Not Just the ACBL Story – But HISTORY

True accounts of events and people who shaped the ACBL

Archive for October 2012

ACBL Bridge Beat #120: A Divine Story

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Maury Braunstein: A divine story
By Alfred Sheinwold
Reprinted from The Bulletin (8/89)

Only a few hundred experts have ever heard of Maury Braunstein. A few thousand more may recall a short, trim man directing top championships for the ACBL and the WBF.

When friends celebrated Braunstein’s 74th birthday during the World Team Olympiad in Venice in 1988, there was much talk about his closet full of bow ties. I think of him as the hero of a divine story.

Years ago, Braunstein noticed that the players at one table hadn’t moved to take their seats for the new round of play. Braunstein hurried to the sluggish table, saw from the uncompleted score slip that the contract was 7 and noticed that not a card had been played except for the opening lead.

Dlr: East ♠ Q 9 5
Vul: N-S 10 6 5 3
♣ J 8 7 2
♠ J 10 8 7 ♠ K 6 4 3 2
4 2 9
10 8 6 5 K J 9 7 4
♣ 9 6 4 ♣ 5 3
♠ A
A K Q J 8 7
3 2
♣ A K Q 10
West North East South
Pass 3 Pass 4♣
Pass 4 Pass 4NT
Pass 5 Pass 7
All Pass

Opening lead: ♠J

Braunstein waited for a few seconds and coughed warningly at dummy and declarer, two Catholic priests who often played as partners in those years. When his cough and stern stare had no effect, Braunstein spake:

“Our fathers, who art in seven, hurried be thy game.”

Everybody smiled and declarer showed his hand and said, “All right. I’ll draw trumps and try the diamond finesse.”

“Down one,” East replied, showing the K.

“Score it up,” Braunstein flung at them over his shoulder as he briskly walked away.

The next day Braunstein showed me the N-S cards and asked how I would play 7, but I already knew the full deal. “The slam is cold against any defense,” I proclaimed oracularly. “The opening lead must be from the J-10. It couldn’t be from J-x or from the king, because nobody makes such leads against a grand slam.”

Braunstein nodded.

“So the slam is unbeatable no matter who has the K. He’d have made it, too, if you hadn’t rushed him.”

“That’s the trouble with all you writers,” Braunstein complained. “Always expecting miracles.”

If you haven’t worked out how to make the grand slam against any defense, take another minute. Then read the rest of the column and see if I’ve got it right.

South takes the ♠A and five rounds of trumps, discarding dummy’s Q! He then runs four clubs, ending in dummy. South keeps a trump and two diamonds. Dummy has the ♠Q 9 and the A.

If East keeps two diamonds, he can save only one spade – the king. Declarer then leads dummy’s ♠9 to ruff out the king, and dummy wins the last two tricks with the ♠Q and theA.

To prevent this, East must save two spades and only one diamond.

If West keeps two diamonds, he can only save one spade – the 10. Declarer then leads dummy’s ♠Q to ruff out East’s king and pick up West’s 10. (If East fails to cover the ♠Q, South discards a diamond.)

To prevent this, West likewise must save two spades and only one diamond.

But now declarer cashes the A and wins the last two tricks with the last trump and the last diamond.

Incidentally, East knows North has the A for his 4 cuebid. When North later bids 5, East must double to suggest a diamond opening lead. Even if East doubles 7, West may work out the killing lead.

If West opens a diamond, South can only take 12 tricks. The grand slam depends on keeping the ♦A in dummy for the three-card ending.

Maurice (Maury) Braunstein (1914-1997) of Schenectady NY was a leading director at the national and world level. He had a tireless devotion to players’ needs, an incredible wit and an incisive knowledge about anything that could happen at the bridge table. In 1954 he gave up his career as a promising bridge player to become a tournament director. He quickly rose to the top of his profession by becoming a national tournament director in 1968, right after he retired from his post as computer processing director for the state of New York. He was named the chief director for the Bermuda Bowl in 1973 by the WBF. From that point on he was either the head director or chief assistant at all world championships until he retired in 1988. He originated several duplicate movements, including the Stanza Movement. Braunstein was known worldwide for his bow ties which became his trademark at tournaments everywhere.

Maury Braunstein

Maury Braunstein


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October 31, 2012 at 1:09 pm

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ACBL Bridge Beat #119: 1987 Reisinger Pt. 2

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“The Reisinger final is probably the toughest tournament in the world,” Zia said. “You play in the last stages against nine teams, each of which could win any world championship.”

Team members knew they were headed for victory when they won 21out of 27 boards in the first final session. But at one point during the qualifying when Smith and Cohen lost an appeal, they were extremely discouraged.

The next day, things started to click and they began to win. “I wish we had been at a blackjack table,” Zia said. “We could have made a fortune.”

After pulling far ahead in the first final session, Zia and Co. fell upon bad times. After four rounds in the second final session, they had only won three points out of a possible 12, and a couple of teams were breathing down their necks.

But then the magic returned – they won 11.5 out of their final 15 deals. Here are some hands that put them on the road to victory.

Underleads of doubletons paid handsome dividends once for each pair. Zia made his deceptive lead in the first final session.

Board: 7

Dlr: South ♠ Q 9 6 5 4
Vul: N-S 10 9 8 5
♣ A Q 5
♠ A K 10 8 ♠ J 3
J A Q 6 4 3
Q 10 8 6 5 2 A 3
♣ K 6 ♣ J 10 9 2
♠ 7 2
K 7 2
J 9 7 4
♣ 8 7 4 3
Jaggy Zia
West North East South
1 Pass 1 Pass
1♠ Pass 2♣ Pass
2 Pass 3NT All Pass

Zia lead the ♠2, which of course looked like a normal fourth-best to declarer – even more so when Jaggy covered with the 9 and declarer won with the jack. Declarer went after diamonds, dropping the king with the ace, finessing the 10, cashing the queen and giving up a trick to the jack.

Declarer now had nine tricks, but this was board-a-match, so overtricks were of prime importance. When Zia led the ♠7, declarer thought it was safe to finesse the 10 – but Jaggy produced the queen! Now declarer was forever cut off from his spade and diamond tricks in dummy.

He was forced to take the finesse on the heart return and now he could no longer bring home his contract. He actually failed by two tricks while Cohen and Smith made the notrump game at the other table for the win.

Ron Smith made his underlead midway through the play of this deal from the second final.

Board: 25

Dlr: North ♠ A Q 10 5 2
Vul: E-W
J 10 8 3 2
♣ A J 3
♠ K J 9 7 ♠ 8 6
10 9 8 7 6 Q J 5 3
A K 9 7
♣ K 8 ♣ 10 9 7 6 2
♠ 4 3
A K 4 2
Q 6 5 4
♣ Q 5 4
Smith Cohen
West North East South
1♠ Pass 1NT
Pass 2 Pass 2NT
Pass 3 Pass 3
Pass 3NT Pass 4
Pass 5 All Pass

Cohen led a trump and Smith, after cashing his ace and king, led the diabolical ♣8. Declarer could see that he could discard two clubs on the AK, and the 8 made him think the king was offside, so he went up with the ace.

But declarer had to use a valuable trump to return to dummy for the club discards – and that did him in. He no longer had enough trumps to ruff all of his losers, and he wound up down one.

That fine lead by Smith salvaged only half a board because Jaggy and Zia were set one trick at 3NT at the other table.

Cohen and Smith came up with a neat defense on this deal from the second final.

Board: 15

Dlr: South ♠ 10 9 5 3
Vul: N-S K J 10 4
J 5 3
♣ 9 7
♠ 6 4 ♠ K J 8 7
9 8 6 3 2 Q 5
A 7 4 Q 10 9 2
♣ A 5 2 ♣ K 8 6
♠ A Q 2
A 7
K 8 6
♣ Q J 10 4 3
Smith Cohen
West North East South
Pass Pass Pass

Smith led his top heart to the 10, queen and ace. A club to the 9 drew Cohen’s king, and he returned a heart to the jack. Declarer couldn’t cash the king because that would have set up two heart tricks for Smith. Instead he continued work on the clubs, but Smith was ready – he won his ace and led his last club, pinning declarer in his hand.

Declarer led a spade to the 10 and jack, endplaying Cohen. Cohen got out with a spade and declarer took a successful finesse – but he had to play diamonds out of his hand. As a result he took only seven tricks for +90. This proved to be a win when Jaggy and Zia combined to beat 2 two tricks at the other table.

Written by acbl

October 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm

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ACBL Bridge Beat #118: 1987 Reisinger

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Four players, all from different nations and all of different faiths, joined together to score a resounding victory in the 1987 Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams. The only drawback to their triumph was that they were not eligible to compete in the U.S. International Team Trials because only two of the players resided in the United States.

At the time, the winners by more than 5.5 boards in what most experts consider to be the toughest team event on the ACBL calendar were Zia Mahmood, 40, a Pakistani who divides his time between London and New York; Jaggy Shivdasani, 29, a CPA from Bombay, India; Billy Cohen, 29, a self-employed business man from Santa Ana CA who is a Canadian citizen, and Ron Smith, 34, an options trader from Chicago.

All four champions knew in advance that their multi-national team would be ineligible for a chance to represent the U.S., and none were disappointed. “It’s nice to win a North American title. The best players in the world were playing here. If you beat these guys, it’s about as good as it gets,” said Cohen.

“The best thing about this is that we had a black, a Jew, an Indian and a Pakistani playing together,” Zia said. Moreover, Zia is a Muslim and Shivdasani is a Hindu.

“It’s good to show how bridge can bring together people from such different backgrounds,” said Zia. “It shows a special magic about the game of bridge.”

Most partnerships for the Reisinger are formed a year in advance, but the winning team was composed only a week before the event Smith said. By that time, he said, “all the other good players were taken.”

In July 1987, the Spingold winners were also disqualified from Team Trials because Shivdasani was on the team.

Winning two major American bridge titles in a year is “pretty unbelievable”, said Shivdasani.

The team’s achievement prompted this verse from the editor of International Bridge Press Association Bulletin.

A Fair Wind
By Patrick Jourdain

At America’s major tournament,
Held in Anaheim’s Hilton Hotel,
The winners of the Reisinger
Had a touching tale to tell.

Bridge brings together nations,
Races, colors and creeds.
Hear the make-up of the champions.
(who were nowhere near the top seeds).

A friend said to Zia, the captain:
“Tell us how this was done.”
He replied: “All the Gods were behind us,
For this is the team that has won:

A Pakistani Muslim,
An Indian Hindu,
A black American Christian,
And a white Canadian Jew!”

1987 Reisinger winners

Written by acbl

October 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #117: Hall of Fame

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After lying dormant for nearly 30 years, the Bridge Hall of Fame was re-established in 1995 with the election and induction of eight new members.

In ceremonies, just prior to the 1995 Spring NABC in Phoenix, the Bridge Hall of Fame added three living members – Edgar Kaplan, Alvin Roth and Bobby Wolff. They were joined by five deceased members – B. Jay Becker, Easley Blackwood, Barry Crane, John Crawford and Helen Sobel Smith.

Nine members were elected to the Hall of Fame in the Sixties when the institution was the province of its creator, The Bridge World magazine. They are: Ely Culbertson (1964), Charles Goren (1964), Harold Vanderbilt (1964), Oswald Jacoby (1965), Sidney Lenz (1965), Milton Work (1965), Waldemar von Zedtwitz (1966), Sidney Silodor (1966) and Howard Schenken (1966).

The Bridge Hall of Fame was reborn in the summer of 1994 when the ACBL Board of Directors acted on a proposal from then-President Virgil Anderson, who proposed the recreation “to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the game of bridge.”

A Bridge Hall of Fame Committee was established to oversee future development of the institution. The original committee members were: Bobby Wolff, Bernard Warshauer, Richard Goldberg, Jan Cohen and Alan Truscott.

The Hall of Fame Nominating Committee selected 16 living (age 60 or older) and 33 deceased members for the first ballot. The nominating committee was: David Treadwell, Amalya Kearse, Richard Freeman, John Gustafson, John Carruthers, Colby Vernay, Henry Lortz, Korene Geffen and Herb Smith.

Nearly 900 electors received ballots – Diamond Life Master or higher, North American members of the IBPA, current and past members of the ACBL Board of Directors, current members of the ACBL Board of Governors and all Honorary Members of the Year.

Elections to the Hall of Fame are conducted annually. There are currently 106 members. Biographies of each member can be found here.

Written by acbl

October 24, 2012 at 8:56 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #116: Intercollegiate Tournaments

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This event formerly contested by universities and colleges throughout the United States and Canada was organized by Geoffrey Mott-Smith, 1949-1960, William Root, 1961-1965, Lawrence Rosler and Jeff Rubens, 1966-1967, and subsequently by representatives of the Association of College Unions-International and the American Contract Bridge League. When the Charles Goren Foundation offered financial assistance in 1969 the tournament became known as the Charles Goren Intercollegiate Bridge Tournament.

A feature of the tournament in the early years was the use of par hands. The earliest matches were conducted as a face-to-face contest for 16 finalists, but in 1953 the procedure was changed to a mailing of par hands to each campus with the scorecards rated in New York. Under this plan, titles were awarded to the highest-scoring pair on the North-South hands and on the East-West hands. In 1965, the face-to-face final was restored and par hands were used in the qualifying round. Initially, the final was scored by matchpoints, but international matchpoint scoring was adopted in 1967, and the conversion of IMPs to Victory Points was introduced in 1968.

Par hands were eliminated in 1969, and the tournament became a three-stage contest, with an on-campus qualifying round and a regional semifinal in addition to the final.

The national final had the reputation of being a showcase tournament and a number of national champions emerged from these contests. The 37th and final contest in this series was held in Memphis in April, 1979 after which the ACBL withdrew technical and financial support.

On November 18, 1986 the Intercollegiate Par contest returned. The contest featured 24 deals composed by Jeff Rubens. The top finishers won expense-paid trips to the final held on the last weekend of the Spring NABC in St. Louis. The winners of the event represented ACBL at the first World Junior Team Championship held in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1987.

The contest continued until 1996. In 1997 it became an online tournament sponsored by OKBridge.

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October 23, 2012 at 7:13 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #115: Bridge on TV

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The first time bridge appeared on television was October 7, 1943. William McKenney and his wife Marguerite played Al Sobel and Helen Sobel on Station WRGB, Schenectady NY. Albert H. Morehead analyzed the bidding and the play.

The match, designed as an experiment, was arranged by J. Walter Thompson Co. for the American Playing Card Manufacturers. The players used regular sized cards with jumbo pips. These cards were known as “kibitzer specials” and could ordinarily be seen from a distance of 15 feet. The hands were also arranged on a board with large jumbo cards.

All of those participating in the broadcast were convinced that television provided a feasible means of teaching bridge. But they awaited a winning formula.

Many of the early bridge shows generated numerous calls and letters, but most of the programs were one-shot deals. Bridge enthusiasts agreed that peering over the shoulder of a player, especially an expert, was fun. Watching bridge on TV, kibitzers could be vocal and active without disturbing the players. The interest in watching good bridge competition motivated a number of stations during the late 1950s and early 1960s to present live bridge telecasts.

Manhattan’s WOR-TV is generally credited with starting the trend by filming players battling for the Manhattan Championship. Billy Seamon was the commentator. NBC’s Tonight cameras aired segments of the final of the Eastern States Championship in New York with commentary by Goren and by syndicated bridge columnist and author Alfred Sheinwold. In 1957, the final of the Iowa State Team Championship was televised live, with commentary from Dr. John Gustafson of Des Moines. WCCO in Minneapolis televised the Twin City Team final, importing Goren for the show. In 1958, KTTV aired live a portion of Los Angeles Bridge Week, which was acclaimed technically as the best bridge shown to that point. The final of the von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs was aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1963.

Local programs were appearing in other markets, and bridge was a hot ticket. KPTV in Portland featured Sam Gordon’s Horse Sense Bridge, the first recorded effort to give formal bridge lessons on television. Sam taught a beginner’s lesson for the first half, and this was followed by actual play. KQED, Channel 9 San Francisco, in combination with KVIE, Channel 6 Sacramento, ran a TV bridge program designed by Ernest Rovere on Thursdays for 26 weeks. This was done in combination with the San Francisco Chronicle, which published a quiz based on the preceding night’s program. Viewers were invited to mail their answers to the quiz show.

Bridge found its first home on public television in 1974. Duplicate bridge was welcomed to the small screen when the Charlotte NC Bridge Association staged a show on KTVI, an educational channel. The program was geared toward rubber bridge and social bridge players who had never tried duplicate. In 1975, Play Bridge with the Experts ran on KUHT in Houston. John Gerber was the expert consultant. Each of the 26 shows featured a different guest expert. Ed Allen of Beaumont, head of Educational Television Productions, created the series.

Eddie Kantar was the host-narrator of Master Bridge, which was developed in 1978 by Barbara Warner, executive producer of Jack Warner Productions. In 1983, Mary McVey, a bridge teacher from Lexington KY, filmed seven half-hour instructional shows called Basic Bridge for KET-Kentucky Educational Television. McVey hosted an additional 14 shows in 1984 called Play Bridge. Both shows were carried by more than 100 public television stations and later appeared on The Learning Channel.

In 1986, ACBL funded McVey’s third show, Play More Bridge, a 13-installment series of bridge lessons for intermediate players. In 1989, ACBL began a campaign to develop new players through television bridge lessons. This time, the audience were people who had never played bridge and social/rubber bridge players looking for a review of the basics.

ACBL’s first effort was The Bridge Class, 13 half-hour shows based on ACBL’s beginning bridge text, The Club Series, by Audrey Grant. The series presented bridge as fun and easy to learn in an upbeat setting. It found its first audience on The Learning Channel. In 1991, it was picked up by the PBS affiliate SECA, the Southern Educational Communications Association, currently known as NETA. It enjoyed an impressive reception on public television stations. Using material from ACBL’s second and third beginning bridge texts, The Diamond Series and The Heart Series, 26 half-hour shows known as Play Bridge with Audrey Grant hit the airways in 1993 and 1994 with the help of WITV in Harrisburg PA.

In 1996, ACBL, in association with Audrey Grant and independent film and video producer Jeff Drzycimski, produced a fourth television series entitled Bridge Brush-Up.

Perhaps the biggest TV bridge show ever produced occurred during the Bermuda Bowl World Championship in Beijing, China, in 1995. Play-by-play shows were sent out over the national network on several days, and it was estimated that more than eight million Chinese bridge players watched the show. China Cup matches in later years also were featured on national television.

Schenectady Broadcast 1943

Schenectady Broadcast 1943

Mathe, Goren, Jim Simpson and Eddie Taylor

Mathe, Goren, Jim Simpson and Eddie Taylor

Written by acbl

October 17, 2012 at 8:45 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #114: Omar Sharif Individual

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One of the largest total purses ($200,000) up to that point in the history of bridge was at stake when the Omar Sharif World Individual bridge tournament took place in Atlantic City NJ May 7-10, 1990. It was the first time the ACBL sanctioned a cash-prize tournament.

The winner of the $40,000 first-place prize in the championship division was Zia Mahmood. Fred Hamilton was second ($20,000) and P.O. Sundelin of Sweden was third ($12,000).

A swing of $28,000 occurred on this deal when Sundelin’s partner pulled a wrong card, blowing a game contract and the first-place prize for Sundelin. Zia was North, Sundelin West and Peter Pender, a former world champion, was East.

Board: 5

Dlr: North ♠ 9 8
Vul: N-S K 9 7 5
A 3 2
♣ A Q 10 2
♠ A K 5 4 ♠ Q 10 6 3
8 4 3 2 A J 10
K Q 4 J 9 8
♣ 9 5 ♣ K 7 6
♠ J 7 2
Q 6
10 7 6 5
♣ J 8 4 3
Sundelin Zia Pender
West North East South
1♣ Pass Pass
Dbl Pass 2♣ Dbl
Pass Pass 2♠ Pass
3♠ Pass 4♠ All Pass

South led a club, and Pender, expecting Zia to win the ace, followed with a low club before he looked down and realized that – to maintain a link with his partner’s hand – Zia had played the queen. Pender subsequently lost another club in addition to the expected heart and diamond tricks. Now the cold game, not bid by the majority of the field, was lost. Zia won the tournament and Sundelin, Pender’s good friend and partner in winning the national Life Master Men’s Pairs, dropped from first place to third.

Michael Camp won $8000 by placing first in the Open competition. Jim Krekorian won $8000 and Surendar Galati collected $3000 for winning the consolations in the championship and open divisions respectively.

Written by acbl

October 15, 2012 at 9:35 am

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