The History of the Bermuda Bowl begins with Mr. Norman Bach, who was born in 1913 in Bermuda and died 1971. He initiated and organized the first post World War II World Championships in the year 1950. During the evolution of these Championships, the Bermuda Bowl came to be the most prestigious Bridge Trophy. Mr. Norman Bach himself won the Gold Cup for Great Britain in 1938 and was the playing Captain of the British Team in the European Championships in 1938 and 1939. Mr. Norman Bach of Bermuda and his associates from the Bermuda Bridge Club organized, scheduled and managed the very first event in 1950. All hands, complete with bidding and play, were recorded, which, it must be noted, was a first for the American players but nothing new to the Europeans, since such recording was standard practice in important European matches.
The first World Championship for the Bermuda Bowl was held in 1950, eight years before the World Bridge Federation itself was formed. It was contested by USA, Europe and Britain. The United States won by beating Europe by 4,720 points and Britain by 3,660. The USA team consisted of six great players and the names of these players were engraved upon the new trophy, which was presented by the Government of Bermuda.
The format of the World Championship was changed in 1967. Previously the placings had been decided by a simple Round Robin, with two points for a win and one for a tie. After the change there was to be a Round Robin in which each team met each other in three separate matches, with 20 victory points at stake in each match. This was followed by a two-team final over 128 boards. The change proved successful and the old format was never restored.
In the 1960s the scope of international bridge was much enlarged. In 1958 the World Bridge Federation was formed and began to arrange its member countries in geographical Zones, which became the basis for Bermuda Bowl eligibility. It was at this time that the contest began taking on its present worldwide character. In 1958, the South American Confederation, which for ten years had already been holding Championships of its own, competed for the first time. In 1966 the Far East Bridge Federation, represented by Thailand, joined in and five years later Australia represented the South Pacific Zone for the first time. The Central American and Caribbean Zone made its debut in 1979, followed two years later by the Bridge Federation of Asia & the Middle East, the youngest of the World Bridge Federation’s Zonal organizations.
Owing to several circumstances regarding the play among the players and the intensity of the games, and after a period of controversy, the World Bridge Federation Executive Council decided by six votes to three with two abstentions to use screens and bidding boxes in the next Bermuda Bowl taking place in 1974.
Throughout the years the governing body for the supervision of the Bermuda Bowl had many decisions to make. Their meetings in Monte Carlo saw Mr. Ortiz-Patino unanimously elected World Bridge Federation President. By the time the 1977 Bermuda Bowl was decided in Manila, changes had been made in the Constitution and By-laws, establishing the important principle that World Bridge Federation competitions would be by invitation only. A Credentials Committee, with members from various Zones, would have power to issue or withhold invitations. These decisions were controversial at the time they were decided, but these changes are presently widely seen to have proven beneficial. Similar procedures have since been adopted by other bodies. The World Bridge Federation also decided to hold the Bermuda Bowl at two yearly intervals, bringing about the present cycle, with the Bermuda Bowl held in odd years, the Team Olympiad in leap years, and the World Bridge Championships in other even years.
Port Chester in 1981 brought the entry of another new Zone, represented by Pakistan, which had just won the Inaugural Championships of the Bridge Federation of Asia and the Middle East.
There have been a few incidences along the way.
The Bermuda Incident
The annual Bermuda Bowl world championship saw Italy and the United States playing in the 1975 final. There, American reporter Mr. Bruce Keidan would uncover one of the most infamous cheating scandals ever.
While watching one of the Italian pairs, Mr. Gianfranco Facchini and Mr. Sergio Zucchelli, Mr. Bruce Keidan noticed unusual foot actions between the two. The reporter found the players tapping each other’s feet under the table in an apparent attempt to relay information about their hands. The act of cheating is of course illegal and normally grounds for expulsion from any bridge organization. Mr. Bruce Keidan’s discovery, which was confirmed by several witnesses, was eventually presented to the presiding authorities of the event, who “severely reprimanded” Mr. Gianfranco Facchini and Mr. Sergio Zucchelli for their activity but allowed the players to continue competing in the event. Ironically, although the Italians were allowed to stay, the Bermuda Bowl authorities placed blocks underneath the tables to prevent any further foot contact.
American captain Mr. Alfred Sheinwold was angered by the Solomonic decision and stated that his team would resign from the match. Only by threats made to Sheinwold by the United States’ governing body, the American Contract Bridge League, was his team coerced into finishing the event. The ACBL did not want a huge public embarrassment that refusing to play would cause. Italy won the event, 215 – 189 International Match Points. By all accounts, Mr. Gianfranco Facchini and Mr. Sergio Zucchelli quickly faded from the international bridge circuit thereafter.
The Buenos Aires Affair
The Bermuda Bowl world championship was held in 1965 in Buenos Aires, site of the infamous finger-signaling scandal. British experts Mr. Terence Reese and Mr. Boris Schapiro were accused by American players Mr. B. Jay Becker and Dorothy Hayden (now Truscott) of holding their cards with different numbers of fingers in accordance with the number of hearts they held. When the allegations leaked out during the event, British captain Mr. Ralph Swimer forfeited all his team’s matches and withdrew Great Britain from the competition. The degree of correlation between fingers and hearts was very high; however, it is debatable whether or not Reese-Schapiro benefited from the alleged exchange of information. Those who sided with the players argued the latter, suggesting that it was improbable the British pair was cheating if it never gained points on the deals in question.
The British Bridge League eventually found Mr. Terence Reese and Mr. Boris Schapiro innocent of cheating; however, the World Bridge Federation found them guilty and banned them from WBF events for three years. Bridge writer Mr. Alan Truscott wrote a book about the affair entitled The Great Bridge Scandal, while Mr. Terence Reese wrote his own account, Story of an Accusation.
The Houston Affair
As experienced tournament players may know, the United States uses a playoff system to determine which team gets to play in the annual world championship. These team trials, as they are known, ended scandalously in 1977 when two players, Mr. Larry Cohen* and Mr. Richard Katz, abruptly quit in the middle of the final. At the time, event officials were investigating rumors that Katz-Cohen were transmitting information illegally. Before any formal accusations were made, however, Mr. Richard Katz and Mr. Larry Cohen resigned from their team, which then forfeited due to a lack of players.
But not only did Mr. Richard Katz and Mr. Larry Cohen quit their team and the event, they resigned their memberships in the American Contract Bridge League, the national body in charge of the team trials. Soon afterward, Mr. Richard Katz and Mr. Larry Cohen filed a $44 million lawsuit against the ACBL and three tournament officials for defamation of character, false allegations of misconduct, and forced resignation from the League. The whole affair managed to get settled in court, where the ACBL agreed to re-admit Mr. Richard Katz and Mr. Larry Cohen, who promised in turn to not play with each other again. Monetary compensation was not made to the pair.
*Not the Mr. Larry Cohen famous in tournament bridge circles for his book, The Law of Total Tricks.
Another event was introduced in 1985, called the Venice Cup. The Venice Cup was conducted at the same time, with the same format, eligibility and boards. Thus a record total of twenty teams were eligible, ten in each series.
The evolution of the Bermuda Bowl has been a long road to travel, especially for those who attempted to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Norman Bach. The winners of the Bermuda Bowl are listed below as are the years of their win.