Al Roth was a player who fell in love with “the beauty of bidding” is generally considered the premier bidding theorist of his bridge generation.
Alvin Roth is credited with developing the negative double, the unusual notrump, 1NT forcing and the weak two-bid.
Roth became a sound bidder because poor results bothered him. Besides, he was “a poor boy from the Bronx” who couldn’t afford to lose at rubber bridge.
There’s a story that Roth once misbid a hand. He endured the teasing of fellow experts and finally retorted, “Well, Babe Ruth struck out, too.” Afterwards, he was known as Babe Roth.
’The Babe’ and Tobias Stone co-authored the Roth-Stone system — five-card majors, forcing 1NT, weak preemptive bids — the forerunner of today’s “Standard American.”
Stone, who retired from active competition in the Seventies, said the two played with and against the best players.
Roth, Stone said, was “just tremendous in every department of the game. There was no player like him. He lived the game and he loved the game.”
Roth and Stone began developing their system in the Forties and in 1952, Roth-Stone players — including Roth, Stone, Harold Harkavy, Edith Freilich and Anne Burnstein — won the Reisinger, the Master Mixed Teams and the Mixed Pairs.
Roth and Stone were the first Americans to win the Deauville Invitation Pair event — with a record-breaking 82% game.
Roth, an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 12,000 masterpoints, won 26 national titles — including the Spingold five times, the Vanderbilt three times and the Reisinger twice.
Roth was well known for his one-man panel shows at tournaments. At a mid-Atlantic tournament in the Sixties, moderator Jerry Machlin told him to talk about an hour.
Roth claimed he couldn’t fill the hour unless he was asked a lot of questions. A member of the audience yelled, “Why did we lose to the Italians?”
That was the one and only question. If an afternoon session hadn’t been scheduled, Roth might be talking yet.
He represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1955, 1958 and 1967.
A WBF Life Master, he placed second in the World Team Olympiad in 1968.
During his first world championship appearance, Roth was declaring a 2*S* contract and felt he played the hand before — but as a defender.
The director, Al Sobel, did not believe him since the hands had been dealt at the table. Sobel, made Roth call out all the cards in each hand — including the spots — before he threw out the board.
No one ever discovered how this happened.
Roth retired from active bridge competition in the Seventies but remained active as a staff member of Bridge Today and on panels of The Bridge World, Bridge Today and AustralianBridge.
He was the author of The Roth-Stone System, Al Roth on Bridge and Picture Bidding and co-author of Bridge Is a Partnership Game, Modern Bridge Complete and Bridge for Beginners.
Roth retired to Boca Raton FL, but was a longtime resident of New York , where he owned and managed the Mayfair Club.