by Peggy Kaplan
Elite partnerships. Star players. Grueling competition. Yes, the first-ever Platinum Pairs had all this and more.
Yet, make no mistake. Although the field was chock full of experts, reaching the final cut depended not on your celebrity ranking, but on your score. One player in that field was not a national champ, did not have tens of thousands of masterpoints, and her name is not known throughout the bridge world. Still, her matchpoint score was better than that of many others, and she earned the right to play the final day. Meet Grace Jeklin.
Grace heralds from British Columbia. Although Grace has known how to play bridge for about 20 years, she plays infrequently. Grace loves the NABC’s; for the last 10 years has been attending as often as she can. As Grace’s goal is to always play in the toughest field she can find, she chooses her favorite partner, Swedish star Fredrik Nystrom for her outings. Fredrik partnered Grace in Reno’s Platinum Pairs.
Grace and Fredrik never led the field. After the first day, they qualified 55th out of 78. Day Two found them in 25th out of 36. The operative word, however, was that they qualified. Many superstars fell by the wayside; Grace and Fredrik were in the hunt Day Three.
How did they navigate their way through such a field? Grace explains. “Fredrik is the best partner. I could write pages on all his good qualities and his kindness. When we begin, I am always very nervous. Fredrik knows how to calm me down and how to get the best out of me. Even when I commit errors, Fredrik never gets angry. He finds something positive to say and we move on.”
Kudos for Fredrik! There are more than a few players out there with immense talents and great ability. Rarer, however, is the player that knows how to encourage the best from partner, too.
Still, let’s not take anything away from Grace. Grace bid, declared and defended for three days straight through 156 hands. Despite a modest 2,000 masterpoints and one regional title, Grace held her own to fend off expert after expert. After the final card was quitted, Grace and Fredrik were 30th – a higher ranking than most of the original 142 pairs.
More often than not, championships and accolades go to the bridge icons of our day. Competitors like Grace Jeklin, however, deserve a good measure of applause, too. She faced the best and she bested many. No matter how tough it got, Grace hung in there ‘till the end. She is the poster lady for demonstrating that you can battle the elite and come out victorious – if only you have the courage to enter the fray.
Congratulations, Grace! “Amazing ,” indeed!