Easley Blackwood was a power in contract bridge and the American Contract Bridge League for more than 60 years. His fertile 30-year-old mind spawned ideas and innovations about the game and, as a respected elder statesman in his 70s and 80s, he was still collecting the many honors and accolades the game has to bestow.
As a writer, teacher, lecturer, administrator and innovator, Blackwood has name recognition throughout the world. His name became a household word because one of his early inventions, an ace-asking bid that became known as the Blackwood convention, caught on like wildfire with the rank and file players while confounding the experts.
He played bridge, he wrote about bridge, he taught bridge, and he directed bridge games in his own studio and aboard many cruise ships. A legendary storyteller, he was one of the game’s most popular lecturers.
One of his greatest contributions came in 1967 when he was persuaded to take the job of executive secretary and general manager of ACBL. His long experience in the business world was put to work to save a declining ACBL during the three years he served in this position.
Blackwood put the ACBL on a sound financial basis and worked out a revision of the masterpoint plan for tournaments and clubs, correcting inequities that had existed for years. He gained the admiration, respect and gratitude of the headquarters staff, of the Board of Directors and of ACBL members everywhere.
He is still best known, however, for his “little ace-asking convention.” Six decades after Blackwood submitted his brainchild to Ely Culbertson’s magazine, The Bridge World – and was turned down – it is still the game’s best known convention. The Bridge World responded, “While the suggestion is a good one, the 4NT bid will remain informative rather than interrogative . . .”
The convention, however, caught on from player to player and was soon widespread throughout the bridge-playing world. In 1949 Culbertson gave up and said, when a pair announced it was playing the Culbertson System, it should be assumed the Blackwood convention was being played.
The voice of the people had prevailed over the voice of the experts. The Blackwood convention appeared in 17 different languages and 57 books by the time Blackwood published the convention in his own Bridge Humanics in 1949.
Blackwood was born in Birmingham AL in 1903 and went to work as a clerk with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company at the age of 17. At 26 he was made manager of the Decatur IL office. In 1930 he was transferred to Indianapolis , where he managed the Metropolitan office for 34 years.
After his early retirement in 1964, Blackwood established a plush bridge club in Indianapolis and enjoyed a gratifying career as lecturer, teacher and bridge cruise conductor.
He already found time to write several bridge books, a lot of magazine articles and a syndicated daily newspaper column. His monthly column on basic bridge appeared in the Bulletin for almost two decades and formed the basis for his 1978 tome, Play of the Hand with Blackwood.
In 1980 he was elected ACBL Honorary Member of the Year. He was a longtime member of the National Goodwill Committee and the National Laws Commission. He was Honorary Member of the American Bridge Teachers’ Association in 1978. In 1984 he received the International Bridge Press Association’s Personality of the Year Award.