The All-Time Bridge
Terence Reese (1913-1996), of London, England and latterly of
Hove, was the finest player produced by Great Britain and one of
the very best the world has seen.
Reese was one of the creators of and the first to write a
book about the Acol System, which though refined over the years
is still the standard domestic system in Britain today. He also
wrote more than 100 other books and would almost certainly win a
vote for best bridge writer of all time. Two of his books on
play, The Expert Game and Reese On Play are regarded as classics
and would be on many people's lists of ten 'must read' titles
for the aspiring expert.
Reese was bridge correspondent of the Observer newspaper, the
London Evening News (later the Evening Standard) and a number of
periodicals. He was editor of British Bridge World from 1955 to
1962 and conducted regular radio programs about bridge. Blessed
with a dry or sometimes acerbic wit, he was a regular and
popular commentator at major international championships when he
was not playing or acting as a non-playing captain.
As well as being one of the founding fathers of the Acol
System, Reese also created a highly artificial bidding system
called the Little Major, which he played at the top level.
Supposedly, this was developed as a protest at the growing
complexity and proliferation of destructive methods of bidding
in the international game, but if so it had no positive effect,
rather adding fuel to a movement that had already developed a
life of its own.
As a player, Reese won more than twenty national titles
including the Gold Cup, the British national teams championship,
eight times. He won four European Open Teams Championships and
one Bermuda Bowl in 1955, the only time to date that Britain has
won an Open World Championship. He was also World Par Contest
Champion in 1961 and won the Sunday Times Invitational Pairs
event in 1964.
For many years Terence's partnership with Boris Schapiro was
considered close to the best in the world. Then in 1965 the
international career of both Reese and Schapiro came to a
shocking end. While representing Great Britain in the Bermuda
Bowl in Buenos Aires, Argentina, they were accused of cheating
by the American team and bridge columnist of the New York Times,
Alan Truscott, an ex-patriate Englishman.
The substance of the accusation was that the British pair
were holding their cards in different ways on different hands,
with a different number of fingers showing, sometimes spread and
sometimes together. After comparing findings, the observers
suggested that the information being passed was the number of
cards held in the heart suit.
After having observers watching subsequent sessions, the
World Bridge Federation called a meeting of the Appeals
Committee and confronted the pair, both of whom denied the
allegations. Despite their denials, the WBF Executive voted 10-0
with one abstention (Perroux, the Italian npc) that
Reese/Schapiro were guilty. The evidence was turned over to the
British Bridge League and Great Britain conceded all their
matches in the championship.
After seeing the WBF report, the BBL set up an independent
enquiry headed by Sir John Foster, Queen's Counsel, and General
Lord Bourne. After more than ten months' deliberation, the
Foster report found Reese/Schapiro not guilty of cheating. The
reasoning behind this was that there appeared to be little or no
internal technical evidence within the hands and play to suggest
that the pair were profiting from any such signals.
Subsequently, the WBF reaffirmed their verdict made in Buenos
Aires that cheating had occurred. In 1968 the BBL enquired as to
whether a team including Reese/Schapiro would be acceptable at
that year's Olympiad and were told no. Accordingly, Britain did
not send a team. Later that same year the WBF Executive restored
Reese/Schapiro to good standing on the grounds that their three
year ban had been sufficient punishment. Neither, however,
represented Britain again and their domestic appearances
together had also almost come to an end.
Were they cheating? We are unlikely to ever be certain, though
everyone has pretty entrenched views one way or the other. Reese
and Truscott each wrote a book about the affair - reading them
you might think they were discussing two totally different
There are considerable pressures in top-level bridge and
success can bring financial rewards as well as trophies, so some
will always be tempted. The observations of the different ways
of holding cards are significant and if there was a correlation
with the number of hearts held it looks damning, and yet there
is so much more useful information that could be passed once a
pair decides to cheat, so why choose the number of hearts in the
10 7 6 2
© A 6
¨ K J 10 5
§ 10 7 3
© K J 7
¨ 9 6 4 2
§ K Q J 8
Q 8 3
© Q 10 4 3 2
¨ 8 3
§ 6 4 2
A K 9 4
© 9 8 5
¨ A Q 7
§ A 9 5
My Reese hand is a beautiful example of a psychological ploy
to give an extra chance of making a contract.
Reese played 4ª
on the lead of §K.
He ducked but won the club continuation, then cashed the ace and
king of spades and the ace of diamonds. If the hand with the
master trump also holds three or more diamonds the contract
makes legitimately, but we can see that on the actual layout
East can ruff the third diamond and lead a club to defeat the
Terence found a way to pull the wool over the eyes of the
poor East player. After the ¨A
he led ¨7 to the
king then played ¨10
off the table as though hoping to take a ruffing finesse to
establish a diamond trick. East fell for it, discarding. Winning
the ¨Q, Reese wasted
no time in crossing to ©A
to pitch his losing club on the ¨J
and made his 'impossible' contract.
It is true that if East/West play length
signals East should know how many diamonds declarer has and
therefore know to ruff the third diamond, but it is a lot easier
to say that than it is to actually do it at the table. None of
us are used to playing against such tricky opponents.