While serving in the US Air Force in Taiwan in 1960, I learned to play Double-Deck Pinochle. The Non-Commissioned-Officers (NCO) Club there held regular Pinochle tournaments with cash prizes, and I enjoyed playing a partnership card game. After a couple of months, a friend from my home state of Wisconsin approached a few of us and suggested that we learn to play Bridge, which also happened to be a partnership game. He loaned me his copy of Charles Goren’s book, and I read it cover-to-cover. We began to play rubber bridge in the NCO club. There might be two or three tables of Pinochle taking place, but there was also usually one table where the airmen and soldiers were playing bridge.
It wasn’t long before my friend became disenchanted with the simple Goren form of the game, and learned the Italian Neapolitan Club bidding system that was then in use by one of the pairs on the Italian Blue Team, the current world Bridge champions at the time. I dutifully learned the Neapolitan Club system, and we did well with it, even though it was highly artificial and complex. The fun was short-lived however, as my friend and playing partner was transferred to Bangkok, and bridge came to an end for me.
I didn’t play bridge again until after both of us had left the Air Force, and ten years later both of us were working at a mainframe computer company based in St. Paul, Minnesota. I moved to St. Paul with my family, but only lived there for about a year, so I did not play a lot of bridge. That changed when I moved to Ohio and met a computer programmer who liked to play duplicate bridge. I played at a local club a few times, and then at a tournament in Cleveland. I immediately became hooked. I joined the ACBL in 1976 and began my long and interrupted quest to become a Life Master.
The next step, of course, was to learn a less-artificial bidding system, so I learned to play a modified version of C.C. Wei’s Precision system. I found a couple of different partners in my then area of residence, the upper Midwest, and we did well, even though I was traveling a lot and could not play often. My Air Force friend would occasionally travel to my home and we would play in Regional and Sectional tournaments in the upper Midwest, culminating in the NABC in Chicago during the summer of 1980.
At that point, I started a new business venture, and my Bridge playing had to take a back seat to my business priorities. I did not play Bridge again until 2018, when I began to play at Atria-Seville in Las Vegas. Soon, I had a couple of regular partners, and began playing at all of the sanctioned clubs in Las Vegas and Henderson. Unfortunately, nobody I knew seemed to want to play Precision, so I relearned Standard American, and began to play that system.
I noticed that my partners and I would often be beaten by players who were playing the Two Over One Game Forcing system, so I learned that system in 2019 and began playing it regularly with my then-partner, Greg Bohn. It, along with my excellent partners, including Greg, Tom Moore, Barbara Dunkley, and Duane Beisner, allowed me to complete the requirements for Life Master last month online at the ACBL Regional Tournament. Now I have a new quest: Bronze Life Master.
My parents were accomplished bridge players and starred in the one game held Thursday nights in Lancaster, PA. My father retired from family medicine at age 53 due to a failing heart. He and my mother wintered in Florida, playing bridge together exclusively until he died. After that, bridge became a lifeline for my mother. She is now in her 90s and has earned more than 6,000 masterpoints.
I learned the game during my sophomore year at Brandeis University where I became president of the bridge club. Bridge was popular in New England and there was good competition with other universities such as Harvard and MIT.
My first foray into tournament bridge was a Friday master pairs game held at a Boston sectional. I played with my then girlfriend and we rolled up a 23% game. Everyone commented on how nice it was to have young people playing and then proceeded to rip us to pieces.
I began to take bridge seriously while attending medical school in Philadelphia. By the third year I was making The McKenney list. In those days the regional winners were photographed for the ACBL Bulletin. I did my best to hide the magazine from my parents. My excellent partners continued to improve my game. I played with Billy Gough, Joey Livezey, Jay Apfelbaum, Craig Robinson, Arnie Fisher and Dave Treadwell.
In my second year of Medical School I met Carole Gold at the Lancaster Regional. It was love at first sight for me and we were married in 1979. Carole taught bridge in Lancaster inspiring her students to play and to eventually teach bridge themselves. Soon there were five games per week.
When I joined my father in family medicine work consumed most of my time. I played infrequently for 15 years. For 10 of those years I worked alone. The fall nationals came to Lancaster in 1989. Three friends and I entered the North American Swiss Teams, a six-session event. My partner Ken Meyer and I played a Precision system and our teammates Eugene Gardner and Ed Shapiro played a Blue Team Club. I worked during the event with morning office hours and hospital rounds. I am on the short list of national champions who worked and took calls while winning. The final day featured very strong competition. In his New York Times article, Alan Truscott called us “The Cinderella Team.” Actually, we were “Princes Charming” — a regular team and partnerships who had achieved much success.
In the late ‘90s, Carole and I became snowbirds buying a home in Scottsdale, AZ. I continued working in Lancaster and gradually spent more time in AZ. Our son Stephen Gold, a wonderful physician, slowly took over management of the practice and we remain independent today. We also have a daughter Gale Gold Nichols who is Executive Director of the Kelly School of Business MBA Program at Indiana University. We now spend about half our time in Scottsdale and play much more bridge.
We enjoy the bridge in the West. Carole and I have played many tournaments and have had excellent results with our dear friends Buddy Marsh and Marianne Spanier. I have an excellent partnership with Markland Jones and consider other fine players like Ben Blacik, Ken Titow, Harv Sidhu and Ken Klein to be friends and partners. To say bridge has been a large part of my life would be an understatement. As we all know, bridge is a fascinating and challenging game. I would not have met my beautiful and talented wife were it not for bridge. We have made many wonderful friends in Arizona through bridge. Bridge helped us acclimate to our new home in Scottsdale. We hope to see everyone back at the table soon.
JB and Shari Smart, Gilbert, AZ, placed third in the North American Online Bridge Championships 0-1500 Pairs event, Sunday March 21. JB and Shari Smart, Gilbert, AZ, placed third overall in the North American Online Bridge Championships 0-1500 pairs event Sunday, March 21, 2021. It was worth a whopping 22.47 gold. Shari has now met her gold requirement for Life Master and, as usual, JB is close behind.
The pair played steady over two days during all four sessions of bridge. In the first session on Saturday they had a 58.12 percent, second in session and 13th overall. Their second session was 51.42 percent, 4th in session and qualified 23rd overall. Sixty pairs qualified out of a field of 122 for Sunday’s final two sessions. In Sunday’s third session they scored a 53.71 percent, fifth in session and 12th overall. They finished the fourth and final session with a 59.55 percent game, second in section and third overall in the event.
JB and Shari were surprised to finish third overall since they were just playing steady bridge. They said they didn’t do anything spectacular but also didn’t make too many game-changing mistakes.
“Lots of coffee and a little calculated risk taking seemed to be a good formula,” commented JB.
JB and Shari took their first bridge lessons in 2010 while on a cruise ship. Life got too busy and they didn’t get back to playing more bridge until 2018. For the last two years, Shari has won the Unit 351 Mini-McKenney Race and was the Ace of Clubs champion for her masterpoint level. She just edged out JB in both races in 2019 by .12mp. In 2020, she increased her lead over JB. He is such a nice guy to let Shari win. He just didn’t want to have to sleep on the couch.
Congratulations to this couple and good luck in the future.
In 2020, I planned to go to as many tournaments as possible to reach my goal of Silver Life Master (SLM) by the end of the year. Due to the pandemic I played my last face-to-face tournament at the Tucson Winter Regional in March. After being shut down and realizing that it was going to last for some time, I decided to get my SLM another way. Here in Sierra Vista, AZ we have a very small club but many great bridge players. Since I can’t stand playing with robots I took this opportunity of playing with several of these players on BBO. Not only did I learn a lot of good bridge but I also got my SLM with one day to spare in the year. High Desert Hands Bridge Club of Sunsites, an even smaller club than ours, was able to continue their game for many months, and we were able to play in a lot of them. So as terrible as the year was, I was able to put some of my spare time to good use and accomplish something worthwhile for me.
I started playing “party” bridge for the first time when I moved to Sierra Vista in 2020.
In the fall of 2013 my good friend and my bridge mentor, Margaret Glenn, convinced me to try bridge at our local club –Thunder Mountain. In November of 2013 I went with Margaret to my first bridge tournament in Tucson. While there she persuaded me to join the ACBL. I earned 12 masterpoints in Tucson. I was ecstatic and I was hooked!
Through the years Margaret has spent hours with untold patience mentoring me. I can’t thank her enough. My thanks also to our most constant partners at tournaments Jan Dragoo and Mary Blanchard.
While I enjoy playing bridge online with a partner I must say playing with a crazed robot is a challenge.
I try to play bridge three times a week at Thunder Mountain Bridge Club in Sierra Vista, AZ which I sincerely hope can re-open. We also play at the High Desert Hands Bridge Club of Sunsites.
I love going to tournaments, meeting new and seeing old friends, enjoying new places and new restaurants as well.
We bridge lovers all hope in this ever-changing world that the game we love so much will survive.
I started playing at ACBL when a partner at Duplicate asked me to go to the Bridge Club of Baltimore as she needed black points. Additional partners, Bridge lessons and a few years later, I achieved Life Master. Then, 5 years ago, we moved from Clarksville, Maryland to Broomfield, Colorado. Since coming here, I’ve played with several faithful partners at Boulder, Anthem Ranch and Golden from whom I’ve learned from and who’ve made it rewarding and fun. The very existence of Bridge Base On-Line (BBO) during the Pandemic has been a super blessing. BBO enabled me to continue playing with them and maintain friendships. At BBO I can play more often; against and with people throughout the world and in the robot world; achieving Silver Life Master. I’ve met so many interesting people playing bridge and look forward to seeing everyone once again playing those challenging games at the local club. Luv Colorado!
Like many bridge players, I first became exposed to bridge watching my parents play. They used to play “social” bridge with their friends in London but, as I recall as a kid, the only time my parents ever argued was over the bridge table. Their friends were even worse – hurling nasty insults across the table which, as a 10 or 11 year old kid, was somewhat unsettling to my impressionable ears. Anyway, I quickly learned the basics of the game and formed a foursome with three of my school friends who had also watched their parents play.
From the age of 11 or 12, we played regularly every Saturday night, starting at 7 or 8 pm and going through until 4 or 5 in the morning for the next 4 or 5 years. It was then that I realized that my other friends had begun to date and I quickly concluded that there were much more interesting ways to spend my Saturday nights and so the weekly bridge game disbanded.
I didn’t return to bridge again until my mid-twenties. I was in South Africa at the time working for an insurance company and began to play in the national insurance industry bridge league. My regular partner was an imposing Scottish alcoholic whose performance as a bridge player resembled a normal distribution bell curve. To be specific, he was a merely average player if he hadn’t had a drink all day but his performance improved dramatically as his alcohol intake increased and then, later, fell off a cliff. At the bridge table, I got to learn quickly the point when his abilities peaked, and urged him at that point to slow his drinking down so we could enjoy his masterful play for as long as possible. Unfortunately, there were too many occasions when he rapidly deteriorated but there was one game I particularly remember. We were down to play in a Swiss teams event in the insurance industry league against by far the best team. Each individual member was the local equivalent of a Grand Life Master or better. Not only were they very good but they knew it too and, as I recall, had never lost a game. As the game began, they clearly relished the thought of pummeling us into the ground, particularly as my partner had his drinks neatly lined up on the side table. To cut a long story short, we beat them, thanks mainly to my partner’s alcohol-induced masterful psych bidding. We were narrowly ahead at the break and I remember them being so bamboozled that they went into a huddle for 10 or 15 minutes.
After I left South Africa, I didn’t play competitive bridge again until I retired several years ago – a 40-year hiatus. It was then that I joined Mountainview Bridge Club and was surprised to encounter bidding boxes for the first time and strange mechanical scoring devices. What was even stranger was that no-one played Acol. After my first embarrassing game at Mountainview, I took a few weeks off to read up on Standard American and, later, 2/1. After returning armed with my newly gained knowledge of American bidding systems, I started to become a little more confident – until I made an illegal bid. The bidding had gone 1D/IH before it came to me to bid. I had four spades and decided quickly that I had a perfect hand for a negative double. I confidently doubled and, to my dismay, there was a pause and then all three players around the table, almost in unison, and my partner being the loudest, called for the director. Well, I’d doubled my partner. Even the director didn’t know how to handle that one and had to retrieve her book.
To conclude, I never expected that bridge would be a significant part of my life as a retiree but the camaraderie at Mountainview, Northwest Tucson and at other clubs and local tournaments, despite the current hiatus, has ensured that will continue.
By Jerry and Terry Neuman, Life Masters, Unit 356, April 2021. We each learned bridge as teenagers although neither of us would ever categorize it as a significant part
By David Barbour, Unit 374. I first played bridge in high school with a small group of friends. I started to play regularly in college,