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The master teaches the teachers

Charles Goren gives a three-day bridge lesson in New York and mixes charm with sound advice

Mrs. Olive Peterson was completing her lecture on the transfer bid when she spotted a man edging his way up the side aisle toward the stage. He was wearing a blue coat, gray pants and cuff links decorated with clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades.

"You want to come up here now, boss?" Mrs. Peterson called to him. Charles Goren turned to the audience, many of whom were gray-haired ladies. "Well, does anybody want me?" he yelled. A loud squeal filled the room.

This was part of a three-day brush-up course which Goren and his associates held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City last week for teachers and players. Over 140 people attended; they came from such faraway states as California and Mississippi. For their $75 entry fee they heard the latest word on such bridge subtleties as cue bids, end plays and uppercuts, played a few boards of duplicate and took a final exam. But most of them were there to see and hear the master, Charles Goren, and last week the master was at his debonair best.

Hardly had Goren mounted the stage when a thin lady wearing a pale-blue dress rose from her seat. "Mr. Goren," she said, "may I rise and ask everyone else to rise and thank you for the wonderful time we're having." The audience rose and applauded loudly. Goren smiled and said this was like the hostess who was complimented by her guests for a delicious meal. "I didn't do the cooking," he said. "My associates did." There was more applause for the associates. Then Goren got down to work. An aide scribbled a hand on the blackboard. He also put down some bidding.

"The bidding has gone as follows," said Goren, "and now we must bid again. What should we say? I hear 'two no trump.' O.K. Three spades? All right."

From the back of the room a man shouted six spades. Goren blinked. "You are a man of courage," he said.

A lady near the front suggested four no trump. "What did you say?" asked Goren. "What, what?"

The lady decided that maybe she had meant three no trump. "Ah," said Goren, smiling. "We're in love again."

When another person offered a fifth bid, Goren shook his head. "No," he said. "We're just common people from the country. That kind of bid is for the big stage people."

After a half hour Goren turned the class over to an associate who told the audience that copies of a new Goren teaching manual were now available for $25. He also announced a cruise to the Caribbean, part of the "Travel-with-Goren" program. "The passengers will all be bridge players," he said. "There will be games every night except on those nights we're in port. And if there are enough people who don't wish to go ashore, we may have some bridge on those nights, too."

It was time for a coffee break. Goren, cup in hand, assumed a position by a window overlooking Central Park and was immediately surrounded by the ladies.

"Mr. Goren," said one of them. "I hate to take up your valuable time. My partner bid one no trump and my right-hand opponent jumped to four spades. I held...." She described her hand, a powerful one.

"I'd cue-bid five spades," Goren said.

"But that's getting up so high," the lady said. Goren smiled and looked out at the park.

"How old do you think I am?" another lady asked abruptly. Goren studied her. "I'd guess 63," he said. The lady looked happy. "I'm 68 and I have 19 grandchildren," she said. Goren nodded. "The mayor of Quebec has 24," he said.

When the coffee break ended, Goren flopped into an easy chair. He looked tired. "A lady wants me to talk to her bridge group in the South," Goren told his secretary. "She asked me how much I charge. I told her, 'Honey, you haven't got that kind of money, but I might do it as a labor of love.' "

Presently Goren got up from his chair. "Back to work," he said. He crossed the room and disappeared into the hall. A minute later there was a loud burst of applause from the lecture room, followed shortly by the sound of laughter.