AWARDS & REC CSS
From our volunteers to the best players in the game’s history, we celebrate our outstanding members.
The Hall of Fame was started by the Bridge World magazine in 1964 with founding members Ely Culbertson, Charles Goren, Harold Vanderbilt, Oswald Jacoby, Milton Work, Sidney Lenz, Waldemar von Zedtwitz, Howard Schenken and Sidney Silodor. When the magazine discontinued its work on the hall, no members were added until the ACBL reestablished the program in 1995. Additional members have been added each year since then.
The Hall of Fame has three categories of awards: Open, Blackwood Award and von Zedtwitz Award.
Given to individuals who have contributed greatly to the game of bridge without necessarily being world class players. Each year, one recipient is selected by the Hall of Fame Committee. However, if the Committee believes an additional award is warranted, the Board may vote to allow an additional award for that year.
von Zedtwitz Award
The ACBL Hall of Fame von Zedtwitz Award shall be given to living or deceased individual(s) who have achieved prominence in the game of bridge and have an outstanding tournament record but who may not have been in the limelight for a significant period of time. Each year, as many as two recipients may be selected by the Hall of Fame Committee whenever deemed appropriate.
Hall of Fame Member Profiles
Use the buttons below to view members by last name.
The Honorary Member Committee is charged with the annual selection of the ACBL member, or pair of members, widely known throughout the membership who has given freely of his time and ability, without thought of reward and in the interest and welfare of the League as a whole.
ABL Honorary Members
ACBL Honorary Members
Snite was one of the first polio victims to receive significant publicity regarding chronic dependency on the iron lung. After college at age 25 he joined his family on a dream trip around the world in 1936. While in Peiping (now Beijing) he came down with polio. He was admitted to the Rockefeller Memorial Hospital. This hospital was known as the John Hopkins of the Orient.
His physician was a graduate of the Harvard Medical School. This hospital owned the only iron lung in China. At the time there were just over 200 iron lungs in the world. This iron lung weighed 1200 pounds.
After fourteen months in the iron lung, Snite was successfully moved from China to Chicago by ambulance, train and ocean vessel. He never became independent of the iron lung except for several hours a day by using a portable respirator that could be strapped to his chest.
In 1939 he married Teresa Larkin, a woman he had known before polio. They had three daughters. His medical problems took their toll and at the age of 43, Snite died in the iron lung from heart and lung failure.
2014 Blackwood AwardPeggy Sutherlin of Dallas TX has arranged her life around bridge. Sutherlin, a retired flight attendant, says, “When I applied for the job, I told them I wanted to be a stewardess so I could go to bridge tournaments. The plan worked! I was a stewardess for 37 years.” A Grand Life Master, Sutherlin has won nine North American titles including the GNT Championship Flight, the Women’s Board-a-Match, Women’s Knockout Teams, Women’s Swiss Teams and the Rockwell Mixed Pairs. Sutherlin is also a world champion. She won gold in the Women’s Team Olympiad in Maastricht, the Netherlands in 2000. In fact, both Sutherlins were champions there – her husband John won the Transnational World Senior Teams crown. Her other successes at the world level include a second in the World Mixed Pairs with her husband, two fourths in the Venice Cup and a fourth in the Women’s Pairs. Her service to bridge started when she worked for Ernie Rovere (journalist, author and director of bridge cruises). She has since served on the Laws Commission, the Board of Governors for Dist 16 and 21, the Competitions and Conventions Committee, the Ethical Oversight Committee, the Women’s ITT Committee, and as Co-Chair of the National Appeals Committee. She and John were named ACBL Honorary Members in 2008. Sutherlin has a BA from San Francisco State University. Her hobbies include genealogy, a subject she has pursued for over 30 years and about which she has written several family history books and numerous articles in genealogy journals. She is a member of Daughters of the American Revolution and Mayflower Society.
Millard Nachtwey (d. 2012) was a national tournament director and director-in-charge at Fall NABCs who served the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference for decades.
In nominating Nachtwey, ACBL Board Members Bob Heller (District 7) and Margot Hennings (District 6) praised him as “one of our game’s greatest assets. His contributions extended far beyond the selling table or making rulings or supervising colleagues, and that was particularly the case in Districts 6 and 7.”
Nachtwey was born in Washington DC and grew up in Bethesda MD. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Bucknell University, where he met his life partner of 40 years, Doug Grove. Nachtwey began his directing career in the early Seventies and operated his own club, Millard’s Bridge Studio, from 1978 until the fall of 1983, when he began to direct tournaments full time. His reputation as a master of tournament operations quickly grew, and he became the chief director for the MABC, a position he held for 20 years.
Nachtwey also lent his organizing expertise to the American Bridge Association, which has a presence in the Washington DC area, where Nachtwey and Grove lived. The ABA prevailed upon his volunteer spirit to mentor ABA directors on how to make a tournament experience the best it could be. ABA tournaments continue to be successful
Nadine Wood Volunteer of the Year
Established by District 7’s Bruce Reeve, who served as ACBL President in 2004. His proposal for a national award for volunteerism was accepted by the ACBL Board of Directors. The first recipients were from his district: Marlene Wass and Judy Nolan, co-chairs of the record-setting Gatlinburg Regional.
The award was named in 2012 for the late Nadine Wood, who represented District 6 on the ACBL Board of Directors and was known for her tireless volunteer work.
Volunteer of the Year
In the long history of the ACBL Goodwill Committee, there have been many magic moments at the committee’s thrice-yearly receptions. It would be hard to top the introduction of Kitty Gottfried as one of the two recipients of the Nadine Wood Volunteer of the Year award for 2014.
There were few dry eyes in the audience when the diminutive Gottfried was called to the podium by Goodwill Chair Sandy DeMartino. Gottfried seemed overwhelmed by the honor and was speechless for a few minutes as she listened to praise after praise for her long service to the Washington Bridge League as the queen of hospitality.
Margot Hennings, who represents District 6 on the ACBL Board of Directors, said Gottfried was the late Nadine Wood’s top helper for more than 40 years. “It’s nice to be able to recognize people who have given so much to bridge,” said Hennings.
When she took the microphone, Gottfried said she had a lot of help with her hospitality duties. “We had lots of good people from the WBF,” she said. “Volunteers need other volunteers.” As she made her way back to her seat after offering thanks for the honor, she received a standing ovation.
The honor for Gottfried was part two of the Volunteer of the Year award presented by 2014 ACBL President Bill Cook, who said he could not select just one recipient from the list of candidates given to him. As president, it was his duty to select the volunteer award winner or winners.
Co-winner Silvana Mo was hailed for her dynamic performance as the top fundraiser during the joint operation between the ACBL and the Alzheimer’s Association last summer during the Longest Day event. Scotto’s Sagamore Bridge Club in Syosset NY (Long Island) raised more than $80,000 for the cause.
Al Levy, who represents the district that encompasses Long Island, said Zangri has few peers when it comes to energy. “She is an amazing woman,” Levy said. “She has run a number of businesses but took some time off to grow her family.” Noting that Scotto has five daughters, Levy said, “That alone gets you a medal.”
Levy said Zangri is a dynamic recruiter, outstanding club owner and volunteer, serving on the unit board.
Zangri said her success has been a team effort. “I could not do it by myself. There is an incredible group at my club.” Her family comes first, Scotto said, “but bridge is the second most rewarding thing in my life.”
Aileen Osofsky Goodwill Member of the Year
The ACBL Goodwill Committee was organized in 1955 with John E. Simon as chair and Louise Durham as co-chair. Aileen Osofsky became chair in 1985 and has expanded the committee’s endeavors, taking on the promotion of active ethics, awareness of those with disabilities such as hearing loss, support for junior programs and naming of a goodwill member of the year.
Sound like someone you know? Nominate them for the award!
Goodwill Members of the Year
- 1990 Doris O’Grady, Highland CA
- 1991 Julian Slager, Montgomery AL **
- 1992 Dorothy and Norman Edwardson, Springfield AR
- 1993 Jack Boehne, Indialantic FL **
- 1994 Gladys Hodge, Pocatello ID **
- 1995 Kara Jarman, Las Vegas NV **
- 1996 Mayme Lawrence, Springfield IL **; Thomas W. Gardner, Farmington Hills MI**
- 1997 Dick Shaver, Reno NV **
- 1998 Jay Brown, Northridge CA **
- 1999 Miriam G Martin, Greenville CA **
- 2000 Joan Weinrott, Bryn Mawr PA
- 2001 Louise Wiegman, Mesa AZ **; John K. Keech, Victoria BC
- 2002 Kay E. Afdahl, Virginia Beach VA; Sheena Rayner, Hamilton Bermuda
- 2003 Bill Breeze, Bellevue WA
- 2004 Kay Teal, Richland WA
- 2005 Harold Jordan, Wilmington DE
- 2006 Cisse Horton, San Antonio TX
- 2007 Jennie Flynn Sauviac
- 2008 Richard Caser
- 2009 Chris Larsen
- 2010 Marsha J. Helton
- 2011 Patty Tucker
- 2012 John and Theresa Federico
- 2013 Joseph Olivier
- 2014 Karl Dencker
- 2015 James Flesher
- 2016 Flora Pettit
- 2017 Eldon Clayman
- 2018 Nelda Linman
- 2019 Mark Sorenson
- 2020 William Stine
- 2021: Lane Galloway
Sidney Lazard Jr. Sportsmanship Award
Established by Sidney Lazard in honor of his son, Sidney Jr., who died in 1999 at the age of 41 after a year-long battle with cancer. The Sportsmanship Award is administered by the Foundation for the Preservation and Advancement of Bridge. This award is given annually to a top-level player, one who has scored a high-level finish in a major national contest. According to Lazard, the object of the award is to “enhance sportsmanship among top players and to salute those who try to win with class and dignity.”
- 2001 Paul Soloway
- 2002 Rose Meltzer
- 2003 Larry Cohen
- 2004 Lynn Deas
- 2005 Nick Nickell
- 2006 Ralph Cohen
- 2007 Seymon Deutsch
- 2008 Giorgio Duboin
- 2009 Peter Boyd
- 2010 Roy Welland
- 2011 Betty Ann Kennedy
- 2012 Mike Kamil
- 2013 Benedicte Cronier and Sylvie Willard
- 2014 Bob Hamman
- 2015 Howard Weinstein
- 2016 Boye Brogeland
- 2017 Eddie Kantar
- 2018 Lew Stansby
- 2019 Forfiet
- 2020 Denis Bilde*
- 2021 Team Scotland: Anne Perkins (NPC), Derrick Peden, Stephen Peterkin, Jim Hay, Alex Adamson, Samantha Punch, Derek Sanders
*Not formally presented in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic
King/Queen of Bridge
The King or Queen of Bridge Scholarship is a merit program available to a graduating high school senior that is an ACBL member who plays and promotes bridge. The ACBL Educational Foundation will present a scholarship up to $2000 to the King or Queen of Bridge. Recent winners have been cited for outstanding tournament performances plus administrative, recreational and promotional activities related to bridge.
King/Queen of Bridge Previous Winners
- 2022 – Arthur Zhou
- 2021- Tammy León Molina
- 2020 – Bo Han Zhu
- 2019 – Louis Beauchet
- 2018 – Reese Koppel
- 2017 – Richard Jeng
- 2016 – Burke Snowden
- 2015 – Amber Lin
- 2014 – Adam Kaplan/Allison Hunt
- 2013 – John Altman
- 2012 – Murphy Green
- 2011 – Blake Sanders
- 2010 – Thomas Walsh/Adam Grossack
- 2009 – Nicholas Flores
- 2008 – Jeremy Koegel
- 2007 – Andrew Dubay
- 2006 – Sam Katz
- 2005 – David Banh
- 2004 – Robert Glickman
- 2003 – Scott Waldron Jr
- 2002 – John Kranyak
- 2001 – Erin Anderson
- 2000 – Gavin Wolpert
- 1999 – Ari Greenberg
- 1998 – Josh Heller
- 1997 – Joel Wooldridge
- 1996 – Kent Mignocchi
- 1995 – Tony Melucci
- 1994 – Sam Hirschman
- 1993 – Eric Greco
- 1992 – Frederic Pollack
- 1991 – Andrew Moss
- 1990 – Eric Sutherland
- 1989 – Brad Moss
- 1988 – Holly Zullo
- 1987 – Rich Pavlicek Jr.
- 1986 – Martha Benson Katz
- 1985 – Adair Gellman
- 1984 – Jim Munday
- 1983 – Billy Hsieh
- 1982 – Steve Weinstein
- 1981 – Doug Levene/ Steve Cochran
- 1980 – Tony Marks
- 1979 – Regina Barnes
- 1978 – Matt Franklin
- 1977 – Marc Franklin
- 1976 – Warren Spector
- 1975 – Bobby Levin
- 1974 – Jeff Meckstroth
- 1973 – J Merrill
Download the application, complete it and submit it by attaching it to an email addressed to kristen@Acbleducationalfoundation.org.
If you choose to print the form, mail it to:
ACBL Educational Foundation
P.O. Box 154
Glenmont, NY 12077
Applications must be submitted by May 31, 2021. Please email email@example.com with any questions you may have. Winner will be announced at the Summer NABC.
ACBL Distinguished MemberA special award set up by the ACBL Board of Directors. No time schedule for awarding the honor is established, nor are there specific criteria set out for selecting the recipient. Only two members have been so honored – Lou Bluhm, singled out for his personal attributes and contributions to bridge, particularly in the area of ethics and courtesy, and former ACBL President James Zimmerman for his contributions to the game in many areas.
ACBL Distinguished EmployeeThe Distinguished Employee award was established to recognize contributions that are made by an employee that dramatically change the nature of the Game or the way the League functions. This award has only been given once. It was awarded to Jim Loposhinski for the creation of ACBLscore.
The award was later named after Jeff Johnston, ACBL’s beloved COO, following his death in 2014.
Barry Crane Top 500
The ACBL member who has accumulated the most masterpoints during the calendar year wins the Barry Crane Top 500 race. Originally the McKenney Trophy, it was put into play by William E. McKenney, ACBL executive secretary. It was known as the McKenney Trophy contest from 1937-1981. When the list was expanded to include the leading 500 players it was called the Top 500 from 1982-1985. It became the Barry Crane Top 500 in 1986. Crane, who was murdered in July 1985, was ACBL’s top masterpoint holder and was acknowledge by his peers to be unequalled as a masterpoint winner and a matchpoint player. His influence on the race was dominant for more than three decades.
In 1974, the ACBL Board of Directors voted to recognize the masterpoint achievements of all players and the Mini-McKenney races were established. The winners at each level of achievement are recognized by the ACBL each year in the April issue of the Bridge Bulletin and at the district and unit levels. Eligibility is determined by each player’s masterpoint holding at the beginning of the calendar year. The home unit of each winner may purchase a Mini-McKenney medallion to present to the player. Standings are updated monthly.
Helen Shanbrom Ace of Clubs
Most ACBL members play in local club games. To recognize achievement at the club level, the Ace of Clubs competition was created in 1984. These club champions are recognized at the unit level and ACBL-wide. All points won at the club level are counted in this contest with the exception of those won in STaCs. This award was renamed in 2011 in honor of Grand Life Master Helen Shanbrom of Tamarac FL. Shanbrom was one of the most active players in the ACBL for decades and won the top category of the Ace of Clubs more times than any other member in ACBL history.
Jean Molnar Award
This award recognizes an ACBL field employee for outstanding customer service. It is named in honor of Jean Molnar, a beloved 20-year veteran Tournament Director who consistently delivered outstanding customer service through her technical expertise, her quick and effective response and her ability to handle all situations professionally and calmly.
Hall of Fame A
(1927-2012)Taught by his mother, Arnold took up bridge at the tender age of five. Decades and many championships later, the cigar-chomping Grand Life Master is affectionately known as “the Godfather” to players in the Miami FL area, where he lives (Sunny Isles Beach).
Although not well known to contemporary players – he rarely plays at big tournaments these days – Arnold’s achievements in high-level competition speak for themselves: He is a world champion and winner of nine North American titles.
Arnold captured his first North American Championship in 1963, the Spingold Knockout Teams, but his favorite memory of playing in the event was in 1955, when it was known as the Master Knockout Teams and scored by total points.
Arnold played with Herschel Wolpert, Morris Freier, M.M. Goldman and Harold Harvey, and the underdog team defeated the defending champions – Lew Mathe, John Moran, Milton Ellenby, Meyer Schleifer and Manny Hochfield – by 540 points to make it to the round of eight.
With his favorite partner and protégé, Bobby Levin, Arnold won the Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams (1979), the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams (1980) and the Bermuda Bowl (1981). Levin says of Arnold, “He always put ethical behavior first. He is a tremendous competitor, great declarer, fantastic player and a great guy. He has been like a brother and a father to me.”
Unlike many other Hall of Fame members, Arnold didn’t play bridge often. His winning record was achieved during the time of his life when he was running a successful major appliance business. Arnold’s aptitude for numbers and cards made him successful in both ventures. In addition to an encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects, Arnold also had instant and total recall for his store’s inventory and for phone numbers. He didn’t have much need of hand records as those are all stored in his head too.
A longtime friend said of Arnold, “Russ won so many championships, he certainly had nothing to prove. Considering that he was running a business while most bridge pros were just playing cards, his winning record is phenomenal. He didn’t play often. But the most remarkable thing was the way this shy man earned the respect and admiration of all his peers.”
Hall of Fame B
(1912 – 1996) Paul Ivaska described Hermine Baron as “a truly remarkable woman. She was a fierce competitor, but at the same time she brought out the best in her partners.”
For four decades, tournament players knew that Hermine Baron was their next opponent if they spotted her trademark white table cloth and a lamp. And what an opponent she was — at the time of her death in 1996, Baron had won more than 22,600 masterpoints — the most of any woman in the U.S. She won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500) in 1964 and 1970.
Baron won six North American championships and more than 100 regional events. Most of her major titles were in women’s events, but in 1966 she and Meyer Schleifer won the Life Master Pairs, the six-session event contested for the von Zedtwitz Gold Cup.
Baron also represented the United States in world competition in 1968 and 1978. She accomplished all this while playing from a wheelchair in the days before handicap-access restrooms and ramps.
Longtime friend Paul Soloway said the wheelchair didn’t slow Baron down. “She was very upbeat about bridge. She enjoyed the game. There is no doubt that bridge was an upper for Hermine.” Baron, a native of Omaha , contracted polio at the age of 11. She underwent lengthy rehabilitation in Warm Springs GA but had to use crutches or a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Baron moved to Southern California in the mid-Forties and took up duplicate at the urging of Arthur Baron, to whom she was married from 1954 to 1958. Once she discovered duplicate, she was hooked. She became an inveterate player and a perennial winner.
Among her partners through the years were Soloway, Mike Lawrence, Mike Passell and Mike Shuman.
(1943 – 2009)
Grant Baze of San Diego CA was one of ACBL’s top players and a man who set standards for comportment and ethics. Baze always dressed in a suit and tie when plying his trade –he was one of the most successful pros on the tournament circuit. He earned a reputation as a dogged, tireless competitor who was nevertheless a friendly opponent and the model of what a partner should be. Baze was born in San Diego, the son of a U.S. Marine Corp officer. The family traveled a lot, and Baze spent time in Virginia, Ohio and Georgia before graduating High School in 1961. At his first opportunity he returned to California. At Stanford University, a familiarity with bridge became an obsession to the near exclusion of classes. Four years after he entered Stanford, he left one quarter short of a degree. Nearly two decades later, mostly to please his mother, Baze earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and then returned to full-time bridge play.
Baze did his fastest learning playing rubber bridge, playing for days on end. In the early Eighties, he started playing professionally and had a brief partnership with Barry Crane. In his career, Baze amassed more than 41,000 masterpoints, won four world championships, including three Senior Teams, and seven North American titles. He won the Barry Crane Top 500 three times and was the first player to record more than 3000 masterpoints in a calendar year.
In 2009, the ACBL Board of Directors renamed the Senior Knockout Teams in honor of Baze and a group of his friends provided a trophy for the event.
(1904 – 1987)
B. Jay Becker was named ACBL Life Master #6 in 1936 when the rank of Life Master was instituted. The first 10 players were selected because of their record in tournament play. A World Bridge Federation Grand Master, Becker represented the U.S. seven times in international play over four decades and won two Bermuda Bowls.
In a career that spanned 55 years, Becker won seven Spingolds, eight Reisingers, eight Vanderbilts and the three major ACBL pair events – Life Master Pairs, Blue Ribbon Pairs and NABC Open Pairs.
He won the Fishbein Trophy for best performance at the Summer NABC in 1972. During the years when the Master Invitational Individual was a prestigious major championship, Becker had the best record of any player, winning it in 1937 and 1948 and placing second in 1934, 1941, 1949 and 1955. Becker won a major NABC title – the Fall Board-a-Match Teams, now the Reisinger – in his first year of tournament play in 1932. In that year he was also runner-up in the Challenge Teams of Four (now the Spingold) and the National Mixed Pairs. He won his first Spingold in 1936. He won his first Vanderbilt in 1944 and his last Vanderbilt in 1981 at the age of 76.
Becker’s performance in the 1981 Vanderbilt was one of the highlights of the Detroit Spring NABC. In leading his team to victory in one of the world’s toughest events, he earned high praise from a teammate who does not praise lightly. “He has an effect on the whole table,” said Edgar Kaplan. “It’s as is he has a muting effect on everyone. He conveys the air of a man who knows he’s going to make what he bids. Opponents don’t double him even when he’s sacrificing.” In the bidding Becker was the Great Conservative, grinding out good results with a sound and careful style.
He avoided complex conventions, relying instead on impeccable judgment. His remorseless accuracy at the bridge table made him a singular legend of the game – one who was admired and respected for his quiet demeanor and immaculate behavior as well as for his monumental technical skills.
Becker was born in Philadelphia. He trained as a lawyer and took his law degree from Temple Law School in 1929. In 1937 he abandoned law and took up bridge as a full-time career. He never regretted giving up the law career he might have had. “Bridge was my life,” he told the Bulletin a few months before his death. “I never wanted to do anything else.”
Over the years he managed three New York clubs – the Cavendish, the Bridge Whist and the Regency. He was associated with the Card School of New York and directed bridge activities on cruises.
For more than 30 years Becker was a nationally syndicated columnist, having been invited by King Features Syndicate to take over Josephine Culbertson’s column when she died in 1956.
Four years before his death the column began to carry the joint byline of his older son, Steve, and NABC championship and former Bulletin editor.
Becker was a contributor to The Bridge World and the Bulletin and was a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge. He also became a member of the ACBL Laws Commission in 1954.
When Michael Becker graduated from high school in 1961, his father, B. Jay Becker, wrote in Mike’s autograph book: “To my son, who will become a Life Master long before he masters life.” Whether that was an accurate prediction only Mike Becker knows for sure, but one thing is certain — he is at his high point in bridge as an elected member of the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame. With his election Becker joined his father, who was inducted into this illustrious group in 1995.
Becker’s bridge career encompasses many stellar achievements, including the 1983 Bermuda Bowl title he won playing with Ron Rubin in Stockholm, Sweden, as a member of the last “Aces” team. The final match against Italy will long be remembered as a thriller, where the lead changed hands 25 times. Becker has won 11 North American championships, almost all of them played at IMPs and most of them in partnership with Ron Rubin. As an administrator, he has served as the International Team Trials Chair for the past 12 years. As Chair of the ACBL Hall of Fame Committee, he led an effort to update the voting rules and committee procedures. He helped to start the United States Bridge Federation, serving as its first president. He was on the Greater New York Bridge Association board for 20 years and served as its President in 1980.
Becker is also the co-author of a book, The Ultimate Club, describing the relay system he and Rubin played throughout their 20-year partnership. He recently joined the staff of The Bridge World as Problem Editor.
Becker learned bridge in 1957 at age 13, studying the game with his older brother, Steve. One of his early triumphs was winning the Teenyear Pairs in 1961 (with Augie Boehm), the first Junior event ever held in the United States. In the same year, Mike and Steve entered the Reisinger Knockout Teams, an event that continues to attract the top teams in the New York area. B. Jay Becker frowned on the idea. According to Steve Becker: “Mike was 17 and I was 23. Our father thought we were wasting our time going to New York and would get clobbered.” The Becker brothers and their teammates, none of whom had more than 100 masterpoints, defeated some top seeded teams before losing in the quarterfinal to Sam Fry, Dick Frey, Lee Hazen and Johnny Rau — all giants in the game. Since then, no one has been surprised by Becker’s continuing success.
Now and then, the family put together an all-Becker team — B. Jay, Steve, Mike and B. Jay’s older brother Simon (Skippy) and his two sons, Murray and Bobby — all Life Masters. B. Jay and Mike Becker are the only father and son to have teamed up to win the Spingold, in 1972, and to have played on the same Bermuda Bowl Team, in 1973.
Success at bridge continues to be a family affair for Becker. His wife, Judy, is also an NABC champion, having won the six-session Fall Open Swiss Teams in the same year that she won the Harter Cup, a New York City event for non-Life Masters.
Until 1979, Becker made his living playing bridge, mostly in money games. Then his bridge partner, Ron Rubin, talked him into trying options trading. Becker was so good at it he soon formed his own company. He trained 50 ACBL members, including 15 NABC champions, to be options traders (and in so doing helped make some bridge experts into wealthy entrepreneurs).
Becker retired from the options business in 1994 and moved a few years later to Boca Raton, Florida, where he now lives. His business card reads: Professional Retiree: Tennis * Golf * Bridge * Dinner.
Marty Bergen has 10 North American Bridge Championships to his name, including two Reisingers, two Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs, a Spingold and a von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs, and 10 second-place finishes. He has one USBF championship and won the Herman Trophy (now the Goren Trophy) in 1983. Much of Bergen’s success came partnering with Larry Cohen. They won eight national events together from 1983 to 1991. “He retired very early, with his 10 NABC titles,” said Cohen. “No doubt he would have had many more if he kept playing like most pros do. Reminds me of Sandy Koufax.” Perhaps Bergen’s most lasting contribution to bridge is his writing, teaching and philosophy toward bidding.
In addition to being a longtime monthly contributor to the Bridge Bulletin – his first article appeared in 1976 – Bergen has authored over 60 books, two of which won the ABTA Bridge Book of the Year award: “Points, Schmoints!: Bergen’s Winning Bridge Secrets” in 1996 and “Declarer Play the Bergen Way” in 2005.
Cohen says, “Marty revolutionized competitive bidding – aggressive preempts, use of the Law of Total Tricks. He taught me LOTT when we were partners and friends, and then I wrote the book and ended up getting the fame for it, but it was Marty who first popularized it in America.”
Bergen is also credited with developing the conventions and concepts of DONT, two-way Drury, semi-forcing 1NT, the Rule of 20 and the eponymous Bergen raises. The list of his inventions is much longer, including DSI doubles, sandwich notrump, the impossible 2*S*, 3NT response to one of a major as choice of games and jump cue transfer to notrump.
“Someone once told me the two most important theorists of the last quarter-century were me and Rodwell, and I think that has a fair amount of truth to it,” Bergen said. “I’ve tried to help the world with hand evaluation. It never ceases to amaze me how much even experts are simply point counters. It’s all part of thinking. It’s judgment. To me,that’s what it’s all about.”
Preempts are a passion for Bergen, “There are times when I’ve opened a weak two and the opponents are cold for slam in my suit,” he said. “And needless to say, they don’t get there.” At one point, preempts worse than that ruffled so many feathers that bridge authorities saw fit to impose a new rule, making it illegal to bid a weak two with less than 5 HCP or fewer than five cards in a suit. “Not too long after, they rescinded it,” Bergen said, but he takes it as a point of pride.”
Asked what his most influential contribution to bridge is Bergen wasn’t sure. “Bergen raises is the most popular, but I think DONT is most frequent. The Rule of 20, if people actually followed it, that should have been the most important. I’m not sure. Being aggressive – I’d like to think that’s had a big impact. People are preempting far more aggressively than they used to.”
David Berkowitz has been one of the ACBL’s top players for over three decades. His election to the Hall of Fame puts him proudly in the company of his idols and, he is pleased to say, friends. David’s father, Harold, taught him to play bridge when he was a teenager. Harold soon regretted introducing him to the game since David then took a mere seven years to earn a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University.
After graduating from college David began working and became a Certified Public Accountant. During that career, he began competing in high level bridge with the help of Kathie Wei-Sender, using the Precision system developed by her late husband, C. C. Wei. Anyone who knows David will realize that he has too much personality to remain a CPA, so under the guidance of Hall of Fame member Michael Becker, he became an options trader. David retired from Wall Street in 2005 and is currently a full-time professional bridge player.
David is an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 30,000 masterpoints. He has won 25 North American championships, partnered by Ron Andersen, Harold Lilie, Larry Cohen and David’s wife, Lisa. With Cohen he also won the Pan-Am games and the prestigious Cap Gemini pairs.
While this honor recognizes his past successes, Berkowitz’s bridge career is far from over—or so he tells himself. He looks forward to winning many more championships with his new partner, Alan Sontag.
In addition to his playing prowess, Berkowitz shares his love of the game by lecturing and writing about bridge. Despite his subpar SAT scores, he co-authored the book Precision Today with Brent Manley. He also contributes to The Bridge World where he is a Master Solvers Club director.
David loves to share his bridge knowledge—just try to stop him from sharing! He brings his humorous and insightful take on the game to vu-graph commentary at National and International tournaments and now online as well. He also has contributed to the game by serving as president of the Greater New York Bridge Association and sitting on many ACBL National committees past and present and the International Team Trials Committee.
David is happily married (at least his wife Lisa tells him so) and has two wonderful bridge-playing children, Dana and Michael.
Easley Blackwood was a power in contract bridge and the American Contract Bridge League for more than 60 years. His fertile 30-year-old mind spawned ideas and innovations about the game and, as a respected elder statesman in his 70s and 80s, he was still collecting the many honors and accolades the game has to bestow.
As a writer, teacher, lecturer, administrator and innovator, Blackwood has name recognition throughout the world. His name became a household word because one of his early inventions, an ace-asking bid that became known as the Blackwood convention, caught on like wildfire with the rank and file players while confounding the experts.
He played bridge, he wrote about bridge, he taught bridge, and he directed bridge games in his own studio and aboard many cruise ships. A legendary storyteller, he was one of the game’s most popular lecturers.
One of his greatest contributions came in 1967 when he was persuaded to take the job of executive secretary and general manager of ACBL. His long experience in the business world was put to work to save a declining ACBL during the three years he served in this position.
Blackwood put the ACBL on a sound financial basis and worked out a revision of the masterpoint plan for tournaments and clubs, correcting inequities that had existed for years. He gained the admiration, respect and gratitude of the headquarters staff, of the Board of Directors and of ACBL members everywhere.
He is still best known, however, for his “little ace-asking convention.” Six decades after Blackwood submitted his brainchild to Ely Culbertson’s magazine, The Bridge World – and was turned down – it is still the game’s best known convention. The Bridge World responded, “While the suggestion is a good one, the 4NT bid will remain informative rather than interrogative . . .”
The convention, however, caught on from player to player and was soon widespread throughout the bridge-playing world. In 1949 Culbertson gave up and said, when a pair announced it was playing the Culbertson System, it should be assumed the Blackwood convention was being played.
The voice of the people had prevailed over the voice of the experts. The Blackwood convention appeared in 17 different languages and 57 books by the time Blackwood published the convention in his own Bridge Humanics in 1949.
Blackwood was born in Birmingham AL in 1903 and went to work as a clerk with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company at the age of 17. At 26 he was made manager of the Decatur IL office. In 1930 he was transferred to Indianapolis , where he managed the Metropolitan office for 34 years.
After his early retirement in 1964, Blackwood established a plush bridge club in Indianapolis and enjoyed a gratifying career as lecturer, teacher and bridge cruise conductor.
He already found time to write several bridge books, a lot of magazine articles and a syndicated daily newspaper column. His monthly column on basic bridge appeared in the Bulletin for almost two decades and formed the basis for his 1978 tome, Play of the Hand with Blackwood.
In 1980 he was elected ACBL Honorary Member of the Year. He was a longtime member of the National Goodwill Committee and the National Laws Commission. He was Honorary Member of the American Bridge Teachers’ Association in 1978. In 1984 he received the International Bridge Press Association’s Personality of the Year Award.
Lou Bluhm of Atlanta was a bridge professional and an expert at poker and gin rummy. One of the leading American players, he was well-known for his high standard of ethics and deportment. He placed 3rd in the World Mixed Pairs in 1978 and won the Cavendish Invitational Pairs in 1981. He was a Grand Life Master with 13,000 masterpoints. He was the first recipient of the ACBL’s Distinguished Player Award (an award that was originated for him). He won the Reisinger in 1972, the Spingold in 1974 and 1977; the Vanderbilt in 1979 and 1989; the Blue Ribbon Pairs and Men’s Teams in 1977; the Open Pairs in 1984, and the Life Master Men’s Pairs in 1987. He placed 2nd in the Vanderbilt in 1978 and 1986; the Spingold in 1988, the Men’s Teams in 1973 and the Grand National Open Teams and the Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1983; the Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1987.
Boyd (b.1950) is a former systems analyst/programmer and bridge professional. His 17 North American titles include three Vanderbilts and a Reisinger. He won a gold medal in the 1986 World Open Teams, his first time playing in a world championship, and a silver in the 2011 d’Orsi Senior Teams.
Although his parents did not play bridge, he learned young – from a different family. “One of my best friends from grade school was an only child,” Boyd explains. “His parents wanted to teach their son to play bridge, and they needed a fourth. I learned to play at their kitchen table.”
He managed to find a Goren book around his house – even families who didn’t play might have one of those – and read up to learn more.
Boyd began working as a programmer after college and continued until 1995. He lives in Darnestown MD with wife Ellen Klosson , a psychoanalyst who he met playing bridge, and four Afghan hound show dogs.
Since 1980, Boyd has played with Steve Robinson, a Hall of Famer and the dean of the DC-area bridge scene. They have played in more than 100 NABCs since then, missing only two, and they also play in local tournaments.
“Whenever I want to rant about something, I talk it over with him, and he tells me why I should be more reasonable,” Robinson says. “He is very easy to play with and very rarely forgets our agreements, which can be complicated.”
Another top player in the DC area, Beth Palmer, finds much to praise in Boyd. “Peter is obviously an excellent bridge player and makes very few technical mistakes. Even more important, he is always a very pleasant partner, teammate and opponent. He is the rare bridge player who is nice not only when he is winning, but also when he is losing.
“As a teammate, I can say that when a mistake is made, his first reaction is that his partner or teammate did what was right and was unlucky to have a bad result. He also has set an example for honesty in District 6, and by setting the tone that this is how bridge should be played, it has permeated to all levels of the district. He frequently plays in local sectionals, regionals and Grand National events and is always willing to talk about bridge to less experienced players.”
His active participation in District 6 North American events has resulted in three wins each in the North American Pairs Flight A and the Championship Flight of the Grand National Teams.
In 2009 Boyd was honored with the Sidney H. Lazard Jr. Sportsmanship Award. He has served many terms on the boards of Unit 147 and District 6 and several committees. He was recently elected chair of the Ethical Oversight Committee.
Boyd names his Hall of Fame election, world championship and sportsmanship award as the most significant events of his bridge career. “I feel very honored to be elected to the Hall of Fame,” he says. “I believe that several of the women players on the ballot deserve to be elected, and I think they will be in the coming years.”
Bart, born in 1948, grew up in Wallingford, CT. At age 5 he started learning bridge from his father after seeing a game at home. He was fascinated and developed an immediate passion for bridge that has never diminished. Although his father died when he was 10, Bart’s pursuit of opportunities to play continued unabated. Bart’s mother, a reluctant participant in those days, became an avid player (and Life Master) herself after she retired many years later, playing duplicate well into her 90’s.
In 1965 Bart graduated from Choate, a top prep school in his home town, where he found other players and started a bridge club. In the summer of 1965 he played duplicate for the first time (and joined ACBL) before going to college at MIT.
At MIT he discovered a flourishing bridge community. A critical event was the arrival of Ken Lebensold (as a grad student) in Bart’s sophomore year. Ken was already a complete player (though only a year older than Bart), and he shared his knowledge freely, which had a profound effect not only on Bart but on many other players in the MIT orbit.
Despite his growing addiction Bart did receive his degree in 1969. Plans for higher degrees went on hold, permanently as it turned out. Meanwhile, Bart started attending tournaments, including his first national (Montreal) in the summer of 1967. With fewer than 100 points he was relegated mostly to side games, but he was hooked forever on the big tournaments where all of the top players show up.
Bart’s first national win was the Men’s BAM in the spring of 1980, and currently (2019) he has 17, with the most recent in 2016. His first major win was the Vanderbilt in 1989. Three national wins came with first-time partners. Over the years he has been blessed to have a string of Hall-of-Famers as regular partners: Lou Bluhm, Hugh Ross, Sidney Lazard, Lew Stansby, Bob Hamman, and Kit Woolsey.
Bart was ACBL Player of the Year in 1997, which included two national wins and several other high finishes. That led to his participation in the World Par Contest in 1998, where he was second (to Michael Rosenberg); later he was third in the Rosenblum at the same tournament, in partnership with Sidney Lazard.
During the 1990’s Bart started writing tournament reports for The Bridge World magazine, which he continues to do. In 2006 he became a director of that magazine’s Master Solvers’ Club.
Bart helped popularize (but did not invent) the “convention” SDAM: Six Diamonds Always Makes.
Bart’s biggest fan is his wife Judy, with whom he has shared his life since 1977.
Bridge Base Inc. was incorporated in 1990 by Fred Gitelman and Sheri Winestock in Toronto. BBI’s focus was on bridge-related educational software.
Bridge Base set up their first booth at an NABC in 1990 to show their software to the world. Shortly after opening, Bob Hamman watched their demo and purchased the product. Fred clearly remembers thinking, “This is a good sign – we are going somewhere with this.” Bridge Master, a program sold on floppy disks for DOS computers, was their first commercial success.
During the last week of 2000, the first version of what became BBO was created – largely the result of an unrelated programming experiment by Gitelman. At that time, the existing online bridge services were either pay sites or low-quality. Winestock and Gitelman believed that a high-quality free site was important to the future of bridge.
The first version of BBO was officially released in 2001. That summer, Fred and Sheri approached Uday Ivatury at the NABC to solicit technical assistance. Because Uday believed in the concept of BBO and wanted to help, he voluntarily rewrote much of the existing code. Impressed by Ivatury’s work, Fred and Sheri offered to make Uday a partner in their new venture. At the time, the company wasn’t much more than a labor of love that had no means of generating income and no plans to do so; nonetheless, Ivatury accepted the offer.
As the site continued to grow and expenses began to mount, BBO needed to start generating income. In 2004, BBO launched its first ACBL-sanctioned game. Around that same time, Bridge Base Online, Ltd. was founded in Nevada, where Fred and Sheri had relocated.
In 2007, Bill Gates, Sharon Osberg and Dave Smith became partners in BBO by investing in the company. Although they are not actively involved in day-to-day affairs, their wisdom and friendship has greatly benefitted BBO over the years.
BBO’s first web-based client software was released in 2018. That same year, the company acquired GIB, Matthew Ginsberg’s bridge-playing robot software. That acquisition has led to the development of several popular formats of robot tournaments and the never-ending challenge of improving GIB.
BBO continues to grow and make bridge accessible to the masses. The company has expanded its staff to 20 active bridge players, some of whom Fred, Sheri and Uday have never met in person. With offerings including ACBL-sanctioned robot tournaments, arcade games (free, simple, anonymous bridge variants intended for less serious players), vugraph presentations of championships worldwide and the ability to access the site from mobile and desktop devices, BBO hosts more than 150,000 players daily. From rank beginners to the best of the best, BBO users come from all corners of the globe.
David Bruce, Life Master #1, was one of the preeminent tournament players of the 1930s.
Born in New York City, David Burnstine (the name he went by during his playing career), had won 26 national titles by 1936, the year the rank of Life Master was established.
Everybody who was anybody in the world of bridge in the 1930s played at the Contract Bridge Club in New York. It was here that Burnstine and other experts of the day regularly engaged in competitive play.
Burnstine’s earliest tournament victories came as a member of the famous Four Horsemen team, captained by P. Hal Sims. The other members of the team were Willard Karn and Oswald Jacoby.
In 1932, Burnstine left the Four Horsemen and established his own squad, the Bid-Rite team, featuring Richard Frey, Howard Schenken and Charles Lockridge.
The Bid-Rite team was defeated, however, by the Sims team in the 1932 Vanderbilt. Burnstine made some roster changes, replacing Lockridge with Jacoby, whom he recruited from Sims, and adding Michael T. Gottlieb.
This team, named the Four Aces, won seven national team championships during the next two years. With Burnstine at the helm, the Four Aces, with additional changes in the line-up but always with the great players of that time, would dominate tournament team play for the remainder of the decade.
Burnstine’s tournament victories include a first-place finish in the first official World Championship in 1935. He also won the American Whist League All-American Open Teams four times (three of which were auction bridge), the USBA Open Teams twice, the Open Pairs once and the American Bridge League’s Challenge Teams three times.
To this impressive collection of titles won in the early days of tournament bridge, Burnstine added five wins in the Vanderbilt and three in the Spingold. When Burnstine was named the first Life Master, no one argued the point.
Burnstine had a well-deserved reputation as an excellent bidder. His contributions to early bidding literature include two books. The first, Four Horsemen’s One Over One, outlining the bidding structure of the Sims’ team, was published in 1932.
Burnstine’s other book, Four Aces System of Contract Bridge (1935), was co-written with other members of that team. The latter book is significant for the manner in which it revolutionized quantitative auctions.
The principal legacy of David Burnstine in the world of bidding theory is his invention of the strong artificial 2♣ opening, still used by the majority of tournament players.
Burnstine also created intermediate two-bids in the other suits, a prominent feature of modern-day Acol.
Burnstine was a supremely self-confident player, a supportive partner and an unsettling opponent. He especially enjoyed sparring with Ely Culbertson and frequently bested him, despite the fact that Culbertson was a household-name celebrity of Culbertson.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1939, where he lived until his death in 1965 at the age of 65, Burnstine made very few tournament appearances. After his illustrious career in the 1930s, he changed his name to David Bruce.
Hall of Fame C
Churchill devised his system in 1929, and although he did not play much bridge after 1944, the system was employed with considerable success for 50 years. It took some time for his bidding concepts to gain acceptance, and no doubt his record in high-level competition helped in that regard.
Churchill certainly employed his system to maximum effect, winning the Life Master Pairs in 1937 and 1948, setting two records in partnership with Cecil Head. As a partnership they scored 65% as an average for four sessions and scored 77.4% in a single session, a stunning achievement.
S. Garton Churchill was born in Bellefontaine OH in 1900. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and Harvard Law School. Despite his success in tournament bridge, he curtailed bridge activities because of commitments to his law firm, Loeb, Churchill & Lawther in Manhattan, and to his family.
His tournament record was impressive. Besides the two wins in the LM Pairs, he was on the winning team in the 1932 Chicago (now Reisinger) Board-a-Match Teams. He placed second in that event four times, and he was second in the Master Mixed Teams (now the Mixed BAM).
His regional wins included the Eastern States Knockout Teams in 1937, 1938 and 1939, the New Jersey State Master Pairs in 1947 and 1959 and the Secondary Senior Pairs in 1959.
Churchill died in 1992 in Fairview NC.
Larry learned bridge at age 6 from his grandparents. He began playing duplicate at age 14 and competing at age 15.
Cohen considers himself very fortunate to have had long-term, regular bridge partners from whom he learned. “Ron Gerard taught me discipline. Marty Bergen helped me immensely with understanding competitive-bidding decisions. David Berkowitz is the best game/slam-decision bidder that I’ve seen.”
In 1981, at age 22, Larry won his first of 25 National Championships. Gerard sets the scene, “After playing for 12 days, we’re in the final of the Spingold. Earlier in the tournament, Steve Weinstein and Fred Stewart had won the Life Master Pairs. We were sitting out the third quarter of the final, and Henry Francis interviewed us for the Bulletin story that would feature the winners and runners-up. He asked Larry, ‘How does it feel to be in the final of the Spingold at age 22?’ Larry responded, ‘22? The Weinstein kid who won the Life Master Pairs is only 17. I feel like an old man already.”
“It goes without saying that Larry was my favorite partner, Of course, as great a bridge partner as Larry was, more importantly, for some 40-plus years, he has been a great friend.” says Bergen. “
Berkowitz says, “Larry is universally liked and respected by competitors and students for his calm demeanor and friendly attitude. He really enjoys when people say, ‘I hated having to play against you, but I loved being at your table.”
The publication in 1992 of Cohen’s blockbuster “To Bid or Not To Bid: The LAW of Total Tricks” opened up new professional bridge avenues. He started teaching in 1996 and headlined his first cruise in 1998. In 2009, Cohen retired from the tournament circuit to devote himself full time to teaching and writing.
“The joy of teaching is so satisfying,” he says. “When my students leave a cruise or land event happy, I’m happy. I’d much rather hear ‘Larry, I loved the seminar – I learned so much!’ than ‘Congratulations on winning the fill-in-the blank event.”’
Berkowitz describes Cohen as an introvert outside of his teaching role. “His life is devoted to his loves, like Maria Eugenia (his wife), golf, the Yankees and the Law of Total Tricks.” “I once had the passion for bridge tournaments,” says Cohen. “But how much of my life do I need to spend in a hotel ballroom, eating poorly, sleeping poorly and getting stressed? If my tombstone were to say ‘35 national championships’ instead of 25, would it really matter? Now, I travel in style with my wife, with very little stress and few regrets.”
In addition to his NABC titles, Larry has a silver and bronze medal in international competition. He was the 2002 ACBL Player of the Year, the 2011 ACBL Honorary Member and the Lazard Sportsmanship Award recipient in 2003. He received Book of the Year honors from the ABTA in 1993, 2015 and 2019. He also earned ABTA software/technology awards in 2000, 2005, 2011 and 2012.
Texas businessman Ira Corn is no doubt best remembered as the driving force in the creation of the famous Aces team in 1968. Corn had grown weary of the domination of the Italian Blue Team in world championship events, so he gathered a squad of players from the U.S. who would train together. Their goal was to win world championships.
Corn contacted Bobby Wolff, Bobby Goldman, Jim Jacoby, Mike Lawrence, Billy Eisenberg and Bob Hamman to be a part of the squad. All agreed except Hamman, who later changed his mind and joined the team. The Aces succeeded in their quest for gold medals beginning with a victory in the Bermuda Bowl in 1970.
As the founder or co-founder of 24 companies, Corn was a successful businessman. In addition, Corn was an expert on World War II, according to Bobby Wolff. “Just before his death, Ira completed a book on the Normandy invasion. That book is something special in that it tells the story both from the Allied and the German sides.”
Corn also wrote and had published The Story of the Declaration of Independence . This was shortly after he paid $407,000 for an original copy of the document, prompting this headline in an English newspaper: “Wealthy Texan buys rebel document.”
Wolff’s favorite story, however, concerns Corn and backgammon. “Ira wanted me to write the definitive book on backgammon by Ira Corn. ‘Why would you write a book of backgammon when you don’t even know how to set up the pieces?’ I asked. ‘Bobby,’ Corn replied, ‘you don’t understand. That’s what makes it so great.’”
Corn served as president of the Dallas Bridge Association in 1968 and was elected to the ACBL Board of Directors in 1971. He served as ACBL president in 1980 and as chairman of the Board in 1981. Corn died in 1982.
Barry Crane, widely recognized as the top matchpoint player of all time, was a successful director/producer of film and television. He is one of a small group of world champion bridge players whose presence enhanced many tournaments while they maintained active and highly respected careers outside of bridge.
Crane became ACBL’s top masterpoint holder in 1968, a position previously held only by Oswald Jacoby and Charles Goren. Crane amassed points at an astounding rate until, at the time of his death, he had 35,138, more than 11,000 ahead of any other players. On July 5, 1985, Crane was the victim of a brutal, murder that went unsolved until 2019.
Crane’s bridge career spanned almost four decades, beginning in the late Forties when he won his first regional. In 1951 when he was 23, his team finished second in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams and he became ACBL Life Master #325.
He subsequently won 16 NABC titles – the first in 1953 and the last in 1983. He won the Open Pairs seven times, the Master Mixed Teams three times, the Mixed Pairs three times and the North American Swiss Teams, the NABC Men’s Pairs and the NABC Men’s Swiss Teams once each.
Records indicate the Crane won more than 1000 tournament championships, some 700 of which were pairs titles at the regional or higher level.
Crane won the McKenney Trophy six times, and was runner-up six times. He exerted so much influence on the race that after his death it was renamed the “Barry Crane Top 500.”
World-wide recognition came to Crane when, at the 1978 World Championships, he and Kerri Shuman (now Sanborn) ran away with the World Mixed Pairs in a field loaded with international stars. This stunning victory, by more than five boards, further enhanced Crane’s claim to the title of world’s best matchpoint player.
Despite his bridge addiction, Crane had an abiding passion for his work. It never bothered him when he couldn’t go to a tournament, because his job was his prime interest.
He usually could arrange his TV production schedule so he could attend most tournaments for a few days.
A habitual weekend commuter, he said he would travel anywhere within flying distance for a regional and anywhere within driving distance for a sectional.
Many of the personal and professional attributes that led to Crane’s success in television carried over to his remarkable mastery in the world of tournament bridge.
In his TV classic, Mission Impossible, Crane’s contributions were many and varied. He produced the show, directed it, wrote it and advanced many innovative ideas to both the script and the remarkable technology.
Crane was once asked why he didn’t write up his bidding style and publish it. He never bothered, he said, because the financial rewards from such a book wouldn’t have been worth his time. He could bat out a script for a show that would make more money in less time.
In many respects Crane was an A-1 ambassador and publicist for bridge all over North America . No one gave as many interviews to the media in as many different cities and towns.
One Crane obituary recalled the words of S. J. Simon, who said that there are two kinds of bridge players – the Parrots and the Naturals. “Barry Crane,” the story said, “was a Natural. We shall not see his like again.”
When he first rose to bridge prominence, John Crawford was known as a boy wonder. His tournament record – three world titles and 37 North American championships – proved he was no flash in the pan.
When he died of a heart attack on Valentine’s Day in 1976, the 60-year-old Crawford was eulogized as one of the brightest stars of bridge.
Handsome and debonair, the irrepressible Crawford first attracted attention in 1934 when he and a teenage partner nearly broke up a tournament with their daring psychic bidding and imaginative play.
Three years later he was consorting with the likes of Charles Goren, B. Jay Becker and Sidney Silodor.
Crawford was known for his table presence, epitomized by the following story of his exploits in a high-stakes rubber bridge game. Late in the evening, Crawford reached a grand slam in clubs holding seven clubs to the A-K-Q-10 opposite a singleton. If he made the contract, that deal would be the last of the night, so when Crawford noticed that the kibitzers had not stirred, he drew the inference that the slam was not a lay down. Backing his judgment, Crawford played the singleton trump from dummy and finessed the 10, the only play to make the slam since his right-hand opponent held four clubs to the jack.
Crawford became Life Master #19 in 1939, the youngest of the select group of early Life Masters. In 1950, 1951 and 1953, he was on the winning team in the Bermuda Bowl. He and his teammates so dominated bridge in the 1950s that they won the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams five times in six years, a feat that has never been approached.
Crawford won the Chicago Trophy (since 1965 the Reisinger) ten times. The first of those wins, in 1937, came when he was only 22. At the time, he was the youngest player ever to win a North American championship.
He won the title the following year, then flew to Pittsburgh from a Florida honeymoon to defend it successfully again in 1939. Crawford’s last victory in the prestigious event came in 1961.
In 1957, Crawford held all five national team titles at once: the Vanderbilt, the Spingold, the Chicago (now Reisinger), the Men’s and the Mixed.
Never at a loss for words, Crawford brimmed with confidence and hubris. He was once approached at a tournament by a player who wanted his opinion on a hand.
“Before you give me the hand, who’s my partner supposed to be?” Crawford asked.
“It’s unimportant,” answered the player.
“I have to know,” said Crawford. “It might make a difference.”
“Okay then – another good player. Make it yourself or your twin brother.”
“Who are my opponents?”
“If you insist on that, too, make it two more Johnny Crawfords.”
Said Crawford: “I’m sorry, I wouldn’t play in that game, it’s too tough.”
An expert in many card games and forms of gambling, Crawford lectured extensively during his wartime Army service in an attempt to help service men avoid being cheated.
Crawford helped found the New York Card School in 1950. He moved to New York City from Philadelphia in 1959.
His writings include Crawford’s Contract Bridge, How to be a Consistent Winner in the Most Popular Card Games and books on canasta and samba.
Perhaps the most colorful and flamboyant figure in the history of bridge was Ely Culbertson. His career was so varied that it defies a brief synopsis, but in the world of bridge Culbertson is remembered as an extraordinary organizer, player and — above all — showman.
His success in all of these endeavors made Culbertson fabulously wealthy even at the height of the Great Depression.
A self-educated man, Culbertson was also an author and lecturer on mass psychology and political science. He was born in Romania but was an American citizen from birth by registration with the U.S. consul, being the son of Almon Culbertson, an American mining engineer who had been retained by the Russian government to develop the Caucasian oil fields and who had married a Russian woman, Xenia Rogoznaya, daughter of a Cossack atamon or chief.
Culbertson belonged to a pioneer American family who settled about Titusville PA and Oil City PA. Later he joined the Sons of the American Revolution to refute rumors that he had changed his name or falsified his ancestry.
He attended gymnasia in Russia and matriculated at Yale (1908) and Cornell (1910), but in each case remained only a few months.
Later (1913-14) he studied political science at l’Ecole des Sciences Economiques et Politiques at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) and in 1915 at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, but he was largely self-educated, and the erudition for which he was admired can principally be attributed to a self-imposed and invariable regimen of reading a book designed to improve his knowledge at least one hour before going to sleep each night. In this he was aided by an aptitude for languages.
He conversed fluently in Russian, English, French, German, Czech, Spanish and Italian, had a reading knowledge of Slavonic, Polish, Swedish, and Danish-Norwegian, and had a knowledge of classical Latin and Greek.
In 1907 Culbertson participated as a student in one of the abortive Russian revolutions. He pursued his revolutionary ideas in labor disputes in the American Northwest and in Mexico and Spain (1911-1912), serving as an agitator for the union and syndicalist sides.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 wiped out his family’s large fortune there, Culbertson lived for four years in Paris and other European cities by exploiting his skill as a card player.
In 1921 he returned to the U.S. , almost penniless, and continued to derive his chief living from winnings in card games. In 1923, having acquired some reputation as a bridge player, he married Mrs. Josephine Murphy Dillon, one of the highly reputed bridge teachers in New York City.
Together they became a successful pair as tournament players and bridge authorities. Between 1926 and 1929, the then new game of contract bridge began to replace auction bridge, and Culbertson saw in this development an opportunity to overtake the firmly entrenched authorities on auction bridge.
Culbertson planned a long-range campaign that included the construction of a dogmatic system, the publication of a magazine to appeal to group leaders in bridge, the authorship of a bridge textbook to serve as a “bible”, an organization of professional bridge teachers, a dramatization of himself and his wife as largely fictitious personalities and the expansion of the appeal of bridge by breaking down religious opposition to card playing. The plan proved conspicuously successful.
Culbertson founded his magazine, The Bridge World, in 1929. Through the same corporation he published his earliest bridge books, all of which were best sellers. He manufactured and sold bridge players’ supplies, including the introduction of Kem playing cards, maintained an organization of bridge teachers (Culbertson National Studios), which at its peak had 6000 members, and conducted bridge competitions through the United States Bridge Association and the World Bridge Olympics and American Bridge Olympics.
In its best year, 1937, The Bridge World, Inc., grossed more than $1,000,000, of which $220,000 were royalties payable to Culbertson before profits were calculated.
As a regular tournament competitor Culbertson had the best record in the earliest years of contract bridge. In 1930 he won the Vanderbilt and American Bridge League Knockout Team events, also the ABL B-A-M Team event, and finished second in the Master Pairs.
That year he led a team that played the first international match, in England, and defeated several teams there. In 1933 and 1934 his teams won the Schwab Cup.
Culbertson seldom played tournament bridge after 1934, but he was second in the ABL’s 1935 matchpoint team contest and in the International Bridge League’s first intercontinental tournament in 1937. Culbertson continued to play high-stake rubber bridge until about two years before his death.
The success of Culbertson’s Blue Book in 1930 caused the established auction bridge authorities to join forces to combat his threatened domination of contract bridge. Culbertson countered by challenging the leading player among his opposition, Sidney Lenz, to a test match, offering 5-1 odds.
Culbertson’s victory in this match, played in the winter of 1931-32, fortified his leading position. The great publicity accorded the match enriched Culbertson; he and his wife both acquired contracts for widely syndicated newspaper articles, he made a series of movie shorts for $360,000 and he received $10,000 a week for network radio broadcasts. In 1935 Culbertson tried to recapture the magic of his match against Lenz by playing a similar match against P. Hal and Dorothy Sims, but although the Culbertsons won this match also, there was no such publicity advantage as accrued from the Lenz match.
The publicity accorded Culbertson throughout his professional career can be attributed equally to his unquestioned abilities, his colorful personality and his grandiose way of life. Culbertson lived in the grand manner, with total disregard of expense whether at the moment he happened to be rich or penniless.
Once he strolled into Sulka’s (then) on Fifth Avenue in New York and bought $5,000 worth of shirts. He smoked a private blend of cigarettes that cost him $7 a day. When he decided to buy a Duesenberg automobile in 1934, he did not sell his Rolls Royce but gave it away.
His home for years was an estate in Ridgefield CT, with a 45-room house, several miles of paved and lighted roads, greenhouses, cottages, lakes and an enclosed swimming pool with orchids growing along its periphery.
He always had caviar with his tea and made special trips to Italy to buy his neckties. When he died in 1955, he owned five houses for his own use — four of them with swimming pools. But Culbertson rationalized these extravagances as publicity devices. He actually lived in one small room with a cot and a table, and he spent most of his time pacing the floor and thinking.
In 1933, when a newspaper reporter asked him, “Mr. Culbertson, how did you get ahead of those other bridge authorities?” he answered, “I got up in the morning and went to work.”
Culbertson’s contributions to the science of contract bridge, both practical and theoretical, were basic and timeless. He devised the markings on duplicate boards for vulnerability and the bonuses for games and partscores.
He was the first authority to treat distribution as equal or superior to high cards in formulating the requirements for bids. Forcing bids, including the one-over-one, were original Culbertson concepts, as were four-card suit bids, limited notrump bids, the strong two-bid and wholesale ace-showing including the 4NT slam try.
These were presented in the historic Lesson Sheets on the Approach-Forcing System (1927) and in numerous magazine articles written by Culbertson in the Twenties and early Thirties. Specific bridge principles attributable to Culbertson, separately described, include among others Asking Bids, the Grand Slam Force, Jump Bids, and the New-Suit Forcing principle, which Culbertson first introduced and later repudiated.
In 1938, with war imminent in Europe, Culbertson lost interest in bridge and thereafter devoted his time to seeking some grand achievement in political science.
To affect world peace he proposed international control of decisive weapons and a quota for each major nation in tactical forces. After formation of the United Nations, to which Culbertson’s ideas made a discernible contribution, he persisted in a campaign to give it adequate police power.
At one time 17 U.S. Senators and 42 U.S. Congressmen subscribed to a proposed joint resolution of Congress advocating Culbertson’s proposals. But in the course of these activities Culbertson lost his position as the leading bridge authority; by 1950 or earlier, Charles Goren had surpassed him in the sale of books and other bridge writings and in the adherence of bridge teachers and players. When a bridge Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1964, nine years after his death, however, Culbertson was the first person elected.
Though never an ACBL Life Master, he was named Honorary Member in 1938. Ely and Josephine Culbertson were divorced in 1938 and in 1947 Culbertson married Dorothy Renata Baehne, who was 35 years younger than he.
There were two children by each of his marriages. Culbertson suffered in later years from a lung congestion (emphysema) and died at his last home in Brattleboro VT of a common cold that proved fatal because of the lung condition.
Minor works by Ely Culbertson, such as paperbound books and pamphlets, are literally too numerous to mention, and all or nearly all were written by members of Culbertson’s staff, as also were most of the newspaper and magazine articles published under Culbertson’s name from 1932 on.
Earlier articles in bridge periodicals were written by Culbertson, as were the following of his major books, each of which was published in many editions: Contract Bridge Blue Book, 1930; Culbertson’s Self-Teacher, 1933; Red Book on Play, 1934; The Gold Book or Contract Bridge Complete, 1936; and Point-Count Bidding, 1952. Culbertson’s autobiography, The Strange Lives of One Man, was published in 1940. His principal works on political science were Total Peace, 1943, and Must We Fight Russia?, 1947.
“The modern miracle — the woman who can play on even terms with the best men” was the second woman elected to the Bridge Hall of Fame.
Josephine Culbertson (1899–1956) was the first woman to achieve championship caliber and, as such, helped to pave the way for Helen Sobel, Sally Young and others.
As a member of The Bridge World team, with Waldemar von Zedtwitz as her partner and later Michael Gottlieb and Albert Morehead, she won national and international championships including the Schwab Cup in 1933 and 1934.
With husband Ely, she played many high-stakes set games, won international matches in England and France, and achieved national fame in the Culbertson-Lenz match.
Ely Culbertson, in his autobiography the Strange Lives of One Man, described his meeting Jo at the Knickerbocker Whist club in New York . “I couldn’t help noticing,” he wrote, “that she stood out among the many attractive women present as if she were alone.
“Not that there was anything immediately arresting about her. But the ensemble of her gestures, speech and features, like the ensemble of her clothes, indefinably suggested a distinct and yet restrained personality.
“She was extraordinarily young for a bridge teacher and for her reputation as America’s greatest woman player — not over 22. She was decidedly attractive, at times beautiful; tall, slender, with large Irish eyes, a slightly retroussé nose and a most winning smile.
“I was particularly impressed with her hands — long, narrow, alive with suppressed feeling. Her gestures were smoothly slow, controlled by thought rather than impulse.”
After the two had played bridge together for the first time, Ely Culbertson wrote that Jo had “a man’s mind — and something else more precious; something so rare that only one in a thousand women is endowed with it: charm. It emanated in tranquil waves from the attitudes of her heart, that angle of her thoughts, her pregnant silences, the dignity of her movements, the shyness of her voice, the structure of her smile.”
Culbertson, in a later chapter quotes an old Western gambler who had just played the couple. “Mrs. Culbertson,” the gambler said, “I apologize for thinking that women are not as good players as men. You and your husband have not only given me the licking of my life, but you yourself are the finest bridge player I have ever seen.”
Years later, Alphonse Moyse Jr., who succeeded Ely Culbertson as editor and publisher of The Bridge World, wrote Jo’s obituary and recalled her early years in bridge:
“Jo Culbertson carved a unique niche for herself among men who theretofore had not taken kindly to the idea of playing with women. . .
“She endeared herself by neither demanding nor expecting gallantry: she met these men on even terms, fought them fiercely at the card table and won her full share of victories.
“It was like that throughout her bridge career. And, of course, since she despised coyness and all feminine subterfuges, she gained the deep respect and affection of every partner and every opponent.”
Moyse concluded: “I knew Jo Culberston for 23 years. I was with her through good times and sad times.
“Not once in those 23 years did I see or hear of any act of hers that was mean or small or unkind.
“I can still hear her lovely laughter.”
Hailed by the World Bridge Federation as “one of the greatest bridge players in the world,” Deas ranked second in the WBF’s all-time listing of women players. Her bridge credits include 13 WBF medals and 27 ACBL North American championships. In 2004, she won the Lazard Sportsmanship award. She was overjoyed at being elected to the ACBL Hall of Fame shortly before her death in May 2020.
Deas grew up in Newport News VA. Sidelined by a severe car accident when she was in medical school, she used the forced leave of absence o make a career change. She decided to pursue playing bridge professionally.
Bridge expert, journalist and commentator Barry Rigal has followed U.S. Women’s bridge over the last 30 years.
“I always felt that despite Lynn’s splendid achievements, she was never close to getting the kudos she deserved,” Rigal says. “Bear in mind Lynn nearly died post the 1996 Rhodes world championship and was never able to play bridge out of a wheelchair again! That is 25 years of dealing with life-threatening diseases.”
During a February 2020 interview, Lynn was asked if she had an all-time favorite deal. Her response, in signature style, came immediately. “Y’all are gonna enjoy this.” Valerie Westheimer, a New York City expert, sets the scene. “Before I ever played against Lynn, I read an rticle in the New York Times by Alan Truscott about the most brilliant play in the 1991 Yokohama World Championship. Lynn and her partner bid to 7♣. Truscott: ‘As the same deals were played in both series (Open and Women’s), there were numerous opportunities. A bunch of top experts failed and, after protracted postmortems, were convinced that 7♣ could not be made barring a defensive error. They were astonished to learn that Deas had made 7♣ without any help from the defense.”’
Westheimer says that many may not be aware of Lynn’s other talents. “She was a persistent and, eventually, accomplished gardener. Also, she could whip up a delectable four-course meal on the spur of the moment for a bunch of friends. She was amazing!”
Rich Kasprowicz, Deas’s recently deceased husband of nearly 30 years, appreciated Lynn’s determination to play the game she loved despite the many obstacles. “Also her love for her dogs,” Kasprowicz adds. “They meant the world to her.” When Deas died, she and Kasprowicz had 13 dogs and three puppies.
Bridge professional Curtis Cheek says, ‘’Lynn took me under her wing 27 years ago. She became a huge part of my life – in business, as a partner and as a friend. I’ll miss her texts with pictures of each new litter of puppies, the phone calls to ask how I would bid a hand, and the 4 a.m. visits from hotel security because we were laughing too loud. The world has lost one of its all-time great players, and I’ve lost a dear friend.”
Hall of Fame E
In the 30 years since he moved from New York to Dallas to join the Aces, Billy Eisenberg has accomplished much in competitive bridge, including five world championships. He has also thought a lot about how the game fits into his life.
“One of the great things about bridge,” the Boca Raton FL resident says, “is that at various times in your life you can reinvent your feelings about the game. It was a passion for me, then it was a job. Lately I’ve experienced a rebirth of passion for bridge.”
Eisenberg has good reason for a renewal of enthusiasm — his election to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame, acknowledging his varied accomplishments and contributions to the game.
When he arrived in Dallas in 1968 to joined the fabled Aces — the world’s first full-time professional bridge team — Eisenberg was somewhat of a maverick, a New Yorker suddenly thrust into a world of cowboys and guns.
His bridge expertise was all that counted, however, and he fit into the program well, becoming known for his partnership skills.
By the time he left the Aces in 1971 to head for California, Eisenberg had two Bermuda Bowl titles to his credit (1970 and 1971) and he would win three more (1976, 1977 and 1979).
Significantly, his five world championships were earned with four different partners.
In all, he has represented the U.S. in 10 world championships. He has won numerous European tournaments, including the prestigious London Sunday Times Invitational (now the Macallan International Bridge Pairs Championship).
His North American championships include the Spingold KO Teams (1969 and 1973), the Vanderbilt KO Teams (1971 and 1978), the Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams (1970, 1974 and 1976), the Grand National Teams (1974 and 1976), the Life Master Pairs and Men’s B-A-M Teams (both 1968) and the Senior KO Teams (1995).
Eisenberg is not only a former world champion. He has also been a coach, teacher and vugraph commentator.
He is one of the official vugraph commentators for the World Bridge Federation. He was coach to the first ACBL Junior team to attend Junior Camp in Poland in 1987 and he has coached and been teacher to many national teams around the world, including Israel, Panama, Venezuela and the Netherlands.
In addition to his prowess at bridge, Eisenberg is an expert backgammon player. He won a world title in backgammon in 1974 and has been a professional player in the game. He is a WBF Grand Master and an ACBL Diamond Life Master.
For years, one of Eisenberg’s regular partners was Benito Garozzo, formerly of the famed Italian Blue Team, bitter rival of the Aces. Eisenberg still plays occasionally with Garozzo, now a U.S. citizen living in Boca Raton.
Eisenberg considers his days with the Aces as pivotal in his bridge career. “All of us got to be recognized as good players,” he says, “and the Aces had an enormous impact on bridge as far as coaching and practicing.”
Eisenberg acknowledges that the game has been good to him. “Bridge has been enriching to me,” he says, “and I’ve tried to give something back.”
Hall of Fame F
Mary Jane Farell, building on a childhood fascination with bridge, has crafted an all-star career that includes four world championships and election to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame.
“I saw bridge at home and was fascinated by the time I was nine,” says Farell, who joined former teammate Dorothy Truscott as 1998 inductees. They were the first two American women to earn the rank of World Grand Master, the World Bridge Federation’s highest ranking.
Farell earned the rank by winning the 1966 World Mixed Pairs with Ivan Erdos, the 1970 World Women’s Pairs with Marilyn Johnson and the 1978 Venice Cup with Johnson and teammates Truscott, Emma Jean Hawes, Jacqui Mitchell and Gail Greenberg. She added the World Women’s Team Olympiad crown in 1980 with the same team.
Those victories were highlights, she agrees, but election to the Bridge Hall of Fame was “the apex of my bridge career.”
It’s a career that began in Cincinnati, where Farell grew up. “I couldn’t wait to get home from school to kibitz whenever my mother had the game at our house.”
She was introduced to duplicate at age 17 when the family moved to Los Angeles.
“The local rubber bridge club had twice-monthly duplicate sessions and I began playing duplicate in those games with the young men I dated. Once I began playing duplicate, I couldn’t play often enough.”
One of those young men, Arnold Kauder, became her mentor and her husband. They were later divorced but Farell remembers Kauder as “a marvelous bridge player. It was he who put the polish on my game.”
Farell began teaching after World War II. “Women used to call me up and ask for advice on bidding, play of the hand, defense — whatever. Then groups of women would get together at one home and hire me to teach them.”
Her professional playing began in much the same way. “People made me a pro. They offered to pay for babysitters and card fees, and they would pick me up and transport me to the tournaments.
“It’s really nice to have a hobby that turned into a living. I feel very fortunate. Bridge has been good for me and to me.”
She’s also given back to bridge, serving on appeals committees at regionals and NABCs and hosting “Coffee with Mary Jane” seminars. In 1964, the Los Angeles Times named Farell “Woman of the Year” in recognition of her gaining first place among women in the all-time masterpoint rankings.
In 1978 she and Johnson became the first women to win the six-session Life Master Pairs — they remain the only women’s pair to have their names engraved on the von Zedtwitz Gold Cup.
Farell remembers that she and Johnson served on a committee after the final session. “Then we came back to see if we were in the top 10. We had had a soft last session, but we were still leading and we were ecstatic.”
Today Farell, who describes herself as “a crusader (and) a champion of the less experienced player,” plays mostly at the club level with longtime pupils. “My friends are the little people in the bridge world.”
She and husband Jules Farell, who died in 2005, met through bridge and Farell says proudly, “It’s been a great marriage. We are a very good husband-and-wife partnership — we play together without bickering. Jules is still my favorite partner — I wish we could play together more frequently.”
Harry Fishbein of New York City, was a pro basketball player and president of the famous Mayfair Club, proprietor from 1940-70. Fishbein, who wore a beret as his trademark, authored the Fishbein convention and was an outstanding player. He won 12 North American titles: the Vanderbilt in 1936, 1943, 1947, 1949 and 1958; the Life Master Pairs in 1939 and 1940; the Master Individual in 1942 and 1952; the Master Mixed Teams in 1947; the Men’s Pairs in 1959, and the Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1965. Fishbein placed 2nd 18 times: the Spingold in 1937, 1943, 1945 and 1958; the Master Individual in 1938; the Men’s Pairs in 1940; the Chicago (since 1965 the Reisinger) in 1942, 1953, 1957 and 1959; the Master Mixed Teams in 1945 and 1948; the Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1952, 1953 and 1960; the Open Pairs in 1959 and 1968, and the Life Master Men’s Pairs in 1963. He represented the U.S. in the Bermuda Bowl in 1959 and served as the non-playing captain of the 1960 U.S. World Olympiad Team. Fishbein served as the ACBL treasurer for 14 years (1952-1966) and was named the ACBL’s Honorary Member in 1966.
One of the most popular and capable personages to ever grace the ACBL family is Bulletin Editor Emeritus Henry Francis. As a teenager in the early 1940s living in Massachusetts, he embarked upon two careers that for six decades would enrich his own life as well as others with whom he came into contact.
One endeavor was bridge (as a player, tournament reporter, club director and owner, and ACBL tournament director at the sectional, regional and national level). The other was as a journalist.
According to his dear friend and well-loved Co-Editor Emeritus, Sue Emery, “It was pure serendipity when these two careers came together in 1972. The Boston Herald was folding, and the ACBL was moving to Memphis and needed an editor for the Bulletin. Henry brought his considerable knowledge, great experience, talent and boundless enthusiasm to the job.”
During his years in Memphis, he edited the monthly ACBL magazine, three editions of The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge, many editions of the World Championship Book, World Championship Bulletins and Daily Bulletins at the North American Bridge Championships for more than 30 years. His association with the World Championships attracted the attention of the world bridge press. Soon thereafter, he was invited to serve in several capacities by both the International Bridge Press Association and the World Bridge Federation.
Henry still can be seen playing in the local and nearby tournaments, an occasional ACBL event and in the weekly Memphis duplicates where he ran his own Thursday night game for many years. Despite the passage of much time, his interest in the game has not diminished, and the mutual love affair between Henry Francis and the world of bridge continues to flourish.
Richard Freeman, a “Quiz Kid” of radio fame in the Forties, became ACBL’s youngest Life Master in the Fifties and by March 2000 had claimed 15 North American championships and two world championships.
Freeman graduated from high school at the age of 12 and enrolled at the University of Chicago, earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts by the age of 15. At the age of 21, he had earned another bachelor’s degree (in business administration) and a law degree from George Washington University in DC.
Freeman became the ACBL’s youngest Life Master in 1952 at the age of 18. In the mid-Fifties, he began directing and became legendary for his speed with a pencil in the days when games were posted and scored by hand.
He won his first North American championship in 1955 — the Men’s (now Open) B-A-M Teams — playing with Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, Ralph Hirschberg and Al Roth.
Freeman is best known, however, for his partnership with Nick Nickell and for the success their team — Bob Hamman–Bobby Wolff, Paul Soloway, Jeff Meckstroth–Eric Rodwell — enjoyed for many years: the Spingold in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998 and 1999; the Reisinger in 1993, 1994 and 1995; the Vanderbilt in 2000 and the Bermuda Bowl in 1995 and 2000.
Freeman said that he considered bridge to be more than a game, more than a sport — “it broadens your perspective.” He credited his wife, Louise, with teaching him how to win.
Edith Kemp Freilich came from a bridge playing family. She grew up in South Orange NJ and later moved to New Yorkand Miami Beach. Freilich is an ACBL Grand Life Master and a WBF World Master. She became Life Master #70 in 1947.
In 1997 Freilich was the third woman elected to the ACBL Hall of Fame. She joined Josephine Culbertson and Helen Sobel Smith in the then select group of 22 bridge greats.
Freilich and Smith are the only two women who have won the Vanderbilt, the Spingold and the Reisinger (formerly the Chicago). To date only 64 players have accomplished this feat.
Freilich won her first major championship – the NABC Women’s Pairs (now the Whitehead Women’s Pairs) – with Mae Rosen in 1941.They repeated their victory in 1942 and 1943. Since then she has acquired an additional 26 NABC titles and represented the US in three World Championships.
A frequent partner and teammate in open and women’s events was her sister, the late Anne Burnstein. The pair accomplished a rare double when they won two national titles at the Spring NABC in 1979.
“It’s wonderful to have a sport you love,” she said. “I’m going to be playing bridge as long as I can walk and talk.
Dick Frey, Life Master #8, was a multi-talented writer, editor and champion player.
Frey (1905-1988) was a public relations chief and editor of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin from 1958 to 1970. He was editor-in-chief of the first three editions of The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge and 12 world championship books. After his retirement in 1970, he served as president of the International Bridge Press Association for 11 years.
Frey was a freelance writer on diverse non-fiction subjects for major magazines. His books on canasta, published in 1950 and 1951, sold more than a million copies and his According to Hoyle, published in 1956, sold nearly three million copies.
He was the author of How to Win at Contract Bridge in Ten Easy Lessons and several other books.
The generation of bridge players who knew Frey as an editor and a writer did not link him with personalities such as Ely Culbertson, P. Hal Sims, Harold S. Vanderbilt, Oswald Jacoby and Howard Schenken, but Frey was right there at the beginning of the heyday of contract bridge.
At age 25, he won his first major tournament victory — the Goldman Pairs. He was an original member of the Bid-Rite team and the Four Aces. In 1932, when Vanderbilt won the Vanderbilt Trophy for the first time, he had to defeat Frey’s Bid-Rite team (David Burnstine, Charles Lockridge and Howard Schenken) in the final.
The Bid-Rite team was the forerunner of the original Four Aces, formed in 1933 when Jacoby broke free from a Culbertson commitment and replaced Lockridge.
In 1934 the Aces (Frey, Burnstine, Jacoby, Schenken and Michael Gottlieb) won the Vanderbilt and the Spingold. Frey had the best tournament record of any player that year — he also won the Master Pairs and the Grand National Teams.
Frey had another great year in 1942 when he again achieved the rare double distinction of winning the Vanderbilt and the Spingold.
In a relatively short playing career, he won four other national events and was runner-up in seven.
In 1935 Frey went to work for Culbertson as sales manager for Kem Cards and later served as editor of The Bridge World magazine, technical consultant on the Culbertson system and a player on Culbertson teams, often as Ely’s partner.
In 1937 he began to write a daily newspaper column. He took over writing the Four Aces column in 1944 and in 1954 merged the two in collaboration with Schenken.
When he turned the column over to Schenken in 1970, Frey’s was the longest continuously published syndicated bridge feature in the United States .
From Culbertson to Charles Goren, Frey’s writing frequently appeared under the by-line of the bridge greats. He had the chameleon-like ability to change the style and flavor of his writing to fit that of the original.
Frey was boss and mentor to a number of bridge personalities he brought to the ACBL — Alan Truscott, Albert Dormer, Tannah Hirsch, Tom Smith, Steve Becker, Richard Oshlag and Sue Emery.
Emery, who is now Editor Emeritus of the Bridge Bulletin, remembers Frey as “such a great writer. He was a tough boss but he could take a pencil and your copy and make a story out of a mess.
“The man had a delightful sense of humor. He was very funny, a great storyteller and a stimulus to be around.”
Sam Fry became Life Master #10 when the category was created in 1936. Selection of the early Life Masters was based on their successes in national events. Fry, who had already won seven national titles, was 26 at the time.
Fry won four more national championships (the Spingold in 1937, 1941 and 1945 and the Vanderbilt in 1958) and represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1959.
Fry, who lived in New York City, was the longtime secretary of the Regency Whist Club. His writings on bridge and other games include How to Win at Bridge with Any Partner and a modern edition of Watson’s Play of the Hand at Bridge. He was a contributing editor of The Bridge World from 1932 until 1966.
Ivar Stakgold called Fry “one of the top bridge personalities of the 20th century.” Boris Koytchou of New York, a longtime friend, recalls this story:
“Sam Fry Jr., Eddie Hymes Jr. and Louis Watson — all fantastic bridge players and really bright guys, their IQs between 150 and 170 — traveled together to a tournament in Atlantic City in the 1930s.
“When they got to Atlantic City, they found that most of the hotel rooms were sold out. There were only two rooms for the three of them.
“Naturally, they drew lots to see who would get a single room and who would share.
“The next day, the guy who was bunking with Hymes said to the other: ’I can’t stand it. Eddie snores. I can’t get any sleep. I can’t concentrate. We’ll have to swap up.’
“The other agreed and so it went for the remainder of their stay. At the end of the tournament,” says Koytchou, chuckling, “it never occurred to them that they could have let Eddie sleep alone.”
Hall of Fame G
John Gerber won fame as a player, as a strong team captain and as the inventor of the ace-asking 4♣ bid that bears his name. A more important legacy to bridge may be found in the lives he influenced and continues to influence.
“Chances are that I wouldn’t be playing bridge today if it hadn’t been for Gerber,” says Sidney Lazard, considered one of the all-time greats of the game.
Bobby Wolff, another legendary bridge figure, calls Gerber “a father figure.” Gerber, Wolff says, “may have had the most influence on me when I first started to play.”
Gerber (1906-1981) was a strong captain of North American teams and a fine player in his own right. He won four NABC titles, was nine times a runner-up and won many regional events. He represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1961.
In recognition of these achievements, Gerber was elected to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame, the fourth Texan to be so honored (Wolff, Oswald Jacoby and Jim Jacoby are the others)
Lazard recalls playing with Gerber early in his own career. “I had about five mentors and he was certainly one of the main ones. The two strengths of my game — defense and tactics — I learned from Gerber. “His offensive bidding might have left something to be desired, but he was a fine defensive player and a fine tactical player.”
Gerber was one of the first to realize that if an opponent discarded a suit and there were four of that suit in dummy, the opponent likely had five or more. “And that was more than 30 years ago,” adds Lazard, “long before anyone else even thought about it.”
Wolff recalls kibitzing Gerber. “He had a tremendous feel for the game. I remember kibitzing once when the bidding went 1-Pass-2-Pass; Pass and he balanced with 3. He was vulnerable and if the opponents had stopped to double him, he would have gone down a bunch.
“Instead, they went to 3 and went down themselves. I asked him later why he had taken such a risk and his reply was, ’Did you check to see what our matchpoint score would have been for minus 110?’ ” Wolff says Gerber was “a dynamic matchpoint player. It seemed his score was always 200-plus with 156 average.”
Gerber was no slouch at board-a-match play either. His team (Mervin Key, Harold Rockaway and Paul Hodge) won the 1964 Reisinger, averaging 71% over four sessions.
Richard L. Goldberg, who died in 1999 at age 76, was a major figure in North American and world bridge for many years. At the world level he was a member of the Committee of Honor of the World Bridge Federation (WBF). He served the WBF as treasurer and finance officer from 1981 to 1990. He was elected a member of the WBF Executive Committee in 1972 and served on that board until 1984.
At the North American level, Goldberg began his career as a tournament director in 1959, rising to national tournament director in 1961. The ACBL drafted him for work as tournament division head in the New York City office in 1963, and he switched to Greenwich, Connecticut, when the ACBL moved there. In 1965 he became assistant to Alvin Landy, the executive secretary. He served in this post under Landy and later under Easley Blackwood until he took over as chief executive officer in 1971.
Goldberg faced a monumental task during his first year as CEO. The board of directors voted to move ACBL headquarters from Greenwich to Memphis, Tennessee. The task was accomplished in December 1972, when the ACBL headquarters building was completed.
Goldberg was named the ACBL’s Honorary Member in 1994. He was a member of the ACBL Laws Commission and the ACBL Goodwill Committee. He was also a good bridge player, achieving the rank of Life Master with several regional championships to his credit.
He retired as CEO in 1984 and moved shortly thereafter to Nashville, where he was born and where he earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering at Vanderbilt University. He worked as a civil engineer for 15 years before turning to bridge as a player and then as a director.
After announcing his retirement, Goldberg said his most satisfying moments in bridge came during his time as a tournament director. “Then I was working directly with the members,” Goldberg said, “and there is no substitute for being around people, understanding them, talking to them.”
On Goldberg’s death, Roy G. Green, former ACBL CEO, recalled Goldberg as “a wonderful human being who left his mark on the American Contract Bridge League. The people who worked with him loved him and respected him as an outstanding leader and a friend.”
Tommy Sanders of Nashville, former ACBL President and former District Director for District 10, remembered Goldberg as “my friend for 50 years — we were always close. He always gave me encouragement when I was on the Board of Directors. I loved him like a brother.”
Henry Francis, whom Goldberg hired as editor of The Bridge Bulletin in 1972, also called Goldberg one of his closest friends. “I never worked for Dick — we always worked together. He was one of the kindest men I ever knew. His son said it best at the funeral services: ‘He was a gentleman and a gentle man.’”
It should certainly come as no surprise that Bobby Goldman was selected for induction to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. A stellar career, Goldman had many accolades and made even more contributions to the game along with multiple victories.
Goldman’s tournament record is impressive. He earned four world titles (the Bermuda Bowl in 1970, 1971 and 1979 and the World Mixed Teams in 1972) and 19 North American championships: the Life Master Men’s Pairs (1964); the Life Master Pairs (1968); the Open B-A-M Teams (1993); the Men’s Teams (1968, 1989 and 1991); the Spingold Knockout Teams (1969, 1978, 1983, 1986 and 1988); the Reisinger B-A-M Teams (1970, 1976 and 1980); the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams (1971, 1973, 1978, 1997 and 1998). Goldman also had 13 second-place finishes in NABC events. He won both the pair and the team events at the 1977 Pan-American Invitational Championships.
At the time of his induction into the Hall of Fame, Goldman was an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 25,700 masterpoints, and ranked ninth on the all-time list of masterpoint holders. He was also a WBF World Grand Master.
Goldman authored several books on the game, including Aces Scientific and Winners and Losers at the Bridge Table. His contributions to bidding theory include Super Gerber, Kickback, Exclusion Blackwood and Goldman after Stayman. He was one of the principal architects of the Aces Scientific System.
Goldman served as ACBL recorder from 1986–1988 and was a longtime member of the Competitions and Conventions Committee. His views on the game helped shape the modern-day Alert procedure, the ACBL convention chart, ethics and the appeals process.
Goldman was honored by the ACBL by being named the 1999 Honorary Member, presented for long and meritorious service to bridge.
Goldman’s early career was distinguished by his association with the now-famous Aces, the professional, Texas-based team created by businessman Ira Corn for the purpose of winning world bridge championships. Goldman was a member of the successful squad until 1974.
Goldman enjoyed a 25-year-long partnership with fellow expert Paul Soloway. The pair won several NABC events as well as countless regionals. Despite the fact that Soloway’s services were acquired by the team of Nick Nickell, Goldman and Soloway still played regularly and created somewhat of an on-line following with their popular “Goldway” matches on OKbridge. Goldman advocated promoting the game through on-line play.
The von Zedtwitz Award was created to honor a deceased player who would have been elected to the Hall of Fame in their time, before the institution was created, but is not well known today. Agnes Gordon, the 2009 von Zedtwitz honoree, was one of the ACBL’s top players for three decades.
Eric Murray, who played with Gordon frequently, wrote in support of her Hall of Fame election, “There was no better female bridge player in North America (including Helen Sobel) and very few male players her equal. She achieved remarkable success frequently playing with mediocre partners.”
Gordon and Murray had a record 78% game in the final session of the Rockwell Mixed Pairs, which they won in 1963. Wrote Murray: “Agnes never came close to touching a wrong card or making a questionable bid. Everyone who played with Agnes marveled at her perfection. She unquestionably ranks with the all-time very best.”
Gordon, who died in 1967, won seven North American championships, including the Chicago Board-a-Match Teams (now the Reisinger) in 1948; the Mixed Board-a-Match Teams in 1951, 1952 and 1962; the Women’s Pairs in 1961; the Mixed Pairs and the Womens’ Teams in 1967. She was on the second-place squad in the World Women’s Teams in 1964 and represented the U.S. in two world championships.
Born in Ontario, Canada, she moved to Buffalo NY but remained a Canadian citizen.
No name is more closely associated with the game of bridge than that of Charles Goren. Indeed, Goren earned and proudly bore the nickname of “Mr. Bridge.”
Born in Philadelphia, Goren earned a law degree as a young man but practiced only briefly before bridge became first in his life.
As a protege of fellow Hall-of-Famer Milton Work, Goren adapted Work’s point-count evaluation method and published the now-familiar 4-3-2-1 system. The idea caught on quickly and was used by millions of players. Goren — a tireless worker — promoted his ideas through books, tours and lectures. Overnight, point-count displaced Ely Culbertson’s honor-trick approach to hand evaluation.
Goren’s hugely successful books, Contract Bridge Complete and Point Count Bidding, made his methods — dubbed “Standard American” — the most widely played system in the history of the game.
Goren’s talents were not limited to writing and lecturing. He also hosted the popular televison program Championship Bridge with Charles Goren from 1959 to 1964.
The record for the most number of wins in the annual McKenney contest (now the Barry Crane Top 500 masterpoint race) is held by Goren, who won it eight times. He also holds the record for the most number of consecutive victories in the contest: five, from 1947 through 1951.
His tournament career was outstanding. Goren won 34 national championships (now NABCs) and earned a world championship title when the U.S. squad won the inaugural Bermuda Bowl in 1950.
The name of Goren became synonymous with bridge to millions. His importance as a world figure was recognized when he was on the front cover of Time magazine. His classic Contract Bridge Complete ran to 12 editions.
It is estimated that Goren books have sold more than 10 million copies. His writings have been translated into a dozen languages. His books include: Better Bridge for Better Players, Standard Book of Bidding, Contract Bridge Made Easy, A Self-Teacher, Point-Count Bidding in Contract Bridge, Goren Presents the Italian Bridge System, New Contract Bridge in a Nutshell; Sports Illustrated Book of Bridge, Goren’s Winning Partnership Bridge, Charles Goren’s Bridge Complete, and Goren on Play and Defense.
Goren became a world champion in Bermuda in 1950 when the first Bermuda Bowl World Championship was staged. He placed 2nd in the 1956 and 1957 Bermuda Bowls, was a member of the U.S. team that finished 4th in the first World Team Olympiad in Turin in 1960.
His television show, Championship Bridge with Charles Goren, ran from 1959 to 1964. It was called the first successful bridge program on television and won an award as one of the best new television features.
A lifelong bachelor, Goren may genuinely have been married to the game. In spite of his work as writer, lecturer, promoter, TV personality (unlike Culbertson, who grew bored with the game when he became successful), Goren was devoted to tournament play.
He seldom played rubber bridge, and never for high stakes. He considered his playing status amateur and once turned over to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund the full amount of a $1,500 purse which he won in a charity tournament played in Las Vegas .
Before his retirement from active competition in 1966, he captured virtually every major bridge trophy in U.S. tournament play.
He was elected the ACBL Honorary Member of 1959, one of the first three elected to the ACBL Hall of Fame (then of The Bridge World) in 1963. He was a member of the ACBL Laws Commission from 1956, contributing editor of The Bridge World, member of Editorial Advisory Board of The Bridge Encyclopedia. Goren was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by McGill University in 1963.
After retiring from the tournament scene in the late Sixties, Goren lived quietly at his home in Miami Beach. For the last 19 years of his life he lived with his nephew, Marvin Goren, in Southern California. Because of poor eyesight and failing health, he was seldom seen in the Seventies.
There were rare appearances on the According to Goren panel shows at North American Bridge Championships and in 1972 he hosted a party for the press at his Miami Beach home during the Fourth World Bridge Olympiad.
His personal record by events includes: won the Bermuda Bowl in 1950, placed 2nd in 1956 and 1957; 3rd in the World Team Olympiad in 1960. On the national level he won the Vanderbilt in 1944 and 1945, placed 2nd in 1934, 1936, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1955, 1959 and 1962; Asbury Park Trophy (later the Spingold) 1937; Spingold Master KO Teams in 1943, 1947, 1951, 1956 and 1960, 2nd in 1939 and 1950; Reisinger B-A-M Teams (formerly Chicago) in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1942, 1943, 1950, 1957 and 1963, 2nd in 1944 and 1951; the Master Mixed Teams in 1938, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1948 and 1954, 2nd in 1946, 1949, 1950 and 1951; Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1952, 2nd in 1946 and 1955; the Life Master Pairs in 1942 and 1958, 2nd in 1953; the Open Pairs in 1940; the Mixed Pairs in 1943 and 1947, 2nd in 1934; the Men’s Pairs in 1938, 1943 and 1949, 2nd in 1935; the Masters Individual in 1945; the McKenney Trophy in 1937, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950 and 1951. Goren accumulated 7046 masterpoints in his bridge career.
Michael T. Gottlieb (Life Master #9), whose six-year bridge career established him as one of the world’s top players in the Thirties, was the 1999 recipient of the von Zedtwitz Award, recognizing contributions to the game of bridge through bridge-playing expertise.
Gottlieb quickly established his reputation as a champion, winning 13 United States Bridge Association titles in the years 1929 to 1935: the USBA Grand National Open Teams in 1933 and 1934; Grand National Pairs, 1933; Asbury Challenge Teams, 1934; Master Pairs, 1931; Eastern Open Teams 1931, 1933 and 1934; Spingold, 1934; Vanderbilt, 1929, 1934 and 1935, and the Eastern Knockout Teams, 1934.
Gottlieb was one of Ely Culbertson’s partners in the celebrated Culbertson-Lenz match, played December 1931 to January 1932. He also played on Culbertson’s team against England and France in 1933.
He was a key member of the Four Aces team. His teammates were Howard Schenken, Oswald Jacoby, David Burnstine and Richard Frey. They dominated the tournament scene in the mid-Thirties.
In 1935 Gottlieb and Schenken toured Europe, taking on all comers, including a number of British players who were willing to back their bridge skill with pounds sterling. The results left a deep impression on British pocketbooks and in bridge circles.
Upon their return to America, Gottlieb and Schenken joined their teammates in a match against a French foursome representing themselves as the European champion team. Thus, the Americans won the first official world bridge team title.
The following year, when the bridge league designated its first 10 Life Masters, Gottlieb was #9 on the list.
At the end of 1936, he retired from competition to devote his time to business interests in California and Arizona .
During the last five years of his life, Gottlieb returned to the tournament scene on a part-time basis and was a frequent winner.
Audrey Grant has a background in education, teaching every level from kindergarten to university. For over three decades, the “Teachers’ Teacher” has applied her passion to bridge education. Most new players started using one of her books or receiving instruction from one of her teachers. As a writer, teacher and lecturer, she has endeared herself to a generation of bridge players.
Audrey has developed unique methods for presenting the game. Her play-based lessons and innovative Cards-on-the-Table approach have helped thousands of teachers and tens of thousands of students.
She works with her husband, David Lindop, developing authentic and up-to-date material. Together they have written more than 25 books. Her first book, “The Joy of Bridge”, was written in collaboration with Eric Rodwell. Recently they co-authored the highly-acclaimed book “2/1 Game Force”. She has also written books on ACOL with Zia Mahmood.
When the Better Bridge books were becoming popular, ACBL became interested in training teachers. Audrey worked as an educational consultant, and it proved a good match. She produced the ACBL Bridge Series: the Club, Diamond, Heart and Spade books, plus Commonly and More Commonly Used Conventions. Working with the ACBL Education Department, Audrey developed the Teacher Accreditation Program (TAP) and accompanying coded cards and manuals. She produced two 26-week television series and then worked with ACBL to develop a number of shows for PBS.
With her new line of Better Bridge material Audrey continues to work in direct contact with teacher trainers, teachers and students. Her Better Bridge Magazine has been going steadily for 25 years. Her books regularly receive awards. Last year, Audrey’s Online Interactive Daily Bridge Column won the American Bridge Teachers’ Association’s Software of the Year Award. She continues to work with teachers both in North America and internationally. The Better Bridge Teachers’ website resulted in the formation of world’s largest group of bridge teachers.
Audrey is also an active fundraiser and her contributions have endowed causes such as the annual Audrey Grant Fellowship, which supports research for Parkinson’s disease.
Audrey’s passion for what she does, and her ability to inspire teachers and students, has a positive impact on groups that work together with her to promote bridge.
Gail Greenberg is devoted to bridge. Not only is this year’s von Zedtwitz Award inductee a world and national champion, she is also an author, a teacher and an administrator.Greenberg wanted to give back to the game that had so enriched her life which she did by establishing clubs that foster the learning and enjoyment of the game. Honors in Manhattan and Hartes in White Plains NY attract some of the largest table counts in the United States. In addition to club activities, she has been teaching bridge for thirty years and has written four books. Most recently, she updated and republished Dorothy Hayden Truscott’s classic “Winning Declarer Play”.
Greenberg is a past-president of the Greater New York Bridge Association and has served on the National Ethical Oversight Committee, the National Appeals Committee, and the Women’s Trials Committee.
One of the leading players, Greenberg has not missed an NABC since 1966. In that time she has won17 North American championship titles and amassed more than 20,000 masterpoints. She has been a member of the winning squad in the Wagar Women’s Knockout Teams eight times, claimed the Whitehead trophy for the Women’s Pairs three times and won the Rockwell Mixed Pairs, the Freeman Mixed BAM and the Women’s Swiss twice. Greenberg has also made her mark on the world stage winning five gold medals, a silver and a bronze in women’s teams. She has won the Women’s Teams at the World Bridge Games (formerly the Olympiad Women’s Teams) three times and the Venice Cup twice. She was also the non-playing captain of the winning women’s team at the World Bridge Championships in Shanghai, China, in 2007.
Three of Greenberg’s children — Brad and Andrew Moss and Jill Levin — have distinguished themselves in the game. Levin has a dozen North American titles to her credit along with five world championships. Brad has won 10 major ACBL titles and a world championship. Andrew was a member of the winning Junior team in the 1995 world championships.
Hall of Fame H
Fred Hamilton was born and raised in East Lansing MI, where his father was an English professor at Michigan State University. “My parents played some bridge, so I had an early introduction to the game,” Hamilton remembers.
At the age of 17, he joined the U.S. Army as a paratrooper. Though he never played bridge for three years, he says, “I had my trusty Goren book with me.” After his discharge, he enrolled at MSU on the G.I. Bill and talked his mom into going to the local duplicate club. “We finished third — and I was hooked! I learned as much as possible from those I played with until eventually they were learning from me.”
Mike Passell, whose illustrious bridge career he helped to launch, reminisces, “I played with Freddie in my first World Championship in Manila in the 1970s leading from beginning to almost the end before losing to Hamman–Wolff, etc.”
Reflecting upon his long and distinguished career, Fred considers his most treasured bridge accomplishment to be winning the Bermuda Bowl (World Championship), defeating the fabled Italian Blue Team in 1976. He names Billy Eisenberg, Mark Lair, Mike Passell and Paul Soloway as “my favorite partners and good friends.”
Besides the overwhelming successes he has achieved as a professional bridge player and teacher, few major NABC events have eluded him. Fred has captured multiple victories in the Reisinger, Vanderbilt and Spingold. Other notable triumphs include the 1982 Cavendish Invitational, 1994 Senior Pairs, 1996 and 1998 Senior Knockouts, the 1998 Senior Swiss Teams and the 2001 Silver Ribbon Pairs. He holds the prestigious titles of WBF World Grand Master and ACBL Grand Life Master and is also the inventor of the popular Hamilton convention over the opponent’s 1NT opening bid.
In a career that spans more than 40 years, Bob Hamman collected nearly every accolade available. He has been the No. 1 player in World Bridge Federation rankings since 1985, has won nine world championships, dozens of North American titles, and he was the first person to earn ACBL Player of the Year honors twice.
The only gap in his resume was that he had not been elected to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame. The reason: he wasn’t old enough.
When the Hall of Fame was resurrected by the ACBL Board of Directors in 1994, the ground rules for election were that living members had to be at least 60. Hamman reached that milestone in 1998 and was an automatic choice for the Hall in his first year of eligibility.
One of the qualities that secured Hamman’s place among the legends of the game is a relentless drive to be the best. Former partner Bobby Wolff still regards Hamman as possibly the best analyst in the history of the game.
Even top experts marvel at Hamman’s mental toughness, manifested most prominently in his unparalleled ability to leave hands already played completely in the past. Even Hamman, generally loath to toot his own horn, is proud of that quality.
In his book, Michael Rosenberg talks about playing with Hamman in the Open Pairs at the World Bridge Championship in Albuquerque in 1994. Rosenberg recounts how he misplayed a 5 contract and went down, costing the pair first place. Rosenberg marvels at how, after the game, Hamman eschewed recriminations, focusing instead on a deep analytical point in the play involving the spade spots.
Hamman did the same thing in an article he wrote for the now-defunct BOLS Bridge Tips competition. In the piece, Hamman rakes himself over the coals for something that never happened. The occasion was the 1991 team trials. Hamman and Wolff opposed Richard Pavlicek and Bill Root late in the final.
Against a 4♥ contract, Hamman led the ♦10 from a doubleton. He got in at trick two and led his other diamond. Wolff came in at trick four but did not immediately return a diamond for Hamman to ruff. After the deal was over (Hamman did get his ruff), Hamman discussed his state of mind while waiting for Wolff to play. He criticized himself for not thinking about another way to defeat the contract — there was one — had Wolff not returned the diamond. Hamman looked at the deal as a great lesson hand in keeping one’s eye on the ball.
Today, Hamman is the very busy owner of a prize promotion business in Dallas.
It has been a long time since a young Bob Hamman made the rounds of the rubber-bridge clubs of the Los Angeles area, knocking heads with the best players of his day.
Along the way to the pinnacle, Hamman has been a member of the fabled Aces, the first full-time professional bridge team in the world; has won more than 30 North American championships and nine world titles; has been second many more times than he cares to think about; has been named ACBL Honorary Member of the Year (1991) and has become a WBF Grand Master and an ACBL Grand Master.
Hamman was inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame in July 1999 in San Antonio TX.
2013’s Blackwood Award inductee, Max Hardy, was born into a musical family in Alva OK. His father, Lee Hardy, was a college music professor. His mother, Belva, had a master’s degree in voice. Max earned his master’s degree in music theory at Roosevelt University in Chicago and began a career as an opera singer. He later served on the faculty at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music.
In the Sixties, Hardy discovered bridge and it wasn’t long before he made a significant career change. Hardy took up directing in 1961 and progressed rapidly through the ranks, becoming an associate national TD in 1973. The tall, articulate, well-dressed and outgoing director was a fixture at tournaments for four decades until his retirement in 2000.
As a professional player, Hardy was among the top 200 all time in masterpoints earned. Hardy never won a North American championship, but he won more than 200 regional events, most in the era before flighting, stratification and bracketed knockouts. At the time of his death, Hardy had accumulated more than 10,000 masterpoints. Many of his successes at bridge were in partnership with his wife, Mary.
Hardy was also a prolific author. He wrote 13 books, including several on the 2/1 game force bidding system. His first book, Five-Card Majors — Western Style was advanced for its time and a precursor to the 2/1 books.
Harry Harkavy of Miami Beach was a native New Yorker and bridgeclub manager who gained national renown as a player. He was considered one of the world’s greatest at declarer play and a brilliant, though unorthodox, bidder.
“I never saw Harry Harkavy make a mistake,” said Richard Freeman about his old friend. “I remember the time everyone in the North–South field was playing 1NT and making either 90 or 120. But Harry made plus 600. What’s so unusual about that? Harold was sitting East–West.”
Eddie Kantar promises that “since he played so much professionally, Harry declared more 3NT contracts than any man alive.”
Bobby Wolff claims that “Harry set a record opening the bidding 1*D* (often disregarding diamond length). This allowed his partner to respond with a major, enabling him to rebid notrump and apply his magic.”
Harkavy was recognized as one of the world’s most proficient declarers. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was winning the Spingold and the Vanderbilt in the same year, 1963.
Harkavy won the Master Mixed Teams in 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1957; the Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1952; the Vanderbilt in 1963; the Spingold in 1956 and 1963. He was a member of the great Florida teams in the 60s — the teams of Al Roth, Edith Freilich and Billy Seamon.
They won the Vanderbilt and the Spingold in 1963. The Vanderbilt team was Harkavy, Roth, Freilich, Cliff Russell, Seamon and Albert Weiss. The Spingold team was Harvaky, Roth, Freilich, Russell, Seamon and Russ Arnold.
Harkavy died in San Francisco on his 50th birthday. He had gone there to compete in the Fall NABC and succumbed to a pancreatic attack.
Emma Jean Hawes, the seventh woman to earn the World Bridge Federation’s highest rank, World Grand Master, was a force in bridge for more than three decades.
Hawes, who lived in Fort Worth TX , graduated from Cornell at age 18. Dorothy Truscott, writing about Hawes in 1987, said her longtime partner “had one of the brightest minds in the bridge world. But she belonged to an age where men preferred to think of brains as a masculine attribute, and intelligent women did best not to disillusion them. Emma Jean radiated charm and good manners as she clobbered her opponents.
Longtime friend, Betty Ann Kennedy, remembers playing with Hawes at a San Antonio regional in the Sixties. “We were leading the field after the first session. I went to dinner with some other friends and we got back 10 minutes late for the evening session. “Al Sobel, who was the chief tournament director, got on the microphone and announced that in view of my tardiness, we were being penalized three-fourths of a board. “Emma Jean leaned across the table and said, ’Don’t worry about that, honey; we won’t need those points.’ “She was right,” remembers Kennedy. “We won by a wide margin. That (the penalty) was no hill to a climber.”
Hawes made her first mark in national bridge tournaments when she finished second in the Mixed Board-a-Match Teams in 1952. Her team: Sidney Silodor, Johnny Crawford, George Rapée and Olive Peterson.
In a 1979 Bridge Bulletin interview, Hawes recalled playing two sessions with Silodor and one with Crawford. “Sidney and I got along just fine, but the third session I had to play with Crawford (East-West).
“At the first table I bid something and ended up in a contract of something or other. As we were leaving the table, I said, ’What would you have bid?’ and he smiled and said, ’Just what you bid.’ Next table I’m on opening lead and as we move on, I ask, ’What would you have led?’ and he smiled and said, ’Just what you led.’ The third time I asked, ’What would you do?’ and he said, ’Just what you did.’ I said to him, ’Look, I’m inexperienced, but I’m not stupid. I’m able to learn.’ And he said, ’I’m not stupid, either. Every Texan here has told me if a smile ever leaves my face, they will throw me out the window — and we’re on the 17th floor.’”
Hawes won her first North American title — the Open Pairs, a four-session forerunner of the Blue Ribbon Pairs — in 1958 with John Fisher. She won 10 more North American and four world titles before she retired in 1981.
There exists a small group of individuals who can combine successful professional careers with stellar bridge talent, evidenced by a long line of tournament victories, while maintaining a sense of humor and dignity.
Lee Hazen was one of that group.
Hazen, who died in 1991 at the age of 85, earned degrees from Columbia University and New York University Law School and practiced law for nearly 50 years. He learned to play bridge in the early Thirties when he was a young attorney.
His impressive tournament record leaves no doubt as to his ability.
Hazen had four wins in the Vanderbilt, three in the Spingold and two in the Chicago (now the Reisinger). In addition to those outstanding team victories, he won the Master’s Individual in 1941 and the national Men’s Pairs in 1945. He was runner-up in eight North American championships.
Hazen represented the United States in the Bermuda Bowl twice (1956 and 1959), finishing second on both occasions.
He was the non-playing captain of the first-place North American team in the 1971 Bermuda Bowl in Taipei, and of the silver-medalist team of the 1972 World Team Olympiad in Miami Beach .
Hazen’s contributions as a bridge administrator are equally impressive. He served as an ACBL director in 1949 and vice-president 1945-47, was a member of the ACBL Laws Commission for more than 30 years and was ACBL legal counsel for more than 40 years.
Hazen is widely credited with helping the ACBL modernize during this tenure in the late Forties.
In addition, Hazen was named ACBL Honorary Member in 1958, served as trustee for the ACBL Charity Foundation and was also the founder of the Greater New York Bridge Association.
Hazen’s reputation as a bridge raconteur and humorist separated him from other experts.
Paul Hodge was born in 1910 and was an attorney by profession. A popular bridge player, teacher and expert in the 1950s and 1960s, he has been selected to receive the Von Zedtwitz Award in the Bridge Hall of Fame Class of 2010.
The von Zedtwitz Award was created to honor a deceased player who would have been elected to the Hall of Fame in their time, before the institution was created, but is not well known today.
During the height of his career Hodge won 11 major national titles and was runner-up for nine others. He became Life Master #282 in 1950 and—as a key member of a team with interchangeable partnerships that included bridge greats John Gerber, George Heath and Ben Fain—he cut a large swath through Texas and Southwestern regionals in the ’50s and ’60s.
Hodge won his first national championship in the Men’s Teams in 1953 with Heath-Fain-Gerber and Harold Rockaway. Three days later he won his second national championship when he captured the Mixed Pair title. In all Hodge won the Men’s Team four times, the Open Pairs twice, the Open Teams twice, the Life Master Pairs and the Marcus Cup.
Hodge represented North American in 1961 in Argentina, defeating France and Argentina to finish second to Italy in the World Team Championships. He was selected as non-playing captain for the U.S. Women’s team in the 1964 World Bridge Olympiad.
He was an eminent lecturer, coach and teacher. Well dressed, soft spoken but an eloquent and polished public speaker, Hodge was also a skilled analyst and was a prized addition to many panel shows and vu-graph presentations.
In the mid-60s Hodge moved from Abilene TX to Houston where he remained active as a teacher and as proprietor of the highly successful Bridge Studio of Houston.
Hall of Fame J
Zeke JabbourZeke Jabbour has just about done it all in bridge. He’s a Grand Life Master with more than 31,000 masterpoints and eight North American titles. He was won silver and bronze medals in world competition, and in 1989 he won the Barry Crane Top 500 masterpoint race. Jabbour’s specialty has been Senior events. He was a member of the winning team in the six of the first eight Baze Senior Knockout Teams, and he has two victories in the Truscott/USPC Senior Swiss Teams.
That’s an impressive resume, but the masterpoints and the wins are not what make Jabbour one of the most beloved figures in the game. ACBL members got to know Jabbour by reading his column in the Bridge Bulletin. The column – Winsome and Loathsome (W&L), Tales of the Trail – debuted in 1999 and continued for more than a decade and a half until Jabbour’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease – he was diagnosed in 1996 – became a nearly insurmountable barrier to writing.
In W&L, Jabbour routinely poked fun at himself and entertained readers with stories of his early days in bridge. In his first column, Jabbour wrote about being lost in a shopping center parking lot looking for his car, finally being rescued by a man in a van. Not long after that, Jabbour was playing in a sectional Swiss teams and was having trouble finding his home table. As he wandered around, obviously in a quandary, he heard a voice: “Are you lost again?” It was the man in the van. “It was then,” Jabbour wrote, “that I realized I should start thinking about a new day job. I know I’m too sexy for television. But maybe, I thought to myself, I should try being a writer. Those guys got it made.”
Jabbour has maintained his sense of humor and amiable disposition despite the health challenges. Sharon, his wife, says Parkinson’s has slowed her husband down, “but he’s still as sweet and kind as ever. He refuses to let the disease define him.” At the bridge table, she says, her husband often plays slowly, “but he will not allow himself to play a wrong card.”
In 2013, District 9’s Sportsmanship Award went to Jabbour. It was renamed for him the following year. At the 2016 Fall NABC in Orlando, Zeke was on hand for the presentation of the award to Jeff Meckstroth.
Although loath to brag about his accomplishments or popularity, Jabbour jokes that he has so many friends and admirers because he tells people, “You’ve got to love me or else.” For those who know Zeke Jabbour, that’s an easy one.
Jim Jacoby and his father, the legendary Oswald Jacoby, were the first father-son combination to win a national championship. Fittingly, they are the first father-son combination elected to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame.
The two co-authored the Jacoby transfer bid and the Jacoby 2NT convention, both widely used in tournament play. They wrote several books and a syndicated newspaper column, Jacoby on Bridge.
Jacoby teamed up with his father and three other Texas greats — Ben Fain, George Heath and Paul Hodge — to win the NABC Open Teams championship for the Chicago Trophy (now the Reisinger) in 1955. He was 22 years old.
Over the next three decades, he won 15 more North American championships, four world championships and four silver medals in international competition. Jacoby was one of the first American players to become a Grand Master in the rankings of the World Bridge Federation.
In 1968 Jacoby became a charter member of the Aces, a professional team put together by the late Ira Corn for the express purpose of returning the team championship to the United States .
During the years Jacoby was with the Aces, the team won the Bermuda Bowl in 1970 and 1971 and was second in the World Team Olympiad in 1972 and the Bermuda Bowl in 1973.
“Jacoby was one of the most underrated players around,” said teammate and partner Bobby Wolff. “He was much stronger analytically than people gave him credit for and he was a very good partner.”
Jacoby, Wolff added, “loved to play bridge. He loved the tournament scene. He would play at sectionals just to play bridge.”
Mike Lawrence, another of the original Aces, remembered Jacoby as “very good with tough hands. He was capable of some plays that were really impressive.”
Jacoby won the Grand National Teams championship in 1981 and again in 1986. The latter team went on to win the 1988 U.S. Bridge Championship (team trials) and in October 1988 became the first-ever U.S. team to win the World Team Olympiad.
Bob Hamman, who played with Jacoby on that team, said his friend was always a tough competitor. “When you were in a game with Jimmy, either with him or against him, there would be some bruises inflicted,” said Hamman.
He recalled that their Texas team was down by 38 IMPs with 16 boards to go in the GNT semifinal in Toronto when he and Jacoby turned it up a notch. “We had a crusher at our table.” Said Hamman, “and we won by 1 IMP.”
Dan Morse, non-playing captain of the 1988 Olympic championships, commented, “There never was a person more dedicated to bridge than Jim Jacoby. He was an excellent ambassador for bridge. He loved the game.”
At the time of his death, Jacoby was the fifth-ranked ACBL Life Master with a career total of 25, 226 points. He won the Barry Crane Top 500 in 1988, one of only three players to win the contest and a world title the same year.
Jacoby was a graduate of Notre Dame. His outside interests included backgammon, sports and opera.
Wolff said Jacoby was an accomplished backgammon player,whose propensity for last-minute, game-winning rolls of the dice earned him the nickname “Hero.”
The nickname stuck through the years. In fact, said Wolff, “my daughter still refers to him as Uncle Hero.”
One of the great players of all time, Oswald Jacoby, first achieved international preeminence as the partner of Sidney Lenz in the famous Culbertson-Lenz Match of the early 1930s. Having already established himself as a champion at both auction and contract bridge, Jacoby next became a member of the famed Four Horsemen and Four Aces teams. His selection by Lenz over players of greater experience and with whom Lenz had practiced partnerships was early recognition of the brilliance and skill that were later to bring Jacoby to the top of the ACBL’s list of all-time masterpoint winners.
With the outbreak of World War II, Jacoby placed his bridge career on hold for four years. He played infrequently in the late Forties, and returned to active duty during the Korean War. During this time, fellow great Charles Goren had amassed a huge lead as the all-time masterpoint holder. After two years in Korea, Jacoby returned to active play with the goal of overtaking Goren on the masterpoint list.
By 1962, he had done so. He won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500), a contest for amassing the most masterpoints in a year, four times in five years (1959 through 1963) at ages 57, 59, 60 and 61. In 1963 he became the first to acquire more than 1000 masterpoints in a single year (1034). He surpassed the 10,000-point mark in 1967, at which time he retired from active competition for the McKenney Trophy. Almost exactly one year later he relinquished his position as top masterpoint holder to Barry Crane.
Jacoby pioneered many bidding ideas, including Jacoby 2NT (game-forcing raise of a major), Jacoby transfers and weak jump overcalls. He invented the use of 2 as a double negative response to 2♣ with 2NT a positive heart response and 2 as the usual waiting bid.
He was a longtime bridge columnist as well as the author of several books on bridge, backgammon, mathematics, gambling, poker and other card games, including canasta.
Hall of Fame K
When Eddie Kantar first learned bridge as a youngster in Minneapolis, he had no notion of turning that new-found knowledge into a job.
Today, the Californian is one of the best-known bridge writers in the world. He has more than 20 bridge books in print and is a regular contributor to the Bridge Bulletin, The Bridge World, Bridge Today and many foreign publications.
Although he doesn’t play as often as he used to, the two-time former world champion is still highly regarded as a player and is a regular at major tournaments. He is also known as a great ambassador for bridge. Matthew Granovetter, in a letter to the editor published in the Bridge Bulletin in 1992, said, “Eddie may genuinely be the nicest guy in bridge.”
Kantar learned bridge at 11. By the age of 17, he was teaching the game to his friends. Kantar was so enthusiastic about bridge that he often took his bridge books to school with him, hiding them behind his textbooks.
At the University of Minnesota, where Kantar studied foreign languages – he is still conversant in Spanish and French – he taught bridge to earn spending money. When he played, he sought out tough games and honed his skills.
Somewhere between the first bridge book he read and the first one he wrote (in 1965), Kantar developed his literary signature – the ability to inject humor into just about everything he writes or talks about.
Relating his experiences as a bridge teacher in Germany during a stint in the U.S. Army, Kantar recalled that he taught in German. “Even though the people spoke only German, by the end of the class they were begging me to teach in English.”
This kind of self-deprecating humor has made Kantar popular with readers around the world. Never afraid to laugh at himself, Kantar personalizes all his writing, transforming the dullest of lessons into lively, interesting reading.
“I never thought of myself as a bridge writer,” Kantar says, “ but now I don’t think I could write about anything else.”
He gained stature as a player by winning 13 North American championships and two world titles – the Bermuda Bowl in 1977 and 1979. He was second in the 1975 Bermuda Bowl, the championship which erupted in controversy when two members of the winning Italian team were caught giving foot signals. On one crucial deal, Kantar held the ♣K 10 and heard the opponents bid to 7♣. With declarer to his right, Kantar envisioned a huge swing. When dummy hit with the ♣A Q, he recalls, “it was as close to shock as I’ve ever been.
There was speculation that the contract might have been defeated had Kantar played the ♣K – feigning a singleton – when declarer first played trumps. “I never thought about playing the king.” Kantar recalls. “I wasn’t thinking about anything.”
Kantar is a Grand Master in World Bridge Federation rankings and an ACBL Grand Life Master. His North American titles include wins in the Spingold Knockout Teams (three times), the Reisinger B-A-M Teams (four), the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams (two) and the Grand National Teams (two).
Kantar today is best known as a writer – his favorite games to play are tennis and racquetball – and many of his books are considered classics. In a survey of bridge writers and players, Kantar’s Complete Defensive Play was listed in the top 10 of all-time favorite bridge books.
Edgar Kaplan did virtually everything in bridge. The New Yorker established himself as a player, writer, analyst, commentator and administrator. He won NABC titles in each of the last five decades of his life. Even with those shining credentials, he considered bridge a great leveler.
“Bridge is one of my pleasures,” commented Kaplan, former editor and publisher of The Bridge World, “but bridge teaches you how to endure misery.”
Kaplan won his first Vanderbilt title in 1953. “I started to get up, but my knees were weak. I realized then that I had been under pressure after all.”
His greatest thrill was the 1983 Reisinger victory with Oswald Jacoby — plus regular teammates Norman Kay, Bill Root and Richard Pavlicek.
Kaplan, Kay, Root and Pavlicek had played always as a foursome, but they invited Jacoby, a man they admired for his past feats and for his strength and courage in battling cancer, to join their team.
“When I was a young man he played a lot with me. Jake was very good to me when I was a kid. We’d been friends a long time and I’d played on teams with him before, but I hadn’t played as a partner with Ozzie in 30 years.”
Kaplan and Jacoby, along with Root and Pavlicek, played the first final session and led the field with 23 wins out of a possible 33. Jacoby sat out the second final session and his teammates scored 18 wins — and claimed the victory. Jacoby died the following year.
Kaplan served as chief commentator for World Bridge Federation championships for more than a decade and was well-known for his wit. Here are some samples of his sometimes-biting commentary as a vugraph panelist.
4♥ is a very good bid — but on some other hand.
North doubled 4♥ to tell himself what to lead.
Mahmood gave himself some very good advice when he said STOP, but he paid no attention.
He may bid and he may not. I believe that covers all possibilities.
Kaplan was perhaps the world’s greatest authority on the laws of duplicate and rubber bridge. He served as co-chairman of the ACBL Laws Commission for many years and was a member of the WBF Laws Commission.
In 1979 Kaplan was named Bridge Personality of the Year, a worldwide honor presented by the International Bridge Press Association. He was selected the ACBL Honorary Member for 1993.
He represented District 24 (the New York City area) on the ACBL Board of Directors for many years.
He was a former partner of the Card School of New York and the co-inventor of the Kaplan-Sheinwold system — Kaplan and frequent partner Norman Kay listed “Timid K-S” as their general approach on their convention cards.
Their results belie the “timid” designation — they won six Vanderbilts, two Spingolds and eight Reisingers. In addition, Kaplan and Kay won the Life Master Men’s Pairs in 1973 and the Blue Ribbon Pairs in 1974.
Kaplan was a Grand Life Master with more than 13,500 masterpoints. He won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500) in 1957.
Ralph Katz learned bridge at the age of 16 while visiting his uncle. He always loved sports and competition and says that the competitiveness in bridge was an immediate attraction for him. He says, “Bridge was also a very fun game to learn, and when the light bulb went on and I started understanding it more, it just made the learning more about the game even more fun.”At age 22 at the Summer NABC in Las Vegas, Katz and partner Ken Schutze wanted to practice for the Spingold, but they couldn’t find teammates. “We decided to play in the (von Zedtwitz) Life Master Pairs to practice. It worked out pretty well,” says Katz. The pair notched their first North American championship by winning the prestigious three-day contest.Since then, Katz has won 22 additional NABC titles including five Vanderbilts, three Spingolds and two Reisingers. He topped the Player of the Year race in 2001 and nabbed the Fishbein trophy in 1981 and 2001.
Shortly after joining the Nickell team, Katz achieved a lifetime goal of winning a Bermuda Bowl in 2009. Katz’s other successes on the world stage include the 2010 Rosenblum Teams (also with the Nickell team), a silver medal in the 2007 Bermuda Bowl and a bronze in the 2000 World Team Olympiad as part of the George Jacobs squad, and a silver medal in the 1990 World Open Pairs with Peter Nagy.
Nickell says Katz is very funny and a lot of fun to be with, both at and away from the bridge table. “Ralph is a super nice person, a gentleman and a great partner. A testament to this is that he has won national titles with an extraordinarily large number of different partners.”
Katz says playing on the Nickell team is “like playing on the New York Yankees, in the most positive way.”
Prior to retiring to play bridge professionally, Katz traded options on the Chicago Exchange. He was also the CEO of an options-trading firm.
Bridge runs deep in his family; his wife, Martha, was a World Junior Champion; Martha and son, Sam, were Queen and King of bridge; and mother-in-law, Chris Benson, is a Grand Life Master.
Katz says, “The reasons I loved the game in the beginning still continue.”
As a high school senior, Norman Kay was invited to play bridge with a friend and his family.
I’d love to,” was his reply, “but I don’t play bridge.”
“Oh, that’s no problem,” said the friend. “Come over a half-hour early and I’ll teach you.”
That 30-minute lesson paid dividends as Kay — one of ACBL’s top players for more than four decades — was inducted into the Bridge Hall of Fame in 1996.
Kay was named ACBL’s top performance player for the double decade 1957-1977.
Partnered by Sidney Silodor before his death in 1963 and later by Edgar Kaplan, Kay had 13 major wins in those 20 years: two Spingolds, four Vanderbilts, four Reisingers, one Blue Ribbon and two Open Pairs.
He was a World Bridge Federation Life Master who placed second in the Bermuda Bowl in 1961 and 1967, and second in the World Olympiad Teams in 1968 and third in 1960.
He also placed fifth in the World Open Pairs in 1982 and sixth in the Rosenblum Teams in 1986 and tenth in 1982.
An ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 12,500 masterpoints, Kay won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500) in 1955. His other North American championships are four additional wins in the Vanderbilt and the Reisinger.
He was also second in the Vanderbilt three times and the Spingold five times.
“I have been very fortunate,” said Kay. “My two regular partners were Sidney and Edgar, both super players.”
Super player Kaplan characterized Kay as “a very sensitive and caring partner. He is not only thinking about his own problems but about the problems partner may face — he’s taking care of partner.
“And if things go wrong — no matter how stupid I am, I feel this vast beam of love from the other side of the table and Norman says, ’How could you do anything else?’”
“Kay,” said Kaplan, “has a very sweet nature — unusual in a bridge player. In fact, it sometimes seems that the opponents think Kay has made a defensive mistake or has decided to help declarer make the hand. It’s not true — Norman is very competitive — but because of his sweet nature, they think he just may be on their side.”
As a player, said Kaplan, Kay “is among the best I’ve ever seen.”
Kay may have sometimes been slow, Kaplan allowed, “but what soothes my stomach is that when Norman goes into a huddle, we’re usually about to win 10 IMPs.”
The two were partners for more than 40 years. “I chose Norman as a partner,” says Kaplan, “and I never let go. I don’t intend to.”
Kay was a retired stock broker who owned harness horses from 1970 to 1987. After his retirement he was in the baseball card business with wife Judy and son Larry.
Larry, Kay noted, “never took to bridge” while daughter Robin, who lives in New York , has been very active.
Kay was the author — with Silodor and Fred Karpin — of The Complete Book of Duplicate Bridge, published in 1965 and reprinted in 1993.
b. 1937This popular co-winner of the Blackwood Award is weighted down by the numerous hats she has donned in the course of an exciting dual career, encompassing the judicial system and her love for bridge. The Honorable Amalya Kearse, a New Jersey native and Wellesley graduate, earned her law degree at the University of Michigan , where she served as editor of The Law Review. Now a senior judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, she was the first woman to sit on the Federal Appeals Court in Manhattan .
Her bridge credentials include: WBF World Life Master; winner of World Women’s Pairs 1986; counsel to the GNYBA and Conduct and Ethics Committee 1970-79; ACBL Board of Governors 1970-76; member of the ACBL Appeals Committee 1971-75; and ACBL Laws Commission from 1975-2002.
Amalya served as editor of the 3rd Edition of The Official Bridge Encyclopedia and authored Bridge Conventions Complete and Bridge at Your Fingertips. She was honored in 1980 by the International Bridge Press Association as “Bridge Personality of the Year” and has won seven American Bridge Association Championships and five North American Bridge Championships. For years, she juggled her time at the NABCs, bringing along court homework, working out at the gym and playing bridge.
Amalya’s dedication to our great American judicial system and her devotion to bridge convincingly disproves the old saying that one cannot serve two masters at the same time.
Sami Kehela is a semi-retired bridge writer and teacher whose greatest loves are his granddaughter, Carly, films and fine wines.
Kehela is the former editor of the Ontario Kibitzer, bridge columnist for Toronto Life, contributor to the Bridge Bulletin and contributing editor to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge. In addition, Kehela has had considerable success in North American and international competition.
“It became apparent very early in my life that I was not ready for honest toil,” said Kehela. He learned to play bridge aboard a cargo ship — “first I learned that you needed 2 1/2 (quick tricks) and later I discovered you needed 13 (high-card points).” He also learned by kibitzing Adam Meredith, one of the great British players.
Kehela told of his pride in learning how to handle partner Eric Murray’s bidding. “I listened to the opponents’ bidding and I believed them, not my partner,” explained Kehela. “It worked during the 30 years of our partnership.”
His other successes include 2nd in the Bermuda Bowl in 1974, 3rd in the Olympiad Teams in 1968 and 1972; the Rosenblum Teams in 1982; 4th in the World Olympiad Teams in 1964; 5th in the World Open Pairs in 1970, the Rosenblum Cup Teams in 1978. Kehela represented Canada in other world championships in 1960, 1966, 1967, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1986, 1988 and 1990.
Glamorous, daring, skillful, aggressive — Betty Ann Kennedy announced her arrival on the national bridge scene in 1960 with a victory in the National Mixed Teams and a second-place finish in the Women’s Pairs. Taking time from her bridge activities over the next decade to marry and raise children, she returned to championship play in 1970, with the specific intent of winning a world championship.
She formed a partnership with Carol Sanders, which was among the longest and most successful partnerships in bridge history. Over the course of their 26-year reign, they stood in the forefront of women’s bridge, winning 10 NABC titles and four world championships. Betty Ann attempted a retirement from top-level competition in 1995, but she was lured back in 1999 by Kathie Wei-Sender, with whom she had a successful second career — winning three additional NABC titles and the 2003 Venice Cup.
Evaluating her performance in the final of the Venice Cup, Eric Kokish wrote in 2003 World Bridge Championships — Monte Carlo, “Kennedy was a standout, doing virtually nothing wrong.” In 2000, she made a successful debut as a non-playing captain, piloting the U.S. Senior Team, to victory at the inaugural World Senior Championship in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
A resident of Shreveport LA, Betty Ann is a recipient of the Louisiana Hall of Fame Award in 1993 (the second woman to be chosen). Kennedy and her husband, John (Jack), also are members of the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Hall of Fame. Jack is a leading player in his own right. They have four children and a grandson.
When not traveling the bridge world, Kennedy teaches bridge at her church, First United Methodist Church in Downtown Shreveport. She also plays weekly at the Shreveport Bridge Association.
Whether at a world championship or during a weekly game at the Shreveport Bridge Association, Betty Ann has retained the glamour and daring and skill that have been her hallmark. She is equally well known for her unfailing graciousness and charm at the table — to partners and opponents alike.
Although better known as the coach of the Nickell team, Eric Kokish has many accomplishments as a player. He has won two North American championships — the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams and the Men’s Board-a-Match Teams (now the Mitchell Open BAM). He won the Canadian National Team Championships (CNTC) five times. He has earned two silver medals in international play in the World Open Pairs in 1978 and the Bermuda Bowl in 1995 and has finished third three times in the Rosenblum Cup.
In 1980 Kokish won both the Bols Brilliancy Prize and the Romex Best Bid Hand Award. He has authored several conventions including the Kokish Relay and the Montreal Relay.
Away from the table and his coaching duties, Kokish manages to stay busy with other projects. For years, he was editor and writer of the world championship books produced by the World Bridge Federation. He is heavily involved in the experts publication, The Bridge World, serving as director of Master Solvers and Challenge the Champs.
For many years, he contributed a column in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin, Our Readers Ask. He is a former bridge columnist for the Montreal Gazette in his former home town, and the Toronto Star Syndicate. He is also a regular vugraph commentator at world championships.
Kokish got his first coaching gig in 1985, traveling to Brazil to try to mold a loose group of emotional Brazilians into a tight-knit bridge team. His efforts paid off when the underdog Brazilian team came within a hair of defeating the powerful American squad in the semifinal round of the Bermuda Bowl.
In the late Nineties, Kokish moved his family from Montreal to Jakarta, Indonesia. The government of that nation had talked him into a two-year contract to coach the national bridge team. Six months into the job, the political and economic situation in Indonesia had deteriorated to such an extent that they had to leave.
Fortunately, he had purchased a home in Toronto before moving to Indonesia, so he had somewhere to return to.
Kokish is a stickler for getting partnerships to concentrate on what’s important. “The way they react and how they use their time is more important that what system they play,” he says.
Kokish enjoys coaching players with potential, and he gets a lot out of his job with the Nickell squad, although he acknowledges it can be taxing to try to get a relatively new partnership on the squad —Bob Hamman and Zia Mahmood — on the same page. “Zia and Hamman are great players . . . from different planets.”
Mostly, Kokish says, “I really miss playing.”
Hall of Fame L
Mark Lair took the podium in Las Vegas at the Hall of Fame dinner in 2008, but it was not to be inducted. He was offering comments and congratulations to his former partner, Mike Passell on his induction.
In 2009 Lair had a different mission when he took center stage in one of the most important moments of his bridge career – as a new member of the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame.
Lair is one of the most accomplished of North America’s full-time players, standing No. 4 on the all-time list of masterpoint winners with more than 53,000. He has won 20 North American championships and more than 1000 regionals. He has competed internationally on many occasions.
A devoted family man, Lair lives in Canyon TX, a suburb of Amarillo.
Hall of Famer Betty Ann Kennedy was among those who offered praise for Lair during the Goodwill meeting at the Spring NABC in Houston. “He is the epitome of the Southern gentleman,” said Kennedy, “and he is a born-again Christian who lives his faith. And he is one of the world’s great players.”
Alvin Landy was Life Master #24 and a longtime ACBL chief executive. A Cleveland native, Landy was a graduate of Western Reserve University. He also earned a law degree from the school in 1927. He practiced law in Cleveland until 1943, when he served in the Army Transport Command during World War II.
Landy joined the ACBL as a tournament director in 1948. He had previously worked as a free-lance director for years and was referred to as a “national director” long before the position of a salaried national TD actually existed.
In 1951, Landy was named acting business manager of ACBL, when his predecessor, Russell Baldwin, was called for active duty during the Korean War. Landy, who was in charge of the day-to-day business of ACBL, worked with the legendary Al Sobel, who was named tournament manager in the same year. An article that appeared in a 1951 Bulletin noted that, “These top-flight national directors will continue to conduct tournaments despite their added responsibilities.”
In December 1952, Landy was named executive manager of the ACBL. He remained in that capacity until his unexpected death from a heart attack in 1967 at the age of 62.
Landy’s 16-year tenure as the top executive for the ACBL was marked by rapid growth in the membership and a stable administration. Landy was named ACBL Honorary Member of the Year in 1957.
In addition to these contributions, Landy served as secretary of the ACBL Charity Foundation from the time of its inception and was also a principal figure in its creation. Through his efforts, the Foundation grew to a $250,000 annual project by 1967.
Landy served as Secretary of the ACBL Laws Commission from 1956 until his death. He was also active in the World Bridge Federation. Landy was one of its founders and first officers, serving as secretary-treasurer from 1958 to 1966.
As a player, Landy was widely recognized for his skill and expert play. He won several major events. His first was the American Bridge League’s Knockout Team Challenge in 1936. He later scored four wins in the Fall NABC Men’s Teams, a record.
Landy was a member of the winning Spingold Knockout Team in 1949, playing with teammates Jeff Glick, Arthur Goldsmith, Bruce Gowdy and Sol Mogal. He was second in the event twice.
Landy was also the originator of the convention that bears his name: a 2*C* overcall of an opposing 1NT bid to request that partner bid a major. In fact, many bridge players are most familiar with the name of Landy because of this simple and effective two-suited overcall.
ACBL’s 6,999th Life Master, Kyle Larsen of San Francisco grew up around bridge. The son of Alane and Kai&7mdash; both successful tournament players in their own right — Larsen made his first mark on the bridge world in 1965 at age 15 when he broke the record for youngest Life Master by a full three years.
He recalls caddying with Gary Soules and Bob Crossley at the 1963 NABC in Los Angeles. “Bob and I were caddying and the directors needed a pair to fill in. We were probably the best of the caddy players so we got paid to play.” And he kept on playing.
At the 1965 Chicago NABC, Larsen and Bonnie Brier won the Teenyear Pairs. By 1968 he was breaking more records. That was the year he became the youngest player to win a North American Championship – the Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams, arguably the toughest event on the ACBL calendar. Hall of Famer Bob Hamman once described Larsen as “probably the best-ever young player.”
Peter Weichsel claims credit for “handpicking” Kyle to be Rose Meltzer’s partner. “Kyle is a tower of strength. He’s a very good partner for Rose. He’s a very good listener and a very good card player,” says Weichsel.
Meltzer agrees, “He is just literally a perfect partner. You get from Kyle 100 percent support every minute of the time. He is always at the table, always on his partner’s side.”
Larsen teamed up with Meltzer to win five NABC titles and two world championships, the 2001 Bermuda Bowl and the 2006 Rosenblum Cup.
Jo Morse, a frequent Larsen partner, is also a fan. “Kyle is one of the best partners,” she says. “He’s so supportive of his partner that you really want to play your best. He’s low-key. He’s quiet. He’s just a really nice guy.”
In addition to his two world championships, Larsen has won 12 North American Championships and was the npc of 2007 Senior Bowl Team.
Sidney Lazard of New Orleans LA is an oil and gas producer. He is one of the most successful American players. He is a WBF World Life Master who placed 2nd in the Bermuda Bowl in 1959 and 3rd in 1969. Lazard was a member of the U.S. team World Team Olympiad in 1960. A Grand Life Master, Lazard won the Team Trials in 1968, the Spingold in 1958 and 1968; the Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1960, the Vanderbilt in 1970 and 1994; Master Mixed Teams in 1963, 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1982; the Grand National Pairs in 1990. He placed 2nd in the Spingold in 1954, 1966 and 1973; the Vanderbilt in 1967, the Reisinger in 1968, 1969, 1975 and 1997; the Men’s Teams in 1954, 1956, 1961 and 1965; the Men’s Pairs in 1967; the Master Mixed Teams in 1961, the Mixed Pairs in 1959, the North American Men’s Swiss Teams in 1983, the Grand National Teams in 1987, the Open Pairs II in 1997.
History can be unkind. A talented individual in any given field of human endeavor is often remembered for generations for one well-publicized failure rather than an entire lifetime of achievement. Such is the fate of bridge great Sidney Lenz.
An author and champion player of whist and all forms of bridge, Lenz was also expert in many other games and sports. Wealthy as a young man, Lenz devoted his life to competition, writing, reading and travel.
He was skilled at bowling, chess, tennis, golf and table tennis, often competing in each of these contests with the stars of his day. In 1909 he became engrossed in whist and the next year he won the American Whist League’s principal national team championship. Altogether he won more than 600 whist and bridge competitions.
Lenz had remarkable versatility in intellectual, coordinative and athletic competitions. Professional magicians considered him the best amateur ever elected Honorary Member of the American Society of Magicians. His special skill at dealing seconds impelled him to refuse to play card games for stakes.
Whist and bridge were his greatest loves, however, and he thought of himself primarily as a bridge player. Lenz wrote several books on auction and contract bridge. Lenz on Bridge (1926) is ranked as a classic.
Lenz joined the advisory council of Bridge Headquarters in 1931 and contributed to the bidding method called the Official System. When the legendary Ely Culbertson announced his plans later that year for a challenge contest to demonstrate the superiority of his system versus the Official System, Lenz represented this group in the world-famous Culbertson-Lenz match. Lenz acquired lasting fame from this match despite his loss.
The technical contributions of Sidney Lenz to contract bridge are hard to define. His effort to introduce a new call, the “challenge,” to replace the takeout double, was unsuccessful. His bidding system at contract bridge, the “1-2-3,” gave way to the artificial 2*C* bid with intermediate (strong) two-bids in other suits.
The Lenz echo, a distribution-showing high-low from a four-card holding, remains standard among experts. Lenz disclaimed credit for this, saying it was standard among whist experts and he merely taught auction players to use it. In 1965 he was elected to the Bridge Hall of Fame.
Peter Leventritt earned recognition as a bridge player, administrator and teacher. He became Life Master #38 in 1943 and won major tournament titles in three decades. He represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl three times — 1961, 1963 and 1965 — and finished second to Italy’s Blue Team each time.
Leventritt pioneered the use of the Schenken System in partnership with its inventor, Howard Schenken.
A co-founder of the Card School of New York, he and Edgar Kaplan were the principal authors of the original edition of The Biggest Little Bridge Book in the World.
August Boehm of New York recalls this story about Leventritt as a teacher and a competitor: “The Card School teachers would often go into homes to teach and play. It was sit down, shuffle and play. Peter Leventritt, as was the custom, would be neatly dressed in a jacket and tie.
“By the third or fourth deal, however, off came the jacket, off came the tie. The sleeves were rolled up, and he was playing as hard in those games as if he were playing against the Italians in the Bermuda Bowl.”
Bobby Levin learned bridge from his mom, Sheila, when he was 12. Obviously, she taught him well: he won the first tournament event he ever entered when he was 13 – the Men’s Pairs at a New York sectional. He was the youngest winner in the history of the event. “Tough field back then,” he concedes.Levin moved from New York to Florida when he was 14. In March 1973, he became the ACBL’s youngest Life Master at the age of 15 years and 4 months old – a record he held until 1975. He was crowned ACBL’s King of Bridge upon graduating from high school in 1975.
By the age of 17, Levin was playing professionally on teams with Russ Arnold, Miami bridge legend and ACBL Hall of Famer. In 1981, his team (Arnold, Bud Reinhold, John Solodar, Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell) defeated Zia Mahmood-led Pakistan for the Bermuda Bowl. The win made Levin, at 23 years old, the youngest world champion at the time.
“Russ was the man,” says Levin of his first mentor. “I was playing against him when I was 15, and within a couple years, he was ready to play with me. I taught him how to bid and he showed me how to play cards.”
Levin gives credit to his partners over the years for his continued growth – “especially Peter Weichsel.” A world champion five times over and ACBL Hall of Famer, Weichsel recalls playing against Levin. “In his 20s, Bobby was an outstanding card player, but someone who had not experienced the refinements of being in a truly sophisticated partnership.”
In 1986, Weichsel invited Levin to join him on a team with Mike Becker and Ron Rubin. “We went to work on creating a modern high-level partnership. We spent thousands of hours working on partnership bidding, judgment and high-level competitive bidding. Over the course of a dozen years, we became one of the very best partnerships in the U.S.A., and Bobby had developed into one of America’s finest players. In 1998, Bobby moved on to play with Steve Weinstein, and they continued that devotion to hard work on all facets of their game.”
Levin added another gold medal to his collection when he and Weinstein won the Open Pairs in 2010. He won two silver medals at the Verona World Championships in 2006: one playing with his wife, Jill, in the World Mixed Pairs and one playing with Weinstein in the Open Pairs.
Levin and Weinstein topped the Cavendish Invitational Pairs a record five times (1999, 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2010). Levin has 30 North American championships, including six victories in the Vanderbilt, and one each in the Spingold and Reisinger. He has won the Kay Platinum Pairs twice, the von Zedtwitz LM Pairs three times and the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs once. He headed the list of platinum point winners in 2014 to claim the Player of the Year title.
Weinstein calls it an honor and a privilege to sit across the table from the Hall of Famer. “Bobby Levin is what happens when you mix extraordinary natural talent with a tireless work ethic,” says Weinstein. “I’ve never met anyone who works harder or who has a more intuitive feel for the game.”
“I am often humbled,” Levin says. “The more you play, the more you see how bad you are, so practice is necessary to improve.”
Levin and Weinstein have played alongside Hall of Famers Nick Nickell, Ralph Katz, Meckstroth and Rodwell on the blockbuster Nickell squad since 2011. The team recently won the U.S. Bridge Championship and with it, the USA1 berth in the 2019 Bermuda Bowl. “Of all the exciting things that have happened to me in my career, getting to play on the Nickell team is at the top,” Levin says. “We have great teammates, and there is nobody nicer or smarter than Nick.”
When he isn’t playing or practicing, Levin enjoys simply being at home, playing tennis with Jill, going to the gym, swimming – “and a lotta dog time at the pool!” Married 20 years, Jill and Bobby have three sons: Andrew Levin, Shane Blanchard and Justin Blanchard.
“What grabs me about the game is that I still love to win,” Levin says. “I never stop learning.”
Theodore A. “Ted” Lightner, Life Master #7, was a player who won major championships in three decades. He was a leading figure in bridge from the earliest days of contract. He played with Ely Culbertson during a part of the Culbertson-Lenz match and was a member of the Culbertson team (Josephine Culbertson, Waldemar von Zedtwitz, Michael Gottlieb and Albert Morehead were other team members) that won challenge matches over British teams in 1930, 1933 and 1934.
Lightner captured all the major American titles. He won the Spingold in 1937, 1939 and 1945; the Chicago (now the Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams) in 1947, the Vanderbilt in 1930, the Life Master Pairs in 1932 and 1935 and the Open Pairs in 1928.
He became a world champion when his team won the Bermuda Bowl in 1953.
Lightner was remembered by The Bridge World magazine as “a brilliant theoretician and writer. He shared his insights and innovations, including the lead-directing double that bears his name, through his books and many articles in The Bridge World.
“It is hard to believe that Teddy is not still settled at the rubber-bridge table, shaking his great head sadly as yet another dummy comes down with disappointing values, a doleful expression on his face as he prepares to bring home yet another contract. We shall keep him there in our memory.”
Hall of Fame M
One of the all-time great tournament directors, Jerry Machlin was selected to receive the Blackwood Award for 2008, but because of his ties to the Washington DC area, his induction was held to the Summer NABC in 2009.
When Machlin died in 1997 – he had been retired for nearly 20 years – former Bridge Bulletin Editor Henry Francis wrote: “Machlin was one of the grandest of the grand old-time tournament directors. He followed in the steps of his Uncle Al – Al Sobel – and eventually became ACBL’s chief director, just as Sobel had been for many years. He began working at tournaments in the Forties at the insistence of Sobel and became a full-time director in 1950.”
Machlin was a gifted story teller who penned numerous articles for the Washington Bridge League Bulletin. A collection of his best stories are contained in a book hailed as one of the best of all time, Tournament Bridge: An Uncensored Memoir.
The legendary TD helped lead an American bridge team in the first international bridge contest ever staged in China, in 1981. He directed special matches between Congress and Corporate America.
Upon retirement, Machlin started a new career as a player, which provided more material for his humorous writings. He delighted in telling of his misadventures.
Wrote Francis, a former TD: “I can say that working with Jerry was interesting and exciting. I had some of my best times when working two-man tournaments with him.”
Zia is one of the most colorful and recognizable personalities in the bridge world. He is a 14-time North American champion and four-time ACBL Player of the Year. As of October 2006, Zia was ranked 21st among all World Open Grand Masters.
Zia first came to the attention of the bridge world when he led his team from Pakistan to a silver medal in the most prestigious bridge event on the schedule — the Bermuda Bowl. The lightly regarded team came from nowhere to make the championship round of the tournament in Port Chester NY. Zia’s flair attracted immediate attention, and he was back in the limelight five years later in the Rosenblum Cup in Miami Beach. Playing four-handed and led again by Zia, the Pakistani team earned another silver medal in a world championship.
His reputation solidified, Zia started winning championships in North America. Playing with a wide variety of partners, he has earned an unprecedented four ACBL Player of the Year awards. The title is given to the ACBL member who earns the most masterpoints in national championships during a calendar year. Zia earned the accolade in 1991, 1996, 2000 and 2005. He has more than a dozen North American championships to his credit, including two victories in the Spingold Knockout Teams and the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams. He is a three-time winner of the Reisinger B-A-M Teams, one of the toughest events on the bridge calendar.
The ACBL Board of Directors selected Zia as Honorary Member of the Year in 2005. This top award is given to recognize a player’s long and meritorious service to the organization.
He is the author of “Bridge My Way,” an autobiography written in 1999. He has also hosted many television shows.
In recent years, Zia has settled down as a family man. He and Emma, his wife of five years (2007), have two sons. It doesn’t take much prodding to get Zia to talk at length about the pleasures of fatherhood and his life at home in London.
In late 2005, Zia turned his attention to his native Pakistan, which was devastated by an earthquake in October of that year. He spent much of the next 18 months or so in a fund-raising effort aimed at producing enough cash to build a school in one of the hardest-hit areas. He announced at the 2007 Spring NABC in St. Louis that sufficient funds had been raised to build that school.
Recipient of the von Zedtwitz Award, New Yorker Merwyn D. Maier, affectionately known as “Jimmy,” is undoubtedly the least-recognized bridge aficionado to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. However, he definitely deserves his place among the bridge greats.
Sadly, Jimmy’s bridge career was cut short in 1942 when a mysterious virus claimed his life at the age of 32.
Despite its brief length, his career is amazing. Seven major titles in four years: Vanderbilt 1937 and 1938; Spingold 1938 and 1939; Master Individual 1939; Men’s Pairs 1940; Life Master Pairs 1941. Jimmy won several of his championships as a member of the famed Four Aces.
The personal tributes and accolades of his peers on the occasion of his untimely death suggest that Maier had embarked on a career that might well have turned out to be unparalleled. In March-April 1942 ACBL Bulletin editor Geoffrey Mott-Smith called him “one of the foremost players in the country.” According to Howard Schenken, “Jimmy was far and away the best partner I ever had.” In his publication,The Education of a Bridge Player, Schenken stated, “Had he lived, he might have become the greatest bridge player of all time.” Sidney Lazard recalls his good friend, the legendary Ozzie Jacoby, singling out Maier as the best bridge player he had ever seen. Edith Kemp Freilich related vivid memories of playing against Maier while still in her teens and confirmed Jacoby’s assessment of his incredible prowess at a very tender age.
The news of Eddie Manfield’s sudden death in 1999, in the prime of life at age 56, was received with great shock and much sadness. Eddie wore many challenging hats both in the world of bridge and in the professional arena.
According to Harvard classmate Ron Gerard, “We lived in the same residence for three years, played on the university bridge team in inter-collegiate competition and shared a regular rubber bridge game, sometimes to the exclusion of what our parents thought their tuition dollars were going toward.”
Eddie appeared in his first NABC in 1965 and soon emerged as a dominant force in Washington-area bridge. In the ’70s and ’80s he captured hosts of events, soaring to national and international prominence with partner Kit Woolsey and teammates Peter Boyd and Steve Robinson.
Eddie’s “I’ve Got a Secret” earned for him the 1982-83 International Bridge Press Association Best Article award, adding to the acclaim he had received as a theoretician and writer when he shared the award in 1979-80 for ” High Level Bridge ,” his ground-breaking series in The Bridge World. He may be best remembered for his 1987 BOLS Tip, “The Five Level Belongs to the Opponents.”
In 1986, he won the Rosenblum Teams, perhaps somewhat easing the pain and disappointment of losing the final in 1982. Receiving his master’s degree at UVA, Eddie worked for the Federal Trade Commission and then pursued an exciting and volatile career as an options trader where he enjoyed an extraordinarily successful track record both for himself personally and for those friends and bridge players whom he sponsored on The Philadelphia Exchange. However, despite his enormous all-around success, his true pride and joy were his children, Karen, Sabrina and Seth.
Chip Martel began playing bridge seriously while in high school in Urbana IL. He was fortunate to be near the University of Illinois campus where they had good campus games and several strong players willing to help him improve.
Later, Martel studied computer science — and bridge — at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a B.S. in 1975. In 1980, he earned a Ph.D. from University of California at Berkeley where he met his wife, Jan, and great long-time partner, Lew Stansby.
In 1981, Martel won his first North American title, the Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams, with Stansby. The following year they won their first world title, the Open Pairs, and also finished second in the Rosenblum teams (fittingly, Martell Cognac sponsored the tournament). Subsequently, Martel and Stansby won four additional world championships and more than 20 North American titles together. Martel has also won NABC titles with Jan, Zia, Kit Woolsey and Eric Rodwell.
After playing with Stansby for 35 years, Martel recently started a new partnership with his old friend Marty Fleisher.
Martel served as captain and coach of the world champion Junior team in 1991 and was coach of the world champion Senior team in 2005. He is also the chair of the ACBL Laws Commission, a member of the World Bridge Federation Laws and System Committees and was on the drafting committee for the 1997 laws. Additionally, he won the Bols Tip Competition and was named ACBL Honorary Member in 2000.
Before he retired in 2013, Martel was a professor of computer science at the University of California at Davis. He helped found the computer science department there and served as one of its first department chairs. In the 1985-86 academic year, he achieved a rare double of winning a world championship and achieving tenure. He continues to work at the college as an emeritus professor.
A favorite hobby is refining his bidding system (“Chip abhors a bid without a meaning,” friends say) and devising defenses to methods played most commonly outside the United States. Other hobbies include reading (mostly science fiction and mysteries) and bicycling.
Martel has one step-son, Rick, and two grandchildren, Maya and Eli (neither plays bridge yet).
Jan Martel, whose tireless dedication and selfless service has made a major impact on the bridge community, is this year’s Blackwood Award Hall of Fame inductee.
In the early 1990s, Martel was one of the founders of the ACBL’s Women’s Committee, which oversaw the process for selecting women’s teams for world championship play. The committee created the seeding point scale for the Women’s Knockouts as well as establishing the ACBL child care program at NABCs.
After the International Team Trial Committee was formed, the Women’s Committee became the Women’s International Team Trial Committee and Martel served as its chair from inception until the late 1990s. She almost single-handedly created the Conditions of Contest for the women’s trials and continues to update them every year. Martel brought her organizational skills and enthusiasm to the Senior International Team Trial Committee as well, writing the Conditions of Contest and organizing the U.S. Senior Bridge Championship.
When the U.S. Bridge Federation was organized, Martel served as a board member and as its president. When she reached her term limit, she became the first and only USBF Chief Operating Officer – a position created specifically for her because the Board of Directors had become so dependent on her organizational skills.
Behind the scenes, Martel’s volunteer responsibilities grew to where she chose to retire as an attorney so that she could devote her energy fulltime to the avocation she clearly cherishes. A woman with a closet full of hats, Martel manages the USBF website, bills active member dues and archives trial records and official documents in addition to her administrative duties. She takes photos at championships. She organizes BBO vugraph presentations for NABC events, and frequently serves as a vugraph operator at major championships. She served on the Hall of Fame Committee from 2003 to 2008. In short, she does whatever needs to be done.
Martel has been the non-playing captain of three Bermuda Bowl Teams, two Junior Teams and one Senior Team and has coached several other teams over the last 25 years. As a player, she has won seven NABC titles and was also second in seven NABC events. Of her titles, her favorite was winning the Baldwin North American Pairs with husband Chip in 1988.
Among the many stars of the game of bridge, one of the greatest competitors was Lewis L. Mathe. The intensity of his play, his commanding table presence and his superb card playing skill ensured his place among the giants of the game.
Lew Mathe, a real estate appraiser and broker, enjoyed a successful bridge career — as a player and as an administrator — that spanned more than three decades.
Mathe’s victories at the national level attest to his talent. He won the Chicago (now the Reisinger) four times, the Vanderbilt three times and the Spingold once.
In addition, Mathe posted first-place finishes in a host of pair and team events during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Mathe demonstrated his ability in the international arena by becoming a Bermuda Bowl champion in 1954. He went on to represent North America in four more Bermuda Bowls.
Mathe also represented the United States in the World Team Olympiad in 1960. Mathe and his wife, Eugenie (who died in 1991), won the European Open Teams in Hungary in 1975. Mathe was a WBF Grand Master.
His accomplishments as a player also include contributions to bidding theory. The Mathe Asking Bid, used after responder has made a jump limit raise, is employed to discover if responder has a singleton.
In addition, Mathe created a defense to a strong 1♣ opener, wherein double shows a major two-suiter, while 1NT shows the minors (with all other bids being natural).
Mathe’s general approach to bidding was a natural, descriptive one. This style was prevalent on the West Coast, and Mathe was one of its chief exponents. Although Mathe’s star faded with the advent of more scientific approaches to the auction, his success with those methods is remarkable.
Mathe’s love for the game led him to become a leading player in its organizational structure. He served as ACBL president in 1975, chairman of the ACBL Board in1976, and chairman of the ACBL Board of Governors in 1968. Mathe was the WBF representative from ACBL and WBF treasurer from 1977-1982. He was president of the Western Conference on three occasions and the ACBL Board Member from District 23 from 1958-1961 and from 1970-1982.
Mathe served as mentor to the rising stars from California during his career. Eddie Kantar, Bob Hamman and Don Krauss were among those who played with Mathe early in their careers.
Known for his intensity and energy at the table, Mathe was a self-proclaimed perfectionist who expected much from his partners.
He was a firm believer that bridge expertise is innate, not acquired, and that a healthy sense of self-confidence and ego is an integral part of being a top-notch player.
While Mathe acknowledged that he could be a challenging partner at times, he felt that inculcating a strong sense of competitive spirit in his protégés was necessary for their development.
No one would suggest, however, that Mathe himself was anything less than professional and sporting at the table.
Mathe once noted that “(experts) will beat you because . . . they’ve got good judgment. If you have ability, if you have the gift . . . you’re going to be a good bridge player.”Lew Mathe certainly had that gift.
The ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame electors chose Jeff Meckstroth to be inducted into the Class of 2017 as the recipient of the Open Award. This was the first year of eligibility for Meckstroth, a resident of Clearwater Beach FL, who is one of the most highly accomplished players in the history of the game.
In 1974, at the age of 18, Meckstroth was one of the first recipients of the ACBL King of Bridge scholarship, and since that time, he has become a world champion nine times over. Meckstroth has gold medals in the Bermuda Bowl from 1981, 1995, 2000, 2003 and 2009 and the World Bridge Games (formerly the Bridge Olympiad) in 1988. He won the World Open Pairs in 1986, the World Mixed Pairs in 2002 and the World Senior Teams in 2016. He is ranked fifth on the World Bridge Federation’s list of all-time World Grand Masters.
Closer to home, Meckstroth has amassed 61 North American championship titles since his first in 1979, including 31 of the premium variety: seven Vanderbilts, 12 Spingolds, nine Reisingers and three Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs. He sits atop ACBL’s masterpoint-holder list with more than 84,000 masterpoints (as of May 2017). He has won Player of the Year (most platinum points in a calendar year) three times, and the annual Barry Crane masterpoint race a record 11 times.
The lion’s share of Meckstroth’s success has come in tandem with longtime partner Eric Rodwell. Together, they are known simply as Meckwell, and they enjoy the widespread reputation as one of the greatest partnerships of all time. The pair has won virtually every major title in the game, most of them more than once. They are renowned not only as great players, but also as brilliant theorists. Their bidding system (starting from a Precision base) is complex, their agreements extensive, and their trademark style ultra-aggressive.
For almost 25 years, Meckstroth and Rodwell have been the anchor pair for teams captained by Nick Nickell. Many of the duo’s North American and world titles were earned as members of the Nickell squad. Even as the lineup has changed over the years, Meckwell has been the core of what is arguably the most successful team ever.
In addition to his many achievements at the table, Jeff has been a faithful servant to bridge. He has been a member the Conventions and Competitions Committee for 25 consecutive years, served as National recorder and been a longtime member of the Appeals Committee. Jeff has also supported and mentored many junior players, most recently by hosting practice sessions on BBO with members of the USBF Junior training program.
Jill Meyers discovered bridge at age 10 when her idolized older sister, Nina, brought the game home from college. At 22, Meyers became instantly enamored with duplicate bridge after wandering into Paul’s Bridge Club in West Los Angeles. She then began her journey as a novice with some of the finest players in the west.
Since then, she has been fortunate to maintain her serious bridge endeavors while also forging a career in the music business. Meyers started in the music department at Columbia Pictures, coordinating scoring sessions and also ensuring that the composers’ music was properly identified and compensated. After, she went to law school to widen her understanding of contract law and eventually became the Vice President of Music at Tri-Star Pictures.
In 1988, with a push and a lot of encouragement from her husband to be, Sid Brownstein, Meyers opened her own consultancy firm that she has run for the last 26 years. Her firm is hired by film studios, television producers and networks, Broadway play producers and numerous toy manufacturers and ad agencies to negotiate with music companies for the rights to use their songs in clients’ programs and productions. The work can be intense and demanding, requiring a lot of focus and problem solving. Just like bridge.
Meyers has won more world championships than any woman in World Bridge Federation history. She has taken seven world championships (with six different partners), including the Venice Cup four times. She has also placed second three times and third once in other world championships. Meyers was on the winning Buffett Cup team twice.
Additionally, she has had numerous national bridge accomplishments. Meyers has won 18 national championships including the Blue Ribbon Pairs, the Championship Flight of the GNTs and the Nail Life Master pairs twice.
Though she has had much success in pairs events, Meyers has coveted her spots on the various championship bridge teams for the camaraderie of teammates and the bonus of traveling the world, feeding a passion for exploring new places and meeting new people.
Marshall Miles was born in Loma Linda CA in 1926. He received a B.A. in economics from Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna College) in 1948 and a law degree from UCLA in 1954. He practiced law from 1955 until 1992. He was married to Betty Barnett from 1972 until her death in 2000.
Ever since a friend of his mother’s taught Marshall the game when he was 15, bridge has been Marshall’s major hobby. At first he had no one to play with, so he read newspaper columns and books. Today, his favorite part of the game is bidding, and he thinks the biggest challenge is to visualize everyone’s hands and plan the best way to describe his own.
Marshall has won five North American events, most of them in partnership with Eddie Kantar: the Spingold in 1961 and 1962, the Reisinger in 1962 and 1965 and the Life Master Pairs in 1961. He also won the World Senior Teams in 2004 playing with Leo Bell.
Marshall has been an important, if sometimes idiosyncratic, theorist of the game. He was one of the first experts to espouse overcalls on four-card suits – “Our most likely game is in spades,” he often would comment in the Master Solvers’ Club – choosing to bid 2♠ over an opponent’s 2♥ opening on, say, A-Q-10-x. At one time, he was famous for bidding 3NT holding tenuous stoppers in an opponent’s suit.
His approach to the play also was occasionally outside the mainstream. Years ago, an up-and-coming young expert was playing with his wife in her first real North American event. Before they sat down against Marshall, he told her: “That’s Marshall Miles. He likes to underlead aces.” Sure enough, on the first board, dummy bid spades, but the young wife ended up in 4. The opening lead from Marshall was the ♠2, dummy held ♠K-J-9-x, and third hand held ♠Q-10-8 — perfect! Only the young wife played the *S*K, drew trumps, and pitched her second spade on another suit. Marshall looked puzzled, and the up-and-coming expert said, “Sorry, Marshall. Your reputation has begun to precede you.”
But Marshall will always be remembered as a bridge writer. One of his earliest books, All Fifty-two Cards, is still required reading to move up from the intermediate level. He is the author of 10 other books, many written while he was still practicing law. The most recent, More Accurate Bidding, was published in 2011.
If Jacqui was seen at the bridge table minus her needlepoint, knitting or a mystery book on her lap, one would suspect she was an impostor. Despite the combination of her signature jeans and T-shirt appearance and nonchalant table demeanor, she is an intensely serious, competitive, brilliant, analytical and calculating player — the antithesis of what meets the eye!
According to close friend and partner Amalya Kearse, “She is not only a terrific player, but she also has such a love for the game that she never treats a hand casually, even if it is near the end of an event she no longer has a chance of winning or placing well. Every hand gets the attention it deserves.”
For many years, Jacqui was ranked as the leading WBF woman player and has captured several World Championships (Venice Cup in 1976 and 1978; World Olympiad Women’s Teams in 1980 and 1984; World Women’s Pairs in 1986) as well as NABCs, sectionals and regionals. In her second year of tournament play in 1958, she earned the title of New York Player of the Year, which marked the beginning of more than four decades of impressive triumphs.
Although her active professional involvement in teaching bridge and playing keeps her busy, this soft-spoken human dynamo is a fanatic exerciser, finds time to follow her favorite sports teams and tennis icons, excels in the kitchen and is an inveterate animal lover of all kinds.
Demonstrating the latter two, when a dinner guest arrived at her home one evening drooling from the wonderful smells emanating from the kitchen in anticipation of a delectable feast, Jacqui admonished her not to get too excited. “That’s not our dinner,” she said. “I’m cooking chicken for the Central Park cats.” Oh, yes, she has a sense of humor, too!
Victor Mitchell learned bridge as a teenager growing up in Brooklyn. By the age of 20, he was running a 24-hour-a-day money bridge club. In his prime, he was flamboyant and cocky when he needed to be — and he knew all the tricks of the trade.
When Mitchell died at the age of 71 in January of 1995, bridge lost one of its most colorful characters — a champion player, bridge philosopher, mentor to the stars.
“For more than 30 years,” said bridge star Ron Andersen in 1994, “Vic has been the expert’s mentor from coast to coast. His unknown contributions to the world of tournament bridge are far greater than those of better known people.”
Mitchell grew up in a rough and tumble neighborhood. His friendship with a policeman led him to discover bridge — the beginning of a love affair that lasted his whole life.
A Grand Life Master with more than 10,000 masterpoints, Mitchell won five North American championships and represented the United States in international competition several times. His major titles include the Spingold Knockout Teams (1956 and 1959), the Life Master Men’s Pairs (1962) and the Men’s Teams (1962 and 1963).
He finished second in the 1964 World team Olympiad and was runner-up in the World Mixed Teams, playing with his wife Jacqui, Sam and Tubby Stayman and Jimmy Cayne.
Mitchell’s expertise at the table was sometimes overshadowed by the stories told by him and about him. Jacqui, Victor’s wife of 35 years, figures that if she had written down the various tales, “I could easily fill a book.”
Mitchell’s second win in the Spingold Knockout Teams (1959) was especially significant because the win guaranteed his team an appearance in the World Bridge Olympiad the following year.
On the last deal of the Spingold, Mitchell found himself in 3NT redoubled. The critical suit was clubs, and at one point Mitchell played the queen from dummy, covered by his right-hand opponent with the king.
Mitchell, who felt sure of the layout of the cards, followed low and said, as his LHO played the singleton ace, “My first Olympiad.” Mitchell’s team won by 1 IMP.
Another story involved the legendary Ira Rubin, sometimes referred to as “The Beast.” Mitchell and Rubin were opponents in a rubber-bridge game when Rubin blasted into 6NT, which Mitchell doubled.
“Redouble!” said Rubin with typical force.
“Ira,” said Mitchell, “you can’t do that.”
“I said, ’Redouble.’ ” was Rubin’s reply. “I have my bids.”
“Ira,” said Mitchell, who was on lead, “I’ve got three aces.”
Mitchell was included as a real character in three bridge mystery books written by Matthew Granovetter, one of Mitchell’s protégés and a lifelong admirer. “If I had to play for my life,” Granovetter said, “I would choose Vic as my partner. It’s not even close.”
Mitchell didn’t play much in his later years, but he was usually on hand at NABCs to see his friends and give advice.
Mitchell claimed that he never played bridge for glory or prestige. “The people,” he said, “are more important than the bridge. I’ve met some of the most fantastic people playing bridge. I’ve had a ball.
Molson, who died in 2006, was a Grand Life Master with a distinguished record in high-level competition. He had a silver medal in the Bermuda Bowl in 1995 and a bronze medal in the Rosenblum Knockout Teams in 1990. A native of Canada, Molson won the Richmond Trophy (for the most masterpoints earned in a calendar year by a Canadian) five times. He amassed almost 20,000 masterpoints before his death at 56.
Molson won seven Canadian National Team Championships, one Canadian Open Pairs Championship and seven NABC titles: the Reisinger and Blue Ribbon Pairs in 1989, the 2002 Grand National Teams and four times the Keohane North American Swiss Teams.
At the time of Molson’s death, Bermuda Bowl teammate Eric Kokish told the Bridge Bulletin, “Over the course of his career he was able to bring out the best in a wide variety of partners of different abilities. He was also excellent company, which can’t be said of all bridge experts, and a sort of Peter Pan figure in his own way.”
Molson was married to Janice Seamon-Molson, who appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot this year.
October 1996 marked three decades since Albert Morehead died of cancer at the age of 57. Many of today’s generation know little about the man except, perhaps, that there is a bridge library in Memphis named for him.
Morehead was a lad of 23 when Ely Culbertson hired him because of his talent as a player and an expert analyst. In a short time Morehead was technical analyst for The Bridge World magazine and technical manager of all Culbertson enterprises. He was only 25 when he played on the Culbertson team that defeated the English in the second international match for the Schwab Trophy in 1934.
Morehead not only published and edited the magazine, he was responsible for much of the writing of Culbertson’s books and radio scripts. He managed details pertaining to the Crockford Clubs in New York and Chicago . He negotiated endorsements and was executive director of Kem Playing Cards, Inc. — which he sold within a few years for a profit of more than half a million dollars.
A tireless worker, he was the first bridge editor of The New York Times. He wrote and edited bridge books. He ran a plastics business and did free-lance writing on a multitude of non-bridge subjects for leading American magazines.
After he resigned from the Times late in 1963, he devoted full time to the writing, editing and publishing of dictionaries, encyclopedias and a thesaurus which made him one of the foremost American lexicographers. His works also included many “Hoyle” books, giving the rules of cards games, on which he was the leading American authority.
Meanwhile, he found time for tremendous service to organized bridge. He was an officer of the United States Bridge Association when that organization amalgamated with the American Bridge League in 1937. He became a governor of the newly formed ACBL, which he later served as president and chairman of the Board. He was named Honorary Member in 1946. He was a member of the National Laws Commission and was in charge of production of the International Laws of Contract Bridge.
He not only served ACBL as adviser and laws consultant, he made enormous contributions to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge — far beyond the scope of duties suggested by his title of chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board.
Early in 1966, while suffering from his then undiagnosed mortal illness, Morehead rose from a sick bed to travel to Amsterdam to present the constitution he had prepared for the World Bridge Federation — the first formal definition of the scope, structure, powers and duties of that organization.
Some insight into the man behind all this talent can be found in his obituary in the November issue of the 1966 Bulletin. Then editor Dick Frey wrote,
“Dwarfing these magnificent achievements were personal traits rare among men. No one ever saw him lose his temper at the bridge table or heard him speak an unkind word to a partner. He smiled often, but the only player he ever laughed at was himself.
Rarely if ever did he turn down a plea for help. Writing this, I am proud to acknowledge the debt I owe him and to claim that he was my best friend. The secret of his greatness was that there are scores of others who will truly say exactly this of Albert Hodges Morehead.”
Morehead left his large and valuable collection of books to the ACBL, and they formed the heart of what has been for more than three decades the Albert H. Morehead Memorial Library.
Alphonse “Sonny” Moyse was publisher and editor of The Bridge World from 1955-1966, spanning the era between Ely Culbertson, the founder of the magazine, and Edgar Kaplan.
An experienced and talented author, Moyse was the ghostwriter for two of Culbertson’s columns for more than 20 years. Moyse also wrote the humorous “Bridge with Jackie” stories, the fictional accounts of his and his wife’s bridge misadventures.
Moyse was an expert player, winning the Men’s Teams (1949) and the Men’s Pairs (1963), but generations of players will remember him best for his tenure as editor of The Bridge World.
Moyse joined the staff of the magazine in 1934 as assistant editor, and was the de facto editor from 1939 until Culbertson’s death in 1955. Moyse then purchased The Bridge World from the Culbertson estate. In 1963, he sold the publication to McCall Corporation, though he remained as editor.
Moyse was a champion of the natural school of bidding, and his views in this matter were unapologetically arch-traditionalist. Armed with an acerbic wit and an unfailing ability to analyze cleanly and clearly, Moyse took on decades of scientific-bidding advocates in the pages of his magazine.
He was a proponent of four-card major openings and 4-3 “Moysian” trump fits. Moyse recognized, however, that the advent of more scientific approaches to the auction was a regrettable (in his view) inevitability.
As editor of The Bridge World, therefore, he published the ideas and theories of expert players of the day. Moyse provided a necessary forum for the evolution of bridge theory.
As director of the ongoing bidding-panel series of the magazine, the Master Solvers’ Club, Moyse would increasingly find himself in support of minority opinions, but he accepted it all with a keen, acidic sense of humor and an unflappable faith in clear, sensible bidding.
In fact, Moyse enjoyed playing the role of the curmudgeon, criticizing in indignant tones the views of other experts.
The following excerpt from a 1960 issue of The Bridge World is pure Moyse:
“Not out of modesty but from awareness of fact we must observe that last month’s Master Solvers’ problems were not as good as we could have wished — no drama, no ’cuteness,’ and not controversial enough to warrant high indignation on our part, a state to which we’re accustomed and which therefore is healthful for us.”
Moyse died in June 1973 at the age of 75, weeks after being selected as an International Bridge Press Association Honorary Member, the first American to receive the honor.
The Bridge World, in an obituary and tribute to Moyse, praised the former editor and reminisced over his choleric disposition:
“After retiring, he kept his eagle eye on us. Only recently he called up in high dudgeon (and his was the highest dudgeon of any man we knew ): ’You’re letting the magazine go to the dogs!’— he had detected a fused participle, a grammatical form he detested.
“Sonny had a hot temper, and his rages were magnificent. But it was like a violent tropical storm — over in an instant with bright sunshine to follow. He roared at everyone and no one ever minded, for he was all bark and no bite — there was not a drop of malice in him.”
Eric Murray, a barrister and solicitor, has had considerable success in North American and international competition. In addition, he was the organizing chairman of the Summer North American Bridge Championships in 1964 and is a former president of Unit 166 (Ontario) and a former District 2 representative to the ACBL Board of Directors.
Murray represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1962, 1966, 1967 and 1974; Canada in other world competitions in 1960, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1978, 1980 and 1982. He placed 3rd in the Rosenblum Teams in 1982.
Murray’s successes include achieving the rank of ACBL Grand Life Master, winning the Team Trials in 1966, the Lou Herman Trophy in 1963, the Vanderbilt in 1961 and 1970; the Spingold in 1964, 1965 and 1968; the Men’s Teams in 1962, the Life Master Men’s Pairs and the Mixed Pairs in 1963; the Men’s Pairs 1945 and 1955, the Master Mixed Teams in 1956 and 1962 and the Life Master Pairs in 1969. Murray placed 2nd in the Master Mixed Teams in 1954, the Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1961, the Men’s Pairs in 1965, the Blue Ribbon Pairs in 1969 and the Reisinger in 1969 and 1972. He won the Canadian National Teams Championships in 1980, 1981 and 1987 and placed 2nd in 1986 and 1988.
Murray also won the Canadian Invitational Pairs (Calcutta) in 1993. He devised Murray 2*D* convention. Murray co-authored the Drury convention and was the contributing editor to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge.
Hall of Fame N
Nagy was born Ivan Halmos in Budapest, Hungary, during World War II, surviving the Holocaust with his mother while most of his family perished. After the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution he fled with his uncle, spending almost a year in an Austrian refugee camp before his IRC-sponsored immigration to Canada. He changed his name to the nondescript Nagy as a child in Hungary, and to the less-Russian Peter en route to Canada.
Valedictorian of Montreal’s Westmount High School in 1961, Nagy had remarkably spoken no English or French upon his immigration three and a half years earlier. Placing ninth in the Canadian national matriculation exams, he was awarded a full scholarship to Princeton University where he majored in economics.
Nagy’s love of bridge began at Princeton, and subsequently flourished in Montreal under his beloved mentor, Sam Gold. Although he went on to win more than 50 regional tournaments, his favorite was the first one with Gold, making him a Life Master, in 1969.
Nagy’s decade-long partnership with Eric Kokish yielded success, fame and honors. Their team, with Eric Murray, Sami Kehela, George Mittelman and Allan Graves, won two Canadian National Championships. At NABCs, Nagy-Kokish won the 1978 Men’s B-A-M Teams. They also had second-place finishes in the 1980 Vanderbilt, 1982 Spingold and 1984 Vanderbilt. The Nagy-Kokish partnership garnered three world medals representing Canada (1978 World Open Pairs silver, 1981 Maccabiah Games bronze, and 1982 Rosenblum Teams bronze) as well as three international awards (1977 IPBA best-bid hand, 1978 Rosenkranz Romex best-bid World Championship hand, and 1980 Bols Brilliancy best-defended World Olympiad hand). Nagy was inducted into the Canadian Bridge Federation Hall of Fame in 2012.
After moving to Chicago for love and options, Nagy won the 1991 Grand National Teams, the 1993 Vanderbilt, and the 1995 North American Swiss Teams playing with many top U.S. players. Representing the U.S., he won a second silver medal in the World Open Pairs with Ralph Katz in 1990.
Nagy is survived by his son, David, and his wife, Donna Hay.
Gerald Michaud, a frequent Nail partner, remembered the diminutive Texan as “my friend always, my partner often. “He was exceptional in many respects,” said Michaud. “He had unerring accuracy on defense.” Michaud called Nail, “a Gentleman of Bridge. He practiced Active Ethics long before the ACBL adopted that program.”
Robert “Bobby” Nail won four North American championships and had 11 seconds. He represented the United States twice in the Bermuda Bowl, finishing second in 1963. He was a Life Master in World Bridge Federation rankings and an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 10,000 masterpoints.
Born with a rare bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta) Nail spent much of his youth in hospitals. Most people with his disease, he once said, didn’t live much past their twenties. The diminutive Nail — he was about five feet tall — made the most of his time. Stories about his adventures and misadventures abound.
During the pair trials for the 1964 World Bridge Olympiad, Nail and Jim Jacoby were playing against upstarts Bob Hamman and Don Krauss (the eventual winners) and were performing particularly poorly. At one point in the match, Nail took Jacoby away from the table for a talk.
“Are you betting on these boys?” Nail inquired of Jacoby, who was appalled that his partner would even ask such a question. Before Jacoby could sputter out an answer, Nail said, “Relax, Jim. If you are, I just want half the action.”
Once in a rubber bridge game, Nail held 10 solid clubs and singletons in the other three suits. In second seat, after the dealer passed, Nail coyly passed — “I don’t know why.”
LHO also passed. Now Nail’s partner, Cleo Allen, began to study her hand. “Come on, Cleo,” Nail was thinking, wishing he knew how to send mental messages. “Come on, Cleo.”
Finally she threw the hand in. “Sorry, partner,” Allen said to Nail. “Just three bare aces.”
Since the early Nineties, Frank (Nick) Nickell has been captain of one of the most successful and dominating teams in organized bridge. Nickell and company have won three Bermuda Bowls and earned the silver medal in two others.
The Nickell team practically owns the Spingold Knockout Teams, having won the event nine times since the squad was assembled. For many years, until his death in 2009, Richard Freeman was Nickell’s partner on the team.
Nickell has won other major championships, including the Cavendish Invitational Pairs and the Blue Ribbon Pairs, but he has also distinguished himself as a businessman and a behind-the-scenes supporter of the game he loves.
In nominating Nickell for the ACBL Honorary Member of the Year award for 2003, former ACBL President Joan Gerard said much of what Nickell does for bridge goes unnoticed because he doesn’t seek publicity. “He gives and gives,” Gerard said. “There isn’t anything he won’t do.”
Nickell is president and chief executive officer of Kelso & Company, a private equity investment firm. He lives in New York City. Nickell and his wife, Carol, have two sons – Joey and Thomas.
Hall of Fame O
Aileen Osofsky, ACBL Goodwill Committee chair for more than two decades and one of the ACBL’s most influential voices for promotion of friendly behavior at the bridge table, received the Blackwood Award and was inducted into the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame in 2009.
Osofsky was known as the Queen of Goodwill because she led by example. Fittingly, the surprise announcement that Osofsky had received the Blackwood Award came during the Goodwill Committee meeting at the 2009 Spring NABC in Houston. The normally loquacious Osofsky was left almost speechless when Steve Robinson told the assembly of the award, given to a person for contributions to bridge without necessarily being a top player. She may not have qualified as a world-class competitor, but those who knew her agree she had no peer as a Goodwill ambassador for bridge.
At the induction ceremony, her son Alan noted, “Although she isn’t the best player, she has done as much for the game as anyone.”
In her 25 years of service as Goodwill chair, Osofsky never stopped trying to convince ACBL members that friendly demeanor at the bridge table is good for everyone.
Hall of Fame P
Beth earned a degree in history at Bryn Mawr before attending law school at the University of Maryland. In law school, she played hearts to earn spending money. In a 2015 interview, she recalled how she and a friend decided to drop into a Sunday afternoon game at the local duplicate club. They won. “This is easy,” she thought. She started playing in tournaments in 1978 with Bill Cole.
In 1980, Beth met Lynn Deas. For 35 years, their partnership defined Women’s bridge. Together, they won every major Women’s event at both the North American and the international levels. Cole introduced Beth and Lynn. “Beth brought the most underappreciated but important skill to her bridge: the ability to make few unforced errors in the card play. She had the ability to keep her concentration and maximize her skills on each and every hand. She was nice to both her opponents and partners, whether she was winning or losing. Beth not only worked full-time while raising her daughter, Julie, but she received awards for exemplary work in her government career.”
Beth was the chief administrative judge of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Baltimore Hearings Unit.
Lyle Poe, a Washington-area attorney and ACBL Platinum Life Master, hired Beth directly out of law school to work in his general law practice. “Aside from her great bridge accomplishments and the love and admiration of her skills and contributions by the Washington DC bridge community, Beth was universally liked and admired by those in my office, as well as those with whom she came in contact in the legal profession.”
Beth’s legions of friends, teammates and competitors in the bridge world revered her as “a great friend, a great player, a great teammate and a wonderful person,” as “a tough opponent, but always a gracious one,” as “unflaggingly compassionate,” as “one of the nicest and smartest people in bridge,” and as “one of the all-time class acts in bridge.”
Bill Pettis, Beth’s husband, calls his wife amazing. They were married for 27 years and together for 10 years before that, he says. They met playing bridge, and won four NABC titles playing together. “She was my favorite partner.”
Mike Passell has been one of North America’s leading players for more than three decades, and is currently one of the living masterpoint holders among living ACBL members with more than 64,000. He won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500) in 1976 and is a perennial contender in the annual masterpoint race.
The Las Vegas resident, formerly of Dallas, learned to play bridge during a high school vacation while watching his older brother, William, teach bridge classes.
Passell has an enviable record in high-level competition, including the international level. He was a member of the winning Bermuda Bowl team in 1979 after placing second in the world championship two years earlier.
With Mark Lair, he formed one of the ACBL’s most formidable partnerships. He now plays regularly with Eddie Wold. Passell has numerous North American championships to his credit, including three victories in the Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams, three in the Spingold Knockout Teams and two in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams. He has won hundreds of regional championships and has nearly 800 Blue Ribbon qualifications.
Passell and his wife, Nancy, are among the few married couples who are both world champions.
There are those rare individuals who are talented at all that they do, whose every endeavor seems to meet with success. Peter Pender was such an individual, and his accomplishments as a bridge player are celebrated by his induction into the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame. Yet bridge was just one of the many facets of Pender’s career, whose brilliance was undiminished by his untimely end.
Pender of Forestville CA, attended Harvard and was an accomplished pianist. He was also a highly skilled figure skater who qualified to compete in national singles events four times and national pairs twice.
He was a gold medalist for both the United States and Canadian Figure Skating Associations.
Skating competitions took him frequently to Montreal, where he encountered the Canadian bridge elite of the late Fifties. It was there that Pender would meet future bridge partner Hugh Ross.
In 1960, Pender moved to San Francisco. He successfully owned and operated an exclusive resort, Fifes, located on the Russian River in the Bay area.
Pender’s talents also, of course, encompassed bridge. He became Life Master #1795 at the age of 22. He won the 1966 McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500) and in the same year helped England’s Jeremy Flint become an ACBL Life Master in 11 weeks, a record at the time.
Pender tallied 13 NABC wins: five in the Reisinger B-A-M Teams (1968, 1970, 1981, 1985 and 1986); two in the Life Master Men’s Pairs (1967 and 1984); four in the Grand National Teams (1982, 1983, 1985 and 1987) and two in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams (1984 and 1987).
Pender was a member of the victorious U.S. squad in the 1985 NEC Bermuda Bowl in São Paulo, Brazil, and second in the 1989 Bermuda Bowl in Perth, Australia.
Pender was second in the 1982 Rosenblum Teams and won the Pan-American Invitational Pairs in 1974 and 1975.
Pender and Ross formed their now-famous partnership in 1981. The pair, playing with teammates Lew Stansby and Chip Martel, was arguably the most powerful squad in the world during the Eighties.
After winning the 1981 Reisinger, Pender offered this comment about the success of the foursome: “I think one of the reasons why our whole team did so well was because there is no rancor within the pairs or the team.”
Pender continued to perform well in high-level competition through the late Eighties, despite battling the effects of HIV infection, the virus that causes AIDS.
Ross, in a posthumous tribute to his partner in 1990, said, “In the last four years, when he was constantly enduring pain, nausea and fatigue, he never gave up.” Pender was so ill during part of 1987, that he was unable to attend the Bermuda Bowl in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Mike Lawrence filled in for the ailing Pender.
Pender recovered and succeeded in qualifying for the 1989 Bermuda Bowl held in Perth, Australia. His planned trip to Perth became controversial, however, when the Australian government initially refused to grant Pender a visa because of his HIV status. The decision was later rescinded following public outcry over the policy.
Pender finally succumbed to effects of the illness in November of 1990. In early 1991, it was announced that Pender had bequeathed $2.26 million to the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the largest donation ever received by the organization.
Hall of Fame R
By the time Radin was 43 in 1994, she had four world championships and four silver medals – beginning with a gold in the World Women’s Pairs with Kathie Wei-Sender on Radin’s first time at a world championship in 1978 – and has since added a bronze. In North American events, she has 16 wins and 18 seconds, including a Vanderbilt and a Reisinger.
Growing up in Detroit, she began learning bridge at age 7 – when her family decided to take lessons together – the same year she started golf. By the time she was 17, she was a bridge professional with a scholarship to play golf at the University of Michigan. But she never arrived in Ann Arbor. When riots broke out there before her high school graduation, Radin’s mother decided Michigan wasn’t safe and forbid her from going. Radin had to scramble to find alternative college plans and managed to get into Barnard.
Moving to New York was a pivotal event. She had to give up golf because there weren’t any golf courses in the city, but it was a great place to start a bridge career. Though she initially became a stockbroker after college, she quit because she was getting paid more to play bridge. Still in New York with husband Michael, she has also built a reputation as one of the best theater critics in the city.
Outside of competition, Radin has also maintained a successful teaching practice and, as founder and co-chair of the Arthur Loeb Cup, an annual pro-am event, she has helped raise $500,000 for the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House.
“Judi is a natural,” says Stacy Jacobs, a frequent partner. “A pro’s pro. She is a fierce competitor and a true champion. She plays fast, she sees situations, and she rarely makes mistakes.
“Bridge lives in Judi’s brain in a way that it doesn’t live in mine. I’ve seen her play flawless championship bridge through illness and injury, minor and major. Regardless of what is happening around her, Judi Radin can always, always play.”
At the 2013 Fall NABC in Phoenix, Jacobs was playing with Radin on the first day of the Women’s Pairs. They were going over the hands that night when Radin fell ill. She was taken to the hospital and doctors determined she had suffered a stroke.
“She negotiated an early discharge from the hospital and was back in her chair playing her usual exemplary game when the board-a-match began 36 hours later,” Jacobs notes.
Radin explains she fought her way out of the hospital because she didn’t want to lose out on her fees for the events she was booked to play in. “I don’t remember anything about playing that day, but my teammates said I played good.”
In the five years since her stroke, Radin has added three second-place finishes in NABC events to her resume. But the substance of it, she says, has been in place for 25 years.
“I’m very excited,” Radin says about her election to the Hall of Fame. “It takes a lot of stress out of your life waiting all that time. I’m thrilled. All this wait, all this time, it’s still great to get in.”
In the fall of 1996, when The Bridge Bulletin published a list of the top 25 bridge players of all time based on their performances in major events, some readers may have been surprised to see the name of George Rapée in the No. 5 spot, ahead of such luminaries as Oswald Jacoby, Sam Stayman and Charles Goren.
Rapée, after all, is not well known to many of today’s tournament players. In later years he played bridge only three times a year in the NABCs – and did not seek publicity.
Those in the know considered Rapée – owner of three world championships and 25 North American titles – a natural choice for any list featuring all-time greats.
Rapée’s record of success in major tournaments went beyond outstanding. In addition to three Bermuda Bowl victories, Rapée fashioned an amazing record in the three major ACBL team championships – the Vanderbilt, Spingold and Reisinger. Between 1942 and 1971, Rapée was on the winning team 21 times and placed second 15 times.
Hall of Famer Bobby Wolff said Rapée was the best of a strong group of players in the 1940s. “George was by far the most consistent,” Wolff said. “He made very few mistakes, and he was usually playing with a partner who was hard to play with.”
In an analysis of the U.S. team’s performance in the 1958 Bermuda Bowl, Rapée was judged to be the best, ahead of teammates B. Jay Becker and Tobias Stone. Edgar Kaplan wrote in The Bridge World: Rapée’s performance was most impressive. He was the only American to play up to his potential, and his potential is considerable.”
Rapée was born in New York City, the son of Hungarian immigrants. His father, Erno, was a concert pianist and orchestra conductor.
Although he earned a law degree, Rapée never practiced. Instead, he became a real estate investor.
One of Rapée’s most important contributions to bridge is known by another person’s name.
Rapée and Sam Stayman were regular partners when Rapée came up with the idea of using 2♣ responses to a 1NT opener as an artificial bid to try to uncover a four-four major fit. Prior to that, players had extreme difficulty finding the right contracts after 1NT openers.
Rapée’s creation was named for Stayman because Stayman wrote about it in The Bridge World.
Today, Stayman and Blackwood are the two most popular bridge conventions in the world.
John Solodar, Rapée’s regular partner during the latter part of his life, admired his diminutive friend — for his bridge acumen and as a human being. Said Solodar: “George was one of the all-time gentlemen of the game. His word and his handshake were better than any contract.”
In 1990, Rapée and his team finished third in the Rosenblum Knockout Teams at the World Bridge Championships in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1998, his squad made it to the round of 16 in the Vanderbilt.
Former partner Sidney Lazard was around when Rapée was making his mark.
Said Lazard: “In my opinion, George Rapée was the best of the bunch, including John Crawford and Howard Schenken. If you listen to him, you can learn a lot.”
Though our nation’s capital boasts of many heroes, Steve Robinson has the distinction of being the first living player to be elected to the ACBL Hall of Fame from District 6 (which includes Washington, Virginia and most of Maryland ).
Growing up and living in the D.C. area all of his life, he enjoyed the challenge of chess before learning bridge at the Student Union at the University of Maryland, where he matriculated in 1958. He became a Junior Master (the proud owner of one masterpoint) in April of 1963, and longtime friend Peter Boyd good-naturedly adds, “and he still has the certificate to prove it!”
“Stevie,” as he is referred to affectionately by all who know this bridge giant, was drafted into the U.S. Army in December 1963. While stationed at Fort Jackson SC for basic training, he occasionally traveled by bus to local sectional tournaments. Steve worked for the Army at the Pentagon as a computer programmer specialist until 1965, and he remained on the job in a civilian capacity until he retired in 1996.
His early bridge pursuits were intrepid, as witnessed by an incident cited in a recent Washington Bridge League publication. The article quoted the wit and candor of Steve’s partner during the final of a star-studded Blue Ribbon Pairs some years ago when Walt Walvick remarked, “We’re the only pair in this event I have never heard of.”
Extremely active in both the WBL and District 6 since the 1970s, he selflessly has devoted much time, energy and talents to these executive bodies, serving in multiple capacities through the years. Steve’s wins encompass many NABC major titles as well as the 1974 World Mixed Teams and the 2000 World Senior Teams.
Early and frequent favorite partners in the 1960s and 1970s included Jo Morse, Kenny Rhodes, Alan Wilhide and Kit Woolsey. Besides devoting time to professional bridge playing, Steve is a celebrated writer, authoring Washington Standard. He is also the inventor of the crash convention.
Rodwell grew up in West Lafayette IN, where his dad was a professor of biochemistry. Rodwell’s parents, Victor and Meredith, played bridge once a week, so it was natural that Eric would become interested.
Eric had been playing chess, but found it too dry. That combined with a little boredom led him to the club with his father. They were under average their first time out. This wasn’t acceptable to Eric, he wanted to win, so he began studying the game at the age of 14. Rodwell continued playing at the local club in West Lafayette and ran into some fine players. In 1972, Rodwell recalls, he started playing with Sudhakar Kunte, “the first good player who would play with me.” Rodwell learned that “playing with someone better than you is a good way to get the wheels moving” in your mind.
Another partner of Eric’s from that time was responsible for the partnership now known as Meckwell. Eric’s first encounter with Jeff Meckstroth was as a teammate at a regional in Springfield IL. Impressed by his prowess at the table, their partnership was soon formed.
They won their first big championship in 1979, the four-session Open Pairs in Norfolk VA. They went on to win two more big titles that year — the Life Master Men’s Pairs (now the Nail LM Pairs) and the Reisinger Board-a- Match Teams.
Rodwell has amassed 62 NABC wins, seven world titles (five Bermuda Bowls, one World Team Olympiad, one Open Pairs), four silver medals, one Barry Crane Top 500 race and 2008 Player of the Year. He and Meckstroth have won virtually every major title in the game, most of them more than once. They are renowned not only as great players, but also as brilliant theorists.
When he and Meckstroth started out, Rodwell recalls, “We played total cave-man Precision.” To fix that, Rodwell began to amend the system, testing theories with computer simulations and adding new agreements.
Rodwell’s development included a lot of thought about bidding, and he is credited with the invention of the support double (showing three-card support for a major in a competitive auction) and Serious 3NT, a slam-try device.
For nearly 25 years, Rodwell and Meckstroth have been the anchor pair for teams captained by Nick Nickell. Many of Meckwell’s titles have been earned as members of the Nickell squad as they have dominated both the U.S. and world stage. Eric considers himself “blessed” to be part of this team. Eric’s proudest moment, however, was the 1981 Bermuda Bowl title. The U.S. Team (Rodwell, Meckstroth, Bobby Levin, Russ Arnold, John Solodar and Bud Reinhold) defeated an unknown squad from Pakistan that featured Zia Mahmood. Eric has myriad stories that feature Zia, and he is always happy to tell you one.
Away from the table, Eric has authored a number of books, including the IBPA’s 2011 Book of the Year, “The Rodwell Files” and “Eric Rodwell’s Bidding Topics,” the 2017 ABTA Book of the Year.
Married to Donna since 1995, Eric has twin boy/girl Jeff and Sara and stepsons Chris and Guy. He holds a master’s degree in corporate financial analysis from Purdue University, and is an accomplished pianist. He particularly likes ragtime.
You wouldn’t expect to see many 70-year-olds in the final of one of the toughest events on the ACBL calendar. Yet in the spring of 1995, the final of the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams was where you could find 71-year-old Bill Root – part of a four-man team.
After his squad had won the championships in a walk after more than a week of play and 448 deals, Root was ready for more. “I never got tired,” he said.
That spirit, plus lots of talent and hard work, put Root among the top players of his time – and an elected member of the Bridge Hall of Fame.
Bridge play was but one aspect of Root’s illustrious career, which included 13 North American championships and second-place finishes in the 1967 Bermuda Bowl and 1968 World Team Olympiad.
Root was perhaps the best known bridge teacher in the world – and has probably taught the game to more people than anyone in history. A former resident of Boca Raton FL, Root at one time conducted classes in Florida and New York.
For decades, cruises featuring Root as the lecturer were guaranteed sellouts.
When he was not busy playing, teaching or hosting cruises, Root was writing best-selling bridge books. His Commonsense Bidding and Modern Bridge Conventions (co-authored with regular bridge partner Richard Pavlicek) are considered classics.
In recent years, he outdid himself with How to Play a Bridge Hand and How to Defend a Bridge Hand.
Root was born in New York City and was reared in Miami. Before he was introduced to bridge in 1947, Root’s main hobby was bowling. In fact, he probably would have become a professional bowler if there had been a pro tour at the time.
After being introduced to bridge by a bowling friend, Root discovered duplicate. He won in the first duplicate game he played and dropped bowling overnight. It wasn’t long before he realized that he could make money as a bridge player.
Soon after quitting his regular job, Root began moving in the elite bridge circles with players such as Charles Goren, Helen Sobel-Smith, Sam Stayman and Howard Schenken.
Root traveled overseas to foreign tournaments and his performances further enhanced his reputation.
His teaching grew out of a desire to have a more stable home life after he married in 1958.
Root was one of the first bridge teachers to break with the four-card majors tradition and give lessons on five-card majors. His position was vindicated when five-card majors became the standard in North America.
Root broke into the cruise business in 1956 when Goren asked him to fill in on a 98-day worldwide cruise.
Much of Root’s writing was inspired by his experiences as a teacher. In fact, Commonsense Bidding came about as a result of notes he took when students asked questions.
“It’s the best book I ever wrote or ever will write,” Root said.
Root met Pavlicek on one of his trips to Florida and the two formed a partnership that lasted for more than 20 years. “Richard is my all-time favorite partner,” said Root.
After they won the Vanderbilt in 1995, Pavlicek said: “Bill may be 71, but you have to wait a long time for him to touch a wrong card.”
Billy Rosen of Highland Park IL was introduced to bridge while attending De Paul University. He watched the games at the student union and then jumped in and played. “I liked bridge because I was good at it, and it was fun,” Rosen said. “I played five times a week, and my grades showed it.”
Rosen won his first national title in 1952, the National Men’s Pairs in partnership with Arthur Grau. At the Summer NABC in 1953, Rosen really made his mark. He won the prestigious von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs with Milton Ellenby and the Spingold with Ellenby, Don Oakie, Douglas Steen and Cliff Bishop. The Spingold victory was Rosen’s ticket to the world championships.
In the fourth annual Bermuda Bowl, held January 9-14, 1954 in Monaco, Rosen’s team, with the addition of Lew Mathe, defeated the French team by 49 matchpoints after playing 224 boards. The victory made 24-year-old Rosen the youngest person to win a world championship — a record that held for 27 years.
Rosen is an eight-time North American champion. In addition to his previously mentioned wins, Rosen won the Spingold again in 1954, the Master Mixed Teams twice (1958 and 1966) with his wife Eunice, the Grand National Teams Championship Flight in 1978 and the Open Board-a-Match Teams in 1980. He won the McKenney Trophy in 1953 and was a member of the Chicago team that claimed the Sports Illustrated Trophy in 1965.
Outside the world of bridge, Rosen found his forte in trading. He was a trader in the over-the-counter market from 1960 to 1972 when he became a member of the Chicago Board of Options. He traded on the floor for his own account until retiring in 1994.
Although Rosen compares winning a world championship at such a young age to getting dessert first, he still plays once a week in a home game.
It comes as no surprise that Michael Rosenberg, hailed by his peers as the “the expert’s expert” for his card-play technique and highly respected for his ethics advocacy, is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.Born in New York City, Michael grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. At the age of 16, when he felt that his chess game was stagnating (he achieved success at a very young age), he found an unused bridge book lying around the house. He read the book, then joined his high school bridge club and just started playing. Michael credits his passion for the game to Victor Mollo’s “Bridge in the Menagerie”: “Aside from loving the characterizations, I found the bridge positions so exciting and so beautiful that I was ‘gone’ on bridge forever.”
Michael formed a partnership with Barnet Shenkin in 1974. Shenkin points out that by the time Michael was 20, he had been playing bridge seriously for only a couple of years but was already on the Scottish International team. In 1976, Rosenberg and Shenkin pulled off something of an international coup when they won the Sunday Times Pairs, the world’s most famous pairs contest. At 21 and 25 years old, they were the youngest ever to play in the invitational event. That same year, they would add the British Gold Cup (the country’s premier team competition) to their trophy collection.
It was while playing at the card clubs in London that Michael met Zia Mahmood. Where Michael was unassuming, Zia was not; where Rosenberg was conservative, Zia was anything but. They complemented each other so completely that the partnership they would later form would inevitably succeed. Michael’s 1999 “Bridge, Zia and Me” is a book that belongs in every serious bridge player’s collection.
In 1978, Michael packed up his lilting brogue and moved back to the U.S., hoping to make a living playing bridge and backgammon in the New York City clubs. In 1989, he started a partnership with Zia, which was to last 18 years. Their first event was the 1989 Reisinger, which they won. Michael has amassed 14 North American championship titles, including two Reisingers, two Spingolds and two Vanderbilts, the Kaplan Blue Ribbon Pairs and the von Zedtwitz LM Pairs. He was the ACBL’s Player of the Year in 1994 and 2003.
Through victories in the U.S. Bridge Championships, Rosenberg has represented the USA six times in international competition. He won the Rosenblum Cup in 1994. He won silver medals in the 1992 Olympiad Open Teams and the 2007 Bermuda Bowl; he also placed second in the World Open Pairs in 1994 and 2002. He has wins in a number of international festivals, including the Cavendish Invitational Teams (1986) and the Cap Gemini Pandata World Top Invitational Pairs (1992 and 1995).
Michael won the World Par Contest – a challenging test of declarer play – at the 1998 World Championships in Lille. While delighted to have come out on top, he commented that he understood that the runner-up made one less error than he made over the 12 deals, and he had only won because he solved the problems more quickly than the second-place finisher. Rosenberg felt it was wrong that the competition should be decided on time.
Right and wrong matter a great deal to Michael. In his own play and in all of his writing and volunteer work, Michael relentlessly advocates “doing the right thing.” He is proud to carry forward the ethics torch lit by Edgar Kaplan, whom he calls “the most positive influence ever to touch the game we love.”
In 2013, Michael threw himself “25/8” into the USBF Junior program. He and Barry Goren have developed a mentoring and training structure for players who are serious about their game, with an eye toward preparing teams to represent the U.S. in World Junior competition. His impact on the Junior program includes fundraising and recruiting champion mentors. A request from Rosenberg carries a lot of weight in the bridge community.
Rosenberg and Zia rekindled their partnership under the captaincy of Reese Milner to win the d’Orsi Seniors Trophy in 2015.
When he’s not playing or thinking about bridge, Michael enjoys crossword puzzles, movies, mysteries, music and following sports and politics. He lives in Cupertino CA with his wife, Debbie – also a bridge professional and multiple North American/world champion; and their 18-year old son, Kevin, whose bridge star is on the rise. He has two daughters from a previous marriage; Ivanna, 31 and Jahna, 27.
“Bridge is a hobby for me,” says George Rosenkranz, causing one to wonder what heights he would have attained had he taken the game seriously.
Such an understatement seems unjustified from someone whose list of accomplishments in the game is staggering. An ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 13,000 masterpoints, Rosenkranz has 11 NABC titles: Vanderbilt Knockout Teams (1975 and 1976); Spingold Knockout Teams (1976 and 1984); Grand National Teams (1981); Men’s B-A-M Teams (1984 and 1987); Reisinger B-A-M Teams (1985); Master Mixed Teams (1990); North American Swiss Teams (1990); Men’s Swiss Teams (1991).
Born in Hungary in 1916, Rosenkranz earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in Zurich, Switzerland. His plans of accepting a teaching position in Ecuador in 1941 were changed by the outbreak of World War II, stranding him en route in Havana, Cuba. There he worked as a research chemist and later as a scientific director of a large pharmaceutical company until 1945.
After the war, Rosenkranz accepted a position in Mexico City, where he founded Syntex Corporation. He led the company’s research team to important discoveries, namely the synthesis of cortisone and the development of birth control pills.
Rosenkranz remained in Mexico and became the leading Mexican player and theorist. He has represented his adopted country in dozens of world championship events since the early Sixties. He represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1983, and reached the semifinals. Rosenkranz was Mexico’s first Life Master and is a WBF World Master.
The story of Rosenkranz’s career is not complete without mentioning his wife, Edith. Edith is originally from Vienna. She and George met in Havana in 1942 and were married in 1945, a short time before leaving for Mexico.
“My favorite partner is my wife,” says George. “We have been married 54 years. She is the most wonderful thing that happened in my life.”
The couple has three children and seven grandchildren. Edith Rosenkranz has been Mexico’s top woman player for years and has represented Mexico in many world championship events.
Rosenkranz learned to play bridge from Culbertson’s Blue Book. “I’d beat my parents for allowance money,” he says mischievously.
Rosenkranz took a break from bridge during the early years in Mexico, but returned to the game at a regional in Fort Worth in the mid-Fifties. “There I found my mentor, John Gerber.”
Rosenkranz developed the Romex system in response to the success of the Italian Blue Team in world-level events. “Our bidding methods were inferior to theirs, so I decided to develop a system that would put us on more equal footing. At first, the pros in the U.S. didn’t want to invest the time to learn it, so I had to prove to myself that it was workable.”
Rosenkranz’s record speaks for the success of his methods. Along the way he managed to attract some of the best and brightest players to his cause. His best-known partnerships include those with Eddie Wold, Mike Passell, Roger Bates and Miguel Reygadas.
Rosenkranz was the non-playing captain of both Mexican teams in 1964 and of a team in the USBC in 1984. He placed 3rd in the Bermuda Bowl 1983. He’s an ACBL Honorary Member 1990 and an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 17,000 MPs as of 2/2008.
He established the Rosenkranz Award for the International Bridge Press Association in 1975, won the Precision Award 1976. Rosenkranz’s writings include contributions to the ACBL Bridge Bulletin and other bridge periodicals. He has authored 10 bridge books including The Romex System of Bidding, Win with Romex, Bid Your Way to the Top, Trump Leads, Tips for Tops, More Tips for Tops, Bridge: The Bidders Game, also Modern Ideas in Bidding, Bidding on Target with Alan Truscott and Bid to Win, Play for Pleasure with Phillip Alder. He invented dynamic notrump, Mexican two diamonds and Rosenkranz doubles.
During four decades of top-level bridge play, Hugh Ross has won three world titles — the Bermuda Bowl in 1976, 1985 and 1987 — and 18 North American championships.
His Bermuda Bowl wins came with three different partners. The 1976 squad was Ross playing with Erik Paulsen, Billy Eisenberg–Fred Hamilton and Ira Rubin–Paul Soloway. The 1985 squad was Ross–Peter Pender, Bob Hamman–Bobby Wolff and Chip Martel–Lew Stansby. The 1987 team was the same except that Ross played with Mike Lawrence.
Ross grew up in Montreal and honed his bridge in clubs run by Johnny Wiser and Sam Gold. He moved to California in 1962 and won his first North American championship — the Reisinger B-A-M Teams — in 1968. His team: Paulsen, Pender, Kyle Larsen and Howard Schenken.
Other wins — all team victories — followed until Ross claimed his first pairs title, playing with Zia in the Life Master Open Pairs in 1990. The irrepressible Zia commented, “It was a great night. We went to dinner and drank as much wine as we could, and we came back to have as good a time as possible in the evening. And we had a very good time. It’s much easier to have a good time when you win.”
The pair won again the following year. Ross enjoyed those games. “I like keeping things fairly simple,” he says. “I don’t like having to remember systems.”
Then it was back to the team games. Jeff Ferro was a member of the winning Grand National Teams in 1993 — Ross and “the three kids” — Ferro, Brad Moss and Rev Murthy — with Chip Martel and Lew Stansby augmented.
“I remember we won that event rather easily,” says Ferro. “I was slightly annoyed because I thought Hugh and I had the worst results of the three pairs and I wanted to play more. I wasn’t nervous. The only thing I was nervous about was playing his system — Kaplan-Sheinwold — which I didn’t really like and wasn’t comfortable with.
“I remember Hugh was a ’seat of your pants’ player — a great declarer. We had some bidding misunderstandings and he landed in some dicey contracts but always seemed to find a way to make them. Apparently he was also known for that when he played with Peter Pender.”
Mike Lawrence echoes the thought. “Hugh plays by the seat of his pants more than any other top player I know.”
And Bob Hamman sent Ross a copy of his book, At the Table, with this note: “To a great teammate who always knew how to stir the pot.”
Al Roth was a player who fell in love with “the beauty of bidding” is generally considered the premier bidding theorist of his bridge generation.
Alvin Roth is credited with developing the negative double, the unusual notrump, 1NT forcing and the weak two-bid.
Roth became a sound bidder because poor results bothered him. Besides, he was “a poor boy from the Bronx” who couldn’t afford to lose at rubber bridge.
There’s a story that Roth once misbid a hand. He endured the teasing of fellow experts and finally retorted, “Well, Babe Ruth struck out, too.” Afterwards, he was known as Babe Roth.
’The Babe’ and Tobias Stone co-authored the Roth-Stone system — five-card majors, forcing 1NT, weak preemptive bids — the forerunner of today’s “Standard American.”
Stone, who retired from active competition in the Seventies, said the two played with and against the best players.
Roth, Stone said, was “just tremendous in every department of the game. There was no player like him. He lived the game and he loved the game.”
Roth and Stone began developing their system in the Forties and in 1952, Roth-Stone players — including Roth, Stone, Harold Harkavy, Edith Freilich and Anne Burnstein — won the Reisinger, the Master Mixed Teams and the Mixed Pairs.
Roth and Stone were the first Americans to win the Deauville Invitation Pair event — with a record-breaking 82% game.
Roth, an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 12,000 masterpoints, won 26 national titles — including the Spingold five times, the Vanderbilt three times and the Reisinger twice.
Roth was well known for his one-man panel shows at tournaments. At a mid-Atlantic tournament in the Sixties, moderator Jerry Machlin told him to talk about an hour.
Roth claimed he couldn’t fill the hour unless he was asked a lot of questions. A member of the audience yelled, “Why did we lose to the Italians?”
That was the one and only question. If an afternoon session hadn’t been scheduled, Roth might be talking yet.
He represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1955, 1958 and 1967.
A WBF Life Master, he placed second in the World Team Olympiad in 1968.
During his first world championship appearance, Roth was declaring a 2♠ contract and felt he played the hand before — but as a defender.
The director, Al Sobel, did not believe him since the hands had been dealt at the table. Sobel, made Roth call out all the cards in each hand — including the spots — before he threw out the board.
No one ever discovered how this happened.
Roth retired from active bridge competition in the Seventies but remained active as a staff member of Bridge Today and on panels of The Bridge World, Bridge Today and AustralianBridge.
He was the author of The Roth-Stone System, Al Roth on Bridge and Picture Bidding and co-author of Bridge Is a Partnership Game, Modern Bridge Complete and Bridge for Beginners.
Roth retired to Boca Raton FL, but was a longtime resident of New York , where he owned and managed the Mayfair Club.
Jeff Rubens’ current claim to fame is as the editor and owner of the bridge experts’ bible, The Bridge World, on which he worked side by side with Edgar Kaplan for over four decades until Kaplan’s death in 1997.
Jeff’s other far-reaching contributions to the game were his advocacy of the popular Swiss teams, a major force on the tournament scene today; his fastidious dedication to defining Bridge World Standard and Standard American; his brilliant Bridge World magazine editorials, enabling a more understandable presentation of the laws; opening the doors and educating the public to the inner workings of the appeals system; and perfecting the already-established Master Solvers’ Club by guiding the panelists and stressing the importance of a simple network — resulting in more meaningful comments by the experts.
Although Jeff’s comprehensive contributions to the game were brought to the public primarily via his prolific pen, as a player he enjoyed respected partnerships with Ronnie Blau, Bob Mosher and B. Jay Becker, winning seven North American championships in the 1960s and 1970s and participating in the Bermuda Bowl in 1973.
Since retiring as a professor of mathematics and computer science at Pace University, he has directed his focus toward writing and editing. His competitive spirit, extraordinary talent and zest for challenges are exhibited through crosswords and puzzle-solving.
Jeff’s rare leisure moments are enjoyed as a devoted husband to Beth and their two sons.
Ira Rubin was one of the great theorists of bridge. Rubin invented two-way two-bids, gladiator responses to notrump, and gladiator and extended Landy. His main interest was bidding. He says, ”Defense comes with a brain. It’s instinctive.”
Rubin was amongst the most formidable competitors of his day, earning the nicknames “the Beast” and the “Fiery Genius” along the way. According to Bob Hamman, “When the Beast appeared, as friend or foe, all present knew the battle had been joined.” “In the last serious event that I played against Ira,” said Hamman, “I vividly recall him struggling valiantly to hold 2♣, not vulnerable, to down one. It did not affect the outcome of the match, but it showed the fierce competitive instincts that he always displayed.”
Rubin learned to play bridge (in German) from a group of refugees when his mother took him to Lake Placid in the 1930s. His mother was not a card player and his father played everything but bridge. When he was 9, he and some friends – from around the block – played using their own made-up variations.
Rubin played his first tournament bridge at the age of 16. “I played a lot in college to the detriment of my marks,” he says. His parents disapproved of his playing during high school and his early undergraduate years, but by his later college years, “the tumult had died down”
Rubin began achieving tournament prominence in 1954, playing frequently with his favorite partner, Vic Mitchell, and accumulating a number of national titles, including a victory on a Spingold team that went to Turin for the 1960 World Team Olympiad.
From 1961-1962, Rubin played with Phil Feldesman and their results were remarkable. They won the Men’s Pairs (now the Wernher Open Pairs) twice, the von Zedtwitz Life Master’s Pairs, and the Open Pairs for the Cavendish trophy. Yet it was not long after these successes that the word was out: the Rubin-Feldesman partnership was through – a victim of its own explosive tensions.
This may have contributed to Rubin earning the nickname “The Beast.” In The Bridge Bum, Alan Sontag wrote,” . . . The Beast, a title he knew, appreciated, and lived up to. He was a terror to play against: when his partner made a mistake, he rattled the windows with his screams, yet he was most generous when a hand was played well.” Rubin said, “I forget who first called me The Beast. I would get mad at people when they started blaming me for errors and I hardly ever made an error. That’s the truth, too, not false bravado . . . despite my beastly outward nature, inside I was different.”
Rubin went on to win the Bermuda Bowl in 1976 playing with Paul Soloway. This was the first American team to defeat the famous Italian Blue Team in 20 years. And as one might imagine, Rubin said, “It was the highlight of his career.” Rubin takes great pride in the fact that another of his favorite early partners, Oswald Jacoby, once called him the “best player in the world”.
Rubin represented the United States in three Bermuda Bowls and three Olympiads earning three silver medals and one gold, and a total of 19 NABC titles. Over a span of four decades, Rubin enjoyed successful partnerships with Chuck Burger, Phil Feldesman, Bill Grieve, Freddie Hamilton, Ossie Jacoby, Vic Mitchell, Curtis Smith, Paul Soloway, and Ron Von der Porten.
Rubin raised his family in his beloved, adopted home town of Paramus, NJ, where in the mid 1960s, the Mayor of Paramus honored him with the proclamation of Ira Rubin day recognizing his exceptional bridge tournament accomplishments during that period. In his last years, Rubin became more easygoing according to his son Eric. “He enjoyed reminiscing about past tournament triumphs and current bridge conundrums with his bridge friends. He became a lovable grandfather, father and friend.”
Rubin is survived by his sons Eric and Jeffrey, his beloved grand-children Danielle, Michelle, David and Jacob, and a daughter Loribeth.
Hall of Fame S
In 1990 at the World Bridge Championships in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Bridge Federation organized a par contest to test the bridge acumen of the world’s top players. The roster of invitees included Bob Hamman, then the No. 1-ranked player in the world, and the legendary Benito Garozzo.
Only one woman was asked to take part in the contest – Kerri Sanborn. If another such contest was organized today, it is likely she would again be asked to play.
Sanborn, of Stony Point NY, is a retired stock trader who is actively involved in thoroughbred breeding and racing. One of the leading women players in the world, she is a four-time world champion with 18 North American titles.
As of May, Sanborn was 47th on the all-time list of top masterpoint holders with nearly 21,587 masterpoints. She is the last woman to win the Barry Crane Top 500, having done so in 1974 with a then-record 1619 masterpoints. At the time, she was the youngest woman to have her name engraved on the McKenney Trophy, as it was known until 1981, when it was changed to the Top 500. It was renamed after Crane in 1986.
Sanborn’s career was influenced significantly by Crane, with whom she won the World Mixed Pairs in 1978. Sanborn, then Kerri Shuman, flew to the World Championships in New Orleans only for that one event. The two devastated a tough field and won the championship by more than five boards.
Since then, Sanborn has only added to her stature as a player, winning multiple North American championships plus four world titles – the Mixed Pairs, World Women’s Pairs (1990) and the prestigious Venice Cup (1989 and 1993). She is an ACBL Grand Life Master and a Women’s World Grand Master in World Bridge Federation rankings.
Sanborn has an impressive list of wins in the NABC+ events, including winning the Women’s Pairs in 1972 and 2003. She also won the Women’s Teams in 1978, the Mixed Pairs in 1975, 1977 and 1982; the North American Women’s Swiss Teams in 1989,1990 and 1993; the Master Mixed Teams in1980,1987 and 1990; and the Wagar Women’s Knockout in 2003 and 2005.