Ely Culbertson

(1891—1955) American bridge player

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US bridge player who revolutionized the game by formalizing and writing down a system of bidding. Culbertson was born in Romania, the son of an American and his Russian wife. A cosmopolitan character, he spoke numerous languages and travelled widely, taking part in revolutionary activity in Mexico, Russia, and elsewhere. After 1917 he went to Paris and then settled in the USA, where he lived by playing cards and met his future wife Josephine, a bridge teacher, whom he married in 1923. Between 1926 and 1929 contract bridge became increasingly popular and Culbertson saw a great opportunity to publicize the game. He started a bridge magazine (The Bridge World), organized a teachers' association, and wrote his definitive ‘Blue Book’.

Although he admitted that his wife was probably a better player, he was good enough to win several major tournaments. In the 1930s he played in well-publicized ‘challenges’, such as the individual match with Sidney Lentz or team events with his US team tour round Europe. Interest was stimulated in these ‘challenges’ by high stakes. Culbertson and his team won almost every event and he made and spent a fortune living in great style. In 1938 he lost interest in bridge and devoted his considerable energies to the League of Nations and world peace. He took an active part in the formation of the United Nations in the 1940s.

From Who's Who in the Twentieth Century in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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