Contract bridge as we know it today began in 1925 when Harold Vanderbilt refined the rules of an earlier version of the game — auction bridge. ACBL traces its history from the American Auction Bridge League, which was created in Hanover NH at the 1927 congress (tournament) of the American Whist League.
Contract bridge was introduced at the second congress, held in Cleveland in 1928, during which the infant organization acquired the services of William E. McKenney, whose originality, drive and organizational ability did much to establish ACBL.
The increased popularity of contract bridge led to the name change to American Bridge League in 1929. A merger of this group with the United States Bridge Association was effected in 1937, with McKenney, first named executive secretary in 1929, remaining at the helm of the organization until 1947.
ACBL membership grew spectacularly from the 270 who joined the American Auction Bridge League to more than 15,000 at its 20th birthday in 1947. Following the 1956 merger with the Pacific Bridge League (PBL), which became ACBL’s Western Division, growth accelerated to 170,000 in 1970 and approached 200,000 in 1993. Membership currently stands at just over 167,000.
Two major forces in ACBL’s growth are the Masterpoint Plan and the Rankings, both of which were important considerations in ACBL’s consolidation with USBA and the PBL.
Over the years the ACBL has had many homes. After being housed in New York City since its inception, it moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1967. This became the sole home of the ACBL when the Western office was closed in 1968. When the Board of Directors decided that the organization should be located somewhere near the center of the United States because so much of its business was shipping, the ACBL was moved to Memphis, Tennessee late in 1972. A building constructed specifically for the ACBL was built at 2200 Democrat Road. However, because of additional member services and programs, the ACBL outgrew this location and moved to 2990 Airways address in 1989. In 2010 ACBL relocated to its current address in Horn Lake MS.
Bridge, the ultimate partnership game, is a game of skill, communication and infinite possibilities. Millions of people worldwide play and enjoy the competitive aspects of tournament or “duplicate” bridge. In duplicate bridge, the same hands are played by the field, eliminating much of the luck of the deal.
Bridge is played using a standard deck of 52 cards dealt equally among four players. The players bid in a coded language to describe their hands to their partners and then play to make their contract. Generally, one suit is determined as “trump,” leading to the expression, “Play your trump card.” Duplicate contract bridge, in which each competitor or team plays identical hands under similar conditions, is the main form of competitive bridge.
ACBL members receive masterpoints for winning and placing in club and tournament games as they strive to advance through the ranks. There are a required number of masterpoints for each of 14 categories — Rookie (0-5 points) to Grand Life Master (10,000 points).