Culbertson, Ely


Dominant contract bridge player of the 1930s & 40s


Autograph ID: 4743
Condition: Very good, light uniform toning, slightly pale corners
Description: “(1891-1955) US contract bridge personality dominant in the 1930s & 40s. He played a major role in the early popularization of the game, widely regarded as “the man who made contract bridge”. A great showman, he was highly extravagant, lost and gained fortunes several times over. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, Culbertson lived for 4 years in Europe by exploiting his skill as a card player. In 1921 he moved to the US, earning his living from winnings at auction bridge and poker. When the new game of contract bridge began to replace auction bridge, Culbertson planned a far-reaching and successful campaign to promote himself as the leader of the new game. As player, organizer, bidding theorist, magazine editor, and team leader, he was a key figure in the growth of contract bridge in its great boom years of the 1930s. He was a brilliant publicist; his team played a number of famous challenge matches typically accompanied by noteworthy publicity in newspapers, on radio and on cinema newsreels, and the hands became the subject of intense discussion on bidding methods. He founded and edited “The Bridge World” magazine, still published today, and wrote many newspaper articles and books on bridge. He owned Kem Cards, the 1st firm of playing card manufacturers to develop plastic cards, and developed and owned a chain of bridge schools with teachers qualified in his bidding system. He continued to play high stakes rubber bridge for many years, but gave up tournament bridge in 1938 to write and to work for world peace. By winning, he suggested to the bridge-playing public that the Culbertson System of bidding was superior to the systems of his rivals, and thereby boosted the sales of his books. The celebrated Culbertson-Lenz match took place between Dec. 1931 and Jan. 1932 in New York City, called “The Bridge Battle of the Century”. Sidney Lenz led a group of players opposed to Culbertson’s domination of the game, and who called their bidding system the Official System; match referee was Lt. Alfred Gruenther (later 4-star General, Supreme Allied Commander Europe 1953-56). Culbertson’s team won by 8,980 points and Lenz’s Official System was discredited. Lt. Col. Walter Buller promoted a bidding system he called “British Bridge”, using direct methods and avoided approach forcing bids as incorporated in the Culbertson System. His challenge was accepted by Culbertson, and a 1930 teams of 4 match took place in London. Culbertson’s team won by 4,845 total points over 200 deals. Immediately after the Buller match, the Culbertson team played another match, against Crockford’s Club; the match was won by Culbertson by 4,905 points (total points scoring). The matches in 1933 and 1934 both took place for the Schwab Cup, a trophy presented for Anglo-American matches by American industrialist and bridge patron Charles Schwab, president of the Whist Club of New York. Culbertson’s team won by 10,900 total points over 300 hands in 1933. In 1934, again in London, the Schwab Trophy was won by Culbertson’s team by 3,650 points over 300 deals. They were eventually beaten by Dr. Paul Stern’s Austrian team, the best European team of the 1930s. Culbertson was ACBL Honorary Member of the Year 1938, ACBL Hall of Fame 1964. He won 3 North American Bridge Championships, 1930 Vanderbilt Cup, 1930 Asbury Park Trophy (now Spingold), 1930 Chicago (now Reisinger) Cup, and 1933 & 1934 Schwab Cup. Publications include: Contract Bridge Blue Book (1930); 300 Contract Bridge Hands (1933, match for Schwab Trophy); Contract Bridge Complete: The Gold Book of Bidding and Play (1936); The Strange Lives of One Man (1940, autobiography); The World Federation Plan (1942); Total Peace (1943); Must We Fight Russia? (1946); and Culbertson on Canasta: a Complete Guide for Beginners and Advanced Players With the Official Laws of Canasta (1949).
3 ½ x 5 ¼ card signed in green ink, undated but early-mid 1940s”
Type: Signed Card

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