The Aces Team was a completely professional bridge team, organized in 1968 by financier Mr. Ira Corn from Dallas, Texas, United States, for the express purpose of returning the World Team Championship to the United States. This was the intention behind establishing the Aces Team.

Background Information

Mr. Ira Corn selected six players from among America's leading young experts, paying each a salary, plus tournament expenses, to undertake a full-time career of studying and playing bridge. He started with James Jacoby and Bobby Wolff, and shortly thereafter added Billy Eisenberg, Bobby Goldman and Michael Lawrence. Robert Hamman joined the team in 1969. Monroe Ingberman, mathematician and bridge writer, worked with the Aces as their first coach. In mid-1968 retired Air Force Colonel Joseph Musumeci was added as trainer and coach. The team was incorporated as the U.S. Aces, but was popularly known as the Dallas Aces and later simply as the Aces.

Using a computer, only introduced to private consumers at that time, to analyze results and to generate specific sets of hands to provide practice in given areas of the game, such as slam hands, preemptive openings, etc., the Aces spent 50 to 60 hours a week perfecting the bidding systems and discussing problems encountered at the table. Complete records of all hands played were compiled for critical analysis. From the intensive study and analysis emerged various bidding styles including the Orange Club, used by Wolff and Jacoby; the similar Black Club, used by Hamman and Eisenberg; and the Aces Scientific System, used by Goldman and Lawrence. Besides competing in North American Championships and Regional knockout team-of-four contests, the Aces also engaged many of America's top experts in practice matches in Dallas and staged a series of exhibition matches, such as the much publicized Sharif Bridge Circus made popular by the actor Omar Sharif.

In 1969, the team achieved the first major goal set by Mr. Ira Corn by winning the Spingold Knockout Teams and later a playoff match that earned the Aces the right to represent North America in the 1970 Bermuda Bowl in Stockholm, Sweden. With the Blue Team retired, the Aces returned the Bermuda Bowl to North America for the first time since 1954. The Aces successfully defended their world title in 1971.

In 1971 Eisenberg left the team and was replaced by Paul Soloway. By June of 1972 the team had become a part-time effort, with the players being paid only their expenses rather than salaries. Thereafter the makeup of the Aces began to change. In 1972 the Aces were runner-up to Italy in the Team Olympiad. Jacoby-Wolff played the Orange Club; Hamman-Soloway, the Green Club and Goldman-Lawrence, Standard American with special treatments. In early 1973 Soloway was replaced by Mark Blumenthal. The Aces were second to Italy in the Bermuda Bowl, playing as two threesomes: Wolff-Hamman-Jacoby playing Aces Club and Goldman-Lawrence-Blumenthal playing Standard American with special treatments. Soon thereafter Lawrence and Jacoby left the team and were replaced by Eric Murray and Sami Kehela. In 1974 the Aces were second to Italy with Hamman-Wolff playing the Aces Club, Blumenthal-Goldman, Aces Scientific, and Kehela-Murray, Colonial Acol.

In 1975 Eddie Kantar and John Swanson made their first appearances in international play with the Aces and Soloway-Eisenberg were back on the team. The Aces were second to Italy in the Bermuda Bowl and the team was Hamman-Wolff (Aces Club); Eisenberg-Kantar, Soloway-Swanson (Standard American with special treatments).

In 1976 North America did not fare well in the Team Olympiad, but won the Bermuda Bowl. On the team were two former Aces, Soloway and Eisenberg.

The Aces won the 1977 Bermuda Bowl as Zone 2 representatives, and another team from North America finished second. Playing for the Aces once again were Hamman-Wolff, Soloway-Swanson and Eisenberg-Kantar. In 1979 four ex-Aces won the Bermuda Bowl in Rio on a team captained by Malcolm Brachman (Eisenberg, Goldman, Kantar, Soloway). The next year, in the 1980 World Team Olympiad, Mr. Ira Corn captained the Aces to second place behind France. His team was Hamman-Wolff, still playing the Aces Club; Soloway-lra Rubin (Standard American with special treatments) and Fred Hamilton-Mike Passell (five-card majors, Two-Over-One Game Force). In 1981 for the first time in many years no Ace or former Ace was present on the U.S. international team.

In the fall of 1981 Mr. Ira Corn put together one more Aces Team. He had great hopes for Hamman-Wolff (the only players to remain constantly with the Aces throughout a 13-year period), Alan Sontag-Peter Weichsel and Michael (Mike) Becker-Ronald (Ron) D. Rubin. Just three months after Mr. Ira Corn's sudden death of a heart attack in April, 1982, the Aces won the Spingold in Albuquerque and qualified for the International Team Trials in Minneapolis that November. The Aces name stuck with them. In the Minneapolis trials, which they won, they were known as the Aces and their non-playing captain was Joe Musumeci.

From that point on the Aces Team as such disappeared into history. But members of the team continued to have many successes. Hamman and Wolff headed the WBF rankings in 1992. Lawrence and Kantar are prolific bridge authors. Soloway became the first player to break the 40,000-point barrier in 1994, Jacoby was a syndicated bridge columnist.

The following and additional information is posted on the Bridge Blog of Judy Kay-Wolff. The date posted is August 15, 2010, 8:31am.

     

Judy Kay-Wolff Blog

I was not around at the time (at least in the Dallas area) but my present marital ties gives me license to answer straight from the Lone Wolff’s Mouth.

The original Aces (Bobby, Jim Jacoby, Billy Eisenberg, Mike Lawrence and Bobby Goldman plus Ira Corn) were the initial cast. As you read, Ira, within months was forced to accept the realization the team could not attain the heights to which he aspired as long as he remained a playing member. Thus, in disappointment and reluctance, Ira exited the original Dallas Aces he had so fervently dreamed about.

Luckily, Bob Hamman who was invited in the first round, but declined, had a sudden change of heart, and the following January rounded out the three pairs. (Wolff/Jacoby; Goldman/Eisenberg; Hamman/Lawrence). They remained intact until after the two world championships they won in 1970 and 1971, but after the second victory, the team known as The Aces started to disband - with Billy Eisenberg the first to go (off to California - which turned out to afford him a wonderfully exciting Life after the Aces).

Soloway replaced Eisenberg - but was not an original Ace. He partnered Hamman (with Wolff/Jacoby and Goldman/Lawrence). Others followed - like Mark Blumental, Fred Hamilton, Mike Passell, John Swanson, Alan Sontag, Peter Weichsel, Ronald (Ron) D. Rubin, Michael (Mike) Becker, Eddie Kantar, Sami Kehela, Eric Murray, and probably more. Ira Corn appeared at many later tournaments rooting them on - and sometimes even acted as Captain but no longer under the guise of The Dallas Aces.

But - make no mistake, just because most teams with Hamman and Wolff (who remained joined at the hip for 26 years) were sentimentally referred by the media as Aces, the teams bore little or no resemblance to the original design of Ira Corn.

End Quoted Text

August 23, 2003

1997 Spring North American Bridge Championships
Bridge Championships
Dallas, Texas
Daily Web Page 1
Saturday, March 8, 1997

World Champion Aces Started Out in Dallas

Included is also a picture of the five living members of the original Aces:
Standing, left to right: Bobby Goldman and Bill Eisenberg
Seated, left to right: Mike Lawrence, Bobby Wolff and Bob Hamman

Note: The original picture was not published with the digital Bulletin in 1997. The following is a montage of the players.

     
     

By Brent Manley

Two years ago, the bridge world marked the 25th anniversary of the first world championship won by the Aces, the world's first full-time professional team. The remarkable experiment which resulted in the creation of the legendary squad began right here in Dallas, home of the 1997 Spring NABC.

It all started with Ira Corn, a Dallas businessman who was inspired by what he saw in the 1964 World Team Olympiad in New York. Corn had become interested in bridge, and he traveled to the world championship in New York to have a closer look at the top players in the game. What he saw was the Italian Blue Team, a finely tuned bridge machine which dominated the field and defeated a strong American team in the final. Corn left New York with dreams of creating an American juggernaut which would wrest world bridge dominance from the Italians. A couple of years later, he began work on the project.

His first recruit was Bobby Wolff, who was living in San Antonio at the time and running a bridge club with Joe Musumeci, who eventually became coach of the Aces. In 1967, Wolff and Corn prepared a short list of players they thought worthy of the soon-to-be-created Aces, and the two went to work trying to sign them.

Two of the initial invitees -- Californians Bob Hamman and Eddie Kantar -- turned Corn down. Hamman and Kantar were enjoying some success in their developing partnership and didn't want to change -- and Kantar was not about to leave his beloved Southern California. Furthermore, Hamman had misgivings about the whole idea.

The other players may have wondered whether Corn could make the project work, but their doubts were not strong enough to keep them from signing on. The original Aces were:

Wolff, who remains one of the top players in the world today. In late May and early June, Wolff and his teammates will be attempting to earn a berth in the 1997 Bermuda Bowl in Tunisia in order to defend the championship they won in Beijing in 1995.

Bobby Goldman, who still resides in the Dallas area. A professional player, he was a member of one of the U.S. teams which competed in Beijing two years ago.

Billy Eisenberg, also a professional player. Ironically, the Boca Raton FL resident has formed a partnership with former Italian Blue Team star Benito Garozzo (now an American citizen).

Jim Jacoby, a Dallas resident and son of the legendary Oswald Jacoby. Jacoby played professionally until his death in 1991.

Mike Lawrence, an up-and-coming player from the San Francisco area. Lawrence still plays professionally but is equally well known as an author. Several of his books are considered classics of the bridge genre.

Wolff played with Jacoby. Eisenberg, Goldman and Lawrence played as a threesome.

Progress for the Aces was slow at first. Practice sessions were often disorganized and the partnerships lacked structure, particularly Wolff and Jacoby, with their "go as you please" bidding style. Then came Musumeci, the retired Air Force officer hired by Corn to shape up the troops. He ran disciplined, structured practice sessions and enforced Corn's dictum that the partnerships have firm bidding agreements. Jacoby and Wolff began playing a strong 1C system called the Orange Club. Pretty soon the Aces were the terrors of the bridge world. At the 1968 Summer NABC in Minneapolis, Eisenberg and Goldman won the Life Master Pairs. Wolff and Jacoby were second.

Hamman took notice, and it wasn't very long before he signed on with the Aces. He joined the team in January of 1969. The partnerships were Goldman- Eisenberg, Wolff-Jacoby and Hamman-Lawrence. By the following summer, the Aces had become a virtual steamroller in the bridge world. In the Spingold Knockout Teams at the 1969 Summer NABC in Coronado CA, the Aces won every match but the final by more than 100 IMPs. In the championship match, the Aces pounded a strong team led by Ira Rubin, 211-116.

The Aces stormed through the team trials later that year to earn a berth in the 1970 Bermuda Bowl in Stockholm, Sweden. It appeared that the Aces' reputation preceded them to Stockholm. Shortly before the Bermuda Bowl began, the organizers of the tournament -- in a thinly disguised attempt to give the other teams in the field a better chance -- changed the conditions of contest. In previous Bermuda Bowls, the scoring was by IMPs. For the 1970 contest, scoring in the final was by quarters with IMPs converted to Victory Points for each quarter. The maximum VP score possible per quarter was 20, although the losing side could go minus up to 5 VPs. Ironically, the change made the final quarter of the 1970 Bermuda Bowl irrelevant -- the Aces were 45 VPs ahead of their Taiwanese opponents, who could have won the final quarter by 1000 IMPs and still gained only 25 VPs (plus 20 for themselves against minus 5 for the opponents).

At the victory banquet, the Aces shrugged off comments about the weakness of the field -- Italy (a poor substitute for the "retired" Blue Team), Norway, Brazil and Taiwan. Going into the championship, the Aces knew they were unlikely to be tested. Said Lawrence: "Any of the teams we played in the late stages of the (1969) Spingold would have been favored in Stockholm. The team was vindicated the following year with a convincing victory over a strong French team in the Bermuda Bowl final in Taiwan. Shortly after that tournament, the Aces were no longer Corn's full-time employees, although he paid some expenses for the team.

For a long time, any team with Hamman and Wolff was known -- unofficially at least -- as the Aces. Corn died in 1982, and the team -- Hamman, Wolff, Peter Weichsel, Alan Sontag, Mike Becker and Ron Rubin -- dedicated their 1983 Bermuda Bowl victory to their former patron.

Dallas remains home to world champion bridge players. Hamman and Wolff are reigning Bermuda Bowl title lists (with nearly 20 world championships between them). Goldman earned his two Bermuda Bowl wins as a member of the Aces. Malcolm Brachman and Mike Passell were members of the winning Bermuda Bowl team in 1979, and Mike's wife Nancy was a member of the winning Venice Cup team in 1991. The Passells are the only U.S. couple to win the Bermuda Bowl and Venice Cup.

 


     
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