Inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame in 1998, Alphonse “Sonny” Moyse (1898-1973) was publisher and editor of The Bridge World from 1955-1966, spanning the era between Ely Culbertson, the founder of the magazine, and Edgar Kaplan.
An experienced and talented author, Moyse was the ghostwriter for two of Culbertson’s columns for more than 20 years. Moyse also wrote the humorous “Bridge with Jackie” stories, the fictional accounts of his and his wife’s bridge misadventures.
Moyse was an expert player, winning the Men’s Teams (1949) and the Men’s Pairs (1963), but generations of players will remember him best for his tenure as editor of The Bridge World.
Moyse joined the staff of the magazine in 1934 as assistant editor, and was the de facto editor from 1939 until Culbertson’s death in 1955. Moyse then purchased The Bridge World from the Culbertson estate. In 1963, he sold the publication to McCall Corporation, though he remained as editor.
Moyse was a champion of the natural school of bidding, and his views in this matter were unapologetically arch-traditionalist. Armed with an acerbic wit and an unfailing ability to analyze cleanly and clearly, Moyse took on decades of scientific-bidding advocates in the pages of his magazine.
He was a proponent of four-card major openings and 4-3 “Moysian” trump fits. Moyse recognized, however, that the advent of more scientific approaches to the auction was a regrettable (in his view) inevitability.
As editor of The Bridge World, therefore, he published the ideas and theories of expert players of the day. Moyse provided a necessary forum for the evolution of bridge theory.
As director of the ongoing bidding-panel series of the magazine, the Master Solvers’ Club, Moyse would increasingly find himself in support of minority opinions, but he accepted it all with a keen, acidic sense of humor and an unflappable faith in clear, sensible bidding.
In fact, Moyse enjoyed playing the role of the curmudgeon, criticizing in indignant tones the views of other experts.
The following excerpt from a 1960 issue of The Bridge World is pure Moyse:
“Not out of modesty but from awareness of fact we must observe that last month’s Master Solvers’ problems were not as good as we could have wished — no drama, no ’cuteness,’ and not controversial enough to warrant high indignation on our part, a state to which we’re accustomed and which therefore is healthful for us.”
Moyse died in June 1973 at the age of 75, weeks after being selected as an International Bridge Press Association Honorary Member, the first American to receive the honor.
The Bridge World, in an obituary and tribute to Moyse, praised the former editor and reminisced over his choleric disposition:
“After retiring, he kept his eagle eye on us. Only recently he called up in high dudgeon (and his was the highest dudgeon of any man we knew): ‘You’re letting the magazine go to the dogs!’— he had detected a fused participle, a grammatical form he detested.
“Sonny had a hot temper, and his rages were magnificent. But it was like a violent tropical storm — over in an instant with bright sunshine to follow. He roared at everyone and no one ever minded, for he was all bark and no bite — there was not a drop of malice in him.”
The Duplicate Christmas Party
‘Twas the duplicate Christmas Party and needless to say
The punch and the season had made us quite gay . . .
“Find your seats and shuffle,” the director had said
As visions of first place danced in my head.
When I checked our position, I got dry in the mouth.
We’d been assigned table 1 – North and South.
Just little novices, my partner and me.
We’d placed fourth once but never No. 3.
Had fate decided to put us to the test?
With two Life Masters sitting East and West
We took our positions and said not a word
But I’m certain our heartbeats could surely be heard.
We shuffled the cards without blinking an eye.
I dropped a card on the floor and thought I would die.
As North I was dealer and though I was green,
I knew to open you must have thirteen . . .
I spread my hand and counted, but alas,
With only ten points I had to pass . . .
And frankly, I thought, this was a shame
I’d never before seen 13 spades in a game.
My left-hand opponent, East by name,
Opened two diamonds and I thought what a shame.
My partner, South, was trembling with fear
And the bid of two hearts came across my ear.
My right-hand opponent sat straight in his chair
Three hearts as the bid he chose to declare.
Now I had a good suit, but alas
With no help in hearts I had to pass.
My left-hand opponent now bid three spades.
You can imagine now, how I was amazed.
My partner, South, bid four hearts and, shoot,
If they take the bid I couldn’t lead her best suit.
My right-hand opponent studied his hand
And soon 7NT was his command.
It was my time to bid – and just to save face
I doubled ‘cause I knew they were missing an ace.
The next three bid were pass, pass, pass
So I was ready to lead a spade, but alas
My partner was nervous and she led the heart king.
A lead out of turn – what a damnable thing.
The director was called and I can still hear his voice
As he told the declarer he could make his own choice.
With a singleton heart, you must understand
This could be the only entry to his hand.
So he turned to me and looking so smart
He said, “Lead any suit, but don’t lead a heart.”
So, of course, I led my fourth best spade
I guess it was the best lead I ever made.
“Cause in this hand I never lost the lead
And our opponents (Life Masters) had to concede.
Thirteen tricks we took right off the top
When we won the board, I thought I would pop.
Now I ask you, with a board like this
The rest of the game – well how could we miss?
And I overheard the director say, “Who was the lass
Who had thirteen spades – and cleverly passed?”
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 (www.bridgebase.com) 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.
There are some images in the ACBL archive that just bring a smile to one’s face. Here are two of them:
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.
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|
|♠ 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|
|♦ A K Q|
|♣ A K Q 8|
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.