The dictionary definition might well define the term as " a malicious and underhand action ". Usually associated with covert and unethical behaviour in the fields of both politics and corporate business, it inevitably involves the unscrupulous practice of exposing a scandal about an opponent, purely with a view to generate adverse publicity. This strategy, if it all goes to plan, causes immense ( often permanent ) damage to the enemy's reputation, status and objectives. Even when the allegations are proved false, irreparable damage has been done.
So when and where did the concept of " dirty tricks " originate from ? Who was responsible for first coining the phrase ? Well, my research team has come up with the answers.
Way back in 1936 at Walnut Tree Allotment Bridge Club, a certain Mr. Snyder was an active member, renown for being utterly ruthless......a man who would do whatever it takes to pursue glory and success at the bridge tables. He was without doubt a corrupt man, full of malicious intent, looking to prey upon opponents he thought were weak and vulnerable. He set out to target players, who would not suspect, or detect, his underhand methods of stealing an extra trick or two. That extra trick, no matter how it was obtained, was his sole objective. The fact it was " dirty " was irrelevant : a dirty trick is still a trick.....and winning tricks is what really matters.
One of his common ploys was to observe the slightest and merest transgression by his opponents and shout for the TD, maligning their innocent indiscretions as blatant and gross violations of the Orange Book rules. Weak TD's often buckled under his tirade of outrageous accusations about their " unethical behaviour ", and on many occasions he was given a one trick adjustment or equivalent. The accumulation of these " dirty tricks " produced a string of countless tops , which enabled Mr. Snyder to achieve even greater success, plus enhanced status, which in turn led to an even greater level of control over weak opponents, and woefully inadequate TD's.
So never in the world of sport has anyone been able to get away with so many dirty tricks, as Mr. Snyder did with his knowledgeable abuse and manipulation of the rules. Sadly, his relentless determination and underhand tactics have been adopted by many other unscrupulous players, as they too attempt to win any way they can.......even if it means resorting to malicious and underhand claims, based on exaggerations, hyperboles, and lies.
But the person who first coined the phrase " dirty tricks " was none other than equally infamous Howard Bigot-Johnson. Indeed, it was very unfortunate for the elderly Mr. Snyder to cross this very headstrong and highly volatile young man, who was trying out duplicate bridge for the first time. This one particular incident, in 1978, led to Snyder's untimely death after foolishly huffing Bigot out of a good board, by falsely alleging a gross deviation in tempo. Bigot was so incensed he decided to play a dirty trick of his own on this dreadful man. After breaking into his house through an open rear window, he attached a live mains wire to the inside half of the front door handle......minutes before his victim was due to arrive home from the bridge club. Bigot of course simply wanted Snyder's last memory of a hand to be a real shocker !