Jeff Rubens is one of the few who has brought about major changes in bridge. The advocacy of the Swiss Teams concept in The Bridge Journal, which he cofounded, led to experimental games until Swiss Teams became a major force in tournament bridge.
He and Larry Rosler codified standard bidding methods, which led not only to Bridge World Standard but also paved the way for formal descriptions of Standard American and other systems. His Bridge World editorials have resulted in a more understandable presentation of the Laws, more interest in how the appeals system works and in depth discussions of multifaceted problems.
It was natural that Rubens became interested in cards – both his parents loved to play. Lennie, his mother, and Moe, his father, loved poker, gin rummy and bridge. Moe also was a big pinochle fan. Rubens learned pinochle first, but once he tried bridge, he was hooked.
He learned that there was a Bridge World by winning a contest while a student at Cornell. The prize was a year’s subscription to The Bridge World. He started writing bridge articles at about this time. Daily Bulletin Editor Henry Francis remembers receiving a few excellent articles for the New England Bridge Bulletin at that time.
In the middle Sixties, Jeff and Paul Heitner decided to try to change a few things by starting up their own magazine, the Bridge Journal. The magazine became a forum for ideas, some of which were implemented.
In 1966 Edgar Kaplan bought the Bridge World, and he asked Rubens to work with him, "I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this work all through the years," said Rubens.
The Bridge World already had a Master Solvers Club when Rubens came aboard, but the randomness of the answers bothered Rubens. He felt that a relatively normal and simple network was necessary to make the experts’ comments meaningful.
He culled ideas from the panelists and put together a very basic Bridge World Standard. Later he polled experts more thoroughly, and the real Bridge World Standard was born.
Rubens also has contributed much to the terminology of bridge – terms like "advance" were his idea. He also is the author of several popular bidding methods.
Yes, Rubens definitely is an idea man, but he was a tough bridge player as well. It started while he was in Cornell where he formed a team with Ronnie Blau as his partner plus Walter May and Dick Lesser.
Later on he had a powerful partnership with Bob Mosher, a tremendous player who fell out of the limelight when he took positions in California and Mexico.
"It was a great partnership," said Rubens. "Bob had flair and I was careful. We’d win about one third of the time and come in second about a third of the time. The rest of the time we were nowhere.
"It was altogether different from playing with Ronnie Blau. Blau was very careful, just like me. That way we never came in last in pair games, but we never came in first either. But we were great in board-a-match."
Rubens won several North American championships in the Sixties and Seventies, including the Spingold and the International Team Trials. He represented the United States in the 1973 Bermuda Bowl in partnership with B. Jay Becker.
Rubens still has a very competitive spirit, but he doesn’t play bridge. He does crosswords and solves puzzles, but he doesn’t want to sit down at a bridge table and not play well.
Since he retired after 30 years as a professor of math and computer science at Pace University, he has focused on editing and writing. He has written a book – not about bridge – and he intends to write more. He also had done a good deal of free lance writing.
And he spends a lot of time with his children. "I did a lot of coaching when they were growing up, and I’m still very much involved with them."