Not Just the ACBL Story – But HISTORY

True accounts of events and people who shaped the ACBL

Archive for November 2012

ACBL Bridge Beat #129: Reisinger Board-A-Match Teams

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Today marks the start of the Reisinger Board-A-Match Teams at the Fall NABC in San Francisco. This will be the 47th time the event has been contested for the Reisinger Trophy and the 82nd time the event has been played –— it was the Chicago Board-A-Match Teams from 1929 to 1964.

The Reisinger is contested in six sessions –— two qualifying, two semifinal and two final sessions. The semi-final and final sessions will be shown on BBO vugraph ( beginning Saturday, Dec. 1 at 3 p.m. CST.

The Reisinger Memorial Trophy was donated by the Greater New York Bridge Association in memory of Curt H. Reisinger. Reisinger was a principal patron of contract bridge and the American Contract Bridge League. A man of great wealth, Reisinger was often called upon, and never failed, to help with a loan or an outright gift when there was a struggle to meet the modest payroll of the ACBL in its infancy. His support made possible several early contract bridge tournaments, clubs and books.

Board-A-Match events are considered by most experts to be the toughest type of event in tournament bridge. A team plays a small number of boards against one opponent – usually two, three or four boards –— then moves on to take on another opponent. The movement is set up in such a way that a team plays boards against opposing pairs of the same team. After play is finished and the teams compare scores, one matchpoint is awarded for each board won, and half a matchpoint for each board tied. The margin of difference on any board is of no consequence –— winning a board by 10 points is the same as winning a board by 4000. A win on a board = 1. Every board is equally important and a high degree of concentration is necessary throughout every board of a session.

This year the Cayne Team –— Jimmy Cayne, Giorgio Duboin, Lorenzo Lauria, Michael Seamon, Antonio Sementa and Alfredo Versace –— will be looking to three-peat, having claimed the title in 2010 and 2011.

The Nickell Team –— Nick Nickell, Richard Freeman, Bob Hamman, Bobby Wolff, Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell –— three-peated in the Reisinger, winning in 1993, 1994 and 1995. The Nickell Team –— with a slightly different roster –— fell just short of three-peating in 2006 after winning 2004 and 2005 and again in 2010 after claiming the title in both 2008 and 2009. Their team total of seven wins is impressive to say the least.

In the days of the Chicago Board-A-Match, the team of John Crawford, Sally Young, Helen Sobel Smith and Charles Goren three-peated in 1937, 1938 and 1939. B. Jay Becker was also a member of the team in 1939.

Another notable three-peat was performed by the team of Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, Bill Root and Richard Pavlicek in 1982, 1983 and 1984. Oswald Jacoby at age 81 was a member of the 1983 team.

John Crawford holds the record for the most wins in the event at 10, having won in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1953, 1954, 1956 and 1961. Bob Hamman has nine wins in the Reisinger, having won in 1978 and 1988 in addition to his seven titles with the Nickell Team.

Due to the Board-A-Match scoring, the Reisinger has ended in a tie on six occasions; the two most notable ties were in 1947 and 1984.

In 1947, the first and only all-female team to win the event –— Sally Young, Paula Bacher, Jane Jaeger and Kay Rhodes –— shared the victory with the team of John R. Crawford, Theodore A. Lightner, George Rapee and Samuel M. Stayman and the team of Robert Appleyard, Morris Berliant, Malcolm A. Lightman and Simon Rossant.

1984 saw a four-way tie for the title. The winning teams that year were: Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, Richard Pavlicek and Bill Root; Mike Smolen, Allan Stauber, Fred Stewart and Steve Weinstein; Saul Bronstein, Richard Reisig, Samuel M. Stayman and George Tornay; Ross Grabel, Jim Robison, Stelios Touchtidis and Jon Wittes.


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November 30, 2012 at 10:10 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #128: Wordless Wednesday

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There are some images in the ACBL archive that just bring a smile to one’s face. Here are two of them:

1977 Spingold winners. L to r: Lou Bluhm, Cliff Russell, Tommy Sanders, Dan Morse, Eddie Wold and Curtis Smith

1977 Spingold winners. L to r: Lou Bluhm, Cliff Russell, Tommy Sanders, Dan Morse, Eddie Wold and Curtis Smith

1986 Spingold runners-up. L to r: Brian Glubok, Billy Cohen, Neil Chambers and John Schermer

1986 Spingold runners-up. L to r: Brian Glubok, Billy Cohen, Neil Chambers and John Schermer

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November 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #127: Broken Record

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In 1999, Jim Barrow of Lake Charles LA broke the record for the most masterpoints earned in a year, officially referred to as the Barry Crane Top 500. Barrow, who was a member of a winning knockout team that year at the Boston NABC, earned enough masterpoints to surpass the 15-year-old record of 3270 points established by Grant Baze. Barrow’s total – and current record – now stands at 3584.26 masterpoints.

Barrow planned to perform this feat for many years. “I first tried for this in 1980, but at the time I wasn’t experienced enough and, more importantly, I forgot to ask Barry Crane’s permission.”

Barrow wanted to wait for a year in which he had the time and money to pursue the race full-time. He kept a journal of the experience and his friend, Kay Blake, helped him put together a book based on his notes. Record Run was published in 2000.

Jim Barrow

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November 26, 2012 at 11:36 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #126: Perfect Deals

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Orchard Park NY, Feb. 10, 1948 (AP) – Four persons who simultaneously drew four perfect bridge hands were too surprised to play them.
Mrs. Wilfred H. Woods said yesterday her husband, the dealer, drew 13 spades, she 13 hearts, Mrs. Edward Lippincott13 diamonds and Harlan Abbot 13 clubs. The cards were used in previous hands and cut before dealing.
“We were so dumbfounded we just stared at each other. Finally I threw down my cards and said, ‘Something must be wrong,’” Mrs. Woods declared.

Connolly Hall, St. Bonaventure College, New York NY, 1949 – Brooke Plunkett was dealt 13 spades in a rubber bridge game after the cards had been shuffled and dealt many times before. The chance of being dealt this hand is 1: 61,787,402.
The Reverend Theophilus McNulty, OFM was present when the hand was dealt.

Columbia SC, 1950 – A minor miracle occurred at the home of Dr. George Smith while a bridge duplicate was in progress.
According to authorities, it only happens once every 635,013,559,600 times and it looks like this ♠A K Q, A K Q J 10 9, A K, ♣A K. Mrs. Harold Miller dealt this hand and promptly bid 7NT. The unusual hand was notarized.

Corpus Christi TX (AP) May 8, 1951 – William R. Anderson, Jr., in a bridge game last night bid seven hearts. He had all 13 of them.
His wife bid seven spades – she had all 13, too.

Franklin Bridge Center, Franklin Square NY, 1999 – Phil Grella swears the following story is true, and the director who was running the game backs him up. Here’s the story:

As dealer he held ♠K 7 6 5 4 2, A 8 6 5 4 2, —, ♣Q. Feeling devious, Grella passed, waiting “to see what developed.”

That turned out to be a 2♣ (strong and artificial) on his left. “I was licking my chops, well prepared to do that Lightner thing after the auction had ended.”

To Grella’s surprise, his partner muddied the waters just a bit – he bid 7! Grella’s right hand opponent then piped up with a bid of 7♠.

“I thought six to the king might be a trick, so I pulled out the red X card and was glad that I had passed at the start of this,” said Grella.

“Silly me,” Grella continued, “thinking the auction was over.” LHO followed with a bid of 7NT, doubled by Grella’s partner, Everyone passed, and Grella started sweating, sure that LHO had a handful of minor suit cards and the ♠A.

Much to Grella’s relief – not to mention amazement – his partner claimed at trick one. He had all 13 diamonds!

Frank Allison, who was running the game, said the deal was not a phony. He was at the table when the board was dealt and can attest that it was done on the up-and-up. The board was played eight times with the following results: 6♦ doubled, making seven (said Allison: “He thought something funny was going on and didn’t want to chance seven.”); 7♦ three times; 7♦ doubled twice; 7♦ redoubled once and 7NT doubled once.

1995 Fall NABC, Atlanta GA – In a Swiss match, Michael Polowan is dealt a 36 HCP hand – ♠A K Q, A K Q, A K Q, ♣A K Q 8 – and opens the bidding 7NT. He eventually lost a club trick for down one. Interestingly 7♠, 7 and 7 were all cold.

Here is the full deal:

♠ J 8 6 5
J 7 6 5
10 9 4 3
♣ 2
♠ 7 4 3 ♠ 10 9 2
8 3 2 10 9 4
J 8 7 6 5 2
♣ 9 7 6 5 4 3 ♣ J 10
♠ A K Q
♣ A K Q 8
West North East South
All Pass

David Bird and Nick Sarantakos credit this hand as the record-holder in tournament play for the most points ever dealt to one player, highest opening bid ever made and the shortest grand slam auction (note that South was the dealer) in their book Famous Bridge Records.

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November 20, 2012 at 8:49 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #125: The Curse of Scotland

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The 9 was first referred to as The Curse of Scotland in print in 1710. There are several explanations for the origin of the term, none completely authoritative.

The most likely explanation is that it refers to Sir John Dalrymple, the first Earl of Stair, who died in 1707. The Dalrymple family crest and the pattern on the 9 are strikingly similar.

Dalrymple was an effective politician, but ruthless in his pursuit of causes that were deeply unpopular with many Scots. He was especially loathed for his connection with the Glencoe Massacre (1692) and the Act of Union with England (1707).

An alternate theory revolves around a card game called Pope Joan. The 9 was called the Pope, the antichrist of Scottish reformers. A variant of this theory is that the 9 was the chief card in the game cornette, introduced into Scotland by the unhappy Queen Mary.

Other unlikely theories include that the link resulted from every ninth king of Scotland having been a tyrant and a curse to the country. Apparently the proportion of bad Scottish kings was much higher than one in nine. Or that the link stems from the theft of the nine diamonds from the Crown of Scotland and the tax the monarchy enacted to pay for their replacement.

The most unlikely theory, based on the date, is that the Butcher of Cumberland wrote the orders of “no quarter” for the Battle of Culloden, 1746, on the back of the 9.

Dalrymple crest        nine of diamonds

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November 14, 2012 at 8:42 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #124: 50,000

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Think about it – 50,000 masterpoints. Even in an age when critics argue that masterpoints are inflated and easy to obtain, it is still a stupendous achievement.

In late September 1998, Paul Soloway, the expert who topped the masterpoint list since the death of Barry Crane in 1985, propelled himself past a masterpoint milestone that only a handful of other players could only think about attaining.

“Let’s face it – masterpoints are easy to earn. Much easier than when I began playing. But I’d trade them all for world championships,” Soloway said. “I wouldn’t say that masterpoints are meaningless,” he continued, “but for me they’re just a by-product of doing my job. They’re part of how I make my living. For me personally, masterpoints have become an attendance award.”

So how much is 50,000? If you were to take 50,000 of the old ACBL masterpoint slips and lay them end to end, they would stretch the length of almost four miles. If you were to stack them, they would reach a height of more than 16 feet. If you were to go to your local club and play everyday and you earned one masterpoint each day, it would take you 137 years to earn 50,000.

Soloway remained at the top of the masterpoint list until 2010 (three years after his death), when his lifetime total of 65,511.92 masterpoints was surpassed by Jeff Meckstroth. Since then, both Jeff Meckstroth and Mike Passell have surpassed 70,000 masterpoints, two players – Eric Rodwell and Eddie Wold – have cracked 60,000 masterpoints and Mark Lair has earned more than 59,000 masterpoints.

Paul Soloway

Paul Soloway

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November 12, 2012 at 10:15 am

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ACBL Bridge Beat #123: Beer Card

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Under certain special circumstances the 7 is known as the beer card. If declarer wins trick 13 with the 7 in a successful contract, he claims, “Beer Card!” and his partner must buy him a beer. You cannot claim “Beer Card!” if you go down. If a defender wins the last trick with the 7 and declarer has been set, the defender may also claim, “Beer Card!” and his partner must buy him a beer. A defender cannot claim “Beer Card!” if declarer makes his contract.

Greg Morse, with help from Jeff Goldsmith and Sheri Winestock, unearthed the Beer Card history. The 7 has a special role in a Danish game called “Boma-Loma.” Partly because of this, bridge players in Copenhagen were the first bridge players to use the Beer Card term. It became common in Europe and reached London by the Eighties. The term was imported into North America by the American Junior team after they made a visit to Poland for a Junior Bridge Camp during the Nineties. It has since spread around the world, mostly via World Junior Championships.

This situation came up in a bridge laws discussion group on the internet in 1998.

Declarer (South) was playing 3NT and had lost four tricks. At trick 12, West was on lead in this position:

♠ —
♣ A
♠ — ♠ 3 2
♣ K 7 ♣ —
♠ —
A 7
♣ —

As West’s ♣7 hit the table, declarer claimed. A few seconds later (but after a perceptible pause), declarer remarked to North, “And you owe me a beer.”

The director was bemused at being summoned to the table by dummy who contested the claim.

Dummy protested that declarer did not state that he was going to unblock the A (so as to take the last trick with the beer card).

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November 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

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