International Bridge Test 1930         USA vs England


The organizer of the match was Lt Colonel Walter Buller and it was the first  and Anglo-American match. It was  played at Almack's Bridge Club in London.

Buller (10 December 1886 - 21 May 1938) was a British auction and contract bridge organizer, player and writer, the leading British bridge personality at the start of the 1930s. Buller was from London.

Buller joined the Army Service Corps as a commissioned officer in 1907 and served throughout World War I, first as a Sixth Division captain in France and then as a staff officer in the War Office, where he became Lieutenant Colonel in 1917. He retired on pay in 1923 and thereafter lived in London. 

Buller was one of those responsible for contract bridge being adopted at the Portland Club, after the game and its new scoring system was brought to England by Lord Lascelles and Jimmie Rothschild in 1927. The Portland Club, which regulated the laws of whist since early in the nineteenth century, remains the law-giving body for bridge in Britain, and has taken part in every subsequent revision of the laws of bridge.

In Buller's bridge career, and his weekly column for the Star, he was a showman whose motto was "Must do something to stir them up!". As such, he was the perfect foil to Ely Culbertson, the great publicist for contract bridge. The match inaugurated the 'Golden Age' of contract bridge, leading to an extraordinary amount of publicity in the press. Culbertson, a genius as a publicist, created many small incidents for the benefit of the press, and Buller did his best to provide quotable phrases in his interviews and his books.

Buller was the leading proponent of the direct bidding system called British Bridge. It prided itself on having no conventional (artificial) bids. He was a bridge columnist, and wrote  books about played matches and British Bridge. Buller won the first English National Pairs in 1932.

In the famous match at Almack's  the English team was Buller, Mrs Gordon Evers, Dr Nelson Wood-Hill and Cedric Kehoe. Mrs Gordon Evers was Walter Buller's favourite partner: "white-haired and striking, she had toured the United States as an actress in Sir Herbert Tree's company".  They played with the same pairs the whole match, compared with the USA team that played with four different  setups.

In the USA team was Culbertson and his wife Josephine, Theodore Lightner and  Waldemar von Zedwitz. All the members of the American team would be recognized as outstanding players in the years that followed. Both their partnerships were experienced and organized.   

The setup the play, which they called duplicate, was the same as todays team play. The difference was that total scoring  (no rubber scoring) was used.

The result of the match was not long in doubt. Culbertson won by 4,845 points over a week's play of 200 deals: not quite so bad for Buller as it might have been.

Walter Buller has commented the match in a chapter in his book about the match. It can be downloaded below. 

Hubert Phillips commented on the match:

"The Culbertson Forcing System was definitely vindicated. The contest showed that 'card sense', intelligent guesswork fortified by experience, cannot stand up against a methodical system of conveying information also fortified by card sense."

The former world chess champion, Emanuel Lasker, reported the match for German and Austrian newspapers; he became a registered teacher of the Culbertson system. 

The USA team also played matches against Crockford's Club and Almack's Club. They returned to USA undefeated.

Later, in 1934, a match between Buller's team and Almack's Club was played, in which Almack's used ideas taken from Culbertson. Almack's won, knocking another nail in the coffin of Buller's system. The consequence was that direct and entirely natural bidding went out of favour, never to return. In the future, even natural bidding systems used detailed agreements and conventions.

In the recreation IMP scoring is used, as total scoring is not supported by the play program. Another problem was that only there was 4 boards in the zone/dealer cycle, compared with 16 used today, 4-12 dummy boards have been inserted in each segments to get a correct IMP scoring.. The dummy boards are only shown with blank result in the score sheet. The result of the match using IMP scoring was that USA won with  158 IMPs.


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