ACBL Bridge Beat #81: Sidney Lenz
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.