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Fitch Cheney encoded the 1-6 value differently than we do.

Five random cards selected and one set aside by the magician.

We magicians are familiar with the Fitch Cheney technique of using two cards of the same suit one being the hidden target card and the other being the visible anchor card (the first card on the table).
The next three cards together as a group express a key value of 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 to be mentally added to the anchor card.

I (Larfin glowball) want to contrast the way we magicians normally encode the 1 thru 6 key value now in 2021 vs the way Fitch Cheney and his assistant did it over the telephone in the 1930s. There is a big difference but the end result is the same (as long as the magician and the assistant are using the same scheme and arrive at the correct value that's all that counts). If we current day magicians saw Fitch's three signal cards we would not come up with the correct 1 thru 6 number.

To encode the 1-6 number we current day magicians and computer programs (that simulate Fitch Cheney's trick) use the following evaluation of the three cards mentally breaking them down into three groups of two:
LMH = 1
LHM = 2

MLH = 3
MHL = 4

HLM = 5
HML = 6

Therefore we look at the whole group of three cards to see which card is high, which card is medium, and which card is low and and then based on the above rules we set the first card, then the second card then the third card. By contrast Fitch Cheney when setting the three cards would first evaluate the three cards as to high medium and low (as we do) but then he would have to have to determine which card to be used for the third card (before thinking about the first and second card) because he and his assistant had the mental image of two groups of three:

Fitch Cheney method:
down, low = 1
down, medium = 2
down, high = 3

up, low = 4
up, medium = 5
up, high = 6

His assistant would have the above list by the telephone for reference.

I believe his method made it more difficult for the magician but made it easier for the assistant but Fitch had a PhD in mathematics so this is a good trade-off.

Fitch emphasis on third card:
I think Fitch would have to think on the key value wanted and look for the low, high, medium value card based on the above chart and pick up the appropriate card and set it as the third card on his easel and then turn his attention to the other two cards. For the key value wanted if the chart says "down" then the higher of the two cards would be placed first and then the other card second. If the chart says "up" then the lower of the two cards would be placed first then the other card second.

Even though this seems much more complicated for the magician, look how easy it is for the assistant because if the assistant is writing the cards down on a notepad they know after hearing the name of the second card they know immediately (whether the second card went "up" or "down") which group of three numbers to focus on (1, 2, 3 or 4, 5, 6) without even knowing the third card yet. The modern method cannot do that, we have to wait for all three cards to evaluate the high medium low aspect for all three cards.

Tie breaker:
If two or three of the three cards have the same value (let's say there are two sixes amongst the three cards) then he and his assistant must have an agreed upon method of having one suit be higher than another suit to evaluate low, medium, high. His tie breaker method of evaluating the suits appears to have been bridge order ie: CDHS (see excerpt below). The example given of 6H to 6D is going "down" means that diamonds are an inferior suit to hearts. Note that on the CHSD and SHCD scheme that diamonds are the superior suit therefore he was not using CHSD or SHCD for tie breaking (If the article is correct). Also the article says about the suit tie breaking hierarchy "according to the convention
of cutting for deal".

I couldn't find anything specifically about "cutting for deal" on a Google search but on Wikipedia it says about the suit hierarchy for high card that the most common is the alphabetic name of the suit thus CDHS. Quote:

"Alphabetical order: clubs (lowest), followed by diamonds, hearts, and spades (highest). This ranking is used in the game of bridge."

Excerpt from 1950 article about Fitch Cheney trick:
Example 2: If the five cards are 2S, 6D, 6H, 10C and
QS, the performer subtracts
2 from 12 getting 10.
13 - 10 = 3. So Hole card is 2S,
Base card is QS and the Key number is
3 (12 + 3 - 13 = 2).
The three Key cards, 6D, 6H and 10C must be placed in order to represent "Down, High" so they would be 6H, 6D, 10C, since 6H to 6D is
"Down" in value according to the convention
of cutting for deal, and 10C
is the highest of the three cards.

Larfin final observations:
I did not follow why the article subtracts two from 12 getting 10 and then subtracting 10 from 13 to get the 3. To me it seems much simpler when looking at a wrap situation such as going from QS to 2S to subtract 12 (the Queen) from constant 13 getting 1 and then just adding the 2 (the 2S) giving 3.

Although it is interesting to know how Fitch Cheney and his assistant actually did the 1-6 encoding via the three cards, to me his method makes the magicians part a lot more difficult than our modern breakdown of three groups of two also our modern method is quite easy for the assistant too. Nevertheless his overall concept was simply great and has given us a gift that has provided great enjoyment and stimulates our minds. Thank you Fitch Cheney!
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