There are some bridge combinations that most players shun, at least when possible. One of these is the so-called Moyesian or 4-3 trump fit.

The result is that there are bidding systems that require "five card majors" just to avoid such Moyesian fits. But are there successful, world-class partnerships that court these, or other "unpopular" situations that everyone "knows about" but few want to play?

I remember reading that one backgammon player became a world champion by pioneering "back" games (which were originally unpopular). Has a similar thing happened from time to time in bridge?

  • Is that backgammon player perhaps Oswald Jacoby? He was a darn good bridge player in his time, as was his son. Jul 26, 2015 at 23:37
  • @PieterGeerkens: I don't think so, but I'm not sure. I certainly wouldn't rule it out. Good bridge teacher, too.
    – Tom Au
    Jul 26, 2015 at 23:38

2 Answers 2


Barry Crane (originally Barry Cohen, the Detroit Demon) dominated many aspects of North American bridge for decades playing a system of weak openings and early exits from the auction. This was the antithesis of the systems being expounded by teachers such as Culbertson and Goren, which revolved around sound openings to assist average players in making their contracts, even if they often underbid.

Wealthy enough to be a client and strong enough to compete against the best, Crane inspired strong feelings, pro and con, amongst the North American bridge elite; but few dared cross him because it was nearly impossible to win the McKenney trophy without his patronage.

Noted most for his superb match-point play, Crane's systems revolved around opening 4-card heart suits in order to buy as many contracts as possible in 2H, but opening 1Spade required 5 cards. In consequence he was probably an even more ardent exponent of Moysian fits then Alphonse (Sonny) Moyse was.

It is still possible to find compilations of Crane's bidding system and ruminations on the web.

The post of Grant Baze's memories of Barry., on that final link, are priceless. One oft repeated story is the following:

Jeff Meckstroth went one better. He played with Barry in a two session regional event just because he thought he should play at least once with “Mr. McKinney.” At the end of the event Jeff tore their convention card into ribbons and threw the pieces at Barry, making it very clear that he would never play with Barry again.

Yes, that is the very same Jeff Meckstroth who has had almost as much influence on the bridge world, since Crane's murder, as Crane himself did.

And just for you Tom, because I know you love rulessuch as these:

But back to the bidding dictums for a moment. Allegedly, among locals in SoCal, he[Crane] mandated “Double at match points (for penalty) in pass-out seat after an opening 2NT.”

I rather doubt that but maybe others could shed more light.

I have done quick and dirty simulations – finding about 52-55% conversion rate. Maybe others can chip in.

Ed: I think the statement is correct, but incomplete – after “pass out seat”, add “4 hcp's or less”, the rationale being that partner holds 11+ hcp behind declarer.


It happens all the time. I play standard methods with some partners and an unpopular one (Kaplan-Sheinwold, featuring a 12-14 1NT opener) with others. All my national and international successes have come playing KS.

There are several possible reasons for this. Some proponents of unpopular systems would like us to believe that the system is inherently superior, but I don't think that's sustainable. Bridge players are rational, and if a system were truly superior it would likely be more popular, especially long term. Another possibility is that I'm more comfortable playing my preferred methods, and I play better accordingly.

There is a third reason that would apply at any level, especially at matchpoints. An unpopular system will increase the variance of a partnership's scores. If one wants to win more often then it's better to have a mix of 60% and 40% games rather than consistently score 50% or so. In fact a random 60/40 mix would win more often than a consistent 55%.

  • Welcome - it's nice to see such an accomplished bridge player on the site. Is K-S truly unpopular though? Certainly I have had several opportunities to play it over the years, but have not had the time to devote to the game over the past 20 years. Jul 28, 2015 at 22:20
  • It seems unpopular to me! Besides Doug Doub and me, at the top level only Martel and Stansby played it, and they split up a few years ago. I seldom encounter it in Regionals or in NABC play. Jul 31, 2015 at 5:08
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    If you're interested in the system please check out the K-S mailing list. You can view content or sign up at groups.google.com/d/forum/kaplan-sheinwold Jul 31, 2015 at 5:12

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