Henry Goren (March 4, 1901 – April 3, 1991) was a famous bridge
player, writer and popularizer.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Russian immigrants. He
earned a law degree at McGill University in Montreal. It was at McGill
that a girlfriend laughed at his ineptness at the game of bridge, after
which he vowed never to be made fun of again. He began studying the
game of bridge intensely, reading every book available at the time on
bidding and playing strategies.
When he graduated, he briefly attempted a law career in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, Ely Culbertson was becoming rich and famous from the game
of contract bridge, and Goren abandoned his original career choice to
pursue bridge competitions, where he attracted the attention of Milton
Work, who had developed the Work Point Count System. Goren began helping
Work with his bridge articles and columns and, eventually, ghost-writing
some of the material.
When Goren struck out on his own, his experience with Work's system
and with writing about bridge allowed him to quickly become popular
as an instructor and lecturer. In 1936, he published the first of what
would be many books on playing bridge, Winning Bridge Made Easy.
In the course of his writing he made extensive use of Work's system.
Previously, bridge players assessed their hands by counting 'honor tricks'.
The high card point count system was a large step forward in bridge
theory because it was easy to apply. Aces were assigned a value of four
points; kings, three; queens, two and jacks, one point. A hand containing
thirteen points was considered to be an opening bid.
Of course, hand distribution can add a great deal to a hand's value
and so various systems to assess that have been applied over the years.
Voids become very useful when there is trump agreement and so a void
in the responding hand was counted as five points and a singleton as
Another feature of the Goren system was opening four card suits. An
approach known as 'five card majors' has become very popular as a major
feature of Standard American bidding. As the name suggests a bidder
using that system promises five cards in the suit by bidding one Heart
or one Spade.
There is much merit in Goren's four card opening approach, though, and
many experts still use it. Any method that uncovers a four-four trump
fit is very useful. 'Five card major' bidders sometimes use negative
doubles to find four-four trump fits. The advantage of 'Five card majors'
is when the opponents bid. Following the Law of Total Tricks is a lot
easier in a 'Five card majors' system.
Bridge is an evolving game and many styles and new approaches have been
developed over the years. Few people would say that they play 'Goren'
now. That takes nothing away from the great skill and competitive spirit
that made Charles Goren one of the foremost bridge players of his day.
Goren died in Encino, California, at the age of 90.
bridge authority whose innovative system of point-count bidding and
repeated successes in tournaments made him one of the world's most famous
and influential players.
Goren studied law
at McGill University in Montreal (LL.M., 1923) and practiced law in
Philadelphia for 13 years. He had begun playing auction bridge while
a student at McGill, and by the early 1930s he had become an expert
on its successor, contract bridge. He developed point-count bidding,
a simplified system of valuating one's hand in which points are assigned
to both high cards and short suits. Goren's system, which improved on
that of Milton Work, enabled even novices to evaluate their hands accurately
and make realistic bids, thus revolutionizing the game. Goren elaborated
his system in the book Winning Bridge Made Easy (1936), and his numerous
tournament victories publicized it so much that he was able to give
up practicing law. In the 1940s he became a popular syndicated bridge
columnist, later in conjunction with Omar Sharif. Goren's activities
and writings helped bring contract bridge to a peak of popularity beginning
in the 1940s. His other books include Contract Bridge in a Nut Shell
(1946, 1959), Point Count Bidding in Contract Bridge (1949), and Goren's
Bridge Complete (1963), which was widely translated. Goren was the American
bridge champion numerous times and also lectured and gave bridge commentaries
Goren, Charles Henry , 1901–91, American expert on bridge, b.
Philadelphia, grad. McGill Univ., 1922. Goren played bridge as a law
student and by 1931 was competing in major tournaments. He wrote the
first of his many books on bridge, Winning Bridge Made Easy, in 1936
and shortly thereafter gave up his law practice to teach bridge, write
additional books, and play in tournaments. He won the world championship
(1950) and 28 U.S. titles (including two ties) and became one of the
nation's leading experts on the game. His books and syndicated articles
made his point-count bidding system the most popular in bridge.