Eddie Kantar: An all-time great bridge who will be sorely missed – The Royal Gazette

Big personality: Bridge great Eddie Cantar, who died last month at the age of 89 (Photograph courtesy of the American Contract Bridge League)

Before arriving at the column, the men’s and women’s pairs championships will take place on Saturday, May 21, with two sessions in the morning and afternoon. Registration numbers have been quite low so far and Bridge Club is looking for more pairs to enter – lunch will be provided and celebratory drinks are usually provided by the winners, so it should be an enjoyable day. Join the Club or email Wendy Gray at [email protected]

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that one of the greatest personalities to ever grace our game, Eddie Kantar, passed away on April 8th. I had the chance to meet Eddie, play bridge against him and also compete against him in a great game of table tennis, a sport in which he also excelled. Eddie was talented, incredibly funny, a wonderful communicator and teacher, and one of the nicest men in the game – he was universally loved and respected.

I can do no better than to reproduce here an obituary prepared by Jon Carruthers of Canada with the assistance of the ACBL Hall of Fame, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Timesthe 1975 World Championship book and Wikipedia.


With a deep sense of mourning and loss, I regret to acknowledge that the great Eddie Kantar passed away this morning at the age of 89. Eddie, I can’t find the right words. You were simply the best.

Eddie Kantar was quick to move from freezing Minneapolis to balmy Venice Beach in Southern California after graduating from the University of Minnesota. He found the beaches of the Pacific Ocean much nicer than Minnesota’s 10,000 frozen lakes. Besides being one of the greatest bridge players of all time, Eddie was an accomplished table tennis, racquetball and paddle tennis player.

To date, he is the only person to have participated in the World Bridge Championships and the World Table Tennis Championship. He achieved much better results at the World Bridge Championships. He was inducted into the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame in 1996, the same year he was inducted into the Minnesota State Table Tennis Hall of Fame. In 2018 he was also inducted into the National Paddle Tennis Hall of Fame. Other achievements were the Sidney Lazard Sportsmanship Award and the Precision Award for Best Convention or System Paper.

Eddie’s victories are too numerous to list: there have been 17 North American Bridge Championships, with several victories in each of Vanderbilt, Spingold and Reisinger, the top three ACBL events, three USBF Trials victories and two at the Bermuda Bowl. He also won a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1977 and the Maccabiah Games in 1981. Eddie was arguably the greatest player/writer/teacher of all time.

Others can match him as a player and/or as a writer, but not for all three categories. He was loved for his self-deprecating humor and many of his 35 books are classics, especially Kantar’s comprehensive defensive play. He was a regular on many auction forums, the ACBL Bulletin and other bridge magazines. He was for years the bridge editor of Sports Illustrated magazine when this weekly periodical had a bridge column.

Kantar studied languages ​​at the University of Minnesota and was fluent in French and Spanish, with a working knowledge of a few others. He was constantly in demand as a lecturer/relay teacher around the world. During a stint in the US Army, Eddie was teaching bridge to a class in Germany, so he taught in German. “Even though the students only spoke German, at the end of the lesson they were begging me to teach in English,” Eddie recalls.

Eddie has had successful bridge partnerships with Marshall Miles, Bob Hamman, Billy Eisenberg and Alan Sontag. His partnership with Hamman resulted in the finest piece ever published in the ACBL Bulletin, entitled Robert’s Rules. It had nothing to do with the rules of the order of Robert (Henry M. Robert, 1876), but with the rules that Robert’s partners had to follow when playing with him. The rules testify to Kantar’s wonderful sense of humor.

They are:

Robert’s Rules

Rule 1: If you have a choice of more than one bid and one of the choices is three no trumps, bid three no trumps.

Rule 2: Don’t play me for the perfect hand; I never to see her.

Rule 3: If everyone at the table seems to be joking, trust them, not me.

Rule 4: When considering a slam, always subtract a king from what I feel like I have before bidding on the slam.

Rule 5: Be practical.

Rule 6: Do the right thing.

Kantar pointed out that the rules offered no guidance on what to do when they conflicted with each other. Had he lost four in a ridiculous three-way no-trump contract, Eddie would have been charged with breaking any or all of the other rules, especially the catch-all rule 6. Kantar and Hamman dissolved their partnership after failing to coming first or second in the 1969 Bermuda Bowl, the first time a North American representative team had failed to do so at that time.

It’s unusual for a great player’s most famous deal to be a disaster, but that was the case with Eddie. It happened in the 1975 Bermuda Bowl final, edged 92 of 96, with Italy leading North America 195-183. The North Americans had started the setup with 25 IMPs, but were down to 12 by that time. Here is the infamous case of Figure 1.

(Ezekiel: It is perhaps the most famous hand ever played in the history of bridge – I had just arrived on the island in 1975 and watched it live on Vugraph at the Southampton Princess, where the tension was at its height throughout the match – the bidding is long and complex but it all added to the drama.)

Figure 1

For auctions, see Figure 2.

Figure 2

1. Precision: 11-15, 6+ clubs or 5+ clubs and a 4-card major

2. Relay: request an offer

3. 4-card spade suit

4. 5+ hearts, forcing play

5. An offer to play

6. Club Slam Test

7. Diamond control, definitely king or ace, given the 3NT offer

8. Declarative-interrogative, shows two aces and more interest

9. Confirms control of the first round diamond, in this case the Ace, and shows interest in a grand slam 10. Heart control.

11. First round cardiac check.

12. Generally a control; here, Garozzo deemed her outfit worthy.

13. Grand Slam Trial.

When Garozzo offered seven clubs, Kantar thought, “God isn’t an Italian after all” as he expected Club Ace to be on his right. Kantar drove a heart, then came the shock of seeing Garozzo’s dummy. Belladonna cut the heart, led a club to the queen, cashed in the ace of clubs and claimed over 2140 and 12 IMPs. Incredibly lucky as the clubs had to be exactly Kx with East.

There was a ruckus after that hand and a ton of analysis – What would have happened if Kantar had played king of clubs in the first round of the suit (which he admitted never occurred to him in the first round of the suit) mind) ? Belladonna, when asked what he would have done, replied afterwards, “The North Americans would be world champions today.”

Belladonna would have played to win over Eisenberg’s ten-fourth of clubs, eventually losing a trick to Kantar’s ten of trumps. That would have won 17 IMPs for North America, a swing of 29 IMPs, and would have been one of the greatest defensive trades of all time. The final score of the match was Italy 214 – North America 189, a margin of 25 IMP.


Great article by JC – we ended up with a bridge hand which in some ways is good but on some levels it’s not because Eddie’s stature in the game comes from so many other places. His book on defense is a classic and everything he wrote had a distinctive “Kantar” flavor. He will be greatly missed personally and in the bridge world.


Friday, May 6

1. Molly Taussig – John Glynn

2. Marge Way – Jane Smith

3. Judy Bussell-Charles Hall

Monday May 9

1. Molly Taussig – Charles Hall

2. Diana Diel – Dorry Lusher

3. Marge Road – Gill Butterfield

tuesday 10 may

1. Malcolm Moseley–Mark Stevens

2. Rosemary Smith – Jean Schilling

3. Sarah Bowers – Stuart Clare

Wednesday May 11

1. Joyce Pearson-Joe Wakefield

2. Tracy Nash – Nashes

3/4. Lynanne Bolton – Peter Donnellan

3/4. Molly Taussig – Tony Saunders

Thursday May 12

1. Elizabeth McKee – Linda Pollet

2. Jane Smith–Peter Donnellan

3. Martha Ferguson – Judy King

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