Pretty much most of us play bridge because of the game itself. Fascinating, intriguing, never-able-to-be-mastered, confounding ... All that and more is why we play.
Yet, the game itself is not the only reason we keep on returning - year after year - decade after decade!
It's the friendships and the partnerships that we develop. And sometimes - for half a century!
Bill Voedisch tells his own personal tale of partnership and bridge. Thanks so much, Bill!
“Bridge with Denny” … A 50-Year Partnership
I played my first hand of bridge with Denny Cerkvenik in the summer of 1967. We were newly hired computer programmers at Cargill in Mpls, and it started with just a casual lunchtime game with Denny and I paired against two other programmers. Although we had all played the game for a few years, we knew one thing; there must be way more to bridge than the game we were playing.
Our first duplicate game
Denny and I played our first duplicate game in the fall of ‘67 in the Minneapolis Industrial League. I recall two teams from Honeywell, one featuring Stoop Chamberlain. By 1968 two partnerships were forming; Denny began playing with college friend Arnie Ullevig as I formed a partnership with Kurt Dahl of Cargill. But we would also mix the partnerships up, and starting in ’68, Denny and I would occasionally try the Bridge Studio on Nicollet in Mpls.
We formed a team … Denny and Arnie, Kurt and I … for the first Swiss event ever played in Minnesota, held at the Calhoun Beach Hotel as I recall, in the fall of 1968. We were ecstatic to finish 5-3 in this open event, holding about 10 total master points among us. I remember the chaos of the event, perhaps only a person or two in the room who knew how to organize the thing, trying to explain IMP scoring to the uninformed mob. In talking to Ron DeHarpporte and Larry Oakey this past year, both confirmed they were there.
The early players
Some of the players and pairs of the day: Dorothy Kanter and Hugh McLean, David Clarren and Newt Dochman, Morrie Freier and Ethyl Dayboch, Essie Mersky with Larry Oakey or Arlene Hill, Jack Rhatigan with two Mike’s ... Myers or Hoffman, Beulah Schockett and Margarite Grue, Irv and Roz Steinfeldt, the “Rangers” (Dave Lehman and Dick Melson, Howie Weinstein and Steve Garner), Dave Nicklasson with Jim Leary or Chuck Stegeman, C. Milton Shefchek and Dorene King, Jon Voedisch and Terry Beckman, John Larson and Gary Krook, Ron and Joyce DeHarpporte, and Jim Hall who paired with many top players.. You knew John Larson was in the room if you pulled Braille cards out of the board.
In the early 70’s we added Roger Heimke and Jim Sundlin as Dahl moved out of state. We hired Howie Weinstein to teach us the Montreal Relay system. We all adopted that system allowing us to interchange pairings. As a team we were known as “the Polish Army,” a tag given to us by Oakey. While Denny and Arnie dabbled in Precision, Denny and I stuck to “Standard Howie.” We would travel to a few local tournaments and one National, Chicago in ’72, which is an insane story on its own.
Along the way we earned enough points for Life Master, Denny in ’78, me in ’80. In those days our gold points often came playing against the top players, who we would beat occasionally. Over time Arnie moved West, Roger moved South and Sundlin sort of vanished. Denny and I continued to play but in the early ‘80’s I pulled away from the game and played very little as Denny continued to play with others. My occasional games were with Denny.
Sometime in the ‘90’s he said I needed to get serious and start playing more, and we did. I am grateful to this day for his prodding.
Neither of us has ever been a frequent player. Family and other priorities were a factor for both of us. We don’t travel to tournaments or go to Nationals unless we are there representing District 14 in the NAP or GNT, something we have been proud to do seven times. Our biggest wins were five District Championships in those “grass roots” events. Alas, our best finishes at the national finals were 6th in the NAP and 5-8 in the GNT.
If you get a chance to play with Denny, count yourself fortunate. An excellent and steady player, his decorum at the table is exceptional. Never critical of partner or opponent, and hands are discussed away from the table. Sometimes his golf shirts are so loud they blind me, but other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.
So thank you Denny, for a half century of modest success yet total enjoyment at the bridge table.