The ACBL Hall of Fame Open Award shall be given annually to living individuals who have achieved prominence in the game of bridge and have an outstanding tournament record. They shall be elected by electors, as described in Section 5 of the Hall of Fame operating procedures. Click here to view the Hall of Fame Charter
Culbertson, Ely (1891 – 1955)
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.
Goren, Charles (1901 – 1991)
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 protégé 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 television 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) was held by Goren, who won it eight times, until 2009 when it was broken by Jeff Meckstroth. He still 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.
Vanderbilt, Harold (1884 – 1970)
The modern version of our game --- contract bridge --- occurred as a refinement to the rules of an older version called auction bridge. Harold S. Vanderbilt of Newport RI is the person responsible for this improvement.
How did Vanderbilt come to be the father of the game we enjoy today? Aboard the cruise ship Finland in late October of 1925, Vanderbilt --- who was traveling with three friends, all of whom were auction bridge enthusiasts --- tested an idea he had for making the auction bridge version of the game more interesting.
In auction bridge, players scored points for taking a certain number of tricks as in the modern game. The problem, however, was that players received game and slam bonuses even if they didn't actually bid a game or slam. For example, if you were in 1NT making three, you got the game bonus anyway.
Vanderbilt decided to make it more challenging by requiring a partnership to actually bid to the game or slam level in order to receive the bonus. Since this refinement made slams too risky to attempt, he also increased the slam bonuses.
Finally, he developed a scheme for doubles and redoubles so that penalties for sacrificing were equitable. Vanderbilt dubbed this new version of the game contract bridge.
The rapid spread of contract bridge from 1926 to 1929 is largely attributable to Vanderbilt’s espousal of it; his social standing made the game fashionable. Vanderbilt’s technical contribution was even greater. He devised the first unified system of bidding, and was solely responsible for the artificial 1*C* bid to show a strong hand, the negative 1*D* response, the strong (16-to-18 point) notrump on balanced hands only, and the weak two-bid opening.
These and his other principles were presented in his books, Contract Bridge Bidding and the Club Convention; The New Contract Bridge; Contract by Hand Analysis; and The Club Convention Modernized. Vanderbilt was a member of the Laws Committee of the Whist Club of New York that made the American laws of contract bridge (1927, 1931) and the first international code (1932). He then became chairman of that committee and largely drafted the international code of 1935, the American code of 1943, and the international codes of 1948 and 1949. He remained co-chairman of the National Laws Commission of the ACBL for the 1963 laws.
In 1928, Vanderbilt presented the Harold S. Vanderbilt cup for the national team-of-four championship. This prestigious contest has been held annually to the present day. The Vanderbilt Knockout Teams is played at the Spring North American Bridge Championships. This became and remained for many years the most coveted American team trophy, mainly because the replicas were donated personally by Vanderbilt to the winners.
In 1960 Vanderbilt supplied the permanent trophy for the World Bridge Federation’s Olympiad Team tournaments, again adopting the policy of giving replicas to the winners. As a player, Vanderbilt always ranked high. In 1932 and 1940 he won his own Vanderbilt Cup. He played by choice only in the strongest money games and was a consistent winner. His regular partnership with Waldemar von Zedtwitz was among the strongest and most successful in the U.S.
In 1941 he retired from tournament bridge, but he continued to play in the most expert rubber bridge games, in clubs and at home. In 1968, Vanderbilt spent more than $50,000 to recreate the lost molds for the replicas of the American trophy and to provide a quantity of replicas of both trophies sufficient to last from 20 to 40 years.
To perpetuate this practice of awarding individual replicas, Vanderbilt further bequeathed to the ACBL a trust fund of $100,000, a gift that wisely foresaw the possibility of inflation, but provided that excess funds, if any, can be donated in Vanderbilt’s name to a charity of ACBL’s choice. In 1969, the World Bridge Federation made Vanderbilt its first honorary member. When a Bridge Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1964, Vanderbilt was one of the first three persons elected.
von Zedtwitz, Waldemar (1896 – 1984)
A bridge champion in six consecutive decades, Waldemar von Zedtwitz capped his career by winning the World Mixed Pairs in 1970 when he was 74 years old and legally blind.
Von Zedtwitz, linguist and lexicographer, was one of the great players and personalities of all time He was president of the ACBL in 1948 and of its parent organization, the American Bridge League, in 1932. When dissension threatened to break up the ACBL in 1948, the contesting factions agreed to von Zedtwitz as president and chairman with carte blanche authority. In these positions, he was credited with saving the League. In 1949, upon the League's rehabilitation, he immediately returned power to the ACBL Board of Directors.
He was a charter member of the ACBL Laws Commission and helped found the World Bridge Federation. He also played a major role in the formation of the ACBL Charity Foundation.
As a player of auction and contract bridge, von Zedtwitz was noted for his versatility in playing with exponents of different bidding systems. He was an early contributor to the Culbertson system and is credited with invention of the forcing two-bid and also of the negative 2NT response to a forcing two-bid. He was also a contributor and consultant in connection with the Four Aces System. Von Zedtwitz was a member of The Bridge World team that won the first international matches in 1930 in England and France.
He also had a successful partnership with Harold S. Vanderbilt. The two men were well suited, since both were among the most deliberate of players, apt to plumb the psychological and technical depths of a problem interminably before proceeding.
He was one of the first 10 players to be designated a Life Master (#4) when that category was created by the ACBL in 1936. Von Zedtwitz began his tournament bridge career in 1923, won many national auction bridge championships and won nearly all the contract bridge championships. In 1930 he donated the Gold Cup for Master Pairs (now Life Master Pairs) and won it the first year. His other tournament successes are World Mixed Pairs in 1970 (at age 74), USBA Grand National Teams and Mixed Pairs in 1936; Spingold in 1937, 1941 and 1947; Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1932 and 1945; Vanderbilt in 1930, 1932 and 1940; Master Mixed Teams in 1940, 1942, 1945 and 1965; Life Master Pairs in 1930; Open Pairs in 1928 and 1937; Men’s Pairs in 1946; Master Individual in 1936. He placed 2nd USBA Mixed Teams in 1936; Spingold in 1936, 1940, 1949, 1953 and 1963; Chicago in 1930, 1933, 1936, 1941 and 1942; Vanderbilt in 1937, 1938, 1943, 1945 and 1960; Reisinger in 1964, Master Mixed Teams in 1933, 1935 and 1956; Life Master Pairs in 1933 and 1939; Open Pairs in 1935, Men’s Pairs in 1938 and 1953. Von Zedtwitz won a major backgammon tournament in Hawaii at age 82. His other interests included Bridgette, travel, tennis and golf.
Jacoby, Oswald (1902 – 1984)
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.
During a career that spanned seven decades, Jacoby won 27 North American Championships including seven Spingolds, seven Vanderbilts, and two Reisingers. Between 1929 and 1937 he won 11 National Championships of ACBL forerunners – the USBA , the ABL, and the AWL. The first time he played matchpoints, Jacoby won his first pair tournament – the Eastern Championship Goldman Pairs.
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.
Dick Frey said, “Oswald Jacoby was a mercurial individual who had to be the best at everything and was the most intense person I have ever known. His mind was so lightning fast that his tongue could never catch up, but his swift and accurate thinking gave him a tremendous advantage in all the games at which he was a great champion. Lots of folks thought he was cocky and for sure he was. He wasn't modest. He had nothing to be modest about, yet he was content to let the record speak for itself. And what a record it was! Outwardly he was tough, but he had a marvelous sense of humor and he was essentially warm and tender.”
In a 1978 Sports Illustrated article, Roger Dionne wrote: “Now at 75, Oswald Jacoby will bet you on backgammon, bridge and poker, or who can multiply 647,992 by 435,638 fastest in his head, and the odds are he’ll take your money. Bridge players respect him, admire him, even love him. Everyone has learned something from Jacoby, has kibitzed his masterful play, has read one of his dozen-odd books, has studied his syndicated columns, has used his numerous bidding innovations. Few have not been beaten by him at something – bridge, backgammon, gin rummy or pinochle – or even at tennis, or who would win the World Series. But there was no one, absolutely no one, who could keep up with the man, with his 100-mph speech, his dizzying leaps of logic, his enthusiasm, his ebullience.”
Jacoby’s last major title came just a few days before his 81st birthday. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when his team (Bill Root, Norman Kay, Edgar Kaplan, and Richard Pavlicek) pulled off this stunning victory.
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*H* as a double negative response to 2*C* with 2NT a positive heart response and 2*D* as the usual waiting bid.
In 1984, Boyce Hollerman concluded Jacoby’s eulogy with, “Somewhere, right this minute, some little ladies are leaning over a card table and one of them has just said ‘Alert!’ and has answered, ‘that’s the Jacoby Transfer’. And Jake, looking down on the opposite cards, is shaking his head and saying, ‘She hasn’t got the hand for it.’”
Lenz, Sidney (1873 – 1960)
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 (1873--1960).
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.
Work, Milton (1864 – 1934)
In the world of whist and auction bridge, which were predecessors to contract bridge, the game we enjoy today, Milton Work was a giant. These games were in their heyday at the turn of the 20th century, and Work was recognized as the outstanding American authority on them.
Work’s best known contribution to the modern game was the popularization of the Work point-count method of hand evaluation in which aces are worth 4 points each, kings 3, queens 2 and jacks 1. This method, first proposed by Bryant McCampbell in 1915, became widely known through Work’s lectures and writings.
Although Ely Culbertson’s honor-trick method of evaluation dominated the bridge world for much of the Thirties and early Forties, Work’s point-count method became the rage when Charles Goren made it the cornerstone of his Standard American system. This method, with some modifications, is still used today by players everywhere.
After a 30-year career as an attorney in Philadelphia, Work took a leave of absence in 1917 to tour the U.S. with Wilbur C. Whitehead, organizing bridge competitions and lecturing on bridge, to promote the sale of Liberty bonds. The success of the tour induced him to quit the practice of law and adopt bridge as a career.
Work was founder and chief editor of the earliest auction bridge magazines, the Work--Whitehead Auction Bridge Bulletin (1924--1926) and its successor, the Auction Bridge Magazine (1927-- 29). Assisted by Whitehead, he served as the chief authority on the first series of bridge games broadcast on radio (1926--29). In 1928 he was paid $7000 per week to give brief lectures on bridge in the course of vaudeville presentations.
Work’s considerable fortune was substantially lost in the stock market crashes of 1929--30, and he resumed some bridge activities from which he had retired. In 1933--34 he resumed tournament play in contract bridge and won five consecutive sectional tournaments as a member of a team that included Goren, Olive Peterson and Fred French.
Schenken, Howard (1904 – 1979)
Howard Schenken, the bridge player's bridge player and one of the all-time greats, was an original member of the Bridge Hall of Fame and a major player for more than five decades.
In a poll taken among leading Life Masters in the early Forties, the question was asked: "If you were playing for money or your life, whom would you choose as your partner?"
The vote was overwhelming: Howard Schenken.
Perhaps the greatest recognition, however, came from members of the Italian Blue Team who said, "If your team had had another Schenken, we never could have won."
Aside from his brilliant play, Schenken’s outstanding characteristic was his impassive calm at the table. As declarer, it was impossible to tell whether he was in a comfortable contract or an impossible one. The result was that he often performed the impossible.
He was a formidably difficult opponent but a remarkably easy partner. On the Four Aces, for example, he was the only one who could and did play with every other member of the team (David Bruce, Michael Gottlieb, Oswald Jacoby and Dick Frey).
Schenken’s tournament record was outstanding: he won the first "official" World Team Championship, defeating the French champions of Europe in 1935. He won the Bermuda Bowl in 1950, 1951 and 1953. In addition, he claimed 10 wins each in the Vanderbilt and the Spingold and five victories in the Life Master Pairs (played for the von Zedtwitz Gold Cup).
When the rank of Life Master was created in 1936, selection was based solely on success in national events. Schenken was named Life Master #3.
He standardized and popularized the weak two-bid and was the first American expert to realize the enormous advantage the Italian teams enjoyed with their strong opening bid of 1*C*. He incorporated it into his Schenken Club System
Silodor, Sidney (1906-1963)
An explosion of bridge talent came from the Philadelphia area in the Thirties and Forties: Charles Goren, Sally Young, Norman Kay and Charles Solomon just to name a few. Another member of this impressive class was Sidney Silodor of nearby Havertown PA.
Originally trained as a lawyer, he made bridge his full time career beginning in 1929 as a bridge lecturer, writer and instructor. He was one of the world’s top players and the third-ranking player on the ACBL Life Master list at the time of his death. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1966 along with Howard Schenken and Waldemar von Zedtwitz. Silodor was a member of North American team that won the World Championship in the first Bermuda Bowl in 1950. He represented North America in Bermuda Bowl again in 1958 and 1961and played for U.S. in the World Team Olympiad in 1960.
In his career he won more than thirty national championships, including the Vanderbilt eight times, the Reisinger six times, and the Spingold three times. He won five mixed pairs titles including the Rockwell Mixed Pairs three times and the Hilliard Mixed Pairs twice. His other national wins include the Mixed BAM which he won four times, the Open BAM three times, the von Zedtwitz LM Pairs, the Spring National Men’s Pairs, and the Open Pairs which is now known as the Silodor Open Pairs. The (Silodor) Open Pairs was the last national event he won just five months prior to his death. He and his partner in that event, Norman Kay, tied for the Mott-Smith trophy that year. Ironically,
Becker, B. Jay (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.
Blackwood, Easley (1903-1992)
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
After his early retirement in 1964, Blackwood established a plush bridge
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.
Crane, Barry (1927 – 1985)
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, unsolved murder.
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."
Crawford, John (1915 – 1976)
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
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.
Kaplan, Edgar (1925 – 1997)
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*H* is a very good bid --- but on some other hand.
North doubled 4*H* 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.
Roth, Alvin (Al) (1914 – 2007)
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*S* 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
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.
Helen Sobel Smith, the first woman elected to the Bridge Hall of Fame, is universally considered the best woman player of all time.
"In my lifetime --- said Edgar Kaplan, former editor and publisher of The Bridge World, "she is the only woman bridge player who was considered the best player in the world. She knows how to play a hand."
Smith learned to play bridge while a chorus girl in the Marx Brothers’ Animal Crackers and won her first national title, the Women’s Pairs, in 1934. She became Life Master #25 in 1941.
Smith’s style was frisky and aggressive --- so aggressive that "some of her male partners were intimidated," Kaplan said. "These guys felt they were playing in the Mixed Pairs and they were the girl."
1944 was a banner year for Smith --- she won the Vanderbilt, the Spingold, the Women’s teams and the Master Mixed Teams and placed second in the Reisinger.
By 1948, she had amassed the greatest number of masterpoints of any woman, taking over the top spot from Sally Young, and holding it until 1964.
She won 35 national titles --- the Vanderbilt twice, the Spingold five times and the Reisinger four times --- and the McKenney Trophy ( now the Barry Crane Top 500) three times: in 1941, 1942 and 1944.
Smith was invited to play on Ely Culbertson’s team in the World Championship conducted by the International Bridge League in 1937 in Vienna .
This was tacit recognition that Culbertson, like many other experts, considered her the equal of any male player.
The team, which included Josephine Culbertson and Charles Vogelhofer, finished second to Austria .
Smith and frequent partner Charles Goren won the De La Rue International Invitational Pairs Tournament in London in 1956 --- billed as a world championship - and represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in 1957 and the United States in the World Team Olympiad in 1960.
Goren was the bridge writer/promoter and Smith "was the player. She was a marvel," Kaplan said.
Smith "had a unique quality as a card player," Kaplan said. "Every deal was fresh to her and her results were beyond the reach of her fellow experts.
She was incapable of making a learned play that was wrong on a given hand. Helen was not learned. She was brilliant."
Smith had a poker face, Kaplan said, "and nobody ever knew what she was doing. Her judgment was extremely good and she would always feel perfectly free to deviate from her so-called system."
Smith was a good partner --- "very tolerant of success" --- who was "lovely and humorous and frisky and magnificent," Kaplan said. "There’ll never be another one like her."
Smith won her last NABC title in 1968, the Master Mixed Teams, playing with Oswald Jacoby, Jim Jacoby and Minda Brachman. It was her sixth win in the event, tying her for the record with former partner Goren.
The Smith team’s margin of victory was 1 ½ boards and the senior Jacoby summed up the victory: "Helen was so sensational. She won it. We were just her teammates."
When Smith died of cancer in 1969, the Bulletin remembered her as a player "without a peer among women and very few peers among men. Helen played like a man, it was true. But she also played like a lady."
Wolff, Robert (Bobby) (b. 1932)
At the age of 12, Bobby Wolff watched his parents playing bridge on a four-day train trip to Chicago from their home in San Antonio, TX . He was fascinated. Soon the youngster was an avid player himself. At the time, he had no aspirations in bridge beyond the next game.
More than sixty years later, Wolff can look back on a career in which he has reached the top as a player and as an administrator.
Wolff, who now lives in Las Vegas, has won numerous North American Championships and nine world titles --- including six Bermuda Bowls. He is the only player to have won world championships at four different levels --- Open Pairs, Bermuda Bowl, Team Olympiad and Mixed Teams.
An original member of the Aces --- the first professional team to win a world championship --- Wolff is a Grand Life Master with both the ACBL and the World Bridge Federation. He is also the author of a syndicated bridge column carried by hundreds of newspapers.
His record as an administrator has been just as spectacular. Wolff, intimately involved in bridge politics for more than 25 years, has served as an ACBL Board member, as president of the ACBL and as president of the World Bridge Federation.
Wolff is the creator of the ACBL’s Active Ethics program, and he originated the idea of the recorder system in bridge.
His other contributions to bridge include development of the Wolff Signoff convention.
Wolff credits Ira Corn Jr., the founder of the Aces bridge team, with getting him into politics. Corn had served on the ACBL Board of Directors for three terms. He had decided to step down and wanted Wolff, an original member of the Aces, to succeed him.
At first Wolff was reluctant, but he finally gave in to Corn’s urging, viewing the political arena as "a new challenge." Wolff represented District 16 on the Board until 1992, when he became president of the WBF.
Wolff reflects that his presidency of the WBF came about as a compromise appointment when former WBF President Denis Howard resigned. "Timing," say Wolff, "is so important."
Wolff considers his election to the Hall of Fame with Edgar Kaplan and Alvin Roth somewhat ironic. As a 19-year old attending the 1953 Fall NABC in Dallas, young Wolff was in awe of Roth, who was already a star in the bridge world.
After the NABC, Roth visited San Antonio to coach a married couple, and Wolff remembers Roth declaring that one could not become a top player "without the experience of playing in tough rubber bridge games in New York for stakes you can’t afford" --- as was the case with Roth and Kaplan.
Wolff never got the rubber bridge experience, but his tournament record --- he’s been on the winning team in the Spingold and Reisinger two straight years --- speaks for itself.
His Hall of Fame election, Wolff says, "is very very gratifying. My heart goes out to a lot of people who are every bit as talented as I am."
Wolff and his regular partner at the time of Wolff's induction into the Hall of Fame, Bob Hamman, formed one of the world’s best and most enduring partnerships. The two anchored the squad which won the Spingold Knockout Team and Reisinger B-A-M Teams in 1993 and 1994.
Culbertson, Josephine (1898 – 1956)
"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."
Kantar, Edwin (Eddie) (b. 1932)
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.
Kay, Norman (1927 – 2002)
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.
Mitchell, Victor (Vic) (1923 – 1995)
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, and 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.
Sheinwold, Alfred (1912 – 1997)
One of the world’s foremost bridge columnists, authors and analysts, Alfred (Freddy) Sheinwold is best known for a writing career that spanned nearly seven decades. But the champion player and famed international team captain had many other credits inside and outside the world of bridge.
Sheinwold was a Laws expert who served as chairman of the ACBL Laws Commission and of the Appeals Committee at North American Championships.
He was chairman of the ACBL Board of Governors in the early Seventies and was named ACBL Honorary Member in 1983.
Sheinwold wrote more than a dozen books as well as a series of Pocket Book of Bridge Quizzes.
He achieved fame as a lecturer and speaker with acclaim from many groups, including bridge teachers’ associations and the ACBL Intermediate/Novice program.
He was a story teller and raconteur without peer. A real audience pleaser, he had an amazing memory and an endless file of entertaining talks and anecdotes.
Of Sheinwold’s many popular books, the most successful, 5 Weeks to Winning Bridge, has gone through many editions and sold more than a million copies.
During World War II, he was chief code and cipher expert of the Office of Strategic Services. For a decade in the Forties and Fifties he was a singer with the Cantata Singers.
His writing and editing background is awesome, dating back to the Culbertson era, when he was technical editor, managing editor and senior editor of The Bridge World magazine. He was editor-in-chief of Autobridge since 1938.
He was editor of the ACBL Bulletin and edited the NABC Daily Bulletins.
He was the longtime bridge editor of The Los Angeles Times, was a contributing editor of Popular Bridge, and was the syndicated bridge and backgammon columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.
Sheinwold was a top-ranked player until he retired from competition. He won the Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1958 and the Men’s Teams in 1964. He was second in the Vanderbilt in 1958 and the Chicago in 1959. He also won numerous regional championships.
Sheinwold’s partnership, friendship and collaboration with Edgar Kaplan is legendary. The two co-invented the Kaplan-Sheinwold system, which features the weak notrump and other features still widely played in tournament bridge.
Sheinwold was non-playing captain of the 1975 Bermuda Bowl team when two Italian players were caught sending foot signals during play.
Sheinwold strongly felt that his American team should not continue in the tournament unless the offenders were ejected, but he was overruled by ACBL officials.
The Americans lost to the Italians. Ten years later, after the rift with ACBL brass was repaired, Sheinwold captained another American team in the Bermuda Bowl world championships in Saõ Paulo, Brazil --- this time they won.
Born in London England in 1912, Sheinwold lived in New York and graduated from City College of New York in 1933. He became associated with the Culbertson organization about that time --- and that’s when one of the most remarkable careers in American bridge got under way.
Stayman, Samuel (1909 – 1993)
Sam Stayman was a leading bridge administrator, an innovator, an author and a successful business man.
Stayman’s name became a household word in bridge circles when he described a convention developed by his partner, George Rapee, in The Bridge World, June 1945. In response to a 1NT opening bid, 2*C* asks for a major suit. This became known as the Stayman Convention – familiar to bridge players throughout the world.
He contributed to The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge and wrote three books: Expert Bidding, The Complete Stayman System of Contract Bridge and Do You Play Stayman?
His contributions to bridge theory include Namyats (Stayman spelled backwards), which used an opening 4*C* bid to show a strong hand with a long hearts suit and 4*D* to show a strong hand with a long spade suit.
Stayman won his first major NABC titles in 1942 when he took both the Vanderbilt and the Spingold, and his last (the Reisinger) more than four decades later in 1984. In all he captured 20 North American championships and was runner-up 14 times.
A World Bridge Federation Grand Master, he and George Rapée, Charles Goren, Howard Schenken, John Crawford and Sidney Silodor won the inaugural Bermuda Bowl in 1950. The January-February 1951 Bulletin reported:
At the close of the eighth and final session of the grueling battle of brains the Americans led England by 3660 points and were ahead of the Europeans by 4720 points.
Dr. Einar Werner, captain of the European team, said: “The Americans made few mistakes and had the advantage of a team composed of six good players, familiar with each other’s play.”
The following year, Stayman and Crawford, Schenken, Rapée and B. Jay Becker represented America in the World Team Championship in Rome.
They defeated Italy, winner of a European round-robin tournament, in a 320-board match played over a period of one week. Julius Rosenblum,1951 ACBL president and non-playing captain of the team, reported in the January-February 1952 Bulletin:
It gives me great happiness to say that the members of the American team distinguished themselves by their courtesy as well as by their bridge skill. It was a friendly, enjoyable match, and it will build for future international goodwill in bridge
The same team – with Theodore Lightner as a sixth member – defended their title successfully in 1953. In all, Stayman represented the ACBL six times in international competition. He won the silver in the 1964 World Team Olympiad.
As a bridge administrator, Stayman served several years as ACBL treasurer and was a trustee of the ACBL Charity Foundation. He was named ACBL Honorary Member in 1969 and American Bridge Teachers’ Association Honorary Member in 1979. He was president of the Cavendish Club in Manhattan from 1958 to 1972.
Born in Worcester MA in 1909, he took his A.B. degree from Dartmouth College in 1930 and his M.B.A. from Tuck Business College in 1931.
He was president of Stayman & Stayman until the mid-Sixties when he sold the business and became a portfolio and investments manager.
His wife Josephine, known as “Tubby”, is a tireless worker for her favorite charity, bridge games which contribute to the United Jewish Appeal.
Edith Kemp Freilich, one of only two women who have won all three major open team championships, was the third woman elected to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame.
She joined Josephine Culbertson and Helen Sobel Smith in the select group of 22 bridge greats.
Freilich and Smith were the only two women who have won the Vanderbilt, the Spingold and The Reisinger (formerly the Chicago). In fact, only 41 players throughout ACBL history have won all three.
Freilich won her first major championship – the NABC Women’s Pairs – with Mae Rosen in 1941. More than 50 years and 29 additional NABC titles later, her competitive drive and skill remain strong.
What keeps Freilich going? For one thing, she still loves the game. "It’s wonderful to have a sport you love," she says. "I’m going to be playing bridge as long as I can walk and talk."
Teammates and opponents admire Freilich’s tenacity.
"She’s tough and dangerous and always capable of making a fine play," says Shawn Quinn, whose team defeated Freilich’s team in the final of the Women’s Knockout Teams at the 1996 Summer NABC in Miami Beach.
Aileen Osofsky, chairman of the ACBL Goodwill Committee, recalls that Judi Radin, her bridge teacher, once pointed out Freilich and said: "That’s who I want to be when I grow up."
Teammate Margie Gwozdzinsky says the best part of playing teams with Freilich is "knowing she’s at the other table. She’s in there and she’s doing stuff."
"Stuff" is easy, claims Freilich, when "you just love what you’re doing." Bridge, she adds, "has as many facets as a diamond. I’ve had a lot of fun in bridge."
The fun has been accompanied by lots of success, but Freilich is reluctant to talk about herself or her accomplishments. Others, however, are not.
"She’s a very private person with a keen since of humor," says former teammate Betty Ann Kennedy. "I treasure my association with her."
Kennedy considers Freilich one of her role models. "She’s one of the best all-around players in the world. She’s so mentally tough."
Edgar Kaplan, formerly editor and publisher of The Bridge World, said Freilich is "a marvelous partner. She plays extremely well and she’s very imaginative. She’s also a lady at the table and away from the table.
Over a long period of time," added Kaplan, "she’s been the most successful woman player in the country – because she’s the best.
Gwozdinsky calls Freilich "my queen. She is unbelievable. Her time is absolutely beautiful. She is the best I’ve ever played with at creating instant matchpoints out of nowhere."
And how does she keep on winning?
Concentration is a key, and Freilich's concentration is legendary. "When I play bridge, I don't look to the right or the left – I look at my cards and the table.
"I tell my students that if you’re playing bridge and someone comes in and yells 'fire’ and you hear that, you aren’t concentrating enough."
Sister-in-law Rita Seamon has another explanation: Freilich and her late siblings, Anne Burnstein and Billy Seamon, grew up playing bridge. "They had bridge in their blood."
Freilich agrees, "I’ve had a wonderful life. Bridge has taken me all over the world. It’s been fun."
Frey, Richard (1905 – 1988)
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."
Jacoby, James (Jim) (1933 – 1991)
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 (1933-1991) 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."
Mathe, Lewis (1915 – 1986)
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*C* 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.
Jerry Machlin wrote this story about Mathe in his book:
“Lew was a witness in a court case where ACBL was being sued. He was put on the stand as a bridge expert and the attorney for the plaintiff was attempting to discredit him. Mathe reeled off his incredible list of wins in regional, national, and international competition, and the attorney continued, ‘From your remarks, Mr. Mathe, you sound as if you consider yourself the greatest player in North America.’ Mathe answered with his usual modesty, ‘I do.’ The attorney persisted, ‘And do you consider yourself the greatest player in the world?’ and Lew replied, ‘Yes.’
“After he stepped down from the stand, Lew’s wife tore into him. ‘Lew how could you get up on the stand in front of all these people and say you were the greatest player in the world?’ ‘What could I do?’ answered Lew, ‘After all, I was under oath.’”
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.
Rapee, George (1915 – 1999)
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*C* 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.”
Root, William (Bill) (1923 – 2002)
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.”
Eisenberg, William (Billy) (b.1937)
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."
The 70+-year-old 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."
Farell, Mary Jane (b. 1920)
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."
Gerber, John (1906 – 1981)
John Gerber won fame as a player, as a strong team captain and as the inventor of the ace-asking 4*C* 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.
His regular Texas team --- Hodge, Ben Fain and George Heath --- was "a very fine team in the Fifties and early Sixties," recalls Dan Morse, a fellow Texan who now represents District 16 on the ACBL Board of Directors.
He also remembers Gerber, an early riser, sitting in the hotel lobby at NABCs "willing to give advice. He was better at giving advice than taking it."
Morse, who has enjoyed considerable success as a non-playing captain, notes that Gerber was the non-playing captain of North American teams in Bermuda Bowl competition in 1962, 1963 and 1965.
In New York in 1962, he split the partnerships of Bobby Nail--Mervyn Key and Lew Mathe--Ron Von der Porten, putting Mathe and Nail together as partners in an unusual move that worked well and almost captured the title from Italy. "Gerber," says Morse, "believed in good card play rather than long-established partnerships."
The next year in St. Vincent, Italy, he again broke up a long-established partnership, pairing Nail with Howard Schenken and benching Peter Leventritt and Jim Jacoby. This move was not successful and may have cost the Americans the championship.
It followed a little known incident that occurred at the time Gerber arrived at the Grand Hotel Bilia. An anonymous letter written in Italian was delivered to him. He secured a translator, but after the first paragraph was read to him, he asked the translator to stop; to deliver the letter to Italy’s captain, Carl’ Alberto Perroux and to explain that Gerber had listened only to the first paragraph.
The writer had accused the Blue Team of cheating. Perroux, after reading the letter to his team, suggested that the match be played with screens running across the tables (this was 12 years before present-day screens were employed) --- but Gerber would have none of it.
The goodwill engendered by this exchange inspired Perroux and his team to present their championship trophies to Gerber and the American team in what was described as the greatest act of sportsmanship in bridge history.
When Gerber’s daring move to pair Schenken with Nail backfired, he faced a lot of flak, but the ACBL Board of Directors nevertheless appointed him captain of the next Bermuda Bowl team in 1965. That was the time when two members of his team brought cheating charges against a British partnership.
Gerber spent 10 minutes in the grandstand watching the famous British pair who were accused of using finger signals to tell each other how many hearts were held. The 10 minutes were enough to convince him and he became one of the strongest witnesses against the pair when the World Bridge Federation suspended them.
A very strong captain, Gerber was a great player in his own right. He represented North America in the Bermuda Bowl in Buenos Aires 1961 and won the Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1964, the Master Mixed Teams in 1964, the Men’s Pairs in 1959 and the Men’s Teams 1953. He placed 2nd in the Spingold in 1954 and 1967; the Chicago in 1957 and 1959; the Men’s Pairs 1957, the Master Mixed Teams in 1967, the Mixed Pairs in 1953and 1968 and the Life Master Men’s Pairs in 1974.
Moyse, Alphonse (1898 – 1973)
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."
Pender, Peter (1936 – 1990)
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.
Truscott, Dorothy (d.2006)
As a five-year-old kibitzing the family bridge game, Dorothy Hayden Truscott never dreamed that bridge would lead her to world travel, four international championships and election to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame.
The election "pleases me no end," said Truscott. "I’m very grateful to bridge in general. I’d like to give back to bridge what it has given to me." For Truscott, bridge has been a life-long love affair. "I can’t remember when I didn't know the game," she said. "My parents played bridge and when I was little, there were always bridge games going." Truscott was permitted to kibitz "if I would stay very quiet."
She played her first bridge hand at about age seven. A guest was late, "so I was allowed to play for one hour. From then on, I was hooked. I couldn't wait for the next guest to be late."
More than six decades later, Truscott was one of the world’s leading players and the only person who has competed in all four forms of major world championship competition.
She won the Venice Cup three times and the World Olympiad Women’s Teams. One of her teammates was Mary Jane Farell, also a 1998 inductee into the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame).
Truscott placed second in the 1965 Bermuda Bowl --- the only American woman other than Helen Sobel Smith to represent the ACBL in world open team competition --- and third in the Open Pairs at the 1966 World Championships in Amsterdam, the highest finish ever by a woman in open competition.
She won more than 30 NABC titles --- nine with Emma Jean Hawes, three with B. Jay Becker, three with husband Alan, three with Gail Greenberg and the remainder with "nine or 10 various partners."
She won her first two NABC titles --- the Mixed Pairs with John Crawford and the Women’s Pairs with Betty Goldberg, both in 1959 --- before she became a Life Master. In fact, "I had never played a session of bridge with either one of them."
Truscott described herself as a good partner. "I’m adaptable. I’m pleasant to play with and I’m lucky. Luck is a very big part. When you win any event, you have to be lucky. I must say I’ve been very lucky with partners."
She remembered a passed-out board from years ago. "We got 25 out of 25. When that happens, you know you’re lucky."
Truscott was lucky, concedes former world champion and former teammate Betty Ann Kennedy, but she was also a tenacious competitor and a very supportive teammate and partner. She was a real student of the game. She was open to new ideas and she uses them.
Among the new ideas attributed to Truscott are an unusual jump to show a singleton or void along with support for partner’s suit (a splinter bid) and responses to Blackwood after interference (DOPI).
Truscott also receives credit as the author of two bridge books which are considered classics: Bid Better, Play Better and Winning Declarer Play.
Goldman, Robert (Bobby) (1938 – 1999)
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.
Hamman, Robert (Bob) (b. 1938)
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*H* contract, Hamman led the *D*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.
Lightner, Theodore (1893 – 1981)
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."
Sobel, Alexander (Al) (1901 – 1972)
Alexander M. "Al" Sobel, an engineer who turned to bridge rather than sell apples during the Great Depression, was remembered by the magazine as ". . . a towering figure in the world of tournament bridge (for 40 years) . . . . A key associate of Culbertson, he was one of the first tournament directors and for some 25 years was the ACBL’s National Tournament Manager. He was an editor of The Bridge World, an editor and a regular columnist for the Bridge Bulletin and a member of the Laws Commission. He set the pattern for directors everywhere."
Sobel, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, turned to directing during the Great Depression. His other choice: selling apples. He began directing in 1934 and was named National Tournament Manager in 1942. He held that position until his retirement in 1969. During that time, he directed tournaments around the world and in every state --- ending with Alaska in 1968. He was the first Honorary Member of the Japan Contract Bridge League and ACBL Honorary Member in 1949.
His greatest thrills, he wrote in the Bridge Bulletin, included "the night I escorted President Eisenhower around the Sheraton Park Hotel in Washington to show him what a National tournament looked like.
"As we went down the grand staircase, he held my arm. I still preserve that spot on my elbow and never rest it on a bar."
A second thrill, he added, was in 1935 when General Alfred M. Gruenther introduced him as his successor as chief director of the Eastern States Championships, then a national tournament.
Wagar, Margaret (1902 – 1990)
Margaret Wagar, a woman who distinguished herself as a player and as an administrator, was one of the all-time great players. She became Life Master #37 in 1943, the fifth woman to earn the ranking. She and Kay Rhodes share one of the most remarkable achievements in ACBL history --- they won the Women’s Pairs four consecutive years: 1955 through 1958.
Wagar and Rhodes share another record, one of frustration. They were second in the Women’s Teams for seven consecutive years, 1952 through1958.
Wagar’s impressive record spans three decades and includes wins in women’s and open competition: Women’s Teams in 1940, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1964 and 1965; Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1941; Spingold in 1946 and 1948; Women’s Pairs in 1944, 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958; Master Mixed Teams in 1942, 1945, 1948, 1954 and 1964; Open Pairs in 1947 and 1948; Mixed Pairs in 1948 and 1949, and Life Master Women’s Pairs in 1962.
Wagar served on the ACBL Board of Directors from 1960 to 1972 and was named ACBL Honorary Member in 1979. She was non-playing captain of the U.S. World Women’s Teams in 1968 and 1972.
Former world champion Carol Sanders considers Wagar one of her role models. "She gave me such opportunities when I first started playing bridge. She was so dear to me."
Sanders tells this story about Wagar’s table presence and sense of humor:
"Margaret was playing at an NABC against someone who was known to try to get a look at your hand. Margaret was having none of this, so while declarer was studying the hand, she pretended to have a coughing fit.
"She opened her purse and took out her handkerchief. Then she detached the card --- a queen --- that declarer was looking for and folded it into the handkerchief and put it in her purse.
"If he could get a look at her hand, he wouldn't find the queen there.
"Sure enough, declarer took the finesse into Margaret. She opened her purse, produced the queen and won the trick.
"She wasn't going to let him read her."
Former world champion Dorothy Hayden Truscott remembered Wagar as "a very gracious lady always --- a very ladylike manner but with a twinkle in her eye."
Truscott recalled playing with Wagar in a Women’s Teams:
"A woman --- a young girl, actually --- came to our table and she wasn't wearing very much. Her outfit appeared to be two little straps.
"I would have been all right, but I caught Margaret’s eye and I began to giggle. I pretended to be coughing, but I kept giggling.
"Finally, I had to excuse myself and leave the table. As I left, I heard the girl say to Margaret, ’Is your partner all right?’
"Margaret’s reply: ’I don't know --- I’ve never played with her before.’ "
Bluhm, Lou (1940 – 1990)
Lou Bluhm of Atlanta was a bridge professional and an expert at poker and gin rummy. Lou won nine NABC titles; two Vanderbilts, two Spingolds, the Reisinger, the Open BAM, the Blue Ribbon Pairs, the Silodor Open Pairs, and the Nail Life Master Pairs. He finished third in the 1978 World Mixed pairs and also took the 1981 Cavendish Invitational.
In 1989, he was first recipient of the ACBL Distinguished Player Award – an award originated for him.
Frank Stewart wrote: “Lou Bluhm has always been the perfect embodiment of expert excellence: the quiet aura of competence; the pride and determination that never let him be content with second place; the constant tinkering to improve his system; the high standards of ethics and deportment.
“Nobody commanded more respect than The Bloomer. When you came to his table, it was a little like being in a church – you tried a little harder to play the game as it was meant to be played, to observe decorum, to apply Lou’s Olympian standards of ethics.
“Lou was a player's player. He was everybody’s favorite partner, and all his partnerships were winners. Lou had a player's most valuable attribute: he inspired his partners to play above their best. He was the rock of any team he played on.
“Lou will always be a model for those who cherish the noble elements of bridge and strive to master this difficult game.”
Fishbein, Harry (1898 – 1976)
Harry Fishbein of New York City, was a pro basketball player and president of the famous Mayfair Bridge Club, proprietor from 1940-70. Fishbein had a tournament career that spanned four decades. Harry won 17 national championships and was runner up in 22. In team events he won the Vanderbilt five times and was second in the Spingold and Reisinger four times. He won the National Men’s Teams and the Master Mixed teams. His most prestigious pair championships were two consecutive wins in the von Zedtwitz Life Master Pairs. 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 ACBL treasurer from 1952 to 1966 and was a board member and then honorary member of the Greater New York Bridge Association for almost 30 years. He was named ACBL Honorary Member in 1966.
He was an inventive and original bridge mind. He devised and published the “Fishbein Convention”, a system where a double of an opening three-bid is for penalties and an overcall in the cheapest available suit is a conventional and forcing takeout bid.
Although basically conservative, Fishbein had one asset that helped him stand head and shoulders above most players – he was adjustable. He had a knack of making his bidding conform to that of his partner for maximum effectiveness.
“Fishy” and his berets were standard entertainment at the national and regional tournaments he attended during his heyday. When he wore a beret to an early tournament, the headgear made such a hit that tams and berets became his signature. He acquired an extensive collection and was ever changing the various colors and designs according to his mood.
Anecdotes about Fishbein are legion. Lee Hazen liked to tell this one: Fishy was playing against two pretty young girls and opened 1*H* and passed the 1NT response. The girl on his left thought for a long time, gave Fishy a funny look and bid 2 *H*. When this came back to Fishy he tweaked her cheek and said, “You’re very pretty, but you’ve got a big mouth! Double!!”
Fishbein brought a lot of flair and ingenuity to the bridge table with help and advice for new player, e.g. “If you’re fixed, stay fixed…don't try to mastermind your way out of it into a bigger beating.” …”You can’t be a top player without the right temperament…not in a game that is a partnership proposition. Losing your temper only adds points to your blood pressure and never to your score.”
Lazard, Sidney (b.1930)
Sidney Lazard, is one of the all-time bridge greats. He has won at least one North American championship in each of the past six decades. He has been playing bridge since 1945 – duplicate since 1948. Over the years he has regularly partnered newcomer players at club games in New Orleans and Dallas. In 2004 he was honored by the International Bridge Press Association for Best Bidding Sequence of the Year (Romex Award) as well as being named the ACBL Honorary Member and in 2001 he established a major award for sportsmanship in the name of his late son.
At the world level he has captained the United States to Bermuda Bowl championships twice – 2000 in Bermuda and in Monte Carlo in 2004. He was a member of the U.S. team that finished second in the Bermuda Bowl in 1959. He had world championship thirds in the 1969 Bermuda Bowl and the 1998 Rosenblum Teams.
In ACBL tournaments he has wins in two Spingolds, two Reisingers and one Vanderbilt. The Reisingers came 38 years apart — 1960 and 1998. He also has taken the gold medal five times in the Mixed Teams. Other victories include the Blue Ribbon Pairs in 2002 with Bart Bramley, the Grand National Pairs with Jack Lanoue and the Pair Trials with George Rapee.
What got Sidney started in bridge? His cousin.Betty Goldstein, was teaching bridge at an Air Force base, and she thought Lazard would like the game, so she got him going. Cards are in Lazard’s family tree – “My grandfather Joe was a great card player. My father, Jules, was a good card player, too.”
“I really enjoy bridge,” said Lazard. “I like the pure reasoning. I like coming up with the answers. I like to test myself. I like the competition.” He’s had some interesting experiences over the years. He remembers what a tough time he had playing against Al Roth and Tobias Stone back in 1963. He got wiped out the first two times he played against them. He was determined to do better the third time – but it was even worse. He came up against them a fourth time, and it was the same old story. At one point, Roth asked what the requirements were for one of Lazard’s partner’s bids. Stone said,
“He doesn’t know. He’s quite stupid.” Lazard “accidentally” swept a full ashtray into Stone’s lap. “I’m also very sloppy,” he said.
“After the story got out, I got fan mail from all over the country congratulating me on finding such a fine response to Stone’s comment,” said Lazard. He was playing against John Crawford in a Vanderbilt final, and his team was very much the underdog. Crawford asked him to bet on the match. Lazard didn't want to, but he feared his partner would think he had a negative outlook if he refused, so he said OK. Crawford reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of bills totaling in the thousands. “There’s my bet,” said Crawford. No happy ending – Lazard lost.
Lazard also recalls the time he was a member of a seven-man team that won an NABC Men’s Team event. Seven? You can’t have more than six on a team! What happened is that Lazard passed out during the first of four sessions and was able to return only briefly in the second session. Three different substitutes took his place in the last three sessions, and the combination won the event.
He has enjoyed many, many partners over the years. Here are some of his favorites:
In the Fifties: Bill Hanna, Paul Allinger and John Fisher.
In the Sixties: Edgar Kaplan and George Rapee.
In the Seventies: His son Sidney Lazard, Jr. and Frank Hoadley.
In the Eighties: Jack Lanoue
In the early Nineties: Edgar Kaplan and Norman Kay.
In the late Nineties through today: Bart Bramley.
Rubin, Ira (b. 1930)
Ira Rubin of Paramus NJ is a retired mathematician, a computer analyst, a consultant and instructor and the author of a digital computer textbook. His other interests include stamp collecting (British colonies) and digital computers (1953-65). Rubin invented transfers, two-way two-bids, gladiator responses to notrump, gladiator and extended Landy. He ranks 27th among WBF Grand Masters, won the Bermuda Bowl in 1976 and placed 2nd in the Bermuda Bowl in 1966 and 1977; he was 2nd in the World Team Olympiad in 1980, 4th in the World Open Pairs in 1970, 5th in the World Team Olympiad in 1960, 7th in the World Team Olympiad in 1976, 8th in the World Open Pairs in 1966. A Diamond Life Master, this ACBL Hall of Famer won the Team Trials in 1965, 1975 and 1980; the Spingold in 1956, 1959,1966, 1979 and 1985; the Men’s Pairs in 1958, 1961 and 1962; the Fishbein Trophy in 1959 and 1962; the Open Pairs in 1961, the Life Master Pairs in 1962, the Vanderbilt in 1965 and 1966; the Reisinger in 1969, 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979; the Lou Herman Trophy and the Blue Ribbon Pairs in 1970 and the North American Men’s Swiss Teams in 1983. Rubin placed 2nd in the Life Master Pairs in 1954, 1955 and 1963; the Men’s Pairs in 1955, the Master Mixed Teams in 1957, the Spingold in 1957 and 1969; the Reisinger in 1965, the Vanderbilt in 1968, 1969, 1971 and 1981; the Men’s Teams in 1976 and 1980. He placed 3rd in the Cavendish Invitational Pairs in 1976.
Solomon, Charles (1906 – 1975)
Charles Solomon of Philadelphia, attorney, bridge administrator, teacher and author was a leading figure in bridge. He became Life Master #16 in 1939 and he amassed a lifetime total of 6594 masterpoints. Solomon won 12 national titles, including the Chicago (now the Reisinger) in 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1944; the Men’s Pairs in 1943, the Life Master Pairs in 1946, the Master Individual in 1947, the Master Mixed Teams in 1949, 1950 and 1959; the Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1952 and 1965; the Spingold in1955. In addition to 16 2nd places — the Life Master Pairs in 1938, the Spingold in 1939, the Master Mixed Teams in 1939 and 1940; the Master Individual in 1943, the Reisinger in 1953 and 1959; the Vanderbilt in 1954 and 1958; the Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1955 and 1960; the Open Pairs in 1959 and 1968; the Mixed Pairs in 1961, the Life Master Men’s Pairs in 1963 and numerous regional wins.
Solomon was a member of the U.S. International team in 1956, non-playing captain of the Open Team in 1959 and for the U.S. Women’s Team in 1960. He donated the Charles J. Solomon Trophy to the World Bridge Federation in 1966, to be given to the country with the best record in pair events at the World Pair Championship. He served as the ACBL president in 1958 and was chairman of the Board in 1944, 1955 and 1957; He was named ACBL Honorary Member of the Year in 1961.
On the international level, Solomon was a member of the organizing committee and helped to found the World Bridge Federation. He served as the WBF vice president from 1958-1964, as president from 1964-1968, chairman of the Board from 1968-1972 and was honorary chairman from 1972 until his death. He also served with distinction on the ACBL Laws Commission from 1940-1960 and on the Editorial Advisory Board of The Official Bridge Encyclopedia. Solomon was the author of Slam Bidding and Point Count and NoTrump Bidding and was the bridge editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer for 30 years. He sponsored the IBPA Solomon Award, given annually for the best description of a bridge deal in the world press.
Freeman, Richard (1933 – 2009)
Richard Freeman, a "Quiz Kid" of radio fame in the Forties, became ACBL’s youngest Life Master in the Fifties and at the time of his death had claimed 22 North American championships and three 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 Nickell partnership dates back to their days at the University of North Carolina. During the early Eighties, they played serious bridge “semi-regularly” while Nickell lived in Atlanta. Nickell said he was continually impressed with Freeman’s approach to bridge. “He had a lot of energy and an infinite capacity to think and analyze things, and he saw stuff in the cards that mere mortals don't see. He went to the table with one objective: to win.” Playing on the Nickell team, Dick won 8 Spingolds, 6 Reisingers, 2 Vanderbilts, and 3 Bermuda Bowls.
Dick’s victories in the Bermuda Bowl came in 1995, 2000, and 2003. Dick was very proud of the fact that he was the oldest person to ever win the Bermuda Bowl.
Freeman said he considers 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.
Leventritt, Peter (1916 – 1998)
Peter Leventritt was an outstanding American player in the Fifties and Sixties. 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. He also served as ACBL President in 1954.
After Leventritt’s graduation from Princeton in 1937 he played semi-pro hockey and baseball for several years. His first foray into tournament bridge was playing in the 1939 Vanderbilt. He later became a member of the Goren team. The Goren team is where his partnership with Howard Schenken began.
Leventritt pioneered the use of the Schenken System - “The Big Club”. This system was built from the foundation of the Vanderbilt Club. Like Schenken, Peter was a long time bachelor. He married in 1961 just a few days before he was to play in his first Bermuda Bowl. He took his new bride along. Prior to the 1963 Bermuda Bowl, Leventritt said, “Perhaps honeymoons and bridge aren’t the ideal combination, but I don't think that is why we didn't beat Italy in ’61, or why we’re going to win this year. It’s the system.”
In 1951, Leventritt founded of the Card School of New York and later served as its President. 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."
Nail, G. Robert (Bobby) (1925 – 1995)
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."
Stansby, Lew (b. 1940)
Lew Stansby and his longtime partner Chip Martel have many successes. They include a sweep of the major world championships ----the World Open Pairs in 1982, the Bermuda Bowl in 1985 and 1987 and the Rosenblum Teams in 1994.
Stansby is a World Bridge Federation Grand Master, ranked #11 in the world, and an ACBL Grand Life Master who has won more than 22,400 masterpoints (8/2007).
"My partner has won either a Vanderbilt or a Spingold --- or both --- in each of the past five decades," noted Martel. "He has won the International Team Trials five times and he has represented his district 28 times in Grand National events."
Martel praised Stansby for his tremendous concentration, fabulous memory and great temperament. "I’ve been lucky to have him as a partner."
Stansby noted that he has met most of his friends playing bridge. He remembered playing bridge with Mike Lawrence in college --- "you might say we majored in bridge."
He also paid tribute to his wife, JoAnna, "who always sees the positive side of everything."
Young, Sally (1906 – 1970)
Sally Young was Life Master #17, the first woman to earn Life Master status and a top competitor in open and women’s events. She is the only woman to win the Reisinger B-A-M Teams three consecutive years. Young teamed with John Crawford, Charles Goren and Charles Solomon to win the event in 1937 and 1938. The quartet added B. Jay Becker and won again in 1939.
Young also won the Reisinger in 1947 with teammates Jane Jaeger, Kay Rhodes and Paula Ribner --- they remain the only all-women’s team ever to win a major open team championship.
Young --- short, freckle-faced, her blue eyes usually hidden by her trademark sunglasses --- and Helen Sobel Smith won the Women’s Pairs in 1938 and 1939. The two led the 1938 field by such a large margin that Oswald Jacoby commented they had nearly come over into the Men’s Pairs section and walked off with that, too.
Young set a record between 1937 and 1958 by winning the Women’s Teams seven times --- including four consecutive years: 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1946 with teammates Emily Folline, Smith and Margaret Wagar --- and finishing second three times.
Young’s biggest fan was her son, Ralph C. Young Jr., and her favorite bridge story featured the youngster.
When he was 12, the junior Young was visiting a chum and stayed for dinner. The woman of the household had a reputation as a superlative cook, and the young guest listened to eulogies of her culinary art throughout dinner.
Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, he turned to his chum and blurted out, "Yes but, Dickie, how many masterpoints has your mother got?"
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 Paul Soloway, Mike Lawrence, Mike Passell and Mike Shuman.
Fry Jr., Sam (1909 – 1991)
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."
Hawes, Emma Jean (1912 – 1987)
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.
Ross, Hugh (b. 1937)
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."
Soloway, Paul (1941 – 2007)
Paul Soloway may be the only bridge player who wasn't impressed with his masterpoint total — 56,000.
“I wouldn't say that masterpoints are meaningless,” he said in a 1998 interview, “but for me, they're just a by-product of doing my job. They're part of how I make my living. For me personally, masterpoints have become an attendance award.
“Masterpoints have been a wonderful marketing tool for the ACBL,” he said. “Giving the average player an attainable goal is what masterpoints are all about.
“But for me, winning a national event or a world championship is a meaningful goal, so that's where my focus is, not masterpoints.”
Soloway won four world championships — the Bermuda Bowl in 1976, 1977, 1979 and 1999 (actually played in Jan. 2000). He also won more than 20 North American championships and more than 1000 regional titles.
Soloway began playing duplicate bridge in 1962 and still keeps his ACBL Junior Master card — which he earned for winning his first masterpoint — as a reminder of where he started.
He won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500 ) in 1968, 1969 and 1998 and finished in the top 10 for the last 20 years. Soloway won his first national title — the Life Master Men's Pairs — in 1965 with Alex Tschekaloff.
Soloway was also the first winner of the Sidney H. Lazard Jr. Award for Sportsmanship. The award was established in 2001 by Sidney Lazard in honor of his son, who died in 1999.
At the time of his death, Soloway had earned 65,511 masterpoints.
Hamilton, Fred (b. 1936)
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.
Manfield, Edward (1943 – 1999)
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.
Mitchell, Jacqui (b. 1936)
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!
Robinson, Steve (b. 1941)
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.
Weichsel, Peter (b. 1943)
Peter Weichsel first appeared on the tournament scene in the mid-Sixties. Few conjectured then that this young renegade, sporting pony tail, beads and bell-bottoms, would soar to prominence as one of America’s brightest stars and attain overwhelming popularity.
Peter’s early fame in the bridge community came as an original member of the Precision Team, the brainchild of the late C. C. Wei, emanating in Manhattan in the early Seventies. Wei’s unheralded team captured three National Knockout titles from the summer of 1970 through the spring of 1972, propelling Peter and his partner, Alan Sontag, into full-time professional careers.
After the Precision Team disbanded in 1973, Weichsel--Sontag continued their stellar career, becoming a dominant pair on the national and international bridge scene. They had a string of successes during the late Seventies and early Eighties, culminating with their first Bermuda Bowl win in 1983. After a 15-year break, Weichsel and Sontag re-formed their partnership in 1998 and again became a dominant pair, winning a string of North American and world championships, including their second Bermuda Bowl in 2001.
Besides being a WBF Grand Master, Peter has captured the following titles: 1982 International Team Trials; 1983 and 2001 Bermuda Bowls; 1990 World Mixed Pairs; 1999 World Transnational Teams; 1992 Pan American Teams; Spingold in 1970, 1971, 1980, 1982, 1992 and 2000; Life Master Men’s Pairs in 1971; Vanderbilt in 1972, 1985, 1989 and 1999; Reisinger in 1973; Grand National Teams in 2003; Master Mixed Teams in 1976, 1989 and 2001; Life Master Pairs in 1977 and 1984; Men’s Teams in 1979; Men’s Pairs in 1980 and 1984; Open B-A-M Teams in 1996 and 2001; Men’s B-A-M Teams in 1987; Open Pairs II in 1993; Cavendish Invitational in 1976 and 1977; London Sunday Times Pairs in 1975; Ischia Invitational in 1991; Politiken Pairs in 1996.
Kennedy, Betty Ann (b. 1930)
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 13 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 four 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 late husband, John (Jack), also are members of the Shreveport-Bossier Sports Hall of Fame. Jack was 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.
Woolsey, Kit (b. 1943)
Kit Woolsey was born in 1943 in Washington DC. He earned a B.A. in mathematics from Oberlin College in 1964 and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois in 1965. Kit lives in Kensington CA with his wife Sally, a leading player in her own right, and their two cats.
His parents taught Kit the rules of bridge when he was 9 or 10, but he had no other formal training. His first victory at the national level came in 1967, when he won the Mixed Pairs with Trudy Machlin, wife of tournament director, Jerry Machlin.
He has since formed long-term partnerships with three experts, presumably chosen in part for maximum contrast with Kit’s own thick head of hair. From the late 1960s until 1978, Kit played mainly with Steve Robinson, with whom he won the Blue Ribbon Pairs and the Men’s Pairs. Kit and Steve invented several conventions in common use today, including Puppet Stayman and Crash over strong club openings. The two recently revived their partnership to win the World Senior Teams in 2000 and 2003. Kit’s second long-term partner was Ed Manfield, with whom he played from 1978 until Ed’s death in 1999. Their major championships included the Blue Ribbon Pairs, Rosenblum Teams, Vanderbilt Teams, Grand National Teams, multiple Men’s Pairs and B-A-Ms and Open Swiss Teams. Kit has been playing with his current partner, Fred Stewart, since 1999. Fred persuaded Kit to play a forcing club system for the first time, and Kit has become an enthusiastic convert.
In the late 1970s, Kit began a successful career as a bridge writer, producing Partnership Defense at Bridge, Matchpoints and Modern Defensive Signals. He was co-author of Clobber Their Artificial Club and won the IBPA award in 1977 for the best article or series on a system or convention.
If you watch Kit at the bridge table, hunched over, rocking back and forth in his chair, and frowning, you might wonder whether he is enjoying himself. At some point, though, someone will make a play Kit doesn’t expect. He will sit up straight, open his eyes very wide and say, "Now that is interesting." Then his pleasure in the game is written on his face.
Becker, Michael (b.1943)
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 14 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 15 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.
Zia is one of the most colorful and recognizable personalities in the bridge world. He is a 23-time North American champion and four-time ACBL Player of the Year.
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 five-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 eight years (2010), 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.
Sanborn, Kerri (b.1946)
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 2007, 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.
Alan Sontag (b.1946)
In his book, "The Bridge Bum," Alan Sontag wrote the following: "Thirty million people play the game in this country alone, but few of them have any idea what life – and bridge – is for the 'internationalists,' those rare few who have achieved world-class status in a sport that is one of the most intellectually demanding and rewarding on earth. The champion's way of life, and especially his expertise, is vastly different from that of the suburbanite who plays social bridge with friends on Saturday night. It can be exciting and lucrative, but there is no security."
That book was published 30 years ago, and Sontag must have made a lot of right moves over the years because he is still one of the top bridge players in the world and successful, full-time player.
Now a resident of Gaithersburg MD, Sontag has a trophy chest filled with honors and championships, most recently the Rosenblum Cup, which he earned as part of the Rose Meltzer team at the World Bridge Championships in Verona, Italy.
His bridge accomplishments are the stuff of legend.
In 1973, he and Steve Altman became the first Americans to win the Sunday Times Invitational, at the time the toughest and most esteemed invitational tournament in the world. Two years later, Sontag returned to London and won the tournament again, this time with Peter Weichsel, with whom he would have a long and successful run of bridge achievements.
The two were partners in 1983 in Stockholm, Sweden, when the USA defeated the vaunted Italian team in one of the most exciting Bermuda Bowls in the history of the event. He returned to the final of the Bermuda Bowl in 2001 in Paris to help Rose Meltzer become the first woman ever to win that championship.
Known for his lightning-fast play, Sontag seems brimming over with energy nearly all the time. Still in his prime as a player, Sontag has an impressive list of victories and achievements in high-level bridge competition, including two victories in the Cavendish Invitational Pairs.
He is an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 28,000 masterpoints to his credit. He is a World Bridge Open Grand Life Master and is ranked 23rd by the WBF among the top players in the world. Besides the Bermuda Bowl victories, Sontag has won the World Transnational Open Teams (2000) and the World Senior Team Championship (2005).
He has won the Vanderbilt Cup three times (1972, 1988 and 1999), the Reisinger Trophy in 1973 and the Spingold Trophy in 1980, 1982 and 2000.
Other victories in the NABC + category include winning the Men's Teams in 1971 and 1979; the Life Master Men's Pairs in 1971; the Life Master Pairs in 1977; the Men's Swiss Teams in 1985 and 1987; the Master Mixed Teams in 1989; the Grand National Open Teams in 1994 and the Open B-A-M Teams in 2001.
Besides his aforementioned highly acclaimed book, Sontag has written "Power Precision" and is co-author of "Improve Your Bridge Fast."
Nickell, Frank (Nick)
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. His regular partner on the team was Richard Freeman.
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.
Passell, Mike (b.1947)
Mike Passell has been one of North America’s leading players for more than three decades, and is currently the leading masterpoint holder among living ACBL members with more than 60,000. 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. He also won the Transnational Teams in 2001.
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.
Passell and his wife, Nancy, are among the few married couples who are both world champions.
Lair, Mark (b. 1947)
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 Mike Passel returned the favor and inducted Lair into the Hall of Fame. Passell said the two first met at a rubber bridge club in Oklahoma City in the early Seventies. “Mark was the best natural card player I had ever met. Mark expects a lot from his partners and a lot more from himself.” Passell said Lair is a great player, “but he’s even better as a human being.”
A devoted family man, Lair lives in Canyon TX, a suburb of Amarillo. When speaking of his twin sons Michael and Matt, Lair said, “The immense joy they have given our family cannot be overstated.” As for his wife, Lair said, “Sally is the love of my life and my very best friend.”
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.”
Lair’s accomplishments are many. With over 54,000 masterpoints, he stands No. 5 on the all-time list of masterpoint winners. He has won 21 North American championships, more than 1000 regionals, and has competed internationally on many occasions. He won the Fishbein Trophy in 1986 and the Barry Crane Top 500 in 1990.
Lair says without Mike Passell and Eddie Wold, “I might have been forced to find a real job.”
|Berkowitz, David (b. 19xx)
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.
* Player biographies are up to date as of the year of induction.