Not Just the ACBL Story – But HISTORY

True accounts of events and people who shaped the ACBL

Archive for July 2012

ACBL Bridge Beat #86: World Par Contests

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World Par contests are international events using prepared deals. The idea of a series of par tournaments conducted throughout the world was conceived by Ely Culbertson, and in 1932 the first World Bridge Olympic, using the par hand format, was held. Culbertson founded the National Bridge Association, a non-profit corporation, in the same year, to conduct the tournaments.

The bridge world’s principal experts, regardless of their affiliation in the bridge politics of those times, constructed the prepared deals, and Culbertson’s staff did the central management and scoring. Each contestant paid a fee of $1, of which half went to the game captain (who pre-arranged the hands and directed his game) and half to the NBA.

In 1932 and 1933, American and World Olympics were conducted. From 1934 on, only the World Olympics took place. In 1934, self-dealing cards (marked on their backs to show which player should receive each card for the bridge wallets) were supplied without extra charge by the NBA. The World Bridge Olympic reached its peak in 1934 with 70 countries and nearly 90,000 players entered, but even in that year the NBA lost money.

In 1938, ACBL took over the management, with William McKenney in charge and Geoffrey Mott-Smith constructing the deals, but there were problems of foreign exchange, and World War II forced the abandonment after 1941.

The Olympic trophies were famous. For the American event, the two largest silver trophies in bridge history were provided. One of them is the McKenney Trophy. The other was lost in circumstances that had a lasting effect on insurance law. A winner, entitled to one year’s possession only, pawned the trophy. A court ruled that because it was his honest intention to redeem it within the year, he was not liable although he found himself later without funds to redeem it, nor was the pawnbroker responsible for having sold it when the time for redemption had passed. The insurance underwriter paid its value to the NBA. The two World trophies each contained $5000 worth of pure platinum, but Culbertson, who donated them, never relinquished personal title to them and sold them for their value in platinum when the tournament was discontinued.

Individual prizes were given to all international and national winners and to state winners in the United States and provincial winners in Canada, both North-South and East-West, so the list of winners for each year was long indeed.

In 1951, the World Par Contest was revived by Australia and won by Dr. J.L. Thwaites and Dr. E.L. Field of Melbourne, Australia, in that year. It was held in 1961 and 1963 under the auspices of the World Bridge Federation. The WBF intended to hold this event biennially, but it has not been held since 1963. The organizers in 1961 and 1963 were Michael J. Sullivan and Robert E. Williams (Australia).

1932 Olympic Wallet and Cards

1932 Olympic Wallet and Cards

1933 Dealer instructions

1933 Dealer instructions

1933 World Bridge Olympic deck

1933 World Bridge Olympic deck


Written by acbl

July 30, 2012 at 8:33 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #85: Sharif Bridge Circus

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The Sharif Bridge Circus was a touring professional team of world class players, organized and headed by movie star Omar Sharif, to play a series of exhibition matches against leading European and North American teams.

The Circus made its debut late in 1967 when Sharif, Giorgio Belladonna, Claude Delmouly, Benito Garozzo, and Leon Yallouze, all playing the Blue Team Club, defeated the Dutch international team in matches sponsored by newspapers and played in three Netherlands cities before enthusiastic audiences who viewed the competition on Bridge-o-Rama.

Using this format – a match against a highly rated team with the play-by-play displayed to the audience accompanied by expert commentary – the Circus made an extended tour in 1968. It defeated teams in Italy and London, lost its first matches to The Netherlands and Belgium in The Hague, and made a swing through six North American cities: Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles, Dallas, New Orleans and New York – winning the majority of the matches. Several of the American matches were three-cornered contests involving the Circus, the local team and the Aces.

A second tour in 1970 received a spectacular sendoff when Jeremy Flint and Jonathan Cansino challenged Sharif and company to a 100-rubber pairs game in London (later reduced by time pressure to 80 rubbers). The stakes were an unprecedented British pound ($2.40) per point, plus an additional bonus of $1000 on the net result of each four rubbers.

The match attracted wide newspaper and magazine coverage in the United States as well as in Europe. Sharif won by a margin of 5,470 points and collected more than $18,000. However, this was a comparatively small sum against the expenses of staging the match and taping the highlights for a series of television shows planned for later syndication. The TV shows never aired.

This was immediately followed by a tour of seven North American cities – Chicago, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia. In addition to matches against powerful teams of local stars, the tour included a marathon 840-deal match against the Aces, who accompanied the Circus throughout the tour. The Circus defeated the all-star teams in Chicago, Winnipeg and St. Paul, but lost all its other matches, bowing to the Aces by 101 IMPs (1793-1692) after the lead had seesawed excitingly from city to city. Pietro Forquet joined the Sharif team in Dallas but could not reverse the effect of the exhausting schedule, which included numerous personal appearances by Sharif.

Despite commercial sponsorship of more than $50,000 in 1970, neither of the American tours proved a financial success, although both resulted in wide publicity for bridge.

Omar Sharif

Waldemar von Zedtwitz,Louise Durham, Leon Yallouze, Benito Garozzo, Charles & Peggy Solomon and Omar Sharif

Souvenirs from the circus

Written by acbl

July 27, 2012 at 7:56 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #84: 1978 Toronto NABC

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The 1978 Toronto Summer North American Bridge Championships was host to new records and innovations. It boasted the largest attendance at 18,408 tables, featured the first coordinated children’s program, introduced instant hand records and saw a break-through victory in the Life Master Pairs (now von Zedtwitz LM Pairs).

The previous record for table count was 16,403 tables at the 1973 Washington D.C. NABC. Toronto surpassed that total when the third table was sold for the Saturday evening early bird game. The single session mark was smashed too – 995 in Washington and 1094 on Thursday evening in Toronto. There were 2,138 tables in play on Thursday, a record for a single day. A total of 208 teams entered the Spingold, compared to the record on 160 in Chicago in 1977. A Swiss event had a field of 604 teams. The top three teams all won every match, but fractions awarded when a victory is by fewer than 3 IMPs broke the tie.

The children’s program catered to both tots and older children and featured magicians and musicians for the tots and field trips for the older group.

In events where duplicated hands were used, the players found printed hand record sheets available at the directors’ table as soon as they played their final hand. These sheets were much in evidence during the post-mortems, and many players took them home as a permanent record of their performance in Toronto.

For the first time in history, two women won the Life Master Pairs. Mary Jane Farell and Marilyn Johnson, already established as two of the best women players in the world, took their position at the top of all Life Masters by opening a three-point lead over Ron Feldman and David Sachs in the first final, then increasing their margin to 3 ½ points in the second final – over the same pair.

Both women were almost in tears when they received the official word.

The Master Mixed Teams saw the team of Sidney Lazard, Nancy Alpaugh, Mark Lair and Joan Dewitt successfully defend the title, despite the partner switch from the qualifying to the final.

And no hand in the entire tournament caused more uproar than Board 5 from the Golder Master Pairs. At least two pairs played at the slam level – one grand and one small – with a 0-0 trump fit! Another pair vowed to never again use artificial bids. Many a player was forced to choose the trump suit at the grand slam level. One thought his partner’s cue bid showed the ♣A, so he bid 7NT and watched his opponents take the first eight tricks – all clubs.

This was Board #5:

♠ A K Q J
K Q 7 4
A K Q J 3
♣ —
♠ 10 7 3 ♠ 2
J 9 6
8 5 2 10 7 6
♣ A J 8 6 3 ♣ K Q 10 9 7 5 4 2
♠ 9 8 6 5 4
A 10 8 5 3 2
9 4
♣ —
And this was the most disastrous bidding sequence:
West North East South
1♣ 3♣ 3
5♣ 6♣ Dbl Pass
Pass 7♣ Pass Pass (?)
Pass 7 All Pass


North, whose opening bid was a Precision Club, thought he heard a double to his left when he bid 7♣, so he continued bidding to the proper contract. However, it was determined that the bidding had been passed out at 7♣. The director ruled that the contract was 7♣, so declarer went down 8 on a deal where he was cold for 7, 7 or 7♠.

Marilyn Johnson and Mary Jane Farrell

Marilyn Johnson and Mary Jane Farrell

Written by acbl

July 25, 2012 at 10:38 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #83: Goldwater’s Rule

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Many bridge players have heard Goldwater’s Rule – the suggestion by National TD Harry Goldwater that an opening lead out of turn should generally be accepted because any player who doesn’t know whose lead it is probably doesn’t know what to lead, but the story behind the rule isn’t as well-known.

Here it is in Goldwater’s own words:

“I have been a National Tournament Director for many, many years. I have seen a lot of famous players come and go. I have been involved in some of the most incredible incidents at the bridge table. Yet I will probably be remembered, not for my many years of service to the ACBL or my talents as a director, but for a theory I tested at a tournament in Philadelphia years ago which has been embraced and popularized by thousands across the country whom I have never met. It is called Goldwater’s Rule.

“Al Sobel was running a regional where it all began. During one of the afternoon sessions, he called me to a table where he was making a ruling and asked me to play a hand. I was a little surprised by his request, since it is quite rare that a director finds himself declaring while he is working.

“As it happened, one of the players had inadvertently picked up the wrong hand before the bidding began and consequently was a little more familiar with LHO’s cards than he should have been. Al was promptly summoned, made sure everyone had the correct hand, and ruled that the auction should proceed normally. Satisfied that it had, Sobel still faced a problem. The man who had seen his opponent’s cards was declarer. To achieve par, Al needed a third party to play the hand which I consented to do.

“The bidding had gone 1♠ – 3♠ – 4♠, and I received the ♣10 lead out of turn. Staring at K-x-x of clubs, my options were to accept the lead out of turn, force Lefty to lead a club, or make the ♣10 a penalty card and forbid a club lead. Although you might think me foolish, I decided to accept the lead, leaving my king of clubs vulnerable to attack. Sure enough, dummy hit with A J x x, RHO had led from Q 10 9, and I had found the only way to play the club suit for no losers.

“My pet theory was proven in actual play: a lead made out of turn should always be accepted because anyone stupid enough to not know whose lead it is isn’t smart enough to make a good one.”

Harry Goldwater (1901-1995) of Yonkers NY became a National TD in 1957. Starting in 1962 he served as an adviser to the ACBL Laws Commission and was a contributing editor to the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge. Harry served in the Pacific with the Navy throughout WWII.

Harry Goldwater

Harry Goldwater

Written by acbl

July 23, 2012 at 8:18 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #82: The Vaniva Problem

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This, one of the most famous of all double dummy problems, was composed by Sidney Lenz in 1928 in a contest promoted by Vaniva Shaving Cream.

♠ 5
8 5
A K 7
♣ A K 8 6 5 4 2
♠ K 10 7 ♠ 8 6 4 3 2
9 Q 6 3 2
Q 10 8 3 J 6 2
♣ Q J 10 9 7 ♣ 3
♠ A Q J 9
A K J 10 7 4
9 5 4
♣ —

South is to make 7 after the lead of the ♣Q. Scroll down to see the solution.






North wins the first trick, South discarding a diamond. North leads the other top club.

If East trumps, South overruffs and cashes the ♠A, North ruffs out West’s best spade, and one trump finesse captures East’s queen.

If East sheds a spade, South ruffs and cashes the ♠A, North ruffs out West’s best spade, and South wins the trump finesse and his remaining spades. North wins a top diamond and South ruffs a club. North wins another diamond and coups East’s trumps.

If East sheds a diamond, South sheds a spade and finesses trumps. North wins a top diamond and South finesses and runs all his trumps to triple squeeze West.

Written by acbl

July 20, 2012 at 8:48 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #81: Sidney Lenz

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Sidney Lenz, who wore the mantle of “the grand old man of bridge” from 1932 until he died at the age of 86 in 1960, was richly deserving of the title. His career spanned the eras of whist, auction and contract bridge, and he was an expert at many games and sports.

Before he was 27, a series of coups in the lumber business had made him prosperous, and when he was 30 he was rich. He promptly retired and devoted the rest of his life to competition, traveling, reading and writing. When he took up bowling, one of his records – an average of 240 over 20 consecutive games (1909) – stood up for nearly 20 years.

In 1910 he won the American Whist League’s principal national team championship. Altogether he won 14 national titles and more than 600 whist and bridge trophies at all levels of competition.

Lenz was remarkably versatile in intellectual, coordinative and athletic competitions. He played chess against Jose Capablanca and tennis against “Little Bill” Johnston with small odds. He was scratch at golf and “shot his age” at 69. He was a table tennis champion. Professional magicians considered him the best amateur magician in the U.S. and he was the first ever elected honorary member of the American Society of Magicians. His special skill at dealing seconds impelled him to refuse to play card games for stakes. However, whist and bridge were his greatest love, and he thought of himself primarily as a bridge player.

He was a delightful raconteur and was perhaps the first writer to make a technical bridge book (Lenz on Bridge) an entertaining literary work. He wrote fiction for mass magazines. He wrote many short stories with bridge settings, and as a part owner and associate editor of the former humorous magazine Judge, Lenz conducted double dummy problem contests that served greatly to publicize bridge.

He was a most revered member of the bridge community and, appropriately, was elected to the bridge Hall of Fame in 1965.

Sidney Lenz

Sidney Lenz

Written by acbl

July 18, 2012 at 9:31 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #80: Match of the Century, Part 2

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The “Match of the Century”
By Harold Franklin
Reprinted from The Bulletin March 1972

After 69 deals the Blue Team led by 8 IMPs, but Board 70 gave the Aces an opportunity to take the lead under most unusual circumstances:

Dlr: East ♠ J 7 5 4
Vul: Both K 6
7 5 3 2
♣ Q 10 4
♠ Q ♠ K 10 9 8 6 3 2
Q 10 8 5 A 9 7 3
A K 10 9 6
♣ A K 8 ♣ J 3
♠ A
J 4 2
Q J 8 4
♣ 9 7 6 5 2
West North East South
(Hamman) (Belladonna) (Soloway) (Avarelli)
Pass Pass
1 Pass 2♠ Pass
3 Pass 3 Pass
3NT Pass 4 Pass
5♣ Pass 5 Pass
6 All Pass

North led the ♠7 and South won and returned a club. Hamman won and led the Q, covered by the king and ace. A low spade from dummy followed. Avarelli discarded a club and declarer ruffed with the 10. The 8 was led and Belladonna revoked by discarding a diamond. Avarelli won with the jack and returned a trump on which Belladonna again failed to follow. Had declarer somehow realized that there had been a revoke – or indeed had Belladonna played his 6 on the third round of trumps – Hamman would have had no difficulty in coming to 10 tricks and making his slam with the aid of the two-trick penalty. But believing he was playing against a 4-1 heart break, he ended with nine tricks and, there being no penalty for a second revoke in the same suit by the same player, was ruled to be down one. At the other table Garozzo and Forquet stopped in a safe 4 contract and gained 13 IMPs.

From Board 70 to 100 the Blue Team hit top form and virtually ended the match as they built up a lead of 68 IMPs. Forquet was given credit for the “hand of the match” after finding the winning defense on this deal:

Dlr: East ♠ 6 4 2
Vul: Both K
A K Q 10 7 2
♣ Q 10 4
♠ K Q ♠ A 9 5
5 3 J 8 2
9 5 3 J 8 6 4
♣ A K 9 7 5 3 ♣ J 6 2
♠ J 10 8 7 3
A Q 10 9 7 6 4
♣ 8
West North East South
(Soloway) (Avarelli) (Hamman) (Belladonna)
Pass 1
Pass 2 Pass 2
Pass 2NT Pass 3
Pass 4 All Pass

Against the auction shown, Soloway led the ♣K and Hamman produced the 2. He then switched to the ♠K, fetching the 9 from Hamman and the ♠Q held the next trick as East played the 5. That ended the defense. Declarer gained the lead at the next trick and got rid of his three remaining spades on dummy’s top diamonds.

At the other table Bobby Wolff opened 4 with the South hand and Garozzo led the ♣A. After getting the deuce from Forquet, he too switched to the ♠K and continued with the queen. But before permitting the queen to hold, Forquet reasoned as follows: “My partner must have count of the club suit, and if there were a second club trick to cash, he would have cashed it before trying the second spade. That being so the contract can be defeated only if we can score three spade tricks. Since we both know that with K-Q-x or K-Q-x-x partner would have followed the ♠K with a low spade lead, the king followed by the queen could only mean K-Q-J(-x), in which case it does not matter if I overtake with the ace, or . . . is it possible?”

So Forquet overtook with the ace and led a third spade and it was possible. In the end, the Blue Team wound up comfortable winners by a score of 338 – 254. One was left with the feeling that both teams were capable of much better things and the result in Las Vegas will count for little when they line up as the main contenders at Miami Beach in June 1972.

Written by acbl

July 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm

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