June 13, 2015
“What bridge has gained in science, it has lost in spectator
appeal. . . . Zia’s remedy for this is the conventionless
tournament.”–The Backwash Squeeze, Edward McPherson (2007)
McPherson’s interviews with Zia Mahmoud are recounted in some detail in his book and Zia comes through as radically independent of establishment bridge thinking when it comes to bridge tournaments.
For me, reading Backwash Squeeze, with its peek inside the world of tournament bridge I’d never read before, was a revelation. It caused me to postpone publishing Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? in order to re-organize the last part of the book and make room for two chapters of opining on the future of sociable and serious bridge.
Zia Mahmoud, in particular, came through as the kind of transformative thinker who could be if he wished, today’s Ely Culbertson–turn bridge once again into a spectator sport as Ely did back in the 30s.
Re-reading Backwash Squeeze this week reminded me of that first impression. I wonder now if I ever would have turned into this opinionated old-lady-bridge-blogger giving unasked-for advice to the ACBL if I hadn’t read that book?
Bridge tournaments with spectator appeal are an absolute necessity if bridge is to become what it once was–I used to blog about that, has slipped my mind of late. If I neglected to include Mahmoud’s views in my blogs on tournaments back then, I do so now.
I love what Mahmoud had to say on that subject. “You have to have a very simple form of bridge, probably a form of individual bridge, where players are playing for themselves.”
Right on! Cynic that I am, I don’t believe you can play bridge with the same partner week after week without some collusion slipping in. Individual bridge competition with randomly selected partners might end the need for bidding boxes and facial screens.
Just a foursome, face-to-face, competing. Now that could turn high-level bridge into a spectator sport on TV or internet.
What’s Zia Mahmoud doing these days?
I knew from Backwash Squeeze that he first appeared in the West, from Pakistan, in 1981, rising from second to last place to the finals in Port Chester New York and leading there until finally losing to the U.S.A. team.
Says McPherson, “It was a true Cinderella story.” Mahmoud himself is quoted as saying, ” . . . we fluked our way into a situation that we couldn’t believe. . . . We were just playing momma-poppa bridge.”
Today, brief Googling tells me, he’s been on the U.S.A. team!