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Charles Henry Goren (March 4, 1901 – April 3, 1991) was an American bridge player and writer who significantly developed and popularized the game. He was the leading American bridge personality in the 1950s and 1960s – or 1940s and 1950s, as "Mr. Bridge"[a] – as Ely Culbertson had been in the 1930s. Culbertson, Goren, and Harold Vanderbilt were the three people named when The Bridge World inaugurated a bridge "hall of fame" in 1964 and they were made founding members of the ACBL Hall of Fame in 1995.
According to New York Times bridge columnist Alan Truscott, more than 10 million copies of Goren's books were sold. Among them, Point-Count Bidding (1949) "pushed the great mass of bridge players into abandoning Ely Culbertson's clumsy and inaccurate honor-trick method of valuation."
Goren was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Russian Jewish immigrants. He earned a law degree at McGill University in Montreal. While he was attending McGill, a girlfriend (or "a young hostess") laughed at his ineptness at the game of bridge, motivating him to immerse himself in a study of existing bridge materials. (The young hostess laughed in 1922. The game was auction bridge, "which became contract bridge later in the decade".)
When he graduated, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and he practiced law for 13 years in Philadelphia. The growing fame of Ely Culbertson, however, prompted Goren to abandon his original career choice to pursue bridge competitions, where he attracted the attention of Milton Work. Work hired Goren to help with his bridge articles and columns, and eventually Goren began ghostwriting Work's material.
Work was one of numerous strong bridge players based in Philadelphia around the 1920s. He became an extraordinarily successful lecturer and writer on the game and perhaps the first who came to be called its "Grand Old Man". From 1923, the same year Goren graduated from law school, he had popularized the 4–3–2–1 point count system for evaluating balanced hands (now sometimes called the Work count, Work point count, or Work points). His chief assistant Olive Peterson and young Goren established a partnership as players.
Work was the greatest authority on auction bridge, which was generally replaced by contract bridge during the late 1920s. Goren "became Mr. Work's technical assistant at the end of the decade".
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After Milton Work died in 1934, Goren began his own bridge writing career and published the first of his many books on playing bridge, Winning Bridge Made Easy, in 1936. Drawing on his experience with Work's system, Goren quickly became popular as an instructor and lecturer. His subsequent lifetime of contributions to the game have made him one of the most important figures in the history of bridge.
Goren became world champion at the Bermuda Bowl in 1950. Goren's books have sold millions of copies (especially Winning Bridge Made Easy and Contract Bridge Complete); by 1958 his daily bridge column was appearing in 194 American newspapers. He also had a monthly column in McCall's and a weekly column in Sports Illustrated.
His television program, Championship Bridge with Charles Goren, was broadcast from 1959 to 1964 on the ABC network. It featured numerous appearances by top players and segments with celebrity guests such as Chico Marx, Alfred Drake, and Forest Evashevski, among others.
Goren's longest partnership was with Helen Sobel, but he also famously partnered actor Omar Sharif. Sharif also wrote introductions to or co-authored several of Goren's bridge books, and was also co-author of Goren's newspaper column, eventually taking it over in collaboration with Tannah Hirsch.
Point count system
As he continued writing, Goren began to develop his point count system, based on the Milton Work point count, as an improvement over the existing system of counting "honor tricks". Goren, with assistance, formulated a method of combining the Work count, which was based entirely on high cards, and various distributional features. This may well have improved the bidding of intermediate players and beginners almost immediately.
Goren also worked to continue the practice of opening four-card suits, with an occasional three-card club suit when the only four-card suit was a weak major. In this, he was following the practice established by Ely Culbertson in the early 1930s. Later on, he continued this practice, resisting the well-known five-card majors approach that has become a major feature of modern Standard American bidding.
Opening a four-card suit can improve the chances of the partnership identifying a four-four trump fit, and the four-card approach is still used by experts today, notably by most Acol players. It is claimed that the drawback of the four-card approach is that the Law of Total Tricks is more difficult to apply in cases where it is used. However, the five-card majors approach became popular before the Law of Total Tricks was propounded.
In addition to his pioneering work in bringing simple and effective bridge to everyday players, Goren also worked to popularize the Precision bidding method, which is one of many so-called big club or strong club systems (which use an opening bid of one club to indicate a strong hand).
Goren died on April 3, 1991, in Encino, California, at the age of 90. He had lived with his nephew Marvin Goren for 19 years. While few players "play Goren" exactly today, the point-count approach he popularized remains the foundation for most bidding systems.[a]
During the month of Goren's death, Truscott followed his obituary with a bridge column entitled, "Goren leaves behind many fans and a column with an international flavor". His business interests had been "managed by others" since his retirement "a quarter of a century ago", according to Truscott. "The Goren syndicated column now has an international flavor: It carries the bylines of the movie star Omar Sharif, an Egyptian who lives in Paris, and an entrepreneur, Tannah Hirsch, a South African who came to the United States via Israel."
- McKenney Trophy 1937, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951
- Precision Award (Best Article or Series on a System or Convention) 1974
- Bermuda Bowl (1) 1950
- North American Bridge Championships (32)
- Vanderbilt (2) 1944, 1945
- Asbury Park Trophy (now Spingold) (1) 1937
- Spingold (5) 1943, 1947, 1951, 1956, 1960
- Chicago (now Reisinger) (8) 1937, 1938, 1939, 1942, 1943, 1950, 1957, 1963
- Men's Board-a-Match Teams (1) 1952
- Master Mixed Teams (6) 1938, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1948, 1954
- Life Master Pairs (2) 1942, 1958
- Fall National Open Pairs (1) 1940
- Men's Pairs (3) 1938, 1943, 1949
- Rockwell Mixed Pairs (1) 1947
- Hilliard Mixed Pairs (1) 1943
- Master Individual (1) 1945
- Bermuda Bowl (2) 1956, 1957
- North American Bridge Championships (21)
- Winning Bridge Made Easy: a simplified self-teaching method of contract bidding combining all the principles of the new Culbertson system with the principal features of the four aces system (Harrisburg, PA: The Telegraph Press, 1936), 92 pp., LCCN 36-14872
- Better Bridge for Better Players: the play of the cards, introduction by Ely Culbertson, foreword by George S. Kaufman (Doubleday, Doran, 1942), 538 pp. LCCN 42-25653; also known as The Standard Book of Play: better bridge for better players, OCLC 647336
- The earliest British edition in WorldCat records is Better Bridge for Better Players: the standard book of play, intro. Culbertson, fwd. Kauffman (London: Walter Edwards, 1947), OCLC 836591784
- The Standard Book of Bidding (Doubleday, 1944), 299 pp. LCCN 44-9061; (Doubleday, 1947), 310 pp. LCCN 47-3052
- Contract Bridge in a Nutshell (Doubleday, 1946), 128 pp. LCCN 46-6423; at least seven editions to 1986 under the titles Contract Bridge in a Nutshell [CBN], New CBN, Goren's New CBN, or Charles Goren's New CBN
- Contract Bridge Made Easy, a self-teacher (Doubleday, 1948), 95 pp. – "Replaces the author's Winning bridge made easy, first pub. in 1936 and now out of print." LCCN 48-7366
- Point Count Bidding in Contract Bridge. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1949. p. 150. First London edition published by Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1951. Title has been revised and reprinted numerous times to 1984.
- Contract Bridge for Beginners. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc. 1953. p. 152. OCLC 12428312.. First London edition published by Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1959. Title has been reprinted numerous times to 1972.
- with Jack Olsen: Bridge is My Game: Lessons of a Lifetime. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1965. p. 190. LCCN 65022040.. Paperback editions published by Cornerstone Library, NY in 1967 and 1970, pp. 190.
- The New York Times published Alan Truscott's obituary of Goren nine days after his death, as the lead article of page A17 (Obituaries) across five of its six columns. "INSIDE", on page 1 of the same issue, includes the listing:
Charles Goren Dies at 90
He was Mr. Bridge to millions of players and readers who adopted his simplified bidding system. Page A17.
The layout for Truscott's obituary incorporates a two-column box by the staff entitled "Goren on Bridge: Counting Points", which cites New Contract Bridge in Nutshell and Encyclopedia Britannica. Its preface: "Here are the basics of the point-counting system used to bid bridge hands. Although the practice of assigning points to high cards was already in use, Charles H. Goren expanded and popularized the method, which has remained the standard point-counting system."
- The Bridge World monthly magazine, established by Ely Culbertson in 1929, named nine members of its bridge hall of fame including Culbertson from 1964 to 1966, but it never named another. Almost thirty years later, the ACBL established its hall of fame with the Bridge World nine as founding members. It named eight new members in 1995 and has inducted others annually since then.
- Truscott, Alan (April 12, 1991). "Charles Goren, 90, Bridge Expert, Dies". The New York Times. Page A17. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
- Hall of Fame (top page). ACBL. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
- "Induction by Year". Hall of Fame. ACBL. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
- Truscott, Alan (April 15, 1991). "Bridge: Goren leaves behind many fans and a column with an international flavor". The New York Times. Page C14.
- Goren and Olsen (1965), p. 10.
- Truscott, Alan and Dorothy (2004). The New York Times Bridge Book: An Anecdotal History of the Development, Personalities, and Strategies of the World's Most Popular Card Game. Macmillan. Pages 87–88.
- Truscott, Alan (April 21, 1991). "Bridge: An American standard himself, Charles Goren played hands as smoothly as he bid them". The New York Times. Page 61.
- "Goren, Charles". Hall of Fame. ACBL. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
- Bourke and Sugden (2010), pp. 482–83.
- Bourke and Sugden (2010), p. 476.
- Bourke and Sugden (2010), p. 487.
- "Inside". The New York Times. April 12, 1991. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
- Goren, Charles; Olsen, Jack (1965). Bridge is My Life: Lessons of a Lifetime. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. LCCN 65022040.
- Tim, Bourke; Sugden, John (2010). Bridge Books in English from 1886-2010: an annotated bibliography. Cheltenham, England: Bridge Book Buffs. ISBN 978-0-9566576-0-2.
- Citation at the ACBL Hall of Fame
- Charles Goren international record at the World Bridge Federation.
- King of the Aces Time magazine (1958)
- Profile on bridgehands.com
- Turning Tricks: The Rise and Fall of Contract Bridge, by David Owen in The New Yorker
- Charles Goren, biography on bridgebum.com
- Charles Goren on the television program "What's My Line?"
- Charles Goren at Library of Congress Authorities, with 55 catalog records