Aces Team

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.

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 Mike Becker-Ronnie 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.