Barnet Shenkin

Scandal at Buenos Aires 1965 (part 1) by Barnet Shenkin prev/next

The following is a true event that took place in 1965.Of the people involved in the story I knew the following personally.

Boris Schapiro: One of the accused. His wife Helen was in charge with his help in organizing the Sunday Times International pairs Tournament. This was the finest event in it’s time and held annually. I was fortunate to play in it a number of times and to win it on two occasions. I got to know Boris fairly well. He was a man with a quick dry and outrageous wit and a very fine bridge player.

Terence Reese: I met Reese in the early Seventies. He came to Glasgow to play with my friend Irving Rose. Reese was and still is the most famous ever British bridge player. He has written many fine books about bridge including “the Expert Game”. His books are classics , acclaimed worldwide and translated into many languages. He is considered by many the best author in bridge history. He also had an outstanding playing record. Along with Schapiro they had won the World Championships in 1955 and were second in 1960. They were second in the World Pairs in 1962. They were European Champions, Europes toughest tournament on four occasions.

Jeremy Flint: One of the British team playing in Buenos Aires .Later his stepdaughter Annette got married to my friend Irving Rose. Flint had already started to partner Reese and were playing a new artificial system called “The Little Major” I played on a few teams with Flint and partnered him in one tournament.

Alan Truscott: One of the main accusers who later wrote the book “The Great Bridge Scandal” (available from me). Alan originally from England went to live in USA and became the bridge journalist for the New York Times for more than forty years from the early sixties. I became friendly with Alan after arriving in USA.

Louis Shenkin: My father was on the British Bridge League Council as a delegate for the Scottish Bridge Union. He later took over the organizing of the British end of the investigation and became the Chairman of the British Bridge League.

Ralph Swimer: He was the non playing captain of the British team. I met Ralph after moving to London in the late eighties. A quiet spoken man, his life along with others was changed irrevocably by the events that took place.

The British team playing in 1965 consisted of six great players. Reese had been playing a highly artificial system called “the little major” with Jeremy Flint. Kenneth Konstam aka Konnie was the fourth player in this group which won the trials. The selectors added Harrison- Gray to play with Albert Rose – no relation to Irving Rose. Rose had finished third in the trials with Ralph Swimer. In these old days the selectors believed their job was to select players and not partnerships. They replaced Ralph Swimer who had finished third in the trials with Harrison- Gray. This kind of thing would not happen today in most countries. Swimer was voted to be the teams captain. While the captain has to decide which four of the six players to lineup for each match he usually does not have a difficult time of it. He does not play himself and apart from the selection his main duties are to attend meetings and raise his teams spirits when necessary eg after a defeat. Swimer knew that with Reese and Schapiro not on great terms as a result.

Of Reese playing this new system with Flint it was possible he may not have such a leisurely time in Buenos Aires but he accepted his post. In retrospect that was a grave mistake.

The year was 1965 and teams were meeting to play for the World Bridge Championship in Buenos Aires “The Bermuda Bowl”. The favoured teams along with the Italian Champions were the team from USA and Great Britain the fourth team was Argentina. In these days only four teams played for the Championship. Today the new rules allow many more teams the opportunity to play a great event over two weeks. A round robin is followed by a KO event.

Some say “it is a small world”. When I moved in 1997 to Boca Raton Florida USA I immediately became friendly with Mike Becker a fellow bridge player and golfer.

It was his late father BJ Becker who started the ball rolling in what turned out to be and up to now is the biggest ever “story” in bridge. B J Becker noticed that both Reese and Schapiro were holding their cards in an unusual way showing various fingers spread in a V at the front of their cards. The number of fingers showing was variable.

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