Hall of Famer a former resident of Paramus
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Ira Rubin, a mathematician, computer programmer and former Paramus resident who played bridge at the highest level for four decades and was regarded as one of the great theorists of the game died Wednesday.
He was 82 and resided most recently in an assisted living center in Edison.
The bespectacled, 6-foot-3 Mr. Rubin was known in the tournament bridge world as The Beast for his fiery intensity and, "according to some, he embraced that nickname," said Brent Manley, editor of the Bridge Bulletin, the periodical of the American Contract Bridge League.
Mr. Rubin, who racked up more than 500 mentions in The New York Times' authoritative bridge column, entered the league's Hall of Fame in 2000 on the strength of 19 national titles and one world title. The latter occurred in 1976. He was captain of the six-member U.S. team that defeated the legendary Italian Blue squad for the Bermuda Bowl, the card game's version of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
After returning home from Monte Carlo, where the 60-hour competition was waged, Mr. Rubin was asked by a Record reporter to discuss the keys to the Americans' victory.
"One of the good reasons was I was on the team," he said.
Another master, Alan Sontag, wrote in his 2003 memoir, "The Bridge Bum: My Life and Play," that Mr. Rubin "was a terror to play with and against."
"When his partner made a mistake at the table, he rattled windows with his screams," Sontag wrote, "yet he was most generous with his praise when a hand was played well."
Mr. Rubin, who gave up his career in his late 30s to focus on bridge, considered bidding skills paramount and sometimes forced a prospective partner to memorize a three-page list of rigid bidding conventions. "He created three or four bidding tools that are still popularly used today," Manley said.
The only child of a civil engineer father and a science teacher mother neither of whom played bridge Mr. Rubin learned the game at age 7 from German refugees during a Lake Placid vacation. He began playing in tournaments while attending Bronx High School of Science. He studied electrical engineering and math, among other demanding subjects, at New York University, from which he received bachelor's and master's degrees.
Mr. Rubin was able to leave his career "to pursue his passion" because of his wife's work as a speech pathologist, said his son Eric. Family vacations were planned in conjunction with out-of-town tournaments. Mr. Rubin also played at the Cavendish Bridge Club in Manhattan and taught the game at the master level, but never played socially.
His rewards were fame and notoriety rather than money.
Eric Rubin described his father as an "eccentric genius" and "not a small-talk kind of guy."
"He loved a few things," the son said. "He loved bridge, he loved mathematics and he loved his association with the Bronx High School of Science."
Eric Rubin acknowledged his father's strident reputation. "He felt the game was about bidding and put together a strategy that was very complex, and he made his partners learn it," he said.
Mr. Rubin became far less intimidating, and more lovable, in his later years. "In the twilight of his |life he took great pride in his four grandchildren," Eric said. "Before that, it was bridge, bridge and bridge."
Ira Rubin, who lived in Paramus for 35 years and in Fair Lawn before that, is survived by his children, Loribeth Kimmel, Eric Rubin and Jeffrey Rubin, and his former wife, Harriet Rubin.
Graveside services, under the direction of Eden Memorial Chapels, will be held today at 12:30 p.m. at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Fairview.
Published in The Record on Feb. 7, 2013