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Musings of a (fairly) old-timer.

When I started to play bridge, somewhat over fifty years ago, there were basically two or three forms: kitchen table social bridge, tournament bridge and money bridge. Money bridge was fine for the wealthy, who could afford to lose, and for the predators who could not but rarely did. Kitchen table was what your mother and her friends did on Tuesday afternoons or what your parents did after dinner when their friends came over in the evening. If you wanted to play seriously and couldn't afford to pay the predators there was tournament bridge. In the duplicate clubs during the week and once a month or so in some nearby town. Tournament bridge was matchpoints. Only matchpoints. Pair games in the club and every day except Sunday at the sectional and regional tournaments. Sunday was team matchpoints, also known as board-a-match. There were about six or seven team games a year scored a different way: the Spingold and Vanderbilt, both "double elimination knockouts" scored at "International Matchpoints", and regional knockouts (that I know of) in Chicago, Los Angeles, New England, New York City, San Francisco and Toronto. New York's at least, was still scored at total points in 1963, the first time I played. There may have been other regional KOs. 

In the very early days of the ACBL the Von Zedtwitz Masters' Pairs was the most prestigious event on the annual calendar. The winner got 30MP. Spingold winners got 25. The LM pairs continued to award as many MP as the KOs through at least the early 1960s. When Marshall Miles won both the LMs and the Spingold at the same Nationals in, I think, 1960, he got 125MP for each win. By the time I got more active, there were five extra-prestigious events a year: the two KOs, the two six-session matchpoint events - the LMsand the Blues - and the four-session open BAM. Winning or finishing second in the LMs or the Blues got you in the trials. So did multiple high finishes in the four-session Open and Men's pair events. In its early days the World Pairs was considered to be on the same level of prestige (I think) as the teams. The winners were all great players. One of the features was that a great pair could win even if their country could not (yet) field a team of equal quality. Slavenburg and Kreyns, the Dutch who won in 1966, were thereafter regarded as one of the great pairs in the world. Chagas and Branco solidified their reputation by winning the pairs in 1990, adding to their wins in the 1976 Olympiad and the 1989 Bermuda Bowl and to Branco's win with Cintra in the 1978 pairs. As did Meckstroth-Rodwell with their win in 1986 and Martel-Stansby with theirs in 1982. 

Somewhere along the way there came the notion that only imp team events are "real bridge". The Rosenblum became more important than the World Pairs, and it is probably less prestigious than either the Bermuda Bowl or what used to be the Olympiad. The Spingold and Vanderbilt became the most prestigious events in North America.

I am not sure why that is. I don't know how many people have written that the final day of the Reisinger Board-a-Match is the hardest day of bridge that exists. Of all the bridge accomplishments I know, one of those that I respect the most is the successive wins in the Reisinger by Tony Forrester, Geir Helgemo, Andy Robson and Rita Shugart. Four handed and no boards on which you can relax. 

Imps and matchpoints are different in some ways. Imps rewards the magnitude of the score. Game swings, particularly vulnerable; slam swings. Going for 500 against a vulnerable game is not a significant gain, and going for 500 against a non-vul game is no great loss. If you make 90 instead of 110 or 140, no big deal. Down two, even vul, is not significant if the opponents can make a partial. On the other hand, about one quarter of the boards are dominant in the scoring. These are the ones that involve double-digit swings, earned either in the bidding or in the play. Often the lie of the cards determines whch way the swing goes. 

Matchpoint bridge is much less forgiving. First of all, every board counts the same. Frequency of gain/loss is the key, not magnitude. Bidding methods were conservative (except in Canada, in my experience) because you did not want to reach games that were less than 50% to make. The score of -200 was known as "the kiss of death" because it loses to all partials. In addition, at matchpoints you don't really know your target as declarer or on defense. You are playing 3N; is it critical to make the hand, or do you risk the contract for an overtrick? On defense, are you looking to beat the hand or to stop overtricks?

If you learned bridge playing primarily or exclusively matchpoints, it is scarcely to be wondered that your bidding tends to be conservative by more modern standards. If you play almost exclusively imp-scored team events you will tend to be far more adventurous. 

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