A Long Quest By Richard Clemmons, Unit 373, Life Master

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.