Card Games All-Time Championship Bridge Match in 1931 Part 3

About the All-Time Championship Bridge Match in 1931, history of the international card game.


At the end of the 27th rubber, Lenz was ahead by more than 7,000 points but on December 15, Culbertson took the lead for the 1st time. He never relinquished it after that and each evening as he arrived (late) at the table, he'd smile sweetly at Lenz and in his rich Russian accent he'd say, "Well, Sidney, have you changed your system yet?"

Public interest in the contest reached such a pitch that one evening Jack Curley, the wrestling impresario, arrived at the Chatham demanding the right to switch the play to Madison Square Garden. He proposed that the players should occupy a glass cage and the audience follow the play on huge electrical scoreboards. He insisted that a fortune could be made from such an arrangement. "A fortune for you," said Culbertson. "but I'm interested only in making a fortune for myself."

The public got immense satisfaction out of the knowledge that these great stars of the game were frequently guilty of bonehead plays. On December 28, Jacoby quit after a loud dispute with Lenz. Late in that evening's session, Lenz suddenly turned on Jacoby.

"Why do you make such rotten bids?" he demanded.

Jacoby stared at him and didn't answer: Culbertson smiled and said, "Shall we play another rubber?"

"Not with me, you don't!" snapped Jacoby, rising to his feet.

Referee Gruenther intervened, saying that the rules required another rubber. Jacoby sat down again.

The next evening Lenz had a new partner, a rotund former Navy officer, Comdr. Winfield Liggett, Jr. Commander Liggett agreed to play as his old friend's partner but told the press that the contest was proving nothing at all about the relative merits of the bidding systems.

The 2nd half of the match was played at the Waldorf-Astoria in quarters provided by Lenz. It all came to an end on the night of January 8, with the Culbertsons victors by 8,980 points. After the last card had dropped, Lenz stood up and shook hands with Mrs. Culbertson. Culbertson walked over to join in the felicitations, but Lenz turned his back on him. Lieutenant Gruenther went back to West Point to pursue a career that would eventuate in his becoming Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

Contract bridge, of course, is not what it was in those frenzied days, but it remains one of the most popular of our indoor sports and Culbertson rated as one of its top authorities until his death in January, 1956. Three years before he died, he attended Lenz's 80th birthday and the 2 men shook hands.

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