A New Generation
by Peggy Kaplan
Hamman and Zia. Meckstroth and Rodwell. Martel and Stansby. Levin and Weinstein. For decades, names such as these have dominated NABC and international events. Unlike most physical sports, bridge competitors need not slow down as years go by. Indeed; years of experience can heighten one’s knowledge base and supremacy.
At the Louisville NABC, however, a new generation burst upon the scene. In both pair and team events, players in their twenties and thirties knocked out the elite. Competitors not long out of junior competition captured titles.
At the head of the pack was Joel Wooldridge. Joel began his incredible showing by capturing the toughest-ever-pair event, the Platinum Pairs. He followed that up with another title, the Silodor Open Pairs. In addition to his two wins, Joel finished 2nd in the Flight A NAP, and fourth in the Jacoby Swiss. All in all, Joel ended with an amazing 454+ platinum points and a firm grasp of the Mott-Smith Trophy, the award bestowed upon the player with the highest total at the Spring NABC.
More than a few of our younger players also performed admirably. John Hurd, fourth on the list of overall masterpoint winners in Louisville, shared the Platinum Pairs crown with Joel, along with 4th in the Jacoby Swiss. Gavin Wolpert joined forces with Joel to seize the Silodor Pairs, plus Gav grabbed 4th with Joel and John in the Jacoby.
Greg Hinze and Jacob Morgan seized their first NABC title with the Jacoby Swiss, and thus moved into Grand Life Master status. In Flight A NAP, another “first first” was earned by Shane Blanchard, along with “veteran” (and under 30) Joe Grue. Another twenty-something multi-champion, Jenny Wolpert, pumped up her resume with the Women’s Swiss, her fifth national title.
There’s more. Ishmael Delmonte, David Bakhshi and Joe Grue battled to a most impressive 2nd spot in the Vanderbilt; John Kranyak fought to the quarterfinals. 2nd in Flight A NAP went to Kevin Bathurst. Sjoert Brink and Bas Drijver competed on the 2nd place team in the Jacoby; Krystof Buras finished fourth.
Think that it’s time to write off the giants of our game? Do so at your own peril! Yet, this we must acknowledge. Those of us who wondered if a new generation of players would ever rise to the top no longer need be curious. Tough, creative, energetic and most competitive – the next generation has arrived.