The Blue Ribbon Pairs ranks with the von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs and Platinum Pairs as one of the most prestigious — and toughest — pair events on the ACBL calendar. Like the LM Pairs and Platinum Pairs, the Blue Ribbon Pairs is played over three days and includes two qualifying, two semifinal and two final sessions.

The event is contested for the Cavendish Trophy, originally awarded for the National Open Pair Championship. The trophy was donated by the Cavendish Club of New York in 1928. Since 1963, the trophy has been awarded to winners of the Blue Ribbon Pairs.

The Blue Ribbon Pairs was first contested at the 37th annual Fall National Championships in 1963. The tournament held in Miami that year opened on the day of the Kennedy assassination and was later interrupted by the national day of mourning, but tournament attendance still broke records with 7129 tables.

The Blue Ribbon Pairs was by far the most prestigious event on the schedule but had the smallest entry (84 pairs). Entry was limited to players who were among the top 60 masterpoint holders or winners and high finishers in major championship events the preceding year.

The inaugural event was won by B. Jay Becker and Dorothy Hayden Truscott.

Entry in the event was small for the first 10 years averaging 127 pairs. Then in 1973 the Blue Ribbons Pairs drew so many entries that it was the first time the finals were not confined to one section. There were 268 pairs entered in the event held in Las Vegas. Kit Woolsey and Steve Robinson took the honors that year. Woolsey and Robinson would win the event again in 1975. The 2001 Fall North American Bridge Championships (NABC), also held in Las Vegas, boasts the largest field for the Blue Ribbon Pairs (534 pairs) to date. Salvador Assael and Nafiz Zorlu of Turkey took the title in 2001.

In 1978, David Berkowitz captured the title on his 29th birthday playing with Ron Andersen. In 1983 Berkowitz’s future bridge partner, Larry N. Cohen, became the third person to win the Blue Ribbon Pairs twice having previously won in 1981with Ron Gerard. Cohen played with Marty Bergen for the 1983 title. Cohen and Bergen won again in 1988, and Berkowitz and Cohen took the title in 1995. Cohen’s win in 1995 tied him with Bob Hamman for the most wins in the event. Hamman won the Blue Ribbons in 1964, 1986, 1991 and 1993 with four different partners: Lew Mathe, Ron Von der Porten, Nick Nickell and Michael Rosenberg respectively.

The one and only tie in the Blue Ribbons happened in 1984. Bobby Wolff and Jack Kennedy tied Mark Lair and David Funk. The respective scores were 978.3 and 978.1. At the time any difference of less than .5 constituted a tie. Today, per ACBL Regulation, any difference as low as 0.01 constitutes enough to break a tie.

No female partnership has ever won the Blue Ribbons. In 2005, Sabine Auken and Daniela von Arnim were very close until a bad last round caused them to lose by half a board. Although Auken and von Arnim didn’t set a record, the pair that defeated them did. Gavin Wolpert and Jenny Ryman (now Wolpert) became the youngest pair to win the event at ages 23 and 20 respectively. In addition to being the youngest winner of the event, Jenny Wolpert is one of only three women to ever win the Blue Ribbons. Jill Meyers claimed the title in 1999 playing with John Mohan and as previously mentioned, Dorothy Hayden Truscott was victorious in 1963.

In 1999, the ACBL Board of Directors voted to remember Edgar Kaplan by renaming the Blue Ribbon Pairs the Edgar Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs. Kaplan (1925-1997) was a giant in the bridge world, and his legacy to the game is incalculable. His career spanned six decades and covered every aspect of bridge. He was a teacher, author, editor, administrator, champion player, theorist, expert vugraph commentator, coach/captain and the authority on the laws of the game.

This year’s Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs will begin at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at the Phoenix NABC. If you plan to play in the event, the ACBL asks that you purchase your entry at least 15 minutes before game time.

The Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs is restricted to winners and runners-up in regional championships — plus high finishers in North American championships, members of current Grand National district championship teams, members of current official teams representing ACBL and the top 100 lifetime masterpoint holders.

Winners and runners-up:

1963 1. B. Jay Becker, Dorothy Hayden;
2. Harold Harkavy, Cliff Russell

1964 1. Robert D. Hamman, Lewis L. Mathe;
2. Gunther Polak, Robert G. Sharp

1965 1. Chuck Henke, John H. Moran;
2. Michael S. Lawrence, Ron Von der Porten

1966 1. Charles Coon, Richard Zeckhauser;
2. Leland Ferer, Gratian Goldstein

1967 1. Sami R. Kehela, Baron Wolf Lebovic;
2. Phil Feldesman, Lewis L. Mathe

1968 1. Larry Cohen, Richard H. Katz;
2. Bobby Goldman, Michael S. Lawrence

1969 1. Erik Paulsen, Alex Tschekaloff;
2-4. Sami R. Kehela, Eric R. Murray;
2-4. Tom Hodapp, Robert F. Morris;
2-4. Larry Cohen, Richard H. Katz

1970 1. Chuck F. Burger, Ira S. Rubin;
2. Richard Freeman, Cliff Russell

1971 1. Roger Bates, John M. Grantham;
2. Hermine Baron, Michael S. Lawrence

1972 1. Richard Khautin, Warren Kornfeld;
2. Garey Hayden, Mark Lair

1973 1. Steve Robinson, Kit Woolsey;
2. Kathie Cappelletti, Mike Cappelletti

1974 1. Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay;
2. Roger Bates, George Rosenkranz

1975 1. Steve Robinson, Kit Woolsey;
2. Ron E. Andersen, Hugh C. MacLean

1976 1. Jay Apfelbaum, Bill Edelstein;
2. James Jacoby, David Berkowitz

1977 1. Lou Bluhm, Thomas K. Sanders;
2. Kathie Cappelletti, Mike Cappelletti

1978 1. Ron E. Andersen, David Berkowitz;
2. Ted Horning, Peter Nagy

1979 1. Robert Levin, Ron Smith;
2. James Bennett, Chester Davis

1980 1. Warren Rosner, Allan Stauber;
2. Dan Morse, G. Robert Nail

1981 1. Larry N. Cohen, Ron Gerard;
2. Chip Martel, Lew Stansby

1982 1. Eric Rodwell, Jeff Meckstroth;
2-3. Robert Blanchard, Drew Casen;
2-3. Peter Boyd, Steve Robinson

1983 1. Marty Bergen, Larry N. Cohen;
2. Peter Weichsel, Mike Lawrence

1984 1-2. Jack Kennedy, Bobby Wolff;
1-2. David Funk, Mark Lair

1985 1. Eric Rodwell, Walter Johnson;
2. Kit Woolsey, Ed Manfield

1986 1. Bob Hamman, Ron Von der Porten;
2. Kit Woolsey, Ed Manfield

1987 1. Fred Stewart, Steve Weinstein;
2. Kerri Shuman, Robert Levin

1988 1. Marty Bergen, Larry N. Cohen;
2. Robert Levin, Ron Smith

1989 1. Mark Molson, Robert Lebi;
2. Gaylor Kasle, Roger Bates

1990 1. Kit Woolsey, Ed Manfield;
2. Brian Glubok, Sam Lev

1991 1. Bob Hamman, Nick Nickell;
2. Mark Tolliver, Marc Zwerling

1992 1. Haig Tchamitch, Adam Wildavsky;
2. Brad Moss, Ravindra Murthy

1993 1. Bob Hamman, Michael Rosenberg;
2. Martin De Bruin, Steve Price

1994 1. Mark Lair, Alexander Weiland;
2. Fred Stewart, Steve Weinstein

1995 1. David Berkowitz, Larry Cohen;
2. Paul Kiefer, Jerry Helms

1996 1. Jim Krekorian, Bob Blanchard;
2. Larry Cohen, David Berkowitz

1997 1. Adam Wildavsky, Allan Falk;
2. Geir Helgemo, Tony Forrester

1998 1. Zia Mahmood, Howard Weinstein;
2. Eric Rodwell, Marty Seligman

1999 1. Jill Meyers, John Mohan;
2. John Sutherlin, Russ Ekeblad

2000 1. Richard Coren, Marc Jacobus;
2. Robert Levin, Steve Weinstein

2001 1. Salvador Assael, Nafiz Zorlu;
2. Pratap Rajadhyaksha, Steve Landen

2002 1. Sidney Lazard, Bart Bramley;
2. Kit Woolsey, Fred Stewart

2003 1. Michael Seamon, Geir Helgemo;
2. Eric Greco, Geoff Hampson

2004 1. Tarek Sadek, Walid Elahmady;
2. Robert Levin, Steve Weinstein

2005 1. Gavin Wolpert, Jenny Ryman;
2. Sabine Auken, Daniela von Arnim

2006 1. Fulvio Fantoni, Claudio Nunes;
2. Drew Casen, Jim Krekorian

2007 1. Steve Landen, Pratap Rajadhyaksha;
2. Ernesto Muzzio, Alejandro Bianchedi

2008 1. Eric Rodwell, Jeff Meckstroth;
2. Frederic Wrang, Martin De Knijff

2009 1. Bart Bramley, Bjorn Fallenius;
2. John Hurd, Joel Wooldridge

2010 1. Jay Borker, Jan Jansma;
2. Bas Drijver, Sjoert Brink

2011 1. Josh Donn, Roger Lee;
2. Billy Cohen, Brad Moss

2012 1. John Diamond, Brian Platnick;
2. Geoff Hampson, Eric Greco