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Mr. Ernest Bergholt, one of the greatest ever Bridge stars

Post 3. Mr. Ernest Bergholt - one of the world’s greatest ever Bridge stars.

Thursday, 10th August 2017, about 9:30 a.m.

Hello fellow card players,

When I made my first post to Bridge Winners on 1st January of this year, I was the “new kid on the block” - I added it to a year old thread and I suspect very few people have read it.  It contains significant information about one of the all-time greats of Bridge, Mr. Edmund Robertson, not available on any known Bridge website to my knowledge.

i. Today I’d like to talk about another great card player who also sits at the high table.  Ernest George Binckes was born in 1856 in Worcester, attended Christ’s Hospital School and was admitted to King’s College, Cambridge on 9th October 1875.  He lived in digs and eventually obtained a B.A. 2nd Class in Mathematics in 1879, and an M.A. in 1884.  His journalistic endeavours included : on the staff of The Dramatic Review 1886 ; Court and Society Review 1888 ; Editor of The Musical Standard 1888 ; Bridge editor of The Onlooker 1901-7; pastimes editor of The Queen 1908 ; cards editor of The Field 1915, fellow and member of the Council of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries.

ii. In my book I give full & exact collations, which are not generally written up even in bibliographical catalogues, including actual size.  Ernest Bergholt’s masterpiece was his - “1906, Ernest Bergholt, Double Dummy Bridge, A Systematic Course Of Endings And Complete Hands, By Various Authors, Fully Illustrating The Tactics Of The Game Of Bridge When All Four Hands Are Exposed, Thomas De La Rue & Co. Ltd., 1st edition, 11x17.2 cm, (8)+150+(6) pages, tipped in price sticker “Published at 3s 6d net.”.  This exquisite demonstration of card play expertise is now very scarce.

iii. In the above book, as problem No. XV on page 108, he gives the final hand in the “Daily Mirror Bridge Tournament, 1903” that had been set by his close friend Mr. W. H. Whitfeld of (the Whitfeld Six” fame) - its an absolute corker.  This was quite possibly the first ever Double Dummy Bridge tournament, certainly in Britain, and in its way the first ever Bridge tournament.  It’s sad indeed that the details cannot be found on any Bridge site.

iv. He died on 18th November 1925, age 69.  His probate on 16th February 1926 reveals the confirmation of his real identity - “BINCKES, Ernest George or BERGHOLT, Ernest of Wethermel, Field-lane, Letchworth, Hertfordshire, died 18th November 1925”.

v. The Sunday Times began their long-running column on Bridge in the Sunday, 4th July 1915 issue, and continued right up to W.W.II.  It was always under the name of “Yarborough”, except for a single occasion when the column was headed directly by the famous Colonel Walshe himself. He had just returned from a two-month visit to America.  On 21st December 1930 in the column he wrote - “Bridge is now as international as finance, and Bridge as played in America is of very special interest to us, as the initiative in the development of the game has for some years past been taken by the U.S.A”.

vi. In 1921 Routledge published a book by Yarborough.  The British Library entry for this book is - “Royal Auction Bridge.  Problems of Analysis.  By “Yarborough”.  Published London : G. Routledge & Sons [1921].  Physical description 128p : 8vo. Held At British Library. Other names YARBOROUGH pseud. [i.e. George Gordon Joseph Walshe]”.

There’s a sister book along the same lines and both are extremely scarce.  Both books have on their title pages as author “Yarborough of the Sunday Times”.  That’s the state of play today and you can find this repeated on Bridge sites everywhere, at least the ones I’ve been too.

vii. I’ve come to respect the Bodleian Library for the accuracy of their library catalogue.  They note the book’s author is a pseudonym.  But of all the national & research libraries that hold copies of the book, the Bodleian is the only one that omits the famous Colonel’s real name.

viii. A little bell started ringing in my head and it wouldn’t go quiet.  After a long while, I found this article tucked away in a small provincial newspaper where Ernest Bergholt was replying to a correspondent - I show just the relevant part.  In the “Nottingham Evening Post, Saturday, 19th April 1924” he wrote - “Mr. Caffrey writes : “I noticed that the diamond lead at Trick 3 would not defeat my attack if B overtrumped with the queen, but I also saw that the point was of no consequence”.  He goes on to say that he is “always interested in these problems”, and he asks if I can recommend him a few good books.  If he wants books of problems I would suggest the two which I wrote for Messrs. Routledge and Sons under the name of “Yarborough”.  They are called “Problems of Inference” and “Problems of Analysis”, respectively, and are published at 1s 6d. net each.  The former deals with situations in actual play, and the latter with double dummy positions, all hands being exposed (page 3)”.

ix. This revelation is given here for the first time.  “Yarborough of the Sunday Times” appears to have been Mr. Ernest Bergholt, maybe just for a while, maybe up to the time he died . It was, presumably, against the rules to have regular columns in rival newspapers - hence the need to keep his identity secret - or so it seems to me.

x. Maybe this explains that single article published on 21st December 1930 under the famous Colonel’s name - I suspect he took over the column then, who knows.  I have approached the Sunday Times several times to ask about this, but never got a proper answer - no help there.  Perhaps the old boxes of “letters received” etc. are hidden away in some warehouse, or possibly destroyed in the Blitz.  But for the moment I hope you will all agree that this evidence is reasonably compelling.

xi. Why is this important ?  Because “Yarborough of the Sunday Times” was involved at the very inception of Contract Bridge in India, likely long before Mr Vanderbilt had ever heard of the idea - more on that in a later post.

xii. What else is to be said - lots.  In “The Lancashire Evening Post, Saturday, 16th August 1924, page 6” he wrote : “In the May number of the “Auction Bridge and Mah Jong Magazine" (published monthly at 25 cents, the John H. Smith Publishing Corporation, 149 Broadway, New York, U.S.A.), Mr. Wilbur C. Whitehead enumerates and explains certain principles of play for the benefit of those who may not have had much experience in problem solving. ……. Whitehead cites the two following problems as examples of both forms of the “Squeeze”, the one having been composed by myself, the other by that famous analyst, the late W. H. Whitfeld".  This predates, I believe, Mr. Sidney Lenz’s famous book.

That’s enough. I hope I haven't bored you all too much. My two books correct many serious errors about Bridge history replicated on Bridge sites all over the world.

Best wishes,

Ken in Bournemouth, U.K.

P.S. I’m reluctant to answer individual queries at the moment unrelated to my posts to Bridge Winners - I do have a life outside Bridge !

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