Gerald Michaud, a frequent Nail partner, remembered the diminutive Texan as “my friend always, my partner often. “He was exceptional in many respects,” said Michaud. “He had unerring accuracy on defense.” Michaud called Nail, “a Gentleman of Bridge. He practiced Active Ethics long before the ACBL adopted that program.”
Robert “Bobby” Nail won four North American championships and had 11 seconds. He represented the United States twice in the Bermuda Bowl, finishing second in 1963. He was a Life Master in World Bridge Federation rankings and an ACBL Grand Life Master with more than 10,000 masterpoints.
Born with a rare bone disease (osteogenesis imperfecta) Nail spent much of his youth in hospitals. Most people with his disease, he once said, didn’t live much past their twenties. The diminutive Nail — he was about five feet tall — made the most of his time. Stories about his adventures and misadventures abound.
During the pair trials for the 1964 World Bridge Olympiad, Nail and Jim Jacoby were playing against upstarts Bob Hamman and Don Krauss (the eventual winners) and were performing particularly poorly. At one point in the match, Nail took Jacoby away from the table for a talk.
“Are you betting on these boys?” Nail inquired of Jacoby, who was appalled that his partner would even ask such a question. Before Jacoby could sputter out an answer, Nail said, “Relax, Jim. If you are, I just want half the action.”
Once in a rubber bridge game, Nail held 10 solid clubs and singletons in the other three suits. In second seat, after the dealer passed, Nail coyly passed — “I don’t know why.”
LHO also passed. Now Nail’s partner, Cleo Allen, began to study her hand. “Come on, Cleo,” Nail was thinking, wishing he knew how to send mental messages. “Come on, Cleo.”
Finally she threw the hand in. “Sorry, partner,” Allen said to Nail. “Just three bare aces.”