Charles Goren, whose bridge column in this magazine is understandably famous, phoned us from San Francisco last week, as excited as a child on Christmas morning. He had just won the Men's Team Championship in the Fall Nationals, and he was getting as much of a kick out of it as he had from his first national championship victory in 1933.
"I was playing as well as I ever have," Charlie said. "Few people realize that in bridge, just as in baseball or golf, you can have hot streaks and you can have slumps." Goren was on top of his game, and so were his teammates, John Gerber, John Simon, Robert Nail and Paul Hodge.
What really delighted Goren was the span of years—32—between his first and most recent national championships. "I was talking to Sam Snead the other day," Goren said, "and he was commenting how pleased he was to win a tournament 27 years after he had won it the first time. It's good to keep the kids in place once in a while."
As in most sports, there have been enormous changes in bridge during the past 30 years, not only in the style of play—Goren himself has seen to that—but in the number of people playing. This is especially evident in tournaments. "I can remember watching the old Frankford Yellow Jackets play football before crowds of 600 or so," Goren said. "Now the New York Jets and Giants draw 120,000 on one Sunday. Bridge tournaments are the same way. We used to rent out Convention Hall in Asbury Park. The hall was so large and the number of tables so small that you could hear an echo when a card was played. But the last time we played there we barely had enough room for all the tables. Why, there are more players entered in one event today than there used to be in an entire tournament."
The level of competition has risen, too. "In the old days when you faced a newcomer you could figure the match was in the bag," Goren said. "Today you'll sit down against someone you don't know, and he'll tweak your nose. The youngsters get better every year. There were a lot of kids playing in San Francisco who weren't even born when I won my first championship."
Goren's crowded schedule does not permit him much time to engage in tournament play. He is always on the go. This week his Orient Cruise departs for Honolulu, Yokohama and Hong Kong, a boatload of happy bridge players who will celebrate Christmas and New Year's at sea listening to lectures from the master. Goren himself will leave the ship in the Far East, jet back to San Francisco and on to Miami just in time to make his Caribbean Cruise. "It's always nip and tuck," Goren said. "One time they were literally hauling up the gangplank when my taxi roared up to the dock."
When he is not at sea, Goren keeps busy giving lectures around the country, turning out books and, of course, writing his column. In next week's issue appears his annual year-end quiz, on which the reader can test his skills. As always, there will be some who dispute Goren's recommended bids and will write in to tell us so. We welcome this, of course, but wish to remind you that when you argue with Goren you are arguing with the master, as he proved once again in San Francisco.