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. A deceased person must be deceased for
three years before becoming eligible for selection, but this rule may be
waived if at least six Hall of Fame Committee members vote to do so.. Each
year, as many as two (2) recipients may be selected by the Hall of Fame
Committee whenever deemed appropriate.
Sims, P. Hal (1886 – 1949)
P(hillip). Hal Sims --- the "Shaggy Giant" whose system had the greatest expert following prior to 1935 --- was the first recipient of the von Zedtwitz Award.
Sims (1886-1949), who stood six-foot-four and weighed more than 300 pounds, was born in Selma AL and represented U.S. banks in foreign countries from 1906 to 1916. While serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1917, he met and married Dorothy Rice, one of the first U.S. aviatrixes and a noted sculptor and painter.
After World War I, Sims devoted himself chiefly to competitive sports --- including bridge. He held a national trapshooting record and won the Artists’ and Writers’ Golf tournament in 1937.
In auction bridge, he was a member of the highest-ranked team --- the Knickerbocker Whist Club team --- which included Sydney Lenz, Winfield Liggett, George Reith and Ralph Leibenderfer.
Sims and Ely Culbertson, who "fought relentlessly at the bridge table and outside," according to Culbertson, teamed up to record the largest score in the history of the pairs championship of the Auction Bridge League. They also played their first contract bridge together.
"Secretly we admired each other" Culbertson wrote in his autobiography, The Strange Lives of One Man.
"Hal was my greatest rival and dearest friend," Culbertson wrote in Sims’ obituary in The Bridge World. "For years we fought each other tooth and nail . . . Now he would come to the top, and now I. And never in all these years was there the slightest drop of personal bitterness in his big heart."
Sims was captain of the contract bridge team called the Four Horsemen. Other members were Williard Karn, Oswald Jacoby and David Burnstine (Bruce). They won most of the principal American tournaments --- the American Bridge League’s contract Challenge Trophy, the Vanderbilt Cup and the American Whist League and Eastern States’ auction championships --- from 1931 to 1933.
When Jacoby and Burnstine formed the Four Aces with Howard Schenken and Michael Gottlieb, Sims began to play more bridge with his wife. The two challenged Ely and Josephine Culbertson to a 150-rubber match in 1935.
The match ended with victory for the Culbertson’s by a margin of 16,310 points. The biggest rubber, however, went to the Sims side when Dorothy took time off to help Jo celebrate the sixth birthday of Bruce Culbertson. Strongly supported by the rising B. Jay Becker, still living in Philadelphia at the time, Sims defeated his arch rival by 2610 points.
Albert Morehead, who wrote Culbertson’s obituary in the January 1956 issue of The Bridge World, recalled that the two men "used to pursue their bitter enmity all day and then stroll off, arm in arm, to see a midnight movie together."
Sims died in 1949 while bidding a hand at his winter home in Cuba. His epilogue to bridge players had been stated earlier:
Sound underlying principles of bidding are sound for all time. But the tactics for applying them may change and a flexible-minded player recognizes this.
The last word has not been said on contract bidding. I hope it will never be. If the time comes when the game ceases to grow, contract will no longer hold our interest.
Bruce, David (1900-1965)
David Bruce, Life Master #1, was one of the preeminent tournament players of the ‘30s.
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*C* 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.
Landy, Alvin (1905 – 1967)
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.
Gottlieb, Michael (1902 – 1980)
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 (1902-1980) 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.
Schleifer, Meyer (1908 – 1994)
Meyer Schleifer is considered by Bob Hamman and Eddie Kantar as one of the all-time bridge greats. "Meyer was probably the greatest card player who ever lived," says Hamman. "He was an extraordinary defender but he was absolutely incredible at dummy play --- a true artist and a wizard when he got his mitts on the dummy."
Kantar agrees. "He played rubber bridge all his life and he was always the best player at the table. He played effortlessly. Meyer was the player."
Hamman remembers the 1983 Summer NABC in New Orleans. He and Kantar were playing in the six-session Life Master Pairs. "Eddie and I had 10 kibitzers when Meyer came to our table. When the round was over, the kibitzers followed Meyer. We even won the event but we lost our kibitzers."
Hamman continues, "There have been three players in my career that I’d call really intimidating --- if you could see some obscure way declarer could work it out (to make his contract), you had to be afraid he would work it out." The three: Schleifer, Harry Harkavy and Billy Rosen.
Schleifer (1908-1994) was profiled by Kantar in the December 1972 issue of Popular Bridge. The headline read: "Is this man American’s greatest bridge player?" Kantar’s answer: a resounding yes.
The Brooklyn-born Schleifer’s first love, he wrote, was chess "and although he knew all the moves at the age of 12, he didn’t start playing in the clubs until he was 15. He was captain of his high school chess team and at the age of 16 drew with the then world champion, Capablanca, when the latter was playing a simultaneous exhibition."
He enrolled at Columbia Law School, but when stricken with tuberculosis he moved to Denver to recuperate. In the early Thirties he moved to Los Angeles --- where he twice won the Southern California Chess Championship. Exit chess --- enter bridge.
Schleifer, who had been taught bridge by some fellows at his hotel, began working for Tom Stoddard at the old Beacon Club. "Soon he was playing in the big game," wrote Kantar. "That was the ’tenth’ game with Johnny Gerber. It was the best game in the house and Meyer wanted to play in fast company as soon as he could."
Schleifer took time off during World War II to work at the Columbia Steel defense plant. Later he had a falling out with the management of the bridge club and switched --- successfully --- to poker for a couple of years.
"Then it was back to bridge --- rubber bridge. Year in and year out Schleifer supported himself from his own incredible skill at the game." This was his most remarkable accomplishment, according to Kantar. "The number of players who have been able to do it can be counted on the fingers of one hand, excluding the thumb, forefinger, baby finger and ring finger."
Schleifer had a long list of bridge clients and might have become a rich man, says Kantar, "if it weren’t for the track. Meyer was not a gambler. He knew the odds and played to win. Except when it came to horses. Then he just played and played and played."
Kehela, Sami (b. 1934)
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.
In 1966, the Bulletin did a series of articles introducing readers to the members of the Bermuda Bowl team. These articles were written by the player’s partner. As noted by the Bulletin, “for literal-minded readers, the Murray-Kehela style of humor and cigars is used with equal devastation on their opponents.” This is how Eric Murray introduced Sami:
“Sami Kehela began his battle with the world in Baghdad in 1935. India was blessed from 1941 until 1951 when California was selected, that state yielding to Jamaica and England in 1955 and subsequently Canada in 1957. It is noteworthy that Kehela has never stayed in a country for more than 10 years and Canada may have additional cause for celebrating its centennial in 1967.
“A dearth of talent permitted Kehela to play for Canada in the 1960 Team Olympiad in Turin, Italy – we lost.
“An inability to understand Kehela’s bidding persuaded ACBL authorities that he was an authority on peculiar and complex systems and he was accordingly appointed coach of the 1963 North American Team for the Bermuda Bowl in Italy – they lost.
“A deterioration of conditions in Canada permitted Kehela to participate on the 1964 Olympiad Team in New York – we lost again.
“Unchastened, for 1965 the ACBL reappointed Kehela coach (presumably not on his record) and another defeat swiftly followed.
“In the 1965 Trials in San Francisco, Robert Jordan and Arthur Robinson found themselves on the horn of a dilemma in the final round. They faced Kehela and partner and if they won, they would qualify for the 1966 Team and Kehela would undoubtedly be reappointed coach. If they lost, then Kehela would be on the team and the inevitable loss would be suffered without them. Their sensible decision reflected their appreciation of their 1963 coach.
“Kehela’s indifferent success as a coach and player turned him to the pen, but his contributions to the Bulletin have not noticeably improved the standard of that publication. It is as the editor of the Kibitzer, the Ontario Unit Publication, that Kehela has enjoyed some measure of achievement which might best be termed mediocrity. Unfortunately, he has a facility for “switching places” and one of may invariably conclude that in any of his writings dealing with our own misfortunes, our positions have been reversed to his benefit.”
In an interview prior to his Hall of Fame induction, Kehela said, "It became apparent very early in my life that I was not ready for honest toil." 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.
In true Kehela style, he 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. 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.
Kehela was coach for the North American team in the Bermuda Bowl in 1962, 1963 and 1965. He won the Team Trials in 1966 and 1973; the Life Master Men’s Pairs in 1963, the Spingold 1964, 1965 and 1968; the Vanderbilt in 1966 and 1970; the Blue Ribbon Pairs in 1967, the Life Master Pairs in 1969, the Canadian National Teams Championship in 1980 and 1981. He was 2nd in the Spingold in 1963, the Blue Ribbon Pairs in 1969 and the Reisinger in 1969 and 1972.
In 2010, The Canadian Bridge Federation started its own Hall of Fame. Sami Kehela was one of the first five inductees.
Murray, Eric (b. 1928)
Eric Murray, as well as being one of the all-time greats, is one of the true characters of the bridge world. A leading civil litigation attorney in Toronto, Murray won one of the first $1 million-plus civil-court judgments in Canada and is legendary as a raconteur and orator.
Murray is the most successful Canadian player ever. He started his career playing with Douglas Drury, he qualified for his first international team with Charles Coon, had mixed event successes with Hall of Fame member Agnes Gordon, but became legend with Sami Kehela.
As a pair, Murray and Kehela first represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1966. The Bulletin did a series introducing the North American Team that year. Known for their humor, this was how Kehela introduced Murray to the world:
“The world’s greatest bridge player was born 37 years ago in Hamilton, Ontario, a small village on the outskirts of Toronto. He discovered bridge in his second year as a freshman when he happened upon four people seated at a table holding cards and screaming at each other at the top of their lungs. Eric Murray was – and is – the possessor of a stout pair of lungs and he was soon the outstanding player in his circle. As such he came to the attention of one Harry Bork, a patient man and the leading player in Hamilton, who attempted without any success whatsoever, to teach Eric some of the finer points of the game. (He did, however, cultivate in him a taste for cheap cigars.) Nevertheless, bolstering his modest ability by a fierce will to win, Eric was soon holding his own at the weekly duplicates, and by the time he accumulated his first masterpoint he felt that he was ready for the big city.
“Murray’s early stay in Toronto marked a period of unprecedented prosperity for that city’s rubber bridge players. Penniless and desperate, our hero threw himself at the feet of Douglas Drury. Drury who was then – and remained until 1957, the year I came to Canada, the best bidder in the country, consented to make a disciple of the callow youth, and I can pay him no greater tribute than to point out that he and Murray won the National Men’s Pair Championship in 1954 and 1955. When the burden of carrying Murray alone eventually proved too great, Drury craftily conscripted Percy Sheardown and Bruce Elliott to help. As a team they developed a formidable reputation, and, beginning to believe that he was not such a dreadful player after all, Murray demanded that he be permitted to bid no trump once in a while. This was too much for Drury who fled to San Francisco.
“Assuming a grand manner, Eric let it be known that he was available to form a partnership and would entertain applications from likely candidates. This elicited offers from three Roth-Stoners and an invitation to the Salvation Army Whist Drive. In the meantime his agents in the field suggested that a certain newcomer from England might be persuaded to fill the bill since he was probably unaware of the discrepancy between Murray’s reputation and his ability. Acting on the advice of his P.R. man, Mr. Murray commenced to hold forth on the deficiencies of a certain Mr. Kehela as a bridge player, suggesting that though the latter’s card-play was not completely intolerable, his bidding was that of a raving lunatic. Privately I was besieged by phone calls, letters and delegations – now cajoling, now threatening – until my resistance wore down and I agreed to take him in hand. Surprisingly, my new pupil had no difficulty adapting to my bidding theories, and after some formal financial negotiations had been completed, we were ready to launch our partnership. It was 1959.
“Brain-washed and exhilarated (“Colonial Acol” is heady stuff) Murray began making significant dents in ACBL silverware. Though together we have won our share of national titles (including the Spingold in 1964 and 1965), my proudest moment came when I let Eric out on his own for the first time in 1961 and he justified my confidence by winning the Vanderbilt in partnership with Charles Coon and a pick up pair from Philadelphia (Arthur Robinson & Robert Jordan), and then going on to represent North American in the 1962 Bermuda Bowl.
“Determined to achieve immortality, Murray decided to invent a convention. After giving the matter a little thought I presented him with some ideas for which he immediately took credit, dubbing it the “Murray Two Diamond” (it had to outrank Drury). Though the convention has a great deal of theoretical merit, its only effect thus far has been to lead to some uncomfortable part-score contracts in diamonds with inadequate trump suits (he invariably forgets his “own” convention).”
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.
Sanders, Carol (b. 1932)
Carol Sanders along with her husband Tommy were co-recipients of the von Zedtwitz Award, which recognizes contributions to bridge through bridge-playing expertise or contributions to the game outside their area of bridge expertise.
The Sanders, affectionately known by their friends as Mama and Papa Bear, were married in 1956. They have six children and 14 grandchildren.
Carol and Tommy are longtime ACBL Grand Life Masters. Carol is a World Bridge Federation Grand Master. She won the Venice Cup in 1974 and 1976, the World Women’s Pairs in 1982 and the Women’s Team Olympiad in 1984. In addition, she was the non-playing captain of the winning Venice Cup team in 1987. She has won numerous North American championships.
The Sanders were co-panelists for The Bridge World’s "Master Solvers' Forum" for more than 30 years.
Carol and Tommy have traveled extensively for bridge. They won the Israeli Swiss Team Championship in 1986, the Taipei Bridge Week Championship in 1979, the Beijing International Friendship Cup in 1986 and the Beijing Ambassador’s Cup in 1987.
Carol was also a trustee of the ACBL Charity Foundation from 1989 to 1997 and has been a vice chairman of the ACBL Goodwill Committee since the Eighties.
Sanders, Tommy (b. 1932)
Tommy Sanders along with his wife Carol were co-recipients of the von Zedtwitz Award, which recognizes contributions to bridge through bridge-playing expertise or contributions to the game outside their area of bridge expertise.
The Sanders, affectionately known by their friends as Mama and Papa Bear, were married in 1956. They have six children and 14 grandchildren.
Tommy and Carol are longtime ACBL Grand Life Masters. Tommy, npc of the 1981 Bermuda Bowl champions, has several high finishes in international competition. He was second in the 1994 World Senior Teams. He won the 1981 Cavendish Invitational Pairs (with longtime partner Lou Bluhm). He and Bill Pollack won the Romex Award, presented by the International Bridge Press Association, for the Best Bid Hand of 1992-1993. Tommy has also collected numerous North American titles.
He is a traditional jazz buff and has co-produced Dixieland jazz albums as a labor of love.
Tommy and his wife were co-panelists for The Bridge World’s "Master Solvers' Forum" for more than 30 years.
The couple has traveled extensively for bridge. They won the Israeli Swiss Team Championship in 1986, the Taipei Bridge Week Championship in 1979, the Beijing International Friendship Cup in 1986 and the Beijing Ambassador’s Cup in 1987.
Tommy represented District 10 on the ACBL Board of Directors from 1980 to 1989. He served as ACBL president in 1986 and as chairman of the Board in 1987.
Tommy was instrumental in establishing the ACBL Educational Foundation --- he was president for the first five years of its existence. Tommy is often given credit for the idea of the foundation but he set the record straight. "Buddy Spiegel, who was then working at ACBL headquarters, told me about his idea back in January of 1986. I had enough sense to listen to him and I became the moving force to get the foundation going."
Tommy is now president emeritus of the foundation.
Stone, Tobias (b. 1921)
Tobias Stone, known to the bridge world for almost six decades as the one-and-only "Stoney," departed his native Manhattan and retired to Las Vegas in 1986, leaving behind a wealth of bridge victories, brilliant bidding theories, humorous stories and tales of famous Broadway friends from his late-night sessions at P. J. Clarke’s.
Stoney attended City College in 1935 where he met the late, great Harry Harkavy and his legendary longtime bridge partner, Alvin Roth, with whom he collaborated to create the world-famous Roth-Stone System, which enjoyed great popularity upon its publication in the 1950s.
He recalls winning his first event, the Metropolitan Pairs, at the Park Central Hotel in New York with the late Hall-of-Famer George Rapée nearly 65 years ago. His sheepish grin, incorrigible sense of humor and astonishing capacity for accurate and total recall of names, dates, places and incidents delight both old and new friends who never miss an opportunity to pay homage to him and savor his entertaining repartee while passing through Vegas.
Stoney’s accomplishments fill the bridge annals as an extraordinary player, theorist and author. With Alvin Roth, he scored a record-breaking 82% game, becoming the first American Pair to win the Deauville Invitational. Other victories include the prestigious Spingold, Vanderbilt, Reisinger, Life Master Pairs, Life Master Individual, B-A-M Teams, Mixed Teams, Men’s Pairs, Open Pairs and the McKenney and Fishbein Trophies. His realm of expertise far transcends the world of bridge, as he is also an international backgammon champion and a respected poker aficionado.
Harkavy, Harry (1915 – 1965)
Harry Harkavy of Miami Beach was a native New Yorker and bridge club 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.
Maier, Merwyn (Jimmy) (1909 – 1942)
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.
Sheardown, Percy (1911 – 1993)
Percy (Shorty) Sheardown was a graduate in classics from the University of Toronto with a natural affinity for languages. He served overseas in World War II and, declining a commission, became one of the top interrogators of prisoners of war.
Stationed in London, he continued his bridge partnership with the late Brigadier Donald Farquharson at Crockford’s. It was an odd spectacle for the English to see a lowly NCO explain to the brigadier how the superior officer had erred.
In fact, the Sheardown--Farquharson partnership was so effective that complaints of cheating at Crockford’s rained down upon them. The complaints eventually died a natural death when other players realized that the pair had an extremely effective partnership and was honest beyond reproach.
Shorty was a superb declarer and defender and unquestionably one of the greatest matchpoint and board-a-match players of his generation. Being a rubber bridge player, he was hesitant to bid slams; the predilection encouraged his partners to overbid, which in turn was justified by Shorty’s card play.
Shorty’s longtime partnership with Bruce Elliott was exceedingly successful, and his masterful abilities were recognized by the experts of the day, including occasional partners Ely Culbertson and Waldemar von Zedtwitz.
Sheardown became Canada’s first Life Master in 1948 and represented Canada at the World Team Olympiads in Turin and Deauville during the 1960s. His first major victory was the 1936 Chicago Trophy, originally donated by the Auction Bridge Club of Chicago in 1929 for the North American Open Team B-A-M Championship. He twice won the Spingold and was second in the Life Master Pairs.
Churchill, S. Garton (1900 – 1992)
When S. Garton "Church" Churchill published his bidding system in 1979 in a 600-page book, Edgar Kaplan wrote in the introduction that he was certain none of the top pairs of the day could match Churchill’s efficiency in slam bidding. The statement is remarkable because the Churchill system used no conventions — not even Stayman, transfers or Blackwood.
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.
Gordon, Agnes (1906 – 1967)
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.
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
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
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-60’s Hodge moved from
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. His most recent success was winning the Senior Team Trials in 2007.
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.”
|* Player biographies are up to date as of the year of induction.|