Judy Kay-Wolff

MONEY BRIDGE EVENTS — from their early inception — until now!

The first Cavendish Calcutta tournament to which I was exposed was held somewhere on Park Avenue in New York at a bridge club hosted by Kathy Fallenius many decades ago (when Norman and Edgar played on a team).  I also attended two at the old Desert Inn where Norman was invited to serve on Appeals Committees.  However, there have been many before and since, so let us take a brief moment and bring you up to date with a fairly comprehensive history from Wikipedia:

The Cavendish Club, whose name is associated with the event, was founded in 1925 in New York City. Its membership featured some of the most famous names in bridge, including Ely Culbertson, Charles Goren, Oswald Jacoby, Howard Schenken, Samuel Stayman and Zia Mahmood. It moved a few times from the Mayfair House to the Ambassador Hotel, thence to the Ritz Tower Hotel and the Carlton House. In 1975 the Club began hosting the prestigious Cavendish Invitational Pairs but in 1991 the New York club was forced to close its doors due to rent increases and flagging membership. The tournament continued to be held in New York City until 1997 when World Bridge Productions took over the Invitational Pairs tournament and moved operations to Las Vegas, an action which greatly increased the visibility and purse size for the event. The WBP added an Open Pairs event to broaden the field for more players. The Invitational Pairs is an auctioned event where the top pairs are acquired by the highest bidder at a black tie cocktail party a day before the event starts. The auction pool for the Pairs event has recently been running around a million dollars and has been as high as 1.5 million. Each pair must purchase a minimum 10% share in itself and may exercise its right to own as much as 40% of itself or more if permitted by the winner of the bid. At the conclusion of the tournament 95% of the auction pool is distributed in a scaled payout to the bid winners. Each pair plays three boards against all the other pairs with a time limit of 25 minutes per round. Up to 45 rounds are played to decide the winner. The tournament begins on a Friday and traditionally ends on Mother’s Day.

Stevie Weinstein has won it seven times (five with Bobby Levin and twice with Fred Stewart — quite a record).   The host hotel in Green Valley is a lovely resort/casino and a short cab ride from McCarran Airport where the opening evening auction attracts (and feeds and quenches the thirst of) hundreds of curious onlookers along with the serious money people who are not there for the sociability, but from a business standpoint.  A decent portion of money is taken out by the organizers for their yearlong efforts of busting their butts to host this lavish tournament, for the negotiated cost of the hotel, food, and other accoutrements and Uncle Sam is ever present taking the government’s share right there on the spot as the money is being distributed and bears witness as the accounts are settled.  The lure of the hobbing and nobbing with the elite of the bridge world consisting of the rich and famous was the hook that made the Cavendish tick.   It was and is "The Social Event" of the bridge year and it floats a lot of people’s boats despite the downturn in our economy.  The evening is open to the public and anticipated with much excitement in terms of the wads of monies bid and delightfully entertaining styles of the emcees.   A night to remember.

Other popular money bridge events held were — specifically The London Times Tournament (later renamed the Macallan Liquor), The Cap Gemini (held in Holland), a Danish tournament for a few years and one in Deauville and Monte Carlo plus the Cino del Duca which rotated among the greatest cities in Europe.  Eventually, all of these tournaments ceased to exist — many of which — because of ‘cheating’ implications brought about by the prize money offered.  A lesser, smaller one is still being being held in Japan which is popular among the contestants because of the warmth of the hosts and players and the accommodation the organizers provide.

Presently, a gala of recent vintage is being hosted mostly in different Chinese cities every year by generous financier and bridge devotee, Mr. Chen Yeh of Taiwan. However, in 2009, in conjunction with the Queensland Bridge Association and the Australian Bridge Federation, they brought The Yeh Bros. Cup "down under" to the surf, sun and sand of the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.  It has been far and away the most desirable tournament to attend because of the generous expense money given to far away travelers, the significant money prizes and the general ambiance the organizers provide. Most all of the tournaments described above have been Invitationals although many of the former European ones were basically open to most any worthy pair who wanted to participate; however, the organizers had the right to refuse entry to anyone they found objectionable.

Recently, through the never-ending efforts and energy of Jose Damiani, World Bridge Federation President, who has stepped down after sixteen years as President, it was announced there are proposed Tournaments of Bridge Mind Games.   There are many issues to be discussed, resolved and voted upon as it is an offshoot of the World Olympics — allegedly displaying the BEST OF THE BEST — as any Olympic requirement.

The first tentative report on these events, according to Mr. Damiani are:  SPORT ACCORD MIND GAMES to be held in 2011 BEIJING (team/pairs/individuals); The U. S. will be included in each event (six players);  ALL EXPENSES WILL BE COVERED (BUSINESS CLASS TRAVEL, 5 STAR FULL BOARD ACCOMMODATION).  IN ADDITION:  cash prizes (U.S.) $140,000 FOR MEN’S AND $110,000 FOR WOMEN’S.  Also mentioned though less decisively were the WORLD MIND SPORTS GAMES IN mid-August 2012 (MANCHESTER, ENGLAND) which would include one Open, one Women and one Senior Team (pay own expenses) and One Youngster (under 20); one Junior (under 25) and one Young (under 28) where travel and full board expenses are to be paid.

I believe these are the tentatively sketchy plans awaiting finalization and approval — but gives us much to think about and the members of the ITTC; USBF, et al. are already initiating discussions on the options.   Since it is obvious this is being offered to what they consider the top tier of players the world over, I suspect the WBF’s wishes are that the players sent from these privileged countries should REPRESENT THE MOST SUPREME PERFORMERS THAT THE COUNTRY HAS TO OFFER (the pairs TO BE SELECTED FROM THE TOP 15 OR 20) .

Now the fun begins …. how are they to be selected AND BY WHOM????  Is sponsorship acceptable?  The banter –  pros, cons, suppositions, suggestions for pair trials vs. team trials, selection committees, etc. has already been thrown open for opinions in the U.S. –  with a plethora of thoughts pro and cons.  So, what else is new?    It will be interesting to see how this serious problem and moral obligation is resolved in our country if and when the events actually come to fruition.


ChuckNovember 28th, 2010 at 9:44 pm

It is strange that so much was written by the different people involved from so many directions and commitees, but that no one voiced a public opinion here about the six people to be selected (three pairs I assume) if the Mind Games goes off as expected.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 29th, 2010 at 3:58 am

That’s an easy one. Everyone has their own personal interest. I wonder when the last time the U.S. was truly represented by the three best pairs, as opposed to not just decent pairs or five good players and a sponsor. Not since I can remember.

Isn’t that what an Olympic type of game should exemplify?