Oswald Jacoby

Mr. Oswald Jacoby was born in Brooklyn on December 8, 1902, and died in 1984. He was a bridge columnist and first achieved international preeminence as partner of Mr. Sidney Lenz in the Culberson Match, but he had already established himself` as a champion at Auction and Contract. He next became a member of the famed FOUR HORSEMEN and FOUR ACES teams. His selection by Mr. Sidney Lenz over players of greater experience and with whom Mr. Sidney Lenz had practiced partnerships was early recognition of the brilliance and skill that were later to bring Jacoby to the top of the ACBL’s list of all time masterpoint winners.

He left Columbia in his junior year to become an Actuary, completing the examination of the Society of Actuaries in 1924 to become, at age 21, the youngest person ever to do so. After four years with Metropolitan Life, he went into business for himself, but his success was cut short by the 1929 stock marker crash. Jacoby’s victory-studded career includes many oddities. He played in (and won) his first auction tournament in July 1929, the National Team Championship of the American Whist League. But he had already won the first big contract pair tournament ever played, the Goldman Pairs event in the Eastern Slates Championship held in February of that year.

Later on, he set a record by winning the Goldman Trophy three times in 20 years, the only occasions on which he entered. Afterward, he became a national champion by winning two AWL pair and team events. After the Culbertson-Lenz match, Jacoby was secretary of the United States Bridge Association for nearly two years, thus being associated with Mr. Ely Culbertson. Late in l933, however, he helped to form the original Four Aces team, which dominated the bridge world for the next several years. During this period, in addition to American Bridge League triumphs, he won two pair championships and four team championships of the USBA. Mr. Oswald Jacoby had two months of Army service in World War 1, when he was 15, and he was awarded the Victory Medal. On December 7, 1941 he was playing in the Open Pairs in Richmond, Virginia, when the Pearl Harbor attack was announced. He immediately left the tournament and did not play again for four years. During most of that time he served as a specialist in the Navy, with the rank of lieutenant commander.

When he returned to competition in 1945, he found Mr. Charles Goren far ahead in the masterpoint rankings. He had done very little about returning to the top when he again returned to active duty in 1950 for service in the Korean War. He served as a commander in intelligence and was a member of the original staff at the Panmunjom armistice conference. This return to service cost him his place on the American team in the first Bermuda Bowl matches. However, he had represented the ABL, in international competition as far back as 1935 when the Four Aces team defeated the French, champions of Europe, in the first official World Championship encounter.

Returning from two years of Korean service. Mr. Oswald Jacoby found he had dropped out of the top 19 masterpoint holders. By 1958 he had managed to move back into sixth place, still far behind Mr. Charles Goren. At that time he decided to make a determined effort to regain the Number 1 position. By 1962 he had done so. Between 1959 and 1963, he won the McKenney Trophy four times in five years; the only player at that time older than 50 to win the trophy. He won it at ages 57, 59, 60 and 61. In 1963 he became the first player to acquire more than 1,000 points in a single year. His winning total that year was 1,034. In 1967, he surpassed the 10,000-point mark, at which time he retired from active competition for the McKenney Trophy. Almost exactly one year later he relinquished his position as top masterpoint holder to Barry Crane.

In 1950, Mr. Jacoby became the daily bridge columnist for Newspaper Enterprise Association, serving several hundred newspapers. He established a record on April 22, 1982 when his 10,000th article was printed. (Goren’s name appeared on more than this number, but he had not written any columns for many years before his death in 1991.) Mr. Oswald Jacoby wrote books on poker, canasta, gin rummy and mathematical odds. He also continuously maintained a practice as a consulting actuary, served for six years as a member of the Board of Visitors of Harvard Observatory (for the last three, under the chairmanship of then Senator John F. Kennedy), became an expert on computers and was frequently consulted on questions of tournament movements, elimination schedules and scoring. He won a North American Championship (the Chicago in 1955) with his son, James Jacoby, and scored many victories with his wife of 50 years, Mary Zitz Jacoby.

He was hoping to add to his titles the missing one – most masterpoints owned by any husband and wife, regardless of when acquired. Mr. Oswald Jacoby was elected to the Bridge Hall Of Fame in 1965 and was named ACBL Honoray Member in 1967. As npc of the North American teams for 1969, 1970 and 1971, Jacoby captained the first North American Bermuda Bowl champion teams (1970 and 1971) in more than a decade.

His North American Championship titles are: Spingold 1934, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1945, 1950, 1959; Vanderbilt 1931, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1965; Chicago (now the Reisinger) 1955; Reisinger 1983; Master Individual 1935; Master Mixed Teams 1968; Life Master Pairs 1936; Mens Teams 1952 and 1959; Open Pairs 1935, 1960, 1964; Mens Pairs 1934, 1939, 1949. He also won USBA Grand National Open Teams 1934, 1935, 1937, Open Pairs 1936, 1937; he won ABL Mens Teams 1931, 1932; AWL Team-of-Four 1929, 1931, 1933, Open Pairs 1933, and the HERMAN TROPHY in 1960. He placed second in many NABC events and won countless regional titles including the MARCUS CUP 1955. In 1973 he won the World Championship of Backgammon. Mr. Oswald Jacoby pioneered many bidding ideas, including Forcing 2 No Trump, Jacoby Transfer Bids and Weak Jump Overcalls.

His innovations have included developments of Gerber and Blackwood and a specialized use of Two No Trump and Three No Trump Responses. His most recent innovations were the use of Two-Way Stayman in connection with Jacoby Transfer Bids after 2 No Trump opening and after 2 -anything- 2 No Trump. He invented the use of 2 Clubs as a double negative response to 2 Clubs with 2 No Trump a positive Heart response and 2 Diamonds the usual waiting bid. Among his writings are The Four Aces System, What is New in Bridge, Win at Bridge with Oswald Jacoby, Win at Bridge with Jacoby Modern, Win At Bridge With Jacoby and Son, Improve Your Bridge With Oswald Jacoby: 125 Bridge Hands from the Master, The Backgammon Book (with John Crawford). He also had many books on mathematics, gambling, poker and other card games, including canasta, in which he had the two best-selling books.