I was born in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. I moved to Edmonton in 1958, so I feel 50 years qualifies me as an Edmontonian. I started bridge in 1965 as a fill-in for a game at the Students Union Building at the University of Alberta. I thought I knew how to play bridge, as I had watched the play the previous day. Not correct! After losing consistently at 1/10 of a cent in these games, I decided I had better do something about it. Consequently, I went to the Edmonton Public Library and, over time, read every book on bridge it had. The next year, I was representing the U of A in inter-collegiate bridge matches (par tournaments, as they were called). Bridge was big in those days (1966) and the U of A had 17 tables of duplicate each week. Eventually, I got a B.Sc. in Computing Science; however, I was not yet ready to join the cruel, real world. I became a bridge pro and made my living by playing rubber bridge and on pro teams. I had a few clients of my own but I did not actively solicit clients. I joined the ACBL in 1967 and became Edmonton’s 7th life master in 1969 at age 22.
By 1972, I felt I had had enough of making my living as a bridge player. For the next 30 years I worked for the Federal Government as a Systems Software Analyst. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, I semi-retired from tournament bridge, as marriage, working, family, etc. seemed to get in the way. I played just rubber bridge and CNTC events for much of that time. Considering retirement from work, I yearned to be a golf bum. I retired and did just that, playing multiple gambling games on the golf course with my golfing buddies. I rejoined tournament bridge in 2002 and began frequenting the bridge club once again, partnering with Peter Jones for Thursday night IMP’s.
Throughout my bridge career, I have been lucky to have very good partners: Dick Grant, Mike Chomyn, Bryan Maksymetz, Vish Viswanathan, Subash Gupta, Peter Jones, and Tom Gandolfo, to mention only a few. During the 1970’s, Edmonton seemed to dominate the GNT event for our district and zone. I was on a team that made the final 8 at Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, and the final 4 in Toronto. Unfortunately for us, we drew teams like Soloway and Goldman, Kantar and Eisenberg. Somehow they managed to beat us! In 1980, I captained a team that made the semi-finals of the inaugural CNTC event [see article by Eric Kokish from the Bridge World].
My bridge philosophy is that bridge is a partnership game. Invite partner to “join the party” rather than flying solo and making all the bridge decisions yourself. There is a beauty to a finely tuned partnership that trusts and respects the other person. My pet peeve in bridge is “bridge terrorism”: solo artists who think the only purpose of bridge is to destroy the opponents’ auctions. They open on anything, pre-empt on anything and take partner right out of the picture. I do not mind playing against these types of players, just not with them as a partner or a teammate.
My first regional tournament I remember quite well as I was disciplined along with my partner, Lee Barton, for having a 25 percent game in a pairs event. Lee and I had not figured out yet that the idea was not to drink an entire bottle of Scotch while playing a regional event. The head director, Phil Wood, was not amused. The event was played at the McDonald Hotel, if I remember correctly. I also remember the pros complaining that there were “too many good local players”, so there were not cleaning up as much as they wanted to. They offered the theory that it was so cold in Edmonton that the locals had nothing better to do than read bridge books!
During the 1970’s, Lee Barton and I won the right to represent Canada in the world Olympiad held in New Orleans. In one of the sessions, we came to a table that was three rows deep with female kibitzers. Lee and I had our Canada badges on; we exchanged glances with them and discovered that the opponents represented Egypt. There was one guy the women seemed to find particularly attractive. His name was Omar Sharif. Lee and I got to a nice spot on the first board, so the mood changed for the opponents. The next board Omar put his partner in 3NT and Lee lead the ♠Q with ♠Kxx hitting the dummy. Declarer played small; I had ♠92 so I played the 9. The queen held the trick and Lee continued the ♠J; declarer played small again. Lee now cashed his Ace and two more spades for down one in a hand cold for 660. The commotion that came later did not seem like acting, so Lee and I made a hasty retreat. Within earshot of the opponents, Lee said to me (and this is a direct quote): “Bob, Homer the Sheriff is not so tough.” J
In my retirement, I have rekindled my interest in bidding theory. I have built a web site devoted to discussing bidding theory and have written over 2000 articles on various bidding subjects. Since I think bidding is the most teachable aspect of bridge, I use these articles as a mentoring tool as well. As people learn at their own rate and moods, this approach works as they can either read the articles or ignore them. I get about 1000 visitors a week on my site but the sad state of affairs with bridge in North America surfaces. The majority of the visitors are from Europe and other countries throughout the world and virtually none from Alberta or Canada. This is a reflection of what is going on with bridge on this continent. At the last Nationals in Detroit, of the first 25 leaders of the masterpoints at the tournament, most were Europeans. It seems that very few players from Canada want to excel at their hobby. This must be turned around somehow.
My future plan in bridge is to return to playing at a higher level. Retirement allows me the time to play more and I miss the top-level competition of years gone by. I enjoy the challenge of competing against the better and best players in the world.