23. Bridge: A “cool and sexy” bridge tournament for the 21st century

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The format for a populist bridge tournament in 2012 could be very similar to Ely Culbertson’s
Bridge Battle of the Century of 1930 described in blog #22. How about this (just as a starting point for discussion)? I leave it up to tournament experts to critique and make doable.

The same rubber bridge and scoring as in 1930. but duplicate-created hands to replace the randomness of the deal. Four tables instead of the single table of that Culbertson/Lenz foursome, representing four bidding systems (instead of two). A sequence of rounds that would result in two partnerships from each table competing against three other systems). Why rubber bridge? To attract a mass audience that duplicate would not.

The competition, as in 1930, would be about systems of play–which basically translates into the number and complexity of conventions used — natural play to esoteric, simple to complex — playing the same series of bridge hands.

What’s simple/natural bridge?  For me weak twos and transfers cross the line into unnatural. I know I know–a weak two bid is the same as a pre-emptive so how do you justify etcetera etcetera etcetera,  Tradition. Everybody–even the most lowly of bridge players–knows and uses the pre-emptive three bid. Weak twos are a whole different world. Six-card suits occur too often. And, invariably, weak two players want then to play transfers. That’s moving onto a slippery slope that, unfortunately in my view, has been incorporated into American Standard.

Actually, I wouldn’t have the nerve to insist on one table of simple/natural bridge conventions (say like Goren of the 60s?) in a populist  tournament for expert players except for comments from a couple of  tournament veterans I came across in Edward McPherson’s The Backwash Squeeze:

Zia Mahmoud proposes tournaments that allow no conventions at all–if a team can’t play without them they’d have to pay in points for the privilege of using conventions. Now that’s radical!  I’m not asking to go that far.

Pamela Granovetter:  “I suggest we change direction . . . develop bridge as an entertaining, rather than a cerebral sport . . . by simplifying the bidding so that auctions [bidding] would make sense to a wide audience.

Table two would represent current American Standard.

Tables 3 and 4? I haven’t a clue.  It would be up to the experts to decide the two systems favored by duplicate players that  would make for a tournament that will simultaneously intrigue low-life players like me and high-life players like . . . . maybe Warren Buffett? Tables 1 and 2 would satisfy me.

What’s needed, I often read, is a famous bridge personality–another Culbertson or Goren–to personify bridge. And the comment will usually then mention Omar Sharif, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as the only bridge personalities known to the general public.

What people forget is that Culbertson and Goren made themselves famous. And they did that by appealing to a bridge-playing public beyond the world of competitive bridge.

One of the happy outcomes of a “cool and sexy” bridge tournament today should be–if properly marketed–a few stand-out personalities who can personify bridge to the general public as Ely and Charlie once did.  


One Response to 23. Bridge: A “cool and sexy” bridge tournament for the 21st century

  1. Hi there,
    It’s encouraging that some really great players are talking about tournaments with simple or no conventions. I’ve talked about it at times with some tournament players I know, but they generally look at me like I’ve finally lost the plot completely.
    I don’t want to discourage anyone from going down the tournament path, but I would also like to suggest that simply giving a voice to all those home players might help promote the game just as much as focusing on the big guns.
    Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place that home players could share their stories?
    I’m really enjoying your book, by the way. As well as some good laughs, it’s a unique record of bridge in it’s early years.

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