September 2020 - 12

The Rise and Fall of the Precision Team
Peter Weichsel looks back at the wild, improbable success of the Big-Club giant killers
BY PETER WEICHSEL AND PAUL LINXWILER

Fifty years ago, the bridge world witnessed the appearance of a young team of players who - despite not being
considered first-tier talent - bested the top squads of the
era. Additionally, the upstarts employed new methods - the
Precision Club system - in their surprising but convincing
run of victories, which spanned the brief window from 1970
to 1972.
The Precision Team, as it came to be called, included
Steven Altman, Thomas M. Smith, Joel Stuart and Peter
Weichsel. David Strasberg was a fifth member of the squad
in 1970, but he was replaced by Eugene Neiger in 1971. In
1972, Alan Sontag joined the team as a sixth member.
Despite their short tenure at the top, the team influenced
the course of expert bridge by popularizing big-club methods, thereby making the system one of the most common in
the world.
The rise of the relatively unknown Precision Team
roughly coincided with that of the well-known super-team,
the Aces. The squad of Bobby Wolff, Bob Hamman, Mike
Lawrence, Bobby Goldman, Billy Eisenberg and Jim Jacoby
was put together by Dallas-based businessman Ira Corn,
who recruited the top talent in the U.S. for the purpose of
wresting the Bermuda Bowl trophy from the Italian Blue

The Precision Team in 1971: (top) Peter Weichsel, Steve Altman, Tom
Smith; (seated) Eugene Neiger, Joel Stuart

12 Bridge Bulletin September 2020

Team, the squad that had monopolized the world championship for a decade.
According to Weichsel:
While the Aces were starting to dominate the national bridge
scene, winning the Spingold in 1969, I and some of the other
young players were making our presence felt in the Northeast.
However, the Aces were dealt a major blow in the 1969 Bermuda Bowl by losing to an unheralded Taiwanese team in the
semifinal. The Taiwanese were playing a strong-club system
known as Precision, largely developed by Chinese shipbuilding magnate C.C. Wei. Whether it was the system, fate or undiagnosed talent is unclear, but Wei believed it was the system.
C.C. and his wife Kathie were bridge impresarios. He and
Kathie subsequently moved to NYC, and C.C. was determined
to promote his system in the U.S. His plan was to hire some
younger players, largely not well known on the national front,
who could, hopefully, come to prominence playing his system.
He could then contend that it was the system that promoted
the good results we obtained.
I am not exactly sure how the drafting process worked, but
the team came to be me, Joel Stuart (my suggestion), Steve
Altman (a contemporary and a very good player), Tom Smith
(whom I had been playing with in some tournaments), and
Dave Strasberg. Strasberg was the outlier on the team. He
was a good player from the area, who we knew well. But he
was 10-15 years older than everybody else, and I honestly
don't know how he came to be on the team. C.C. hired us all
at a somewhat nominal rate, and constrained us to be fivehanded, even though this was not a good idea. A high-level
team should consist of three strong partnerships who can
rotate in and out of the lineup so as not to suffer the exhaustion
caused by playing all the time, particularly in the late stages of
a national or world championship event.
I must say this was quite a collection: I, the hippie with long
hair, bell-bottoms and beads and other trinkets; Tom, a very
professorial-looking, straightlaced guy; Altman, a sartorial
business-looking type, who had a successful job; Stuart, a
bridge-club owner, who was the most average-looking one;
and Strasberg, who I believe was something of a professional
bridge player. He was a wild-looking guy who was well known
for getting into outrageous arguments with his wife, Helen,
whom he played with a lot.
The Weis had a beautiful apartment on the east side of Manhattan, where we would go to learn the system and practice
a good amount. We spent most of the first half of 1970 learning and practicing. The system itself was pretty basic, other
than being based on a strong club opening and a 13-15 1NT,
which we later discarded and went back to strong notrumps.
The concept of a strong club was primarily unknown at that
time in the U.S., but it was a truly sound idea. Other than us
and the Aces, almost no one in America was playing a strong
club at that time, despite the fact that it was quite popular in
the rest of the world. The biggest advantage was that Ameri-



September 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September 2020

In First Seat - Paul Linxwiler
Inbox -Letters to the Editor
A Message from the President
The Recruiter King
The Rise and Fall of the Precision Team
Eyes on the Street
BBO Helpdesk
NABC Robot Individual
Play the Cards You're Dealt
Endless Summer Results
Defensive Maneuvers – part 4
Ruling the Game
The Bidding Box
It's Your Call
Card Play 101 - by Phillip Alder
Parrish the Thought - Adam Parrish
Reasoning with Robert - Robert Todd
Startup Bridge by Lynn Berg
Lessons Learned by Michael Berkowitz
Bidding Basics by Larry Cohen
Ask Jerry - by Jerry Helms
Mike's Bridge Lesson - Mike Lawrence
Chalk Talk- Eddie Kantar
Boehm on Bridge
Better Bridge with Bergen-Marty Bergen
Challenge of the Month
The Real Deal - by Larry Cohen
West Hands -Bidding Box
Bidding Matters - by Karen Walker
East Hands -Bidding Box
Test Your Play
Mike's Advice - by Mike Lawrence
Solutions to Test Your Play
My Bridge and Yours - by Frank Stewart
Dear Billy - by Billy Miller
Bridge with the Abbot - by David Bird
George's World - by George Jacobs
Life Master Milestones
New Life Masters
Puzzle Page
In Memoriam
Obituary - Sue Erwin (1943-2020)
Obituary - Clint Wright (1944-2020)
Obituary - Norma Sands (1938-2020)
Obituary - Carol Aitken (190-2020)
Obituary - Carol Linch (1935-2020)
Obituary - Barbara Hamman (1937-2020)
Obituary - Maria Teresa Lavazza (1937-2020)
Obituary - janet P. Breed (1935-2020)
Tournament Directory
September 2020 - 1
September 2020 - 2
September 2020 - 3
September 2020 - 4
September 2020 - 5
September 2020 - In First Seat - Paul Linxwiler
September 2020 - Inbox -Letters to the Editor
September 2020 - 8
September 2020 - A Message from the President
September 2020 - The Recruiter King
September 2020 - 11
September 2020 - The Rise and Fall of the Precision Team
September 2020 - 13
September 2020 - 14
September 2020 - 15
September 2020 - 16
September 2020 - 17
September 2020 - Eyes on the Street
September 2020 - 19
September 2020 - BBO Helpdesk
September 2020 - 21
September 2020 - NABC Robot Individual
September 2020 - Play the Cards You're Dealt
September 2020 - Endless Summer Results
September 2020 - 25
September 2020 - 26
September 2020 - 27
September 2020 - 28
September 2020 - Defensive Maneuvers – part 4
September 2020 - Ruling the Game
September 2020 - 31
September 2020 - The Bidding Box
September 2020 - 33
September 2020 - 34
September 2020 - 35
September 2020 - It's Your Call
September 2020 - 37
September 2020 - 38
September 2020 - 39
September 2020 - Card Play 101 - by Phillip Alder
September 2020 - Parrish the Thought - Adam Parrish
September 2020 - Reasoning with Robert - Robert Todd
September 2020 - Startup Bridge by Lynn Berg
September 2020 - Lessons Learned by Michael Berkowitz
September 2020 - Bidding Basics by Larry Cohen
September 2020 - 46
September 2020 - Ask Jerry - by Jerry Helms
September 2020 - Mike's Bridge Lesson - Mike Lawrence
September 2020 - Chalk Talk- Eddie Kantar
September 2020 - Boehm on Bridge
September 2020 - Better Bridge with Bergen-Marty Bergen
September 2020 - Challenge of the Month
September 2020 - West Hands -Bidding Box
September 2020 - Bidding Matters - by Karen Walker
September 2020 - Test Your Play
September 2020 - Mike's Advice - by Mike Lawrence
September 2020 - Solutions to Test Your Play
September 2020 - My Bridge and Yours - by Frank Stewart
September 2020 - Dear Billy - by Billy Miller
September 2020 - Bridge with the Abbot - by David Bird
September 2020 - George's World - by George Jacobs
September 2020 - Life Master Milestones
September 2020 - 63
September 2020 - New Life Masters
September 2020 - Puzzle Page
September 2020 - Obituary - Clint Wright (1944-2020)
September 2020 - Obituary - Barbara Hamman (1937-2020)
September 2020 - 68
September 2020 - Obituary - janet P. Breed (1935-2020)
September 2020 - 70
September 2020 - Tournament Directory
September 2020 - 72
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