DISTRICT 4

OUR PLAYER'S STORIES

Paul Irvine - Sapphire Life Master

My bridge experience started when my wife, Peg and I took up social bridge in the late 1970’s with new neighbors. After a few years, she wrestled me into playing duplicate at a club. With exactly a 50% game that first night we were hooked. We didn’t play much those first 10-15 years, winning only 10-30 master points per year. No bid boxes, no flighted games, no instructors and Swiss teams were win/losses. One needed to win 6 of 8 matches to get Gold points. Playing at all was a challenge as we both worked and started a family. But in 1988 I was awarded a Gold card.

The things I love about the game are learning something new almost every time I play and being able to play in any top-level event against the best players whenever I choose.

One highlight of my career occurred when playing in Texas in a 1988 Qualifying Swiss team Regional event. Our team barely Q’d 23rd out of 24 to be able to continue, Round 5 was against Bob Hammond and Paul Soloway’s team. We won when I put my partner in a Grand after going down 2 boards earlier in a small slam(ditto at their table). Hammond found the only lead that let it make, which we then won the round by. Round 7 was against Eddie Wold’s team. We beat them too and ended up second overall.
For new players, learn three things, bidding, playing the cards and defending, since that happens 50% of the time.
And have fun.

Michael Minoff - Sectional Master

I learned Bridge as a teen in Long Island, when my friend's mother (Audrey Bruckner) decided that her son's poker playing friends were smart enough to take on bridge. We got it in our blood immediately, and in between every sport you can name, we advanced into Duplicate. Yes, we were the youngest, but back then, Duplicate bridge was played in the evenings, so that worked for us. My partner then ("Earl" Ehrlich) and I even created our own bidding system, which was allowed in the 60's. I even taught my dad to play in 2 days, and we played duplicate together the next week. A similar experiment with my dear (but not card-savvy) wife of 40 years, Susan, didn't work as well when we were living in Mexico in 1978. She took notes, asked questions, but never really loved the game like I did.

Unfortunately, my career as an OB/GYN and my two children were the two biggest obstacles to my continuing towards any dream of Life Master status. So, I put bridge aside for a few decades, still reading the columns, and waiting for a chance at rekindling that spark. We did manage to squeeze in a game here and there, at college (Penn State) and even amongst those old friends from back in the day. Last year Glenn and I started trying again, as our bodies were getting a little beat up for the full court basketball that introduced us to each other. We both had to learn 2/1; as I had never even heard of it before. Now we both are loyal Larry Cohen disciples, his site being our go-to when bidding questions arise. Last Friday was the culmination of the road back, having played at Moorestown, South Jersey, Raffles, and even Thurs nights at The Philadelphian.

I would like to say that all of those clubs have been wonderfully supportive of new "old" players, as we have so enjoyed the competitive but welcoming spirit that Bridge can exemplify.

Suzanne Liebman - Life Master

Bridge has been a passion of mine for .. most of my adult life. However it was only about eight years ago that my best friend and I decided to tackle duplicate. We started small and didn't venture more than 10 miles from our house. Amassing gold points was a very slow process. Therefore we decided to venture further and we went to Wilmington where we were successful in getting more gold points. Sadly last year my best friend and partner passed away before we could achieve our ultimate goal this motivated me to play harder and with the help of some new and wonderful partners I finally achieve my goal.


Fran Pach - Silver Life Master

In 1975 I had a love affair! Of all strange things, it was with a game called “bridge.” I ate, slept, and breathed “bridge.” I took lessons until all hours of the night, read nothing but bridge books, traveled to tournaments all over the country, until I reached my goal of becoming a life master.

Shortly after that, life got in the way. I was working full time as a teacher, and I started my own business. I unfortunately had to put bridge on the back burner, where it stayed for 32 years! I retired several years ago, didn’t quite know what I wanted to do, and so I decided to return to the world of bridge.

I found things to be quite different. There were now all different plateaus (bronze, silver, gold, etc.), the little slips of paper with your master points on it were now computerized, and there were many new conventions. I also had to find compatible partners which was not an easy task. I definitely had my work cut out for me.

Through trial and error, I have found wonderful partners and have developed great friendships along the way. My personal goal was becoming a silver life master, which I now achieved; but I never loose sight of the bigger picture of becoming a better player.

Frank Morgan - Silver Life Master

I had little time for bridge during many of my years as a math professor, but finally I started teaching bridge at Williams College and taking my best students to tournaments, as kindly supported and featured previously by the ACBL (see photo).


My favorite partner remains my mom; we've much enjoyed bridge cruises with Larry Cohen and Billy Miller, as pictured below.

 

 

 

 

Steve Becker - Gold Life Master

My road to gold life master was one of perseverance that was bolstered by having several friends, partners and mentors with infinite patience.

I attended my first duplicate in August of 1968. Shortly after that time, I met Terry Coughlin while working at Sunoco. He introduced me to Bill Foerster, Bill Bauer and Bill Mumbauer and my education began. With their help and encouragement I gained confidence and master points.

Two decades ago, through our children, I met Mitch Snyder who has stuck with me through my many weekly mistakes and those at national and regional tournaments.

And so, with time out for business travel and helping Gail raise our children, I collected enough master points over the next 50 years to earn my gold life master award

Fred Strohm - Club Master

First I would like to thank Barbara Patterson from AMI Bridge club. I started taking lessons from Barbara back in July of 2016. At the end of her classes, Barbara gave all of us Audrey Grant's book on "BIDDING." A great book to get started on. Barbara's guidance and good instructions along with the Bidding Book, have helped me improve playing bridge. The last time I played bridge was ~ 40 years ago and was nothing like duplicate bridge the way it is played at the ACBL level. In addition to Barbara Patterson's guidance, I also purchased a few books written by Audrey Grant, Defense, Common Conventions, More Common Conventions and 2/1 Game Forcing. Reading these books and by playing often, I was able to put to use, knowledge from the books and the constant guidance from Barbara Patterson to continually improve my game.

The main lesson I learned from Barbara Patterson, "Learn the basics first." Very profound words. There are so many conventions. With new players, it is easy to get confused and mixed up when you are still learning how to just bid the basics. I had a few partners try and teach me new conventions before I was ready. It was hard and very confusing. It hurt my game and things became frustrating. I stopped doing that, went back to the basics and started learning at my pace. This was beneficial because it helped me ease into the conventions I was ready to adopt into my play.

I started out playing with the 0 to 5 point "C" group the first couple months then moved on to the 0 to 20 "C" group for a few weeks before playing with the regular bridge players. This is where I had to utilize the training and constant guidance from Barbara Patterson and the members of the Bridge club. I did not have a regular partner, so it was quite hard learning and getting use to playing with the different members. I did find this very beneficial though. It helped strengthen my game and taught me to play with many different types of partners. Since there are so many conventions, I try to read through them and see what interests me. Then I will study on my own until I believe I am comfortable and ready to play that convention with other partners.

I am dedicated to improving my game and moving up the ladder and maybe some day getting to Life Master. I know it will take time and hard work. I put in anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week playing bridge. I find the game exhilarating and fun to play. I am fortunate that I have the opportunity where I can enjoy my hobby on a regular basis and it just happens to be BRIDGE.

Tom Kriz - Ruby Life Master

My partner and I had a chance to play with two other pairs in a team game at the 1984 Colorado Springs regional. With one pair we could play in a limited masterpoint swiss team game. With the other pair we would have to play in a Flight A Board a Match game. We chose the BAM game for the experience. I had about 45 points with 3 gold. My partner had about 600. The teammate that forced us to play Flight A had a little over 1000 points. In the middle of the round, we faced Barry Crane and Grant Baze. The rest of his team was Chris Compton and Rhoda Walsh. Barry reached the 30,000 masterpoint plateau at the tournament. Baze won the 1984 McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Trophy) with Crane and Compton finishing 2nd and 3rd. Among the team members, to this date, they have won 13 of these trophies.

Back to the hands. Barry first doubled my partner in a 5 Diamond contract then likewise doubled me in a 4 Heart contract. We made both! We ended up 4th in a field of 31 for 15 gold points. Barry and his team won the event going away. When we left the table there was a somewhat perturbed discussion about the bidding in one of the hands. Only in bridge can a rookie play (and have a chance to beat) world and national champions.

Todd Wachsman - NABC Master

I started playing bridge in 1992 at the fall nationals at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando Florida. Learned the game from my parents Janis and David, won my first regional at the age of 11 which was written up in the New York Times. Got more active in the game when I was a teenager winning an open regional event about 17 years ago. Then college, career and life and golf took over and I've been away from competitive bridge for the last 15 years, just playing in unsanctioned games and online. We recently bought a place in Florida where I have resurrected my interest in bridge and started playing again for master points. And after about five sessions I picked up right where I left off and was a much better player than I was 20 years ago. I intend to be more of a presence in the major tournaments going forward. Although of course I will definitely take days off for golf!

Michael Xiong - Sectional Master

I am proud to be part of the District 4 family. I was born in China and migrated to the states 20 years ago at the age of 27. I began to play bridge in my early 20s. I started with Charles Goren's book, and I also studied the Big Club (Howard Schenken), and the Diamond System. I enjoyed them. After I came to the US, I played in a local club for a few years, but I could not find a compatible partner.

I stopped playing from the year 2002 until last year. My brother invited me to play bridge with his friends and I resumed the game. We formed a team and spent a lot of time together. My partner was a brand new player. I tutored him and he did pretty well. My brother partnered with another experienced player, and we won first place in the Grand National Teams and that inspired me. We are excited and we are going to do our best to see how far we can go in Toronto.

Carol Reitz - Sapphire Life Master

Carol lives in State College, PA - she wrote -

My passion and love for the game of bridge, along with the support of my knowledgeable partners, has enabled me to reach this goal!

 

 

 

Bill Schmidt - Silver Life Master

It’s been a long journey to Silver Life Master. I started playing in clubs in 1972, became addicted to the game, and had to stop cold turkey in late 1979. At that point, I was about 1.14 gold points short of LM. Except for one tournament in 1984, I didn’t play again for 20 years. When I resumed playing in 1999, it didn’t take long to make LM, but I wasn’t able to win consistently because I made too many errors.

There were four things that helped most in getting to the next level: First, I read (and re-read) Bill Root’s book How to Defend a Bridge Hand. I can’t overemphasize the need to become a competent defender. Looking back, it’s amazing that I won as much as I did in the 1970’s, with pathetically bad defensive skills. And this book is excellent – the perfect presentation for the majority of bridge players, who have a basic orientation to logical thinking.

Second, I learned how to stop making so many errors. It used to think it was just a matter of experience – the errors would gradually go away on their own, as I played more bridge. That wasn’t true. What made the difference is when I started to keep a mental list of my errors. Each time I made a mistake, I obsessed over it for a day or two, vowing never to make that particular error again, and adding it to the list. I suppose “list” is the wrong word, because I don’t actually review all my bad decisions, every time I’m about to make a new one. Rather, it’s a collection of resolutions that I’ve embedded in my bridge psyche. The key was not to just get more experience, but to make those experiences count by really caring about the bad ones.

Third, I learned to bid quickly. One of my regular partners dropped me because he always felt unethical when he watched my bidding hesitations. To fix this, I put myself in a setting (OKBridge, at the time) where I didn’t care whether I won or lost, and committed to making every bid with 10 seconds, no matter how difficult. Now that I’m in the habit, I allow myself to go over the 10 second limit occasionally, but only when faced with truly weird hands. This habit of bidding quickly has greatly improved my game. I not only don’t force unauthorized information on my partners, but I keep my opponents guessing. If I ever make a bad decision by bidding too fast, which is rare, I add it to the “list”.

Fourth, I continue to read and re-read books. Larry Cohen’s To Bid or Not to Bid, and its sequel Following the Law helped my competitive bidding tremendously. Winning Suit Contract Leads, by David Bird and Taf Anthias, has revolutionized my approach to opening leads. I read the ACBL Bulletin cover to cover each month, and I benefit from the more advanced articles. I especially like Ed Kantar’s articles, and each time I get one of his “Test Your Play” hands right, it boosts my confidence.

Looking forward, I think the best next thing I can do for my game is to find and cultivate good partnerships. Obviously, I’ve been trying to do that since 1999. But now that I’m (probably) retired from my software development career, I’m going to put even more emphasis on finding and keeping good partners. I earned a lifetime record 45.53 master points (and went over 1000) in Lancaster, when I was able to play 10 sessions with two different established partners. With better partners and more playing time, I hope to make Gold LM in a lot less than the 16 years it took to make Silver.

Maryland Wanck - Life Master

Bridge is a great game - my story started while in college. When in the Student Union at lunchtime, this underclassman noticed a “cute” upperclassman playing bridge with 3 professors. Many days passed by, and, finally, I summoned enough nerve to sit on the edge of the bench seat and watch the game “up close.” The rest is history!

I decided while in college that golf and bridge were the way to my man’s heart ~ we celebrated 50 years of marriage a year ago and it’s been a wonderful 50+ years. Nick & I both had active careers and supported our children’s activities. With what little time was left, we each played bridge (when possible) and golf for our county club teams. Philadelphia CC Suburban Mixed Pairs Bridge League gave more opportunity for bridge play. Jane Segal was women’s teacher; I attended lessons whenever possible. Jane was a good teacher and I learned a lot from her.

Shortly after our move to Whitpain Farm in 2007, we learned Bobbie Gomer was offering a series of lessons in the community. Bobbie was wonderful; her instruction gave foundation to take my game to a higher level. She also stressed duplicate play so I accepted a neighbor’s invitation to play one afternoon. We came in 1st! Thank heavens Bill Bauer was directing the game; he knew Nick and suggested I sign us both up for membership in ACBL that December day. For several years our activities allowed only sporadic duplicate play; fortunately, the last two years, we’ve found time to play once or twice most weeks. Bobbie continued to encourage and support us throughout the journey. An added benefit, both Nick and I have enjoyed being able to explore different areas of our wonderful country, combining play in a few Regional tournaments. What a fun way to get "needed” color points! Now that we’ve both achieved Life Master Status, combining tournaments with travel will be even more fun!

Mirella Dell'Osa-Capodaglio - Club Master

I took Bridge lessons at the local high school evening classes program and absolutely loved it right away, but only played Rubber Bridge.

Some time ago, Harry Nuckols introduced me to Duplicate and I earned a few points, but still went back to Rubber Bridge until February, 2016 when I decided to give Duplicate another chance. Although I don’t have a regular partner, you could say I’m a free agent, I have played with some very interesting players, mostly with Ceil Austenfeld, the Monday night director, who is always willing to teach & mentor.

It’s sad to see that here in America, Bridge seems to have lost its place of honor, but I’m glad to hear that Bridge is part of the curriculum in some European countries. How nice is that? As far as I’m concerned, besides reading, Bridge is the only worthwhile pastime.

I emigrated from Italy at 15 years of age. I am keenly aware of my heritage, the legacies and loyalties I have formed here and very glad to have taken the initiative to learn Bridge. Although I’m humbled by the game, it’s always great fun!

Vicky Sokoloff - Silver Life Master

I was introduced to bridge around 1970. Things were very different then. Each day’s game had a different owner/director, even though they shared a common space. A bit of friendly competition inspired each director to keep improving his/her game. There were no A/B/C strats, no NLM tournaments, no Gold Rush or Mid-Flight events. Instead there were things like Mens Pairs, Womens Pairs and Mixed Pairs. The ACBL strongly discouraged playing directors by reducing the points award when a director did play.

In 1972 there was excitement leading up to the Fall Nationals in Lancaster. Each unit had a day to provide the volunteers. It was at that tournament that a met my husband. We were married a year later. Then family, house, and a full time job kept me away from bridge for nearly 30 years.

When I returned late in 2009 things even looked different. There were bidding boxes and computer scorers. In the fall of 2010 we headed to the Lancaster Regionals and things fell together nicely…I hit both 300 points and 25 gold on the same day. A month later I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It quickly became apparent that I was going to need a safe zone away from treatment. So for a year we tried to both keep my condition quiet and arrange chemo, tests, surgeries, and radiation so that there would be one afternoon a week to get away from all that and play bridge.

I was just finishing radiation when the 2011 Lancaster Regionals rolled around. With very little in the way of expectations due to my depleted state, we again made the trip and were rewarded with a win in a two-day Knockout. The very next day I decided I was strong enough to take off the wig.

Health issues and pets still limit our travel to day trips. I have a couple more months of oral medication which has a serious impact on memory. But again this year we traveled to Lancaster for the Regional, and again Lancaster was special. I‘ve been a Penn State trained Master Gardener for nearly 20 years, so I like to say I reached the rank of ‘Silver Life Master Gardener’.

Bridge is certainly not the most important thing in life. But it can play a big role in helping us deal with the things that life throws at us.

Evie Rosen -Gold Life Master

So many wonderful pards that helped me on the way to becoming a Gold Life Master.
Bidding tools from the ACBL magazine with terrific analysis also guided me and made me change some of my thinking.
Most of all,being able to discuss with my pards our bidding ups and downs and being flexible to change.

 

 

May Sakr - Sectional Master

I was born in Lebanon, moving to the United States in my teens. I studied computer science at Northern Illinois University and worked with computers at the school for six years. My husband and I moved back to Beirut in 2000 so he could help with the family business. We returned to the US in 2010 and I now split my time between Beirut and Bryn Mawr, PA, with regular travel to bridge tournaments.

I caught the bridge bug in my 20's after learning the game with friends and was so smitten that I started the Bridge Academy in Beirut. It was later turned into a bridge club and often has as many as 90 tables in play.

I have more than 28 trophies from competitions around the world and just recently started playing more in the United States. I recently represented the USA in Poland and finished in eleventh place.

Jeffrey Sprowles - Life Master

My siblings and I were taught bridge in the 1950s by our parents at the kitchen table. My first sanctioned games were played in 1971 and 1972, when my younger brother Alden, our friend Dudley Hendricks and some of Alden’s college buddies learned Precision. I carried around 0.75 worth of master point slips from those games and eventually lost them not too long before I could have used them. The team broke up when Alden left for grad school. I didn’t play competitively for almost thirty years.

In 2008 we started a social duplicate game when Alden was visiting back East from his home on the left coast. That grew into a monthly event that is still held. Dudley and I started fooling around with Precision and eventually met weekly for a practice session and dinner. It took us 18 months to master the system and along the way we acknowledged that we knew about 20% of it in 1971. We started playing at Dotty Lou’s Boutique and Bridge Studio, now known as Bridge Alert, every Sunday in late 2008.

In October 2010 Fern Herman and Patty Bassman asked Dudley and me to play with them in a Swiss KO at the Philadelphia. We won our bracket and 10.87 gold points. Dudley still wonders if anybody has ever had more gold points than black.

Shortly thereafter Dudley retired and I had to learn 2 over 1. I played several times with the late Tom Sakaguchi and promiscuously with about 30 different partners before arriving at a regular Sunday game with Ralph Collins. When Barbara Patterson and Jane Ball started Ami Bridge I hooked up with Richard Perlman with whom I play Kennedy/Montreal Transfer.
In 2014 I earned all the pigmented points I needed for life master. In August I exceeded the 300 point total. Or so I thought. It turns out that I double counted my July total. Barbara had a cake and a sign on her screen congratulating me before I actually earned the points for life master in the first week in September.

For reasons I do not understand I did not appear in the October or November issues of the bulletin as a new life master. I hope my name appears in the December issue or my friends at Ami Bridge and Dotty Lou’s will think I am a liar, which I am when I play poker, but am not when I play bridge

Lyn Widmyer - Sectional Master with Chuck Meister and partner, Lisa Younis

Linens, Libations and Lasagna

By Lyn Widmyer ACBL Bridge Bulletin July 2015

Now that I am retired, I am spending a lot more time playing bridge. I learned the game decades ago because my mother believed knowing how to play bridge was as important to succeeding in college as good SAT scores. She adored the game. I always helped Mom prepare when it was her turn to host the bridge ladies for an extravagant lunch and an afternoon of play. My job was to iron napkins and tablecloths, wash the good crystal and polish silver.

Based on my childhood experience, I came to associate bridge with liquor, linen and lasagna. Add a few glasses of wine and/or sherry and it was amazing my mother’s bridge group was coherent enough to actually play bridge.

When my mother sent me to bridge lessons, she hoped it would help me find social success in college. I found other interests in college and put bridge on hold.

Fast forward to 1990 when I started playing bridge with a small group of ladies in Charles Town. Naomi Moses, my bridge span into the modern era of bidding, invited me to join her group for an afternoon of play. I welcomed the invitation and decided to skip breakfast to save room for a lavish lunch a la my mother. I arrived at Naomi’s home and viewed the kitchen table, adorned only by two decks of cards and a score pad. No buffet. No lasagna. No silver cutlery. The only food was a bowl of cantaloupe squares pierced with toothpicks.

I could barely hear the introductions of the other players over the rumblings of my empty stomach. These ladies were far more interested in teaching me “weak two bids”, “negative doubles” and “strong artificial 2 club opening” than feeding me.

I loved it. Unfortunately, working full-time and raising a family cut into my bridge time.

Now, freed of work and young children, I am back at the bridge table. There is quite an active group of bridge players in the area, ranging from weekly bridge games among friends to more structured, duplicate games in Martinsburg, Charles Town and Shepherdstown.

I am one of the youngest players at my regular bridge game in Shepherdstown. No matter—these ladies are sharp! Recently, my 93-year old partner (who has been married longer than I have been alive) reminded me after we failed to make our bid that the Jacoby transfer convention is still on after an interference bid by the opponent.

I nodded to give the impression I knew what she was talking about.

In Charles Town, I have played with a hero of World War II, Fred Mayer. Or as he is referred to in Wikipedia, “Frederick Mayer (spy)”. During World War II Fred parachuted into Austria, then posed as a German Army officer to learn about troop movements near Innsbruck. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo. Fred was freed in 1945 by American troops and later awarded the Legion of Merit and a Purple Heart by the United States Government. What an honor to sit at the bridge table with an American war hero.

My mother insisted bridge would help me socially in college. That never happened but her investment in lessons is paying dividends now that I am older and retired. Playing bridge has introduced me to a wonderful new group of friends and acquaintances.

Best of all, knowing an opening bid of 2 No Trump promises 20-21 points is considered far more important than knowing how to iron linen napkins or polish silver.

Jerry Mancioci - Gold Life Master

How did I became a Gold Life Master. It was not the traditional way, I suspect. I practice law, which is all consuming. I was also married with children. I played when I could, which for a long time was exclusively nights. A tournament appearance for me and rarely involved a Sunday, as I felt a family obligation. I rarely made games in advance because work and family came first.

So how did I improve? I read bridge an average of an hour per day, 7 hours per week. I watched the experts on BBO and at national tournaments. I tried to stay in decent physical shape. I worked on my stamina and did not tolerate table talk, particularly critical talk, which was tiresome to me and keeps me from concentrating on the next hand. I sought out partners who do not offer unsolicited advise. I "kissed up" to no one. This way my way.

Roald Ramussen - Junior Master

My story is really about my family. Every year for 12 years, my dad and 2 brothers along with our families would vacation in Sea Isle City, NJ. My dad and two brothers knew how to play bridge, but I had not yet learned. I was always interested and loved to play cards, so I thought I would give it a try. We would play a few boards each night as they taught me the basics, bidding, playing, etc. My dad gave me the book ‘The Play of the Hand’ by Watson, I took an evening bridge class at our local high school and I would read up on the internet. The first couple of years were a bit hard and I am sure frustrating. By the 3rd or 4th summer, we were playing at least 24 boards a night 6 of the 7 nights. (My father owned a duplicate set of boards.) That is really how I learned to play. Dad passed away 3 years ago and as a result, we stopped going to the beach.

The oldest brother, Chris, saw the Monroeville bridge tournament and invited me only a week before it began. I just joined the ACBL that Tuesday. Well, I didn’t have any official tournament experience, but I guess you could say that I had a ton of Rasmussen tournaments.

I really enjoyed my experience. I think Chris and I will be planning to attend another tournament in the not so distant future.

Michael Belman - Life Master

I started playing bridge in the army. I continued playing while at Penn, and occasionally play duplicate at Rhoda Gran's's at 21st and Walnut. I played occasionally at The Tuesday evening Calcutta at the Cavendish club when it was at the Drake. Than came about 50 years that I took a vacation from duplicate and raised a family, built a business and spent many hour volunteering for for worthwhile charitable organizations. I did continue to play rubber bridge at the Hamilton Club on Saturdays. About 4 years ago I retired and decided to start playing duplicate again. My thrill,(I am sure you don't remember) was playing against your team in the KOs at Wilmington and winning 13 1/2 gold ,I needed 12 1/2 to make LM. This left me 1.1 silver short,which I picked up in this months STAC. I've made lots of new friends and enjoy playing in games and tourneys.

Alan Palmer - Junior Master

I played bridge in graduate school and for a short time after I joined Du Pont in 1963 until I was transferred from Wilmington. In 2013 my wife expressed interest in learning the game and took lessons at the Bridge Center of Delaware County. I joined her in the lessons the next year and we began playing with friends in Delaware. They mentioned their beneficial experience with the Bridge Studio of Delaware so I signed up for their Intermediate Lessons in September 2015 even though I live in Pennsylvania. Starting this year I began playing in games at the studio and to accumulate points. I am very pleased and impressed with the principals, teachers and volunteers at the Studio for the quality of the training and the friendly and open atmosphere. I also commend the District for the mentoring program that is being held this summer. I am impressed as are the other newer players at the thoughtful guidance and helpfulness of our mentors as well as their willingness to participate. I recommend that the program be continued on an as needed basis.

Layla Dalati - Club Master

I arrived to the States on the 12 of October 2015 from Lebanon, Beyrut. I stayed more than four months before I discovered the Club in Cape May Court House and I called and I had a very nice lady on the phone, Harriette. She asked me to come and play. So I said I don't have a partner. She replied "I will play with you". So I went for the first time so uncomfortable not knowing anybody, but they were all so nice warm and welcoming that I felt relieved.
And it was my first day and so comfortable. I was playing Bridge every single day almost in Beyrut. I participated in so many international tournaments before I came here. Now I am playing with very good players here and I am so happy .

Carole Bishop - Life Master

I started playing bridge as a 12-year old, with my twin sister and parents. During my 31-year Army career, there were many years without bridge in my life, but when I retired in September 2004, a friend recommended Dotty Ehling's club in Warminster; and I joined the ACBL in February 2005. For the first 4 years, I never entered a gold-point event, which I regret now, but no one told me to start collecting gold early - the advice I got was: enter the lowest event possible at the tournaments. Gold points were slow in coming: 1.53 here, 2.90 there, until I only needed 0.08 for Life Master, even though I had a total of 650 points. Finally we got that one big win at the 2016 King of Prussia tournament (9.94 gold) which pushed us way over the top (thank you Carolyn and Sheldon Per). Most of my gold was earned with Dave Hallman, and most of my silver with Jean Harney. I have both partners to thank, along with my parents who got me started.

Tom Mulgrew - Life Master

I started playing bridge in the '60s. A co-worker taught three of us during lunch hours. I played some duplicate and party games and started to play seriously in the '90s. I have been playing with one of my present partners for about ten years. Three years ago we decided to form a partnership and began playing together a couple of times a week. This allowed us to get a feeling for each other's bidding and play and to practice our conventions. We went to Sectionals and Regionals to earn Red, Gold, and Silver points. This year we went to a tournament in Toronto for two days, May 26 and 27, 2 sessions each day. I needed 1.28 Master Points. We won the last session and earned 1.93 Gold and 1.93 Red.

For me, Gold points are the hardest to get. Gold Rush and Swiss Team games provide a good opportunity to earn these.

Karen Sylvester - Gold Life Master

A friend of mine called me in the winter of 1996 asking me if I would go to bridge lessons with her. Now, I had played pinochle in college (and spent so much time playing it instead of attending classes, that I could probably have earned a degree in it), but knew nothing about bridge (I actually thought it was for old ladies with big hats and maybe winos). Having a life-long problem of saying “no” to people, I agreed to go with her to a Senior Center (which was exactly where I knew it would be taking place). Of course, after being there about twenty minutes, I was hooked.
My friend and I decided, after a few months of taking lessons, to try the big time, and showed up at a local duplicate game. A player came over and introduced herself and asked how long we had been playing. We said only a few months, but we thought we played a good game and beat everyone at the “Senior Center”. She laughed and said, “well, you will not come in first here and it will be a very long time before you beat players here at our club”. Well, she was wrong….we came in third that first night and thought, this is easy, and not as intimidating as we imagined. Well, she was also right….we came in last after that first night, for months. I was working full time so didn’t get much time in at the bridge table, but kept at it whenever I could.
About two years later, the women who owned the club asked me to sit for the director’s test. Soon after, she became sickly and gave up ownership. One of the members took charge, incorporated, and the club, The Cape May County Duplicate Bridge, became a club owned by its members. He was President for two three year terms and then asked me to take over. I am presently on my 4th three year term.
I enjoy the game, the competition and the people. In 2003, I entered our club in the One-Star Club competition and won. I have enjoyed planning parties for all the holidays and starting a yearly club newsletter and website. I have been fortunate enough to play in bridge in Atlanta, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Mesa, Las Vegas and Italy.

Ivan Hileman - Club Master

My father and mother taught me bridge when I was very young. My father was a life master and played almost daily at the White Rose Bridge Club in York.

Over the next fifty years I played with family, however, never had played duplicate.

I heard about the Bridge Boardroom and how they provided lessons. For the past three years I have been going there. Edward Scanlon, the owner, is a very good teacher and gives lessons several times a week. The atmosphere is very friendly. There are several excellent players at the club who are always giving advice or impromptu lessons.

His lessons are so popular that there is a contingency coming up from Annapolis, Maryland for the experience.

What I have learned in the past year where I have tried to be a regular participant at the Bridge Boardroom is more than I ever knew from playing for the past fifty years.

Diana Erney - Regional Master

Bridge has become an unexpected joy ride in my life! I retired in 2008 with much trepidation because I couldn't believe the time had arrived so quickly. My elderly parents needed me and so I had to give up my life's work which I thoroughly enjoyed. A dear friend suggested I take up Bridge and quite frankly I always wondered what this game was all about. I have always loved playing all sorts of card games. Well, after two years of courses under the direction of Dini Romito, our director, I got hooked! My work had always involved setting goals and reaching them and this game filled the gap. The challenge of reaching the different levels, meeting so many interesting people from all walks of life, and having fun with my partners has put a different perspective on retirement. The most important aspect is that my brain is being exercised just as my body is on the tennis courts!

Layla Dalati - Junior Master

I am so glad to join the ACBL American Bridge. I came here to the States in early November and after 4 months I discovered, thanks to my husband, the Bridge Club in Cape May Court House where we live.

I joined the club and became a member of ACBL since about only 2 months. I was playing Bridge in Beirut, Lebanon before I came here 4 or 5 days a week in a very professional club in Beirut.

I shared in so many tournaments out of Lebanon in Europeans Countries.
I will be always grateful to improve my Bridge because every time its different and every day you learn something new -- its never enough.

Marie Caruso - Junior Master

My father, John Quinn of Massey, Maryland introduced me to the game of Bridge approximately seven years ago. He was an avid player right up to the time of his death in November of 2012.

I began taking lessons at the Delaware Bridge Studio in 2015. I enjoy the lessons and playing at every opportunity in order to enhance my skills. I find Bridge a fabulous and challenging game!

Andy Stayton - Diamond Life Master

Bridge has been one of my main interests since I started learning the game as a senior in high school. I love the sociability of the game and the competition it affords. I play all kinds of games; golf, tennis, backgammon, board games, etc. but nothing compares to tournament bridge. I am gratified that I reached one of my long-term goals of making Diamond LM although it has only taken me about 50 years and 150-200 thousand dollars – well worth it for the enjoyment it
has given me. Family (wife, 2 daughters and 5 grandchildren) and work ( I was a DE State Trooper for 20 years and a registered lobbyist for business interests and non-profits for 25 years) kept me from “going on the tour”, but since retiring 3 ½ years ago and moving to Rehoboth I have been able to play a lot more. I’ve picked up approximately ¼ of my total master points thanks to all of the wonderful friends and partners I have met since moving south.

Over the years I established partnerships with a great many fine players and the following is a list of those who helped me on the way: Tom Kirch, Roy Peters, Frank Giovannozzi, Len Reed, Rick Rowland, Andy Kaufman, Assen Slavov, and Jeff Ruben from northern Delaware and Eli Solomon, Terry Patton, Terry Dutton, Beth Mallon, and Don Wand from southern Delaware. Of course I have played with many other talented players during my bridge career, but there are too many to mention.

Emerald LM?? I hope to be healthy enough both mentally and physically to pursue that goal. Special thanks goes to my family for their support over all of these years.

Pat Tylander - Life Master

My journey to Life Master has been a long one as well as a very short period to accomplish this. Sounds like an enigma, doesn't it? I learned to play Bridge as a teenager by checking out a book from the library. Having played card games with older cousins from the age of three, I felt I knew how to play everything except Bridge. I played social Bridge all through college and then moved to duplicate after college. I went to a couple of tournaments and acquired points of color thinking I would be a Life Master. However, marriage, children, and a career in teaching meant no time for duplicate and ended the ride to Life Master.

Forty years later, I met wonderful friends in Bethany Beach and they encouraged me to return to duplicate. Bev and Jack Shubert sent me to Dini Romito who matched me with partners, served as a mentor, and made Bridge so much fun, once I had the hang of the bidding boxes and Bridgemates. However still teaching, there was only time to play a few games in the summer. Then two years ago, I retired. In 2015, armed with 60 points I set out on a Bridge mission. During this year of Bridge, I played with many different partners. My husband and I travel so it is difficult to play with just two or three people. During winters in Florida, Val Covalciuc took over for Dini and found me dozens of snowbird partners. The partners have all been fascinating people, including professional athletes, attorneys, doctors, an artist and many "computer" career players. I was so lucky to have been paired with great partners many of whom have become special friends.

Fourteen and a half months later, I went to The Sarasota Florida Regional. My colors were all in place and I needed a little under 5 points. Once again, I played with some partners that I met at Dini Romito's club and a partner from Ohio that I met from The Bridge Centre in Fort Myers, Florida. The journey for Life Master materialized February 17, 2016 with a Swiss team win! My passion for the game of Bridge will always be a part of my life!

Marc Goldberg - Life Master

When I began taking bridge lessons a little over 5 years ago, my objective was to learn enough to be able to play a competent game with my wife, Suzie, who is an accomplished bridge player. Life Master, or any ACBL rank for that matter, seemed way out of reach. Through the help of patient and talented bridge teachers and mentors, and dedicated study with my partners (we started out as a cohort of newbies intent on learning how to play bridge), my game improved to the point where I could do well in local, sectional, and regional events.
Getting newer players to that point where they are confident in competing is a key to helping them progress through the various ACBL levels. It is long and daunting road to Life Master status, especially for those of us in the new 500 MP category.

At a little over 400 master points, and still needing 16 more in gold, my wife and I participated in an ACBL regional at sea along with our friends (also accomplished bridge players) Bill Young and Debbie Hoveland. We had a phenomenal experience- we played pairs and teams in 19 out of the 21 sessions during the cruise. I was hoping to make a big dent in the gold points that I still needed, but our success vastly exceeded any expectation that I had. Our week at sea added 62 master points to my total, with 58 of them being gold. I was absolutely thrilled when Larry Cohen presented me with a trophy for the highest “B” player of the tournament. Within a few months of our return, I was able to get to the magic number of 500 at one of our local club games. The lesson from my experience is that no one makes Life Master on their own. Anyone who achieves that level only gets there with the help and guidance from more experienced players, just as I had help from Bill and Debbie, Suzie, and many others.

Life Master is a significant accomplishment for any player. To me, it is more of a beginning point than a destination. Life Master says someone has learned how to play bridge and has competed successfully in local, sectional, and regional events. But, in reality, this is where you begin to learn how to play bridge at an advanced level. In athletic terms, you have made the varsity team, and now you must learn how to play at the varsity level.

Bridge is a fascinating game that requires a complex mix of skill, knowledge, and judgement. In most endeavors, the more you know about a game, the easier it is. With bridge, the opposite occurs. The more you know, the more you realize how difficult and complicated the game can be trying to figure out the billions and billions of hands that you pick up at the table. Two hands can look nearly identical, but the path that succeeds with the first may fail with the second. Figuring that out is the challenge that keeps people playing.

While I love playing bridge, my real passion is teaching the game. As a student, I learned the rules and procedures for bidding, play, and defense, but I also tried to understand the reasons behind them so I could better judge what to do in unusual or undefined situations. As a bridge teacher, I enjoy helping my students appreciate bridge by giving them a better understanding of the “why” behind the rule, rather than just following the rule. Lately, it has become bitter-sweet when I play against two of my students at a club game and they get the good board scores (because they learned something in my class or workshop).

Marilyn Robinson - Club Master

I walked into Ami Bridge (Langhorne PA) 2½ years ago clueless and uneducated.  Director Barbara Patterson in answering my phone call asked me to arrive 15 minutes prior to meet and do paperwork and assured me I was most welcomed at her new club.  The gentlemen at the table gave my friend and me an in-service on using Bridge Boxes and the games began. 

I signed up for Lessons with Barbara at the local Community College.  I ordered books and dove in.  The addiction was immediate:  This is what I want to do for the rest of my life!  Now that I’m learning the game I too love the newbies who are brave enough to come to the Adults Table and take a chance on themselves.  I found a regular partner and we entered our first tournament at Bala, coming in second in our bracket! 

I earned Junior Master points, printed out the certificate, and posted it to my Facebook page.  I blinked and now I’m a Club Master!  What an honor!  Yet Duplicate is such a humbling, learning game.  One day I join the 70% Club and score a free game and the next I’m back down in the 23%.  But I continue to go back, a good week is 3 days of play, a great week has 4. 

I never was a numbers person and started this game in the hopes that my genius husband would take up the game with me and carry us but alas, card shyster that he is he has no desire.  From what I understand that could be to keep peace in our marriage, but I can still dream about Some Day. 

With the support of Ami Bridge, chosen because the word "Ami" means friend and defines the experience Barbara Patterson wants everyone to have when they come to her club, almost every hand is a learning opportunity.  Every foursome has three teachers in in for the asking!

Woody Wolston - Junior Master

My first experience with bridge, in fact duplicate bridge, was when I was around 9 or 10 years old. My parents, who played bridge with a couple of different groups, were in a duplicate bridge group.  When my parent's hosted the duplicate group, they would let me shuffle the cards for the boards. After their friends left, I got to finish off any of the leftover appetizers.

Until I moved to Pennsylvania from Minnesota two years ago, I had only played with people a dozen times. My dad had taught me when I was 11, but I only played with my parents and some of their friends a couple of times. Other times, I played with my Tai Chi group during its annual weekend retreat, which one of the group, Kim Hayward, is a Grand Master. My other prior experience is playing bridge solo almost every night. I deal out, bid, and play the hands to what be the most likely lines of bidding and play.

I moved to the eastern Pennsylvania & western New Jersey area to be able to work in my business associate's, Rose Levy Beranbaum's, Hope, New Jersey home. Rose is the award winning baking cookbook author of 11 books. I found the when I was looking on-line for a bridge group. Jo Ann Mauger received my email and invited me to join the Stroudsburg, PA Monday afternoon group.

My experience with Jo Ann's group has been wonderful. She is a great director and an excellent teacher, as she frequently holds a class for players after we finish our games. She paired me up with a good “C” ranked partner as well, Sam Goosay. Before joining the club, I had only played informal party bridge and only knew Stayman and Blackwood for conventions. So it has been a rapid and interesting learning curve for duplicate bridge. 

What I like about our club is the willingness of the experienced “A” ranking players to offer their advice on bidding, playing, and strategy. Especially, William Haynes, who likes to remind Sam and me,” You need to remember the scoring. Sometimes better to let the opponents get the bid with the possibility of setting them than be in the same contract as everyone else.” I also, have found the ACBL’s on-line “Learn to Play Bridge” very helpful with playing the various hands, especially with all of the modern conventions. I have also enjoyed reading and trying to solve problems in the Bulletin. My partner also recommended Audrey Grant’s “Bridge at a Glance”, which I check with it and convention pages from Learn to Play Bridge when I practiced solo.

Since Rose and I research, test, and write baking books, I generally bring a treat to the group each week for their feedback.

Jane Beck - Life Master

When there is a duplicate-bridge player in the family, the whole family is affected. It all began in the fall of 2009.

Her Story

Jane looked for something new to master
Her knowledge of bridge – a disaster
Conquered books and lessons
Lost her apprehension
And achieved the rank of Life Master

His Story
He is married to Jane, Who had no clue of the game
She sought out great books, and lessons she took
While partners were many, It sure cost him plenty
It took so much time, her husband did pine
First Sectionals he feared, Then Regionals and Nationals appeared
Oh dear lord, will she ever get bored?
She got her Life Master, Now he’ll be put out to pasture
While Holidays are here let’s give her a cheer, and at least one more beer
On gold points and silver points and red ones too, If some are black she’ll be happy too. Happy Holidays !!

I had a lot of help along the way ! Thank you:

• My terrific partners : Patti Isaacs (the angel always sitting on my shoulder), Nancy, Terri, Jill, Joan, Leslie & Karen. Thanks for your patience and putting up with me through this bumpy ride !
• Caroline for taking me to my first Regional: where I earned by first red points, and playing teams when I earned my needed gold points
• The Bridge Studio, Wilmington DE, for providing a fabulous venue for lessons & games
• Julie Hockersmith for continuing the Tuesday-evening Casual Bridge --- answering question, after question, after question
• Barbara Rhoades, who INSISTED that this little team, who won big at Bala two years ago, compete in GNTs – not taking no for an answer, and those who made it possible for me to compete
• Cheryl Shields and Tom Kramer for the friendly game in Middletown DE that is a safe haven for beginners
• Len Thomas – my greatest cheerleader – for his dedication by helping every Friday morning in the NLM game at the Studio, teaching and mentoring beginners (always with a smile) for the love of the game

Granddaughter’s Story

Were you bridging Grammy? Yes, I was. Did you have fun bridging Grammy? Always, Abigail

Life is Good

Barbara Wall - Junior Master

Junior Master status! I never expected to “go” anywhere in the bridge world. How did I get here? I played bridge in college (St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY) 47 years ago – typical college bridge where most of us did not know how to keep score so only kept track of winning tricks. In June 2014 I retired from teaching and my one goal was to play bridge again and enjoy it.

I moved back to hometown of Oswego, NY and in October of that year ran into an old friend to whom I expressed my desire to get into bridge. And the next thin I knew I was playing 2 or 3 time a week and had 2 new friends who were my partners and a local bridge club that encouraged me and welcomed me into their membership. I am having fun, keeping my mind active and learning how to play “real” bridge as my parents did many years ago.

Sam Maitra - Emerald Life Master

Samaresh  (Sammy) Maitra was born on December 13, 1938 in a small village in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

He was the youngest of 19 children. He remembers a very happy childhood- he would get one tennis ball for the year and the whole village turned out to see it.

He and his family migrated to India and settled in Calcutta. In 1961, he won a scholarship to the University of Maryland to do his Ph.D in Physics. Here he was introduced to bridge, and with his background in mathematics became fascinated with it.

He moved to Rochester as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Rochester, and began playing bridge in earnest. He met and married Yashu who claims, quite erroneously, he adds, to be a better bridge player than he is.

Sammy says, 'Bridge has given me an intellectual challenge, but more than that it has given me a sense of community and has led to lifelong friendships'.

Yashu adds: His passion for the game and calm demeanour (haha) are well known in the Rochester bridge community.

He plays with a great variety of partners, and is unstinting in his praise of them. He congratulates at least 50% of their plays at least 25% of the time.

He is equally grateful to his opponents, without whom he could not have achieved this milestone. Yashu often jokes that he should clone himself and play with his clone, but she shakes her head, he would never agree that the clone was as good as he. |

Seriously though, he truly loves the game and the Rochester bridge community.

Sammy has the last word: I could not have done it without Yashu's love and support, and for her unique ability to create a bottom board out of a top.  

Clayton White - Club Master

Clayton White began playing duplicate bridge in 2003 after retiring from a 33-year career as Professor of Music and Department Chair at Community College of Philadelphia. Playing in The American Bridge Association (ABA), Clayton captained teams that won three national Knockout Championships and 12 Sectional Knockout Championships as well as numerous pairs Championships. Also, he is a bridge instructor certified by the ABA and the ABTA.

Since his ABA club closes for the summer months, Clayton and his partner, Anola Vance, have played at Raffles on Wednesdays during July and August the past two years. Anola, a former student in Clayton’s bridge class, has been playing duplicate bridge for 3 years. In the NLM (under 500 MP) game hosted by the PCBA at Bala Golf Club on October 9, 2015, Anola and Clayton placed 1st overall with a 65.46% score. Anola will soon advance to Club Master.

Dolores O'Boyle - Junior Master

Many many years ago when I was very young,
A friend and I read Goren’s Book, love of bridge had then begun;
Other friends’ and neighbors quickly said, in no uncertain terms, “Too much study time involved, no desire to read, to learn”;
So one day we heard “There’s a bridge game in town, just come in and you can play”,
So off we went to check it out, to see if we could stay….
And play some hands, what could we lose, after all we read Goren’s book,
We were seated at a table, introduced and then we looked,
No cards were dealt or taken, instead once played were all returned….
To the board, then passed on to be played again until played by all, we quickly learned;
Well the years rolled on, business demanded much time and my bridge days faded away,
Until late last year I decided to observe a duplicate game to see if I felt I could still play;
The first thing I learned, the Goren I played was no longer being used anywhere,
Conventions and strange bidding now ruled the day and to compete you must adapt if you care….
To stay in the game and win some points, after all winning is what we all want to do,
And if you play your cards right and luck is on your side, you’ll pick up a couple of points too;
So now I’m a Junior Life Master, at this time of my life, I think to accomplish that really is a blast,
But the real benefits of the game are the friendships I’ve made, and that soothes me if I come in last;
So I look forward to continuing and improving my game, even collect some more points along the way,
And win, lose or draw, I’ll continue to play, even sneak some Goren in….but I’ll never say.

Jim Herrington - Gold Life Master

I am a 77 y.o. retired Presbyterian minister, who played my first duplicate game in June, 1959, in my hometown of Abilene, TX. I shortly thereafter went to Europe (U.S. Army) and earned 40 points in three years, then played almost no bridge at all for ten years (graduate school and first pastorate). Moving to Mobile, Al in 1972, I became a life master in January,1976, before moving to Delaware later that year. For several years in Delaware I played some, then directed the unit game--slowing adding up to 750 points. When asked to assist a friend to get his Gold Points several years ago, I again began to play regularly, making 1,000 in May, 2007. Since then, I have accumulated the additional 1,500 points, playing regularly, and earning ca. 200 points a year.
Some of my favorite partners have been Jeff Koltenuk, Jan Garber, Alan Horowitz, and Carla Wasniewski.

Lynn Lonker - Bronze Life Master

I learned to love bridge when I started taking lessons about 15 years ago. There was so much to learn and understand! I found the game challenging, interesting, often fun, and many times frustrating. The social aspects of Bridge have been a real plus. Most importantly Bridge afforded me the opportunity to make many good friends with whom I have shared Bridge games, good conversation, movies and dinners. I especially want to thank Linda, Judy and Natalie who were so instrumental in helping me to earn the points I needed. I look forward to many more years of friendship, challenges, and even the frustration!

 

Jeanne Parrett - NABC Master

I joined the ACBL in 2010 after getting my feet wet on BBO where I was introduced to the basic SAYC system. It was my BBO friends who encouraged me to join the ACBL and find ‘real’ games at a local club. My first session at the Lancaster club was quite an experience – much different from online Bridge, and it was also my introduction to bidding boxes and director calls.
That first night of club Bridge was great. Oh trust me, I had a terrible game, but the director and players were extremely friendly and welcoming. For the first year, I played pretty consistently with one partner, became familiar with a few conventions, and started earning partial points here and there. On one surprising Tuesday night I earned my first overall club win! Director John teased that ‘C’ players are not supposed to beat ‘A’ players, but I was ecstatic!

Following that first year, I started playing with many partners that used a variety of conventions and carding systems. Initially, I tried to adapt to others’ conventions cards, but looking back I can see that added a layer of complexity and confusion as I was trying to learn. I now have a preferred convention card to which I’m slowly making adjustments as I learn new conventions. I continue to play on BBO, primarily with a select few partner-friends there. I’ve also used the BBO ‘Robots’ to get more experience with the 2 over 1 game force system.

As the years have passed, great friendships have grown from my Bridge community. By becoming part of the Lancaster Regional Tournament Committee and most recently, the Unit 168 Board, that Bridge family continues to grow. I now realize that I may have acquired a mild addiction – because more than a few times, I’ve taken a day of vacation from work to play Bridge (but there are others that have a worse addiction than mine!!).
Looking back, I realize the game was never about the master points or reaching a certain level, it was about challenging myself and trying something new. That still holds true. The friendships, this sense of ‘family’ that developed, that’s the most cherished part of my journey. My Bridge family supported me through difficult personal times, embraced me as a person, and they continue to encourage my learning of this wonderful game. It sounds cliché to say that Bridge changed my life, but it’s true. Where else would I have met this diverse, intelligent, serious, silly, compassionate and maddening group of people? How else would I have developed such a wonderful extended family? Nowhere else but in Bridge!

My story would not be complete without acknowledging the huge impact a Club Director can have on the Bridge player’s experience. It would have taken much longer to achieve the rank of NABC Master without the support of Debi and John Klinger who went above and beyond the call of duty in finding partners and teams, encouraging my learning and growth, and challenging me to participate in Regionals and Nationals. They are amazing people and great advocates of the game!

What I’ve learned in my journey, and would offer to newer players to support their enjoyment and advancement in the game, include the following:

1. Get to know the locals:

a. Your club directors are an invaluable resource!
b. Club members can become great friends and a support network
c. Get involved in your club’s activities

2. Be resilient:
a. Expect failure – learn from those hands/experiences
b. Don’t be intimidated by skilled players, they were once new to the game
c. Director calls are part of the game and not a personal affront
d. Practice forgiveness (for yourself and others) – all bridge players have good days and not-so-good days

3. Learn more about Bridge:
a. Log on to the ACBL website for useful information and educational materials
b. Attend lessons at your club, if available
c. Consider asking a skilled player to become your mentor
d. Borrow books from your Bridge director or other players to advance your knowledge

4. Practice and Play:
a. Play at your local club(s) and play against the best competition possible
b. Attend sectionals, regionals and nationals, if possible
c. Use BBO to practice and hone your skills

Gertrude Flor - NABC Master

Gertrude Flor will be 94 in September. She was born into a family of wealth and privilege in a small town that was once considered part of Romania and Austria. As a child she spoke many languages and was extremely musical. She recalls her mother playing bridge with friends and "always there was yelling and screaming" and so she vowed never to learn "that game".!!!!!

Gert is a Holocaust survivor who was liberated by the Russians and then became a freedom fighter for the Czech army. Her late husband, Sam Flor, was also a survivior and was a sought after speaker to tell his story of the Holocaust to the world. (Gert could not bear to speak about it). While living in Minnesota he was with the Minnesota Symphony (a concert violinist) and there they learned to play bridge with friends.

Moving here with their daughter Gloria, Gert was a concert pianist and even played for bridge players at the Philadelphia NABC. After Sam died in 1996 a friend persuaded her to try duplicate bridge. She did so reluctantly and only went to local tournaments. She has tried to become an NABC Master for almost 20 years. Two years ago she had a stroke that affected the vision in her left eye and the use of her left arm. But she continues to play at the Yorktown Bridge Club a few times each week.

Over the years, Joan Brandeis and Miriam and Sheldon Einhorn made several efforts to play with Gert to earn the points needed to become an NABC Master, but she still needed 2.95 Gold points after many attempts.
When Susan Kestenbaum heard how close she was to her goal she enlisted several club members to try and help her achieve it this year. Ellie Goodman. Edie McAlpin and Wes Powers all agreed without hesitation to make this happen during the Valley Forge Regional's new Mid-Flight Swiss event.

The directors at the Valley Forge tournament were helpful and encouraging. Marc Labovitz made sure Gert had a stationary table for her wheelchair and an electrical outlet for her lamp. Both Marc and Marshall Kuschner made sure her cards were sorted into suits and all of the opponents were patient and understanding.

The team left the tournament feeling disappointed that she was still over one point short of her goal. Gert, however, was not discouraged and was busy making plans to try again in Lancaster. She was upbeat and on the trip home and she raved about how nice everyone was to her, including the opponents and directors.

Imagine our great surprise when we found out that the initial scores posted were revised and that Gert had, in fact, become an NABC Master! (The team earned 3.40 Gold points)

At a celebration party this week at Yorktown Bridge Club she gave a little speech expressing her gratitude to all, saying that with the exception of her daughter, she had lost everything and everyone in her life and this wonderful experience "restored my faith in humanity". She also said that "the bridge players are now my family". All Gert’s friends and teammates were very touched by her words.

Many thanks go to Bruce Schwaidelson who called ACBL to question the scores in the A/X flight - the revisions corrected the team’s scores also and Gert now has her 3.40 Gold points to be an NABC Master. Gert’s team has named Bruce their honorary team member!

Barbara Stepanek - Life Master

I've been playing bridge for a long, long time, but it wasn't until I retired that I got interested in duplicate. One of my goals was to play in a national tournament. I got that wish playing in Philadelphia, where I won my first gold points.

Even then I never dreamed of reaching Life Master. I can only thank my partners, especially Marci Abbott. A few weeks ago at Valley Forge, I sat down and to my amazement, there was my old boss. I worked for him 35 years ago.

I really enjoy the tournaments and meeting new friends, but the Bridge Studio in Wilmington beats them all. They all inspired me to go for the gold.

Bryna Paston - The Long and Winding Road to Master of Life

Valley Forge, PA Regional Tournament week of June 22nd, 2015: all present and accounted for, the crazy boisterous bridge players, the instructors (unlicensed except in their own minds) who will gladly tell you everything you did wrong at the bridge table and everything you are going to do wrong – and you don’t even have to ask. Then we have the strong silent types who can’t smile, nod in your direction or even pretend they are playing against any other functioning human beings. To them you are invisible.

And everyone in the room on every floor of the hotel is screaming the same thing: “How many points do you need?” In my case, it was 6.0 gold. To become a life master. To stop schlepping to far flung tournaments, playing all day and drinking all night and paying the ACBL a ridiculous amount of money over the last 100 years, acquiring all my black, red, silver on the road to 6 gold.

Luckily, Valley Forge is my hometown so the only expense this go-round was gas. Well, ok, food. But I would probably eat anyway if I lived in Podunk, Iowa. I just wouldn’t be here in the Philadelphia area for any tournament or famous historic sight. Seen them all.

A word about my team, God bless them. My partner Barbara and our mates Gina and Hollis have played many a Swiss, Knock-Out and Knock-Up which has brought us to this turning point in my life. The other three have long been life masters and they were doing this just for me. I really owe them.
To keep you in suspense no longer: we did very well. We acquired 2.36 gold in Swiss and 2.61 gold in knock outs. Close but no cigar! Don’t you just love that saying? I bet you don’t know what it means either.

But I digress… we left the tournament very proud and happy for me. I now needed 1.03 to achieve greatness. Here’s where I say, “So if I don’t get it, I don’t get it. Big deal. I can probably live the rest of my life and it won’t change anything.”

And here’s where my partner, ‘never say die Barbara,’ says on the ride home, “We will do it. We’ll go to Fairfield, NJ, Baltimore, Timbuctoo and all points east, west, north and south in the USA and abroad where there is a regional or better. And if all else fails, the nationals will be in Philly in 2018.”
“I’ll be dead,” I say.

“Oh don’t be silly,” Barbara says. Sure, what does she know; she’s 10 years younger than me. Hollis and Gina say nothing so I know where they stand on these cockamamie bridge trips.

That was Saturday, June 27th.
On Tuesday, June 30th I get a call from my friend Sue K. She’s an extraordinary bridge player with ‘skatieight’ master points and what’s more she has her finger on the pulse of the local bridge world. Our conversation went like this:
Sue: “Hi you probably don’t know it but you are a life master.”
Me: “No I’m not. I still need 1.03 gold.”
Sue: “No you don’t.”
Me: “Yes I do.”
We continued the “No I’m not; Yes you are!” volley for another five minutes until she said:
“Stop talking and I will explain.”

Here is what happened: A local bridge player named Bruce whom I know in passing also played in same tournament at Valley Forge. His results from a Swiss event were disappointing and definitely “wrong.” He too is an excellent player, life master with “skatieight” points and somehow he couldn’t reconcile his scores with his play. So he took matters into his own hands and called the ACBL right then and there from tournament central.

Although I have no way of knowing I “imagine” that conversation went like this:
ACBL: “Hello and how may I direct your call?”
Bruce: “You made a giant mistake and I expect you to fix it – pronto!
ACBL: “Oh no, sir. The computer never makes a mistake.”
Bruce: “Yes it did.”
ACBL: “No it didn’t.”
Here we go again. I bet that volley continued for another five minutes.
Not only did the computer screw up Bruce’s scores but he asked them to check across the board and sure enough, it screwed up my score. And God knows who else.
I now officially and forever more earned 7.02 gold at Valley Forge. And I was and am a Master of Life!
I think I will marry Bruce!

Karen Pollak - Life Master

I had learned to play bridge in college and played bridge casually and rarely until 3 years ago when I retired. A friend who is a life master suggested that I might enjoy duplicate bridge. I thought, why not? I started the quest to finally learn the game via the wonderful lessons at the Bridge Studio of Delaware. It has opened a whole new world for me. I have met so many wonderful people who are now friends. I love bridge, I love the competition, I love the security of the club games, I love the sectionals and the regionals for the larger numbers and the added stress. I want to particularly thank my partners (Eileen, Jane, Caroline and Tom) for the great ride. I also want to thank the Bridge Studio of Delaware for having such a terrific venue to play and for the frequency of games.

I want to commend the district for the way the Valley Forge Regional was run this year. This is physically the closest to my home and therefore, a favorite. In the prior 2 years when I attended this regional, it was significantly less organized as far as it seemed for an attendee. This year was an absolute pleasure: breakfast was not in the middle of registration, there were signs and people to direct you to where you needed to go, etc., etc. I am looking forward to Lancaster again this year.

Jane Romal - Life Master

Earning a Life Masters took about 9 years, during which time I worked full time as an associate professor of accounting and did lots of other things, including traveling. This “Masters” was the hardest one to earn – after ones in mathematics and an MBA! (-: All of my needed colored points were earned playing with players like me—non Life Masters—so I encourage players to play with comfortable partners at their own level, but against those better than they are on their home turf, while constantly studying the game and perfecting partnerships. Gold Rush events helped immensely. Most players are very considerate and helpful, but non-Life Masters, who are upset playing against more accomplished players should consider the advantages of better competition and not be intimidated. Duplicate is a great game, where I’ve meet many fine people. My personal thanks to all my partners and opponents.

Sherell Morris - Bronze Life Master

My father was in the Air Force and while stationed in England - he and my mother played duplicate bridge with the locals. It was there that our parents taught my sister and I the basics of bridge as teenagers. It was many years later before I continued to learn about bridge. First party bridge then a few times at the local ACBL duplicate game in Toledo Ohio where I won my first 2 mps in 1988. .. which held for twenty years! ..at that point I seriously began brushing up online w/ BBO so that I could be up to par playing in the local clubs. My first tournament was at The Bridge Boardroom in York Pa. I was paired with a ' ringer' and won that day! It was a huge encouragement since I was so very nervous. From then on I continued playing in the local clubs but really enjoy the tournaments for the competition. I wish to acknowledge Edward Scanlon, owner of the Bridge Boardroom in York. He has been the most influential person in my bridge world. He has helped me when I have made poor judgment and given advise on tournament issues ..he is an excellent teacher on many levels and covers a wide variety of topics / issues that a bridge player needs to know, He is so dedicated to the bridge community and truly helps so many folks.

Manjula Mehta - Club Master

I grew up in India and came here 40 years ago and have lived in Rochester all along.My parents taught me bridge when I was in college as they were avid players but they played rubber bridge...my husband,a medical doctor learned in college as well..so we played a little when we got married and when the kids came we didn't play for a number of years but now that we are empty nesters got back into it and love duplicate-realizing how the game has changed with the advent of so many new conventions...we have taken lessons and read a lot to improve our game...My husband Jagat and I play well together but he is still working so we only play once or twice a month together...I am still looking for a good and serious partner so I can play more and rack up some more points.I find the game so interesting as you are always thinking and learning with each new hand.Rochester has an impressive bridge community and my hope is to find a partner and play more.

Joseph Eskin - Life Master

The 80 year old Life Master
Joseph Eskin is a club director in Harrisburg. He has accumulated over 1400 master points. Joe is over 80 years old.
For multiple reasons he has traveled to almost no tournaments for 20-30 years. Joe needed 13.3 Gold points to become Life Master.
Joe’s son David decided that, with Harrisburg Split Site Regional being local and a workable 10/2:30 start times, he would play with his dad to try to cut the amount needed.
On Tuesday afternoon they played. They ended up with an overall scratch worth 6.83 Gold. Nice game, home they went. Half an hour later, the Split Site comparisons were done, and they had advanced to first overall in B (0-2500) across both sites, 12.37 Gold. The call to Joe with the update was received with delight. The callback from David did not arrive until 10:30 that night. His response was a sarcastic “Damn, I guess we have to play again this weekend”.
Saturday they did. A small Flight B overall place netted another 2.49 Gold, producing our newest 80+ year old Life Master.
Moral: It’s never too late to pursue that elusive LM goal.

Julia Brooks - Silver Life Master

My first foray into sanctioned duplicate bridge occurred on a vacation to Bermuda some thirty years ago. We went to the Bermuda Bridge Club with another couple, sitting North-South while our friends sat East-West. Both of us came in first in our directions. We were pretty impressed with ourselves until we found out later that it was an Under-Twenty point game. But it was the beginning of our quest for Life Master.

Lancaster was our favorite tournament destination, but we ranged far in pursuit of our goal, from Tennessee to Canada, Palm Springs to Vancouver. It was a great way to take vacations from our stressful jobs. My husband Rich and I both earned our Life Master status in 2000. We coasted a while. filling our lives with all sorts of volunteerism and grand-parenting and attended fewer tournaments through those years. Although Rich no longer plays as often as I do, he was my partner when we came in first overall a few weeks ago to put me over the 1000 points.

District 4 has given our Unit 133 good guidance and support. We like the directors we have had assigned to us. The District 4 Spot keeps us abreast of what’s happening elsewhere in the unit and provides a venue for us to communicate our news. Above all, we’re gratified that players from many parts of the region, including the Philadelphia area, like to come to our sectionals. It is good to feel we’re part of the larger bridge community.


Joann Hano - Diamond Life Master

Getting to be a diamond life master had become a group project. Leading the group of partners was my husband Buddy. He was always there to support me and to be the master of the" Big Club" convention we played? Others from York, became my monthly partners in success.
Over the many years, any bridge player at my table has become my bridge family. There is always a story or a bridge hand to hear about. Success at bridge is more than skill, it is also a love of people and the game.

Terri Chalone - Club Master

One of my friends at work kept telling me “Terri, you have to learn how to play Bridge before you retire.” She said I needed to keep my mind sharp when I retired and so I took my first lesson in June 2008. My instructors were Life Masters and they played very well. But, as they say “Bridge is easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master” and I realized I had a lot to learn.
I played that summer and into the fall, but at work my hours changed, ( working nights) and couldn’t continue to play. Every time I would vacation in Florida for a few weeks, I took a several lessons by John Foster, in Sun City Center (He was one of the finalist in the ACBL Bridge Teacher of the Year in 2013).
I finally retired in 2013 and that fall started taking Easy BridgeTM lessons in Sun City Center.

Kathy Smith and Sue Batt started the program and it has exploded with so many new players Even people who were social bridge players were converted to duplicate because they heard we were all having so much fun. There program consisted of lessons on Wednesday followed by playing (boards that were related to the chapter) and then they would also have workshops that expanded on the lessons. I finally started to understand why I couldn’t pass when my partner doubled, and how to play Stayman and Transfers. It has been so much fun, and I have met the most interesting people. We also have monthly happy hours and pot lucks and in the summer, we go out to dinner/lunch at local restaurants.

Sun City Center hosted a Sectional Tournament this February and my partner and I came in first North/South in the 0-20 category. Some of the other area bridge clubs have extended invitations to play, Sarasota, St. Pete, Manatee. One even had a cake to welcome us. And there is a Tournament on May 25th that I am going to attend.

I also attended a week long Bridge Boot Camp in Warwick, New York (summer 2014) sponsored by Marti & Gary Ronemus. That was intense bridge lessons, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed/learned that week. It was all inclusive meals, lessons and room for under $800.00 thru Road Scholar.
(AKA Elderhostel)

Jim Allen - Life Master

I achieved Life Master mostly by playing in club games weekly
in Lansdale and Pottstown. For the last eight years I partnered with my mentor, Dick McDowell, just about every time. He taught me the importance of bidding consistently. Mitch Snyder convinced me to become a Director in Lansdale, and that experience, along with directing the game in Pottstown with Dick McDowell for 6 years, taught me the intricacies of the game. I met Irish Murphy at the Pottstown club and we started going to Regionals together last year. We always found our playing partners at the partnership desk and they were always great teammates. I earned the last of my gold points at the Regional in Cape Cod at the end of April.

Paul Ohlbaum - Silver Life Master

I am truly excited to attain the rank of Silver Life Master in bridge.

My entry into the world of duplicate bridge began some nineteen years ago upon my retirement from optometry. My wife and I would take long walks together and as we walked, she’d explain various conventions to me. And so began our lives as bridge partners and eventually certified bridge teachers both at home in Utica, NY and on ten bridge cruises.

While competitive running (I’ve run six marathons), and autocross racing continue to be two of my avocations, at the age of eighty-one, I know that bridge will keep me challenged long after I drop running and car racing!

Natalie Weinstein - Life Master

My husband died in 1995 very suddenly and right before my eyes. I was in shock and became very anxious which spiraled into a deep clinical depression. A friend of mine, who was also going through problems of her own, decided to get a few women together to socialize, be together, and maybe help each other with our grief. She knew enough bridge from playing in college and decided to start to teach the others in our little group. I don't know how much I really learned that first year, but it helped to be with friends and have to direct my mind to focus on something else rather than my problems. After a while we all started taking bridge lessons from Jane Segal. When I moved to a new home a couple of years later I met other people who played bridge and eventually started playing duplicate. I have to say that Bridge helped me focus and was a wonderful distraction. I set a goal to become a Life Master and am so happy to have reached that goal.

Lisa Godin - Junior Master

My bridge life began a few years back when a friend of mine asked if I wanted to learn how to play the game with her by taking lessons. We decided to take lessons at the local Women’s club and learned just enough to be dangerous. Luckily, a friend of ours, Sally Manning, was kind enough to put a game together once a week and we continued to learn this crazy game of Bridge and become even more dangerous..to ourselves, that is!

Eventually, schedules conflicted with fun time and Bridge went to the back burner, but I was addicted. I found the Bridge Doctor website and started playing online. While some folks had no patience for my inexperience, others noted my drive to excel and helped me learn along the way and I will be forever grateful to all of them. After jumping into the shark waters, getting chewed up, spit out, and used to mopped the floor, I finally started to really understand the game…a little! I bumped into Sally months later and she convinced me to play at the Williamsport Bridge Club on the day that the amateurs got together. I braved going to the club and continued to enjoy the game for yet another year while playing with a variety of folks and learning even more insights to the game of Bridge. However, my hunger to excel got the best of me again and I finally decided to take the plunge and go back into the shark waters. This time it was at our local Bridge club on the days that our better players got together. Again, the folks were extremely supportive and I eventually became a substitute for the better players. I am currently still a sub for the club and welcome every challenge that comes my way.

While I started later in life to learn the game of Bridge my goal I to rise to the top of the player board. My drive is fierce; the game so humbling; I may have to attend Bridge Anonymous for counseling.

Lyn Widmyer - Junior Master

Now that I am retired, I am spending a lot more time playing bridge. I learned the game decades ago because my mother believed knowing how to play bridge was as important to succeeding in college as good SAT scores. She adored the game.
I always helped Mom prepare when it was her turn to host the bridge ladies for an extravagant lunch and an afternoon of play. My job was to iron napkins and tablecloths, wash the good crystal and polish silver.

Based on my childhood experience, I came to associate bridge
with liquor, linen and lasagna. Add a few glasses of wine and/or sherry and it was amazing my mother’s bridge group was coherent enough to actually play bridge.
When my mother sent me to bridge lessons, she hoped it would help me find social success in college. I found other interests in college and put bridge on hold.
Fast forward to 1990 when I started playing bridge with a small group of ladies in Charles Town. Naomi Moses, my bridge span into the modern era of bidding, invited me to join her group for an afternoon of play. I welcomed the invitation and decided to skip breakfast to save room for a lavish lunch a la my mother. I arrived at Naomi’s home and viewed the kitchen table, adorned only by two decks of cards and a score pad. No buffet. No lasagna. No silver cutlery. The only food was a bowl of cantaloupe squares pierced with toothpicks.
I could barely hear the introductions of the other players over the rumblings of my empty stomach. These ladies were far more interested in teaching me “weak two bids”, “negative doubles” and “strong artificial 2 club opening” than feeding me. I loved it. Unfortunately, working full-time and raising a family cut into my bridge time.

Now, freed of work and young children, I am back at the bridge table. There is quite an active group of bridge players in the area, ranging from weekly bridge games among friends to more structured, duplicate games in Martinsburg, Charles Town and Shepherdstown.
I am one of the youngest players at my regular bridge game in Shepherdstown. No matter—these ladies are sharp! Recently, my 93-year old partner (who has been married longer than I have been alive) reminded me after we failed to make our bid that the Jacoby transfer convention is still on after an interference bid by the opponent.
I nodded to give the impression I knew what she was talking about.
In Charles Town, I have played with a hero of World War II, Fred Mayer. Or as he is referred to in Wikipedia, “Frederick Mayer (spy)”. During World War II Fred parachuted into Austria, then posed as a German Army officer to learn about troop movements near Innsbruck. He was captured and tortured by the Gestapo. Fred was freed in 1945 by American troops and later awarded the Legion of Merit and a Purple Heart by the United States Government. What an honor to sit at the bridge table with an American war hero.
My mother insisted bridge would help me socially in college. That never happened but her investment in lessons is paying dividends now that I am older and retired. Playing bridge has introduced me to a wonderful new group of friends and acquaintances.
Best of all, knowing an opening bid of 2 No Trump promises 20-21 points is considered far more important than knowing how to iron linen napkins or polish silver.

Peggy Sander - Junior Master

I first played bridge in 1997 after my father and father-in-law both passed away. We wanted an activity we could do with our mothers.So we took night-school classes of bridge. Those classes gave us the basic skills to be able to play social bridge.
However, I only played for a few years. Other than our mothers, not many people I knew actually played bridge.

Then in the summer of 2014 some friends mentioned they were taking bridge lessons from a great teacher in Ocean View. I'll have to admit I was a bit skeptical about taking lessons. Why would I need lessons? How hard could bridge be? I knew the basics. What else would there be to learn?

However, I decided to try these lesson. What a huge awakening! First of all, Dini Romito is a fantastic bridge teacher! She knows her stuff and presents it in a fun and challenging way. I am still amazed at all she knows and all I have yet to learn. She is kind, encouraging and very supportive!

In October of 2014 she suggested I join the ACBL. I had started playing duplicate in Ocean View and Rehoboth Beach, DE. She didn't want me to lose the points I had earned.
I've had some wonderful partners who have helped me along the way. I didn't earn those points by myself. Everyone I've partnered with has been kind and willing to share their knowledge and love of the game.

I have become obsessed with learning more and more about bridge. My bridge library currently contains 14 books. I read a little from one book, then switch to another, gathering information from well known experts.

One of the things I love about bridge is that you continue to learn every time you play. I still make lots of mistakes. However, I am starting to see them as I make them. Now I need to work at seeing them before I make them!

I never dreamed I would have so much fun and enjoyment from playing bridge.

Jane Ball - Gold Life Master

It has been fun. Some of the highlights are:
• My favorite partner getting deported.
• Driving the wrong way on the turnpike – thank you, Daisy.
• Getting a police escort when we were lost and late for a sectional.
• Taking Hugh Kelsey to brunch at the country club.
• Caddying when Terence Reese was playing.
• Getting rear-ended in Seattle with the English ladies bridge team in the back of the car.
• It is exciting to watch someone as brilliant as Meyer start to swing when he decides we need some good results.
• Losing a partner when I told her the double was ‘do something intelligent’. She took it personally.
• Retiring from bridge at 18 when I realized none of the bridge players in the bar at The London School of Economics ever graduated.
• Playing with a pickup partner at Lancaster and getting him his first gold points when Bobby Levin opened 1NT with a singleton, giving us a top on the last board.

I am surprised by how much I am enjoying teaching bridge. We have fun and laugh a lot. Easier to teach adults bridge than to teach adolescent boys math on a Friday afternoon.

One of the memorable things was playing on bbo with Jerry Blumenthal when he was in Jefferson for several months. It was a lifeline to the world. As sick as he was he sometimes played 55 boards in a day. We ‘talked’ even when we didn’t play.

My next goal is playing in the platinum pairs.

John Early - Club Master

I learned bridge around 8 years of age, my parents both played socially and I wanted to learn, so my mom would have me as her partner when she played with friends or family and my dad wasn't available. I played a little in college (I was a member of Lehigh University's bridge club in 1989 or so, but it wasn't a very active club). It was while playing in volleyball tournaments in the mid to late '90's, when some of my teammates and I would play bridge between matches, that I learned about duplicate and the ACBL.

I didn't join at that time, feeling too busy with work and other hobbies, but in 2010 I did join, part of putting my life back on track after major life changes. I still don't get to play as often as I would like, daytime games at the local clubs still conflict with work (my work now involves race cars; it used to be computer databases - did I mention major life changes?) but I have met some great people through the partnership desk at both sectionals and regionals, and found an excellent teacher at the Yorktown club, Bobbi Gomer, who has taught me much and encourages me. It was her encouraging me to play in a Pro/Am at the Yorktown club a few weeks ago, where I was partnered with Ellen Gordon, that I got the black points I needed to push me into the club master category. It will be interesting to see if I can get another couple of good games at Yorktown I may reach "section master" soon. All I need is black for that, too.

Kathy Hazen - Junion Master

It took me a year to achieve Junior Master status. I started playing in sanctioned games with my partner and we always came in last . . . for many months. It seemed like we would never climb out of the cellar against such great players. Then one day we found ourselves in the middle of the pack - that was a huge victory for us! A few months after that we came in first, we squealed with delight when the winners were announced (very unprofessional of us) but others shared our joy knowing how hard we had been trying. We had been taking lessons for about two years and playing against people who had been partners for 30 years. Our first victory was the result of good defense as we didn't have great cards that night. Perseverance is what I would recommend to anyone who is trying to gain master points. At least that's what worked for me!

Anola Vance - Junior Master

My bridge story began three and one half years ago when I joined the American Bridge Association.   I was informed about the American Contract Bridge Leagues' wonderful monthly Bridge Bulletin and immediately joined the ABCL two and a half years ago.

I briefly participated in Wendy Dechadarevian Thursday morning beginner bridge classes with Mardi Holliday as my partner and played a few Thursday beginners games at Raffles in 2013.  Unfortunately, I am only able to play at Raffles during July and August, which really limits my ACBL playing time.  I just completed my third ACBL sectional tournament on October 10, 2014, played in one Swiss game in July, 2014 and played in several sanctioned games aboard the Holland America line this past spring while cruising to India.  Needless to say, as a new player, earning ACBL points has been a long and arduous task - but I study and read bridge materials and books weekly.

Learning and playing bridge has been intellectually stimulating and challenging.  I am truly grateful to learn from experienced players that have guided and encouraged me.  A special thanks to my teacher and partner, Clayton White for his patience, mentoring and continued support!

Janet Stevens - Gold Life Master

After being a widow for 2 years, I met Charles Stevens who became widowed 2 years after we met.  Among other things, Charles was a bridge player.  He had had a hiatus of 20+ years and, now that he was semi-retired, he was playing more often.  He would describe hands he had played hours ago and sometimes days ago.  I was so interested that, when I found a new Sheinwold’s 35 days to Winning Bridge (the cover had been removed and the book cost $.50) at the local farmer’s market book stand, I purchased it.  As I read it, I became more intrigued, called the local bridge club and took a few lessons.  After the last lesson, we drew straws for partners and then played in the novice game.  Imagine my surprise and delight upon learning my partner and I came in 1st.  I was HOOKED!  The next novice game was 2 weeks hence.  I agreed to play and the director would arrange for a partner.
Doug Ober was the partner.  He had learned to play on the computer and, I believe, I was the first person with whom he played.  We shared a passion for the game as well as the desire to get the fundamentals (Bridge 101 I called it) down pat.  He was my 1st steady partner and played together for 3+ years.  We played in the twice monthly novice game, improved and then played weekly in the regular game  He often said “Trust is a must or your bowling game’s a bust”.  Trust each other and play as a partnership we did.
Charles invited me to go with him to Raffles—he to play and me to kibitz.  He felt that by listening to the bidding, watching declarer and defensive play I would gain a bit more knowledge.  I kibitzed Elsie, his partner.  She was a lovely, feisty lady who would say “Come and get me” when she was declarer.  Before her LHO or Charles would play a card, she had a card detached from a suit and 98% of the time it was the right suit and card.  I was amazed.  The next time I went to Raffles; again to kibitz, the wonderful Sue Raffles arranged a partner for me.  I protested that I was willing to kibitz but she pleasantly and kindly insisted that I play.  I don’t remember much of what happened that day but do know my poor, suffering partner graciously explained the WHY of what I did or should not have done.  Those Sundays were mentoring or Pro/Am games for me.  I learned something every time—much of which I still remember.  To this day, I am grateful to Sue Raffles and miss her very much.    
Doug, Charles and I studied conventions—one at a time and, when we understood it “upside down, inside out and backwards” we would add it to our convention card then go on to another one.  Charles and I married but Doug and I remained steady partners until his job was changed and he didn’t have the time to play.  Charles became my 2nd steady and most favorite partner.  Our partnership lasted 9+ years.  We traveled all over the United States, Canada, Mexico as well as a few other countries—sightseeing, visiting, and playing in local games or tournaments.  
In Georgia we met a couple who asked us to play in Knock Outs.  Not knowing what they were, Charles declined.  Once we learned about them and met other couples who asked us to play, we did.  We won Flight C Knock Outs in 2 Regionals with couples we met.  This helped us win almost all our needed gold.
My passion for bridge continued.  Charles referred to me as his bridgeaholic.  Tournaments are exciting.  We played against some of the great bridge players and met people with whom we arranged to visit or play with in other tournaments.
After Charles died, I continued to play in local clubs and some tournaments.  This helped the grief process.  One day a novice asked me to play.  As I enjoy playing and am willing to play with anyone, I agreed.  I wanted to share whatever knowledge I had and to give back.  I had played with excellent players in Philadelphia and asked better players in Reading to play with me at least once.  They did and shared their knowledge with me which was much appreciated.  Carl Cronrath, the novice, became my 3rd steady partner.  Like Doug, he had a passion for bridge, desire to learn and understand the game.  We played together for about 6 years in local clubs and tournaments.  I was already an EasyBridge presenter and an ACBL Accredited Teacher.  We also became directors, started a game endeavoring to reach new players and incorporate them into the bridge world.  I directed and he taught.  The last game I directed had 16 tables.  How gratifying!  Carl has retired and is now managing a club in Fla.
One of the most moving moments in my bridge life to this point was the fact that two of our players won the Flight C NAP.  They were sent to St Louis to play in the Nationals.  One of the pair, Betsy Kunkleman, took lessons from us and played in most every game.  I don’t think she will mind if I mention that she was 78 or so when she started with us and never played bridge a day in her life.
It is with abundant gratitude that I thank my 3 steady partners as well as the many other partners I have had over the years.  Some have passed on but many remain.  I can’t name them all but I sincerely enjoyed each and every game in which I ever played with them.        

Jeff Sprowles - NABC Master

In 1970 my brother, several of his college buddies, Dudley Hendricks and I learned Precision.   Until then I had played socially using 4 card major openings.

Our team played competitively until my brother left the area to go to grad school.    I did not play competitively from 1971 until late 2008.    In 2007 my brother visited from the left coast and we put together a social duplicate game which was enjoyed by all.    This event grew organically into a social non-sanctioned duplicate game that plays monthly.    I now have 100 e-mails on the list.    We usually play between nine and twelve tables.    Several of those who started at Bridge-O-Rama have graduated to playing in sanctioned games.

In 2008 Dudley Hendricks asked if I would be willing to learn Precision to play competitively with him.    We started practicing every Tuesday evening.   It took us over a year to master the system.   We would have dinner and then do two or three Bidding Box exercises from the ACBL Bridge Bulletin.

We started playing at Dotty Lou’s Boutique and Bridge Studio every Sunday in December 2008.    Because of the weak no trump, asking bids and strong 1 club opener we did reasonably well.    

The high point of my career to date is playing at the Regional Knock Outs in Philadelphia attached to the world tournament in October 2010.    At the time Dudley and I each had earned less than 6 master points.   Fern Herman and Patty Bassman asked us to play Knockouts with them to use our low point total to play in a bracket (as Patty put it) against “people we can beat.”

We won our bracket and earned 10.87 gold points.    Dudley would like to know if that is some kind of record for first time gold point winning or a member point total where gold was two thirds of our total.  

Dudley stopped playing competitively two years ago.    Therefore, I have learned 2/1 and other conventions and defensive techniques playing with regular partners Ralph Collins and Richard Perlman and numerous occasional partners including Tom Sakaguchi (2/1) and Jane Ball (Precision).    

The ACBL serves me very well and I am pleased with the District 4 administration.    I very much enjoy and value the game at Dotty Lou's Boutique and Bridge Studio.    I also enjoy playing at Barbara Patterson's Ami Bridge game for 299ers.    I read the Bridge Bulletin cover to cover every month.


Ed Kung - Bronze Life Master
I started playing bridge in war time China in 1944, learning from a friend of my parents and Eli Culbertson's book. Next period I played was in the sixties, in an industrial league in Pittsburgh, PA. My partner was the director of the game. I learned from him and from Goren's book. After another very long absence, I resumed playing in 2009 and find the game much more interesting due to the vast literature now available. This time I am approaching the game as another language to be mastered.

I like the Zero Tolerance policy which most bridge clubs and tournaments try to enforce. I wish the convention card has a place to describe one level response to a one level opening bid. Some one level responses today are very light. I have found myself at a disadvantage when I forgot to ask the opponents about their range.

Linda Dutton - Junior Master
I finally joined ACBL last year. What was I waiting for? I played bridge as a teenager, college player in between lunch and my 1 pm class, ladies bridge groups, a few couples games. Then in about 2010, I decided to play a bit more seriously inspired by my sister, Marcia Bryant, a silver master, director and cruise director. I finally learned enough to be her assistant on a couple cruises!!! I also took more lessons so I could play duplicate team bridge. All along, I said "no reason to try for Masterpoints - an impossible goal!! " My husband, Drew was the real impetus to join ACBL and be eligible for masterpoints - He said over and over- "just try- you can do it"- and so I did - and so I tried - and so I have. Hooray!!!
But...the more I played, the more I learned, the more addicted I got, the more fun it was, the more challenge it was! I play a bunch of sports (bridge is sorta a sport, right?) - golf, tennis, paddle, pickleball- but probably the most challenging and equally as hard is bridge. So... I finally joined ACBL and earned some masterpoints, (what fun!!), played in a few regional events, and played supervised bridge in Boca Raton. This program inspired me to start a supervised bridge program at my club. I was lucky enough to find Ala-Hamilton Day from our local area to teach for us. What a great find!!! She was perfect, knowledgable, fun and inspiring. That program has been a wonderful success.

Now I play 2-3 times a week, once in a while I get .45 masterpoint, continue to learn and hopefully improve. Getting masterpoints is icing on the cake. Getting a masterpoint encourages me to try to learn more so I might get a couple more!!! I love bridge and all the challenges it provides. ( plus the ACBL magazine with tons of tips and strategies is great).

Harriet Rellis - Life Master

I retired ten years ago and was looking for a hobby. My husband saw an ad about a free bridge lesson, which I pursued, and I started accumulating points in duplicate bridge. My excellent teacher, Bobbie Gomer, suggested that we all go to tournaments, so I played for free in Cherry Hill, NJ on a Tuesday, because I had less than five points.

I became an addict in no time at all. Bridge opened a whole new world to me, and I met so many nice people in the process. Shortly, I was on the quest to become a life master. I’ve had many nice partners over the years, and I’ve attended regionals in Valley Forge; Wilmington; Lancaster; Cherry Hill, NJ; Hunt Valley, MD; Ellenton, FL; Gatlinburg, TN, and Saratoga Springs, NY. I also worked hard to accumulate the needed silver points at sectionals in many states. So I’ve had some disappointments, such as losing a match by one IMP, and some successes now that I’ve become a life master.

I plan to continue the quest to become a bronze life master, and also to help others achieve their goals.

 

Billie Ohlbaum - Silver Life Master
I am thrilled to be getting my Silver Life Master. My mother, who played duplicate till she was 100 years old, would have been very proud to see me achieve this.

My husband, Paul, is usually my partner and I believe our 53 year marriage as well as our long bridge partnership has survived because whatever happens, he always says it was his fault. Who can argue with this?

Together we have taught and I’ve directed on many bridge cruises as well as at our local club, the Mohawk Valley Bridge Association. I am proud to say our club is one in which everyone gets along and seldom does anyone have to be reminded about behavior. Everyone seems to enjoy each other and the atmosphere is definitely one of friendship and support.

There’s no game like bridge and we hope to be playing it together for many years to come!

Judy Jackson - Silver Life Master

I feel as though it has taken me a long time to reach this goal but I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every minute, hour & year of trying.

I started my bridge playing while living in Delaware, I heard of a great teacher by the name of Evelyn Levitt. I signed up and took many lessons and became good friends with Evelyn. We still run a tournament in Delaware to honor her. After several lessons Evelyn encouraged us to play in some tournaments. I really enjoyed Lancaster and still do. I also enjoyed Harrisburg, Wilmington, Hunt Valley, Baltimore and Cherry Hill. Once at Cherry Hill my partner and I sat down to play against two very nice men. After we finished the round, the one man told me that I was a very good player. I found out later that this kind gentleman was the great Paul Soloway!

I have been fortunate to play under great teachers and directors like Orlin Norder, Bill Laffey and Tom Ciconte and once a week with my friend and great player, the wonderful Arnie Fisher. I have also had the honor of playing many times against Hall of Famer, Dave Treadwell. Dave would always tell me a joke first, then tell me if I did good, or give me a little lesson if I didn't do good! I now play about three times a week and still enjoy every time.

I think that local games as well as tournaments are hurting for new players. The costs have gotten very high and the more experienced players are not as nice as years ago. We need more of those patient, friendlier and tolerant people like Paul Soloway, Dave Treadway and Arnie Fisher.

Luigi Lenaz - NABC Master

When I retired about 5 years ago my wife was concerned that I might not know what to do with myself, as I had only worked all my life and never developed any hobby or significant leisure activity other than reading and listening to music. While I was slowly sinking into a lazy depression she found in the local paper that there was a series of bridge lessons for beginners in the adult education program at a nearby high school, and she registered me. She also joined, I guess to make sure that I was indeed attending the lessons. She had played in college, but not kept it up. The lessons were given by Dottie Ehling, and later on I found out that she owned a bridge club in the area and was one of the area bridge icons, having been playing and teaching bridge for next to ever.
I found the game challenging and fascinating from the very beginning, and after a short period of occasional playing social bridge I decided to take more lessons and get better. At these lessons I also had the good fortune of finding a fellow student who turned out to be a neighbor, and become my main bridge partner. Together we timidly ventured into trying duplicate bridge at a local non-sanctioned club about 2.5 years ago, gradually became more confident and the addiction took over.
My wife also took up the game again and I dragged her to play duplicate with a friend. Unfortunately she is not as committed, but she remains supportive and continues to listen patiently to my bridge problems and is ready to discuss all the hands I just played when I come back home from a game.

Pretty soon bridge players were the majority of our social group, and bridge dominated my life, including spending Christmas/New Year vacations at some regional in the south. After getting my first master point in February 2012, I got addicted to trying to reach higher and higher levels. Now my goal is that of reaching Life Master in the next two years. Probably too optimistic, but I will give it a try. I continue to find bridge incredibly stimulating and always challenging; hopefully it will also help in keeping away brain decline as long as possible.
In my quest for master points I owe a lot of gratitude to Dianne, my wife, who has been supportive even when practically becoming a bridge widow, to Jeff, my main partner with whom I shared great satisfactions and crushing defeats, to Dottie, my first teacher, and to my current one, Jane Ball, who is also willing to play with me and to endure patiently my naive mistakes.


Barbara Stepanek
NABC Master

I've been playing duplicate for many years, but my interest peeked when I retired. I took a few lessons from the Bridge Studio. I attended my first national tournament in Philadelphia. My partner and I were so excited when we won our first gold points. This spring, my long-time partner, Marci Abbott, and I attended the Wilmington Regional. We received 8 gold points. We're looking forward to our next tournament.

I've made so many good friends - its a wonderful game.