Before his brutal murder in 1985 (which was never solved), Barry Crane was considered the best matchpoint player in the world. He had the most ACBL masterpoints, and it wasn't until six years after his death that Paul Soloway overtook him. Crane won the McKenney Trophy, given to the player who wins the most masterpoints in a given year, six times. It's now known as the Barry Crane Top 500.
Crane won all his masterpoints basically as a weekend player. During the week, he was a television director and producer. Mannix and Mission Impossible are two of the better known shows he was connected with. He was also credited with directing numerous episodes of such series as Trapper John, M.D., The Incredible Hulk, Hawaii Five-O, CHiPs, Dallas and Wonder Woman.
Crane would work during the week, then fly on the weekend to whichever regional tournament that appealed to him. He had partners scattered around the U.S. Back in those days, they didn't have a bunch of different events. On Saturday was the Open Pairs, on Sunday the Swiss Teams. The fields were huge, and, every weekend he would win at least one of the events, or so it seemed.
There are many highlights to his bridge career, but winning the World Mixed Pairs in 1978 with Kerry Shuman Sanborn might have been the best. They demolished the international field, winning by five boards!
Crane had an aggressive bidding style. He wasn't as effective in long IMP matches because he refused to shift gears. With Crane, it was his way or else. I remember this at a regional tournament: He was playing with Gunther Polak who's from Chicago. I didn't hear the conversation, but after the afternoon session, Polak must have said something that Crane didn't like. Crane took their convention card and tore it to shreds, and then tossed in on the table.
Crane had lots of rules. He didn't believe in taking saves. He always said: "Only Jesus saves." Also, with a nine-card fit missing the queen, he believed in cashing a high honor, then finessing (most people play for the drop).
When I ask people to give me a Barry Crane story, they invariably want to give me a bridge deal that they played against him,espcially if they had a good result. It's like playing golf with Tiger Woods. Suppose you shot 82 and he shot 68. If you beat him on only one hole, that would be the highlight of your day. The same thing with Crane at bridge.
Guess what? I'm the same way. One of my favorite hands of all time was against Crane. You hold:
♠Q 8 3 ♥A K Q 10 6 5 ♦A 2 ♣K 3.
With none vulnerable, my partner, Jeff Sparks, passed. Crane opened 2♠ -- what would you bid?
I tried 3NT. Q 8 3 of spades is a dangerous holding playing in hearts. Partner was a passed hand, so we weren't going to miss slam, and he rated to have a few values. It passed out, and my left-hand opponent, Tommy Sanders, led the ♠K. These were all four hands (low cards approximate):
♠ A 4 2
♥ J 8 2
♦ 10 8 5
♣ Q J 10 5
♠ K 7 ♠ J 10 9 6 5
♥ 7 4 ♥ 9 3
♦ Q 9 7 6 4 3 ♦ K J
♣ A 6 2 ♣ 9 8 7 4
♠ Q 8 3
♥ A K Q 10 6 5
♦ A 2
♣ K 3
I won the ♠A, drove out the ♣A and claimed 12 tricks! Needless to say, this was a top.
Did any of you readers play against Crane? Do you have any stories? If so, leave in the comment section.