In a career that spans more than 40 years, Bob Hamman collected nearly every accolade available. He has been the No. 1 player in World Bridge Federation rankings since 1985, has won nine world championships, dozens of North American titles, and he was the first person to earn ACBL Player of the Year honors twice.
The only gap in his resume was that he had not been elected to the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame. The reason: he wasn’t old enough.
When the Hall of Fame was resurrected by the ACBL Board of Directors in 1994, the ground rules for election were that living members had to be at least 60. Hamman reached that milestone in 1998 and was an automatic choice for the Hall in his first year of eligibility.
One of the qualities that secured Hamman’s place among the legends of the game is a relentless drive to be the best. Former partner Bobby Wolff still regards Hamman as possibly the best analyst in the history of the game.
Even top experts marvel at Hamman’s mental toughness, manifested most prominently in his unparalleled ability to leave hands already played completely in the past. Even Hamman, generally loath to toot his own horn, is proud of that quality.
In his book, Michael Rosenberg talks about playing with Hamman in the Open Pairs at the World Bridge Championship in Albuquerque in 1994. Rosenberg recounts how he misplayed a 5 contract and went down, costing the pair first place. Rosenberg marvels at how, after the game, Hamman eschewed recriminations, focusing instead on a deep analytical point in the play involving the spade spots.
Hamman did the same thing in an article he wrote for the now-defunct BOLS Bridge Tips competition. In the piece, Hamman rakes himself over the coals for something that never happened. The occasion was the 1991 team trials. Hamman and Wolff opposed Richard Pavlicek and Bill Root late in the final.
Against a 4*H* contract, Hamman led the *D*10 from a doubleton. He got in at trick two and led his other diamond. Wolff came in at trick four but did not immediately return a diamond for Hamman to ruff. After the deal was over (Hamman did get his ruff), Hamman discussed his state of mind while waiting for Wolff to play. He criticized himself for not thinking about another way to defeat the contract — there was one — had Wolff not returned the diamond. Hamman looked at the deal as a great lesson hand in keeping one’s eye on the ball.
Today, Hamman is the very busy owner of a prize promotion business in Dallas.
It has been a long time since a young Bob Hamman made the rounds of the rubber-bridge clubs of the Los Angeles area, knocking heads with the best players of his day.
Along the way to the pinnacle, Hamman has been a member of the fabled Aces, the first full-time professional bridge team in the world; has won more than 30 North American championships and nine world titles; has been second many more times than he cares to think about; has been named ACBL Honorary Member of the Year (1991) and has become a WBF Grand Master and an ACBL Grand Master.
Hamman was inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame in July 1999 in San Antonio TX.