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Post 17 Pachabo - Mr. A. E. Whitelaw addendum - Sunday 24th June 2018

**. Copac - National, Academic and Specialist Library Catalogue.

Hello everyone, and especially Mr. Simon Abadjian, who recently added a comment to my Post 5.   I was so excited that the great grandson of Mr. A. E. Whitelaw had written in that I began to assemble a suitable response.   It got longer and longer.   So in the end, I feel, it’s better to add it as a new post.   If you are interested, it may be worthwhile to find and read the original post first to remind yourself what was said there - “Post 5 Pachabo - Mr. A. E. Whitelaw Aug. 20, 2017”.

Hello Simon, thank you for your comments.

It seems to me that most people logging onto BridgeWinners and adding comments are “hardened Bridge fanatics” - a bit like me.   So it’s so nice when someone like yourself enters the ring, especially with the added qualification of being Pachabo’s relative.   I thought, therefore, I would try give my view as to where he sits at the Bridge high table in the sky.   But I have the feeling that he’d swap all his Bridge achievements for the chance to play in an Australian Cricket team !

First though, this gives me the opportunity to correct a typo on Post 5 - it was “Preservene” soap.   He invented words that carried a meaning as they sounded out.   So - Preservene - a pure white soap that will not waste away in water.   Four e’s soap for ease.   To me this shows he rather liked puzzles and conundrums.   Compare this with e.g. “Persil” - according to Wikipedia : - derived from two of its original ingredients, sodium perborate and sodium silicate.

His first book was privately published in Australia in 1918 - “Royal Auction Bridge Summarised Containing Numerous Rules Of Play And Many Wrinkles, Pachabo, 1st edition, J. L. Anderson & Sons, Printers, Melbourne, 48 pages”.   There’s just a single copy in Copac, in the Bodleian Library.   It’s a book in the“utmost scarce” category.

He re-worked the book for the English market, now 96 pages but essentially the same “wrinkles”.   My copy is undated and the three copies in Copac have dates [1919], [1920?] & [1920].   Apart from his pseudonym, I cannot find any “made-up” words in this book.

His next book - “12 Keys To Auction Bridge Play”, also published by the major British publishers Routledge, is undated as well.   The two copies in Copac have dates [1920] & [1921].   Here he begins to use all his persuasive marketing ideas.   This is from the “Explanation” on page 3 :

     An entirely new method of Auction Bridge instruction is attempted in these pages. The aim of the author is to formulate rules for planning the play of the hand immediately the first card has been led.   These rules are set out under the following headings : The Lasso, The Pachabo Gambit, The Foil, The Pontoon, The Jettison, The Zig-zag, The Double Barrel, Cutting the Painter, The Trump Gambit, The Pivot, The Grand Coup & The Camouflage.   It is hoped that this method of treatment of a difficult subject will enable the student to acquire many of the knacks of expert players.

So far as I can see, he really was the first person to do this in Bridge - invent a whole repertoire of easily remembered names for various difficult card plays that are experienced all the time.   It seems to me that it took another 10 or so years for anyone else to do the same - I’m thinking of the American Sydney Lenz in his book “Contract Bidding, George Allen & Unwin 1931”, where he defines, for example, the Big Stick & the Little Joker.   I think Jonathan would know more about this than me.

Commenting on post 5, Richard mentions a match Mr. Whitelaw set up in 1935.   But much earlier than that he organised what surely must be considered as one of the earliest Bridge internationals.   At that time there was no formal and agreed method for selecting a national team - if Colonel Buller could do it - then so could he.   Here’s the report in the “Northern Whig - Wednesday 02 September 1931, page 5” :


     A contract bridge team from the Devonshire Club will leave England on October 7 for the United States to engage in a series of contests with American teams.   The English team is a private one selected by Mr A. E. Whitelaw, and comprises Messrs. Geo. Morris, Percy Tabbush, Hirst Brown and Captain Lindsay Mundy.   Mr. Whitelaw is an onlooker.   The team will probably make a round tour, visiting Chicago. Boston, Philadelphia, and other cities, extending over a month.

One of his rarest books, again in the category ”utmost scarce” is his “Review Of The Anglo- American Bridge Test”. It was privately published at the “St Clements Press, Kingsway, London” (no apostrophe).   My copy has 28 pages and the preface is dated 15th January 1931.   Sadly, there’s no copy whatsoever in Copac.   The match began on 15th September 1930, and Colonel Buller produced his review sometime thereafter.   My copy of the Colonel’s book is also undated, as are the two copies in Copac who assign the date [1930].   All I can find regarding a review of Pachabo’s book is a comment in the “Bath Chronicle, Saturday 11th April 1931, page 12” by the influential newspaper correspondent Mr. J. J. Brebner :

 Such, for instance, as his complaints of the attitude of the press towards the match - though I can claim that, in this respect, my withers are wrung - and the quotations from the pamphlet on the match by “Pachabo, which no discriminating critic would regard seriously.   Colonel Buller makes out a good enough case for himself, a case which is certainly not improved by dragging in "Pachabo" to his support.

In the foreword to “The Review”, Pachabo explains what I suppose must be his underlying thought process :

I have played cards during the last quarter of a century in all parts of the world.   I have seldom encountered a really top-notch player of Bridge who was any good at anything else.   I have met a lot of bad Bridge players who also were no good at anything else, but I have met a large number of very bad players who were very good at something else.   To be a supreme player at Bridge, and indeed, most games, one needs to have flair for the particular game.   It is my contention that the brain cells responsible for the flair are in constant rebellion with the brain cells which govern the practical side of life. Hence, I cannot conceive of a flair player ascending the heights in Finance, Commerce, Science, Literature, or any other capacity.   Many flair players are often listless, without any application and hopeless outside their particular flair. It is possible that while my travels have not brought me into contact with an exception to the rule, there may be some players who comply with the qualifications of a supreme Bridge player who yet possess a genius for something practical ; if so, I would dearly love to know their names and to see their photographs.   Furthermore, there are very few really good writers on Bridge who are supreme players and vice versa.   Harold Vanderbilt is, I think, one of the exceptions. Here we have a great writer on the game, a genius of a player, and yet possessing rare qualifications away from the Bridge table.

And by the way, his view regarding Mr. Vanderbilt is not my view.   Their systems had much in common so no wonder he felt the way he did.  In my volume II on the history of British Bridge, I give remarkable new information about who really invented Contract Bridge.

The most common of his books is the one Richard mentions.   In a two article feature, the important columnist Mr. R. E. Kemp discussed the Pachabo Club in “The Scotsman, Tuesday, 14th November 1933, page 6” :

    In my last article I introduced this very conventional convention, and for the benefit of those who have not read that article, I will repeat that it is a variation of the Vanderbilt system.   The idea is by showing what aces and kings the partnership holds, to find out what aces and kings are in the opponents' hands.   The original quick trick valuation is used.

Richard also mentions that 1935 Bridge match v. Michael Gottlieb and Howard Schenken.   This was organised by Pachabo, essentially, to prove that his One Club system, like his Preservene soap, was superior to all the others.   He likely paid the expenses and whilst they were over here they came down to my patch of the world.   This is the report in the “Western Gazette, Friday, 4th October 1935, page 10” :


     Four of the worlds greatest contract bridge players, Mr. Michael Gottlieb and Mr. Harold Schenken, who won the last master pairs championship contest in the United States, and the internationals, Lieut.-Colonel H. M. Beasley, D.S.0., and Sir Guy Domville, Bart., opposed four teams drawn from the district, at the Wessex Bridge Club, Bournemouth, during the week-end.   The main objective of the matches was to give local players a chance to study the new American "Four Aces'' system, invented by Messrs. Gottlieb and Schenken.   At all four sessions the many spectators were thrilled at the uncanny bidding accuracy of these master players.   There was nearly a surprise in the last of the four matches.   The Wessex Club team, comprising Mrs. Flemmich, Mrs. Davy, A. de Horsey, and Mr. Graeme Lawton, were only 300 points behind at the half-way stage and lost by only 1,220 points, mainly made up by penalty doubles.

So did the Pachabo Club lead to anything significant ?   Well, it was picked up by the Australian William Noall, who was a contemporary of Mr. Whitelaw. He developed his own One Club system in 1936 (I hope that’s correct) - “The Australian One Club”.   This incorporated not only the principle of quick tricks, but losing tricks as well.   Even a Yarborough cannot contain more than 12 losing tricks.   Any fewer losing tricks are counted as winners. If a player held a hand containing nine losing tricks and three winners therefore, and his partner held a similar distribution, the combined hands would contain 18 losers and 6 winners.   So the hand can be expected to make 6 tricks in a suit contract.   Someone like Tim Bourke in Australia would be much more qualified than I to say how significant that was.

About your book “The Telling System Of Contract Bridge”.   You do not give a date or the publisher.   But it does sound, from the mysterious use of a word like “Telling”, to be the kind of title Pachabo would dream up.   I’ve never seen or heard of it, and I wonder if it was ever published.   Again, I think Tim likely could advise.   What to do with it ?   That’s easy - keep it because it’s a family heirloom.   If you really want to sell it, maybe put it on eBay - I would advise some kind of reserve price.

And where does Pachabo sit at that high table ?   It seems to this humble writer that there are three criteria, any of which will do.   Did he win any major cups or trophies at the time - well, there really weren’t any tournaments when he started to win medals for.   Did he make a significant contribution to popularising Bridge - I guess no-one would deny that the “Pachabo” name survives in the Duplicate Bridge scene in Britain.   The third criteria is - did he invent or develop a system, even just a convention, that went on to underpin significant developments elsewhere.   I’m afraid I am unable to answer this with any authority and maybe Richard or Tim or Jonathan or someone more knowledgeable will give their opinion.   I’ve never liked the way he and his friend Mr. Vanderbilt could use money to influence events, but I guess I’m a bit moralistic - my partner tells me so !   Overall, my feeling is that “yes” he does sit at the high table, but only at the feet of the masters.   I wonder what others think ?

Simon, I hope this gives you a good insight into how your great grandfather approached life.   I apologise if I've said something that grates, especially if it's untrue as well.  Look what he had to contend with as reported in the “Sunderland Daily Echo, Monday, 24th April 1933, page 2” :

Daily Wisdom.  England is the home of snobbery - Mr. A. E. Whitelaw, the Australian business man who has been visiting Britain.

Please feel free to contact me direct, or add a further comment to this post.

Best wishes,

Ken in Bournemouth (

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