Albert L. Benjamin nacque il primo Aprile del 1909 a Glasgow, da madre siberiana e da padre scozzese, e lì ha passato tutta la sua lunga vita fin quando non si è spento il 17 gennaio del 2006, dopo essere stato per quasi un secolo, una delle figure più rappresentativa del bridge britannico ed il primo professionista di bridge scozzese.
Dopo aver studiato medicina, nel 1939 si sposò con Judy, socia fondatrice del famoso Ken Muir e una delle sue partner preferite fin quando non scomparve prematuramente nel 1968.
Durante la seconda guerra mondiale fu guidatore di ambulanza nella Difesa Civile e poco dopo la fine del conflitto, con i proventi delle vincite a poker, fondò assieme alla moglie a Glasgow, il "Ken Muir Bridge Club", dove si sono formati campioni del calibro di Rosenberg, Coyle, Shenkin, Silverstone e Goldberg.
Scrittore, articolista e teorico, è ben noto per aver ideato il "Benji" ed il "Reverse Benji", due sistemi licitativi ispirati all'ACOL ed enormemente diffusi in Gran Bretagna.
La sua rubrica "Il leone del Nord" gli ha dato fama internazionale e la sua capacità di raccontare un'infinità di storie di bridge, lo faceva considerare da tutti i giocatori scozzesi una vera e propria enciclopedia vivente.
His “Benjaminised Acol” or simply “Benji” (and arguably more popular “Reverse Benji”) was soon adopted throughout Britain at club level. It remains one of the most popular bidding systems to this day, although many modern players who use it have no idea who this “Benji” is.
Albert Benjamin, “Lion of the North” (as a collection of his bridge columns was titled), was born in 1909 and, though no fool, he loved to jest. He was one of the great raconteurs and jokers in the game of bridge, and could speak for hours, regaling entranced audiences with such stories as the time he fell asleep at the bridge table. It was perhaps surprising that he should doze off when he did, for it was the 1964 England-Scotland match, and Scotland — whose team had never won — was level with just a few deals remaining.
A poke in the ribs by the scorer woke him up with a start, whereupon his reflex reaction was to say “no bid”. The problem was that it was not his turn to speak (and furthermore he had a good hand). The bad news was that, with a penalty resulting from his infraction, a poor result ensued. The good news was that his Scottish team-mates scored 2,200 points, a huge score, on the same deal in the other room. This ensured a big swing to Scotland and, ultimately, the match.
Benjamin lived in Glasgow all his life, but his mother was born in Siberia and his father Sweden. His education was of a scientific bent. His mother had, as he put it, the “my son, the doctor” syndrome, and he was somewhat pushed into studying medicine at Glasgow University.
It was at university that he discovered bridge, which effectively put paid to any medical career. He was soon immersed in the game, both through playing and journalism, and he wrote a daily bridge column from 1937 to 1976.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Benjamin married Judy, with whom he enjoyed much success at the bridge table until her death in 1986.
During the war Benjamin was drafted into the ambulance service. The pay was just £3 per week and so, with a wife and mortgage to support, he became a professional poker player. He paid another ambulance man to take over his night shift and made a small fortune, with 47 winning months out of 48. Yet he regarded poker as the most boring and soul-destroying of card games.
After the war Benjamin resumed his bridge playing and writing, and also opened “Benjamin’s” (actually the Ken Muir Bridge Club) on the outskirts of Glasgow. It was there that he inspired the young prodigies Michael Rosenberg and Barnet Shenkin, both now professional players living in the US.
Benjamin loved to play with young players and bring them on, and he was always a true gentleman at the bridge table. He will be sorely missed. His bidding system (though he disliked using it himself) will live on.