge game at the Cavendish Club. As scheduled departure time for the 20th Century approached, Vanderbilt cut for another rubber and asked somebody to phone that he might be arriving a few minutes late. Although he won the rubber, he still wasn’t quite even so he authorized another phone call and played another rubber. Since the Cavendish Club was not too far from Grand Central Station, the Century left somewhat less than an hour behind schedule, but with Mr. V ahead on the schedule of the Cavendish bridge score.

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