As a high school senior, Norman Kay was invited to play bridge with a friend and his family.
I’d love to,” was his reply, “but I don’t play bridge.”
“Oh, that’s no problem,” said the friend. “Come over a half-hour early and I’ll teach you.”
That 30-minute lesson paid dividends as Kay — one of ACBL’s top players for more than four decades — was inducted into the Bridge Hall of Fame in 1996.
Kay was named ACBL’s top performance player for the double decade 1957-1977.
Partnered by Sidney Silodor before his death in 1963 and later by Edgar Kaplan, Kay had 13 major wins in those 20 years: two Spingolds, four Vanderbilts, four Reisingers, one Blue Ribbon and two Open Pairs.
He was a World Bridge Federation Life Master who placed second in the Bermuda Bowl in 1961 and 1967, and second in the World Olympiad Teams in 1968 and third in 1960.
He also placed fifth in the World Open Pairs in 1982 and sixth in the Rosenblum Teams in 1986 and tenth in 1982.
An ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 12,500 masterpoints, Kay won the McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500) in 1955. His other North American championships are four additional wins in the Vanderbilt and the Reisinger.
He was also second in the Vanderbilt three times and the Spingold five times.
“I have been very fortunate,” said Kay. “My two regular partners were Sidney and Edgar, both super players.”
Super player Kaplan characterized Kay as “a very sensitive and caring partner. He is not only thinking about his own problems but about the problems partner may face — he’s taking care of partner.
“And if things go wrong — no matter how stupid I am, I feel this vast beam of love from the other side of the table and Norman says, ’How could you do anything else?’ “
“Kay,” said Kaplan, “has a very sweet nature — unusual in a bridge player. In fact, it sometimes seems that the opponents think Kay has made a defensive mistake or has decided to help declarer make the hand. It’s not true — Norman is very competitive — but because of his sweet nature, they think he just may be on their side.”
As a player, said Kaplan, Kay “is among the best I’ve ever seen.”
Kay may have sometimes been slow, Kaplan allowed, “but what soothes my stomach is that when Norman goes into a huddle, we’re usually about to win 10 IMPs.”
The two were partners for more than 40 years. “I chose Norman as a partner,” says Kaplan, “and I never let go. I don’t intend to.”
Kay was a retired stock broker who owned harness horses from 1970 to 1987. After his retirement he was in the baseball card business with wife Judy and son Larry.
Larry, Kay noted, “never took to bridge” while daughter Robin, who lives in New York , has been very active.
Kay was the author — with Silodor and Fred Karpin — of The Complete Book of Duplicate Bridge, published in 1965 and reprinted in 1993.