Howard Schenken (September 28, 1903 – February 20, 1979, Palm Springs, California) was an American bridge player, writer, and long-time columnist. In his career, Schenken won three Bermuda Bowl titles, and set several North American records: he won the Life Master Pairs five times, and the Spingold and Vanderbilt Trophy twelve and ten times, respectively. All three, except Spingold, are records that still stand today. He was ACBL's Life Master #3 and was inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame in 1966.
In the late 1920s, Schenken, who was playing with Raymond Club team was spotted by the Father of the game Ely Culbertson, who invited him to play as a substitute during the much publicised "Bridge Battle of the Century" against Sidney Lenz. Subsequently, Schenken formed a partnership with David Burnstine. The Four Horsemen, as the team was known, was the most successful around the tournament scene for the next couple of years, but then Schenken and Burnstine broke away to form the "Four Aces" with Oswald Jacoby and Michael Gottlieb. The Four Aces were the most successful team yet seen at contract bridge. They published a book of their methods, The Four Aces System of Contract Bridge, and tried to challenge Culbertson into another of his much publicised matches, but he declined and ducked out of the confrontation.
Aside from his brilliant play, Schenken's was renowned for his unbreakable calm at the table. As declarer, it was impossible to tell whether he was in a comfortable contract or an impossible one (and his commanding dummy play often made even the impossible ones). He was a formidably difficult opponent but a remarkably easy partner. On the Four Aces, for example, he was the only one who played with every other member of the team.
The Bermuda Bowl was first held in 1950 and Howard Schenken was on the winning team of USA, and also took part in the successful defense of the trophy in 1951 and 1953. He dropped out of the team for a while but then played in four World Championships in the early sixties. However, that was already the reign of the unbeatable Italian Blue Team. However, one of the greatest recognition, came from members of the Blue Team who said, "If your team had had another Schenken, we never could have won."
Howard was an American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) board member for many years. In 1943 he took over the Four Aces syndicated bridge column and in 1957 merged it with the column of Richard Frey. The two co-authored what became the longest continuously published national bridge column until 1970 when Schenken became the sole author once more.
Schenken only produced three books, but his writings included some important ideas. He is credited with the discovery and introduction to the tournament world of several play techniques and examples of deceptive play which are now considered standard.
In the field of bidding theory, Schenken is credited with the idea of the forcing two-over-one response, the prepared opening bid, and the weak two bid (however, the last was also a part of Harold Vanderbilt's Vanderbilt Club, so the credits are unclear). Schenken also developed his own strong club system, the Schenken Club, played with Peter Leventritt.
- ACBL Hall of Fame 1966
- IBL World Championship (1) 1935
- Bermuda Bowl (3) 1950, 1951, 1953
- North American Bridge Championships (34)
- Vanderbilt (10) 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1946, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1964
- Asbury Park Trophy (now Spingold) (2) 1933, 1937
- Masters Teams-of-Four (now Spingold) (2) 1934, 1936
- Spingold (8) 1938, 1939, 1943, 1945, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1960
- Chicago (now Reisinger) (2) 1957, 1963
- Reisinger (1) 1968
- Men's Board-a-Match Teams (1) 1949
- Master Mixed Teams (1) 1935
- Life Master Pairs (5) 1931, 1933, 1934, 1941, 1943
- Mixed Pairs (1) 1957
- Master Individual (1) 1932
- United States Bridge Championships (1)
- Open Pair Trials (1) 1964
- Bermuda Bowl (3) 1961, 1963, 1965
- North American Bridge Championships (19)
- Better Bidding in 15 Minutes - Expert Bidding in a Week, Simon and Schuster: New York, 1963.
- Howard Schenken's "Big Club": A Revolutionary, Highly Competitive and Accurate Way to Bid - for Every Bridge Player, Simon and Schuster: New York, 1968.
- The Education of a Bridge Player, Robert Hale: London, 1976.