Bridge Van­der­bilt, Cul­bert­son and Goren leave marks on game

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Jared John­son

This Sun­day we con­tinue our look at the history of bridge, tak­ing up in the 1920s with the in­ven­tion of the mod­ern version of con­tract bridge:

• In 1925 Harold S. Van­der­bilt suc­cess­fully syn­the­sized var­i­ous ex­ist­ing ver­sions of bridge whist into a new form of the game. There was still bid­ding to name the trump suit. But now not only did bid­ding have to be pre­cise, bid­ding to the high­est con­tract you think you can make and not get­ting credit for cer­tain tricks to­ward game un­less they were bid, but the con­cept of vul­ner­a­bil­ity was added along with new re­fine­ments in the scor­ing sys­tem. And in the new version, you not only bid games but also slams (tak­ing all or all but one of the tricks). The new version was first played on a cruise ship on Nov. 1, 1925.

And be­hold, con­tract bridge was un­leashed upon the world. The game’s pop­u­lar­ity sky­rock­eted in only a few years.

• But now that the rules of the game had been changed to pro­vide more in­ter­est and op­por­tu­nity for com­plex strat­egy, that wasn’t enough. The next stage of the ex­plod­ing pop­u­lar­ity of bridge was the ar­rival of “bridge per­son­al­i­ties,” color­ful ex­perts who knew how to mar­ket the game and them­selves to the pub­lic.

The first big name in con­tract bridge­was Ely Cul­bert­son, who might even have taken it as a com­pli­ment if you called him an ego­ma­niac. He started the first bridge mag­a­zine, The BridgeWorld, which is still pub­lish­ing. His “Con­tract Bridge Blue Book” came out in 1930.

• The Amer­i­can pub­lic was trans­fixed by high-pro­file bridge matches in­clud­ing the Cul­bert­sonLenz match in 1931. Bick­er­ing and con­flict was a god­send for bridge. In­deed, bridge be­came a house­hold word, and play­ing bridge was viewed as a manda­tory so­cial skill.

• The game’s top play­ers to­day are not widely known among the pub­lic at large. How­ever, en­trepreneurs Bill Gates andWar­ren Buf­fett play from time to time.

• As for­mal bridge tour­na­ments be­gan, sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions com­peted for pri­macy. But from 1937 on­ward, the Amer­i­can Con­tract Bridge League was the big kid on the block and re­mains so to­day. The public­ity af­forded to tour­na­ments fur­ther in­creased in­ter­est in the game.

• Here was amen­tal con­tact sport that any­one of any age and phys­i­cal con­di­tion and sound mind could play. The first in­ter­na­tional cham­pi­onships were post-World War II, with the­World Bridge Fed­er­a­tion be­ing founded in 1958.

• Al­though Cul­bert­son came first, it was Charles Goren who truly pro­pelled the game, with his suc­cess as a player, his lec­tures, his daily bridge col­umn that ap­peared in hun­dreds of news­pa­pers as well as dozens of books.

For decades, the var­i­ous edi­tions of “Goren’s Bridge Com­plete” were con­sid­ered the lead­ing books on the game. It ran 600-700 pages and could be an in­tim­i­dat­ing tome. Goren was known as Mr. Bridge.

• Bridge was a dif­fer­ent sort of game. This wasn’tMonopoly or Risk or any of the pop­u­lar board games where you read sev­eral pages of rules and started to play.

For­mer ACBL Dis­trict 17 pres­i­dent John Van Ness of Aspen once noted, “We don’t play bridge be­cause it’s easy. We play bridge be­cause it’s hard.”

Here was a game that had all the math­e­mat­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal com­plex­ity of games such as chess or Go or any other game you could name, yet had a great so­cial di­men­sion, as well.

Speak­ing of Tour­na­ments: It’s been quite a run. Den­ver had a sec­tional tour­na­men­tNov. 12-15 and the na­tion­al­sNov. 26-Dec. 6, leav­ing just enough time to open the presents and cel­e­brateNewYear’s be­fore head­ing back to the bridge ta­ble for an­other sec­tional Jan. 7-10 at the usual Jef­fer­son County Fair­grounds Ex­hibit Hall site, 15200W. Sixth Ave. in Golden.

SU­DOKU AN­SWER JUM­BLE AN­SWER MYS­TIC CLEVER OUT­LAW UNIQUE HY­PHEN UTOPIA When you say words like “I,” “he,” “she,” “him” and “her,” you— PRO­NOUN-CE THEM

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