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High Honors Bestowed

The night was filled with emotion – happiness, sadness for the departed and joy for the newest members of the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame. Emcee George Jacobs said it best: “The game itself should get the award. It brings us together.”

With seven other members of the Hall of Fame in attendance, Gail Greenberg and Max Hardy were celebrated for their contributions to bridge, and French champions Bénédicte Cronier and Sylvie Willard were toasted as 2013 recipients of the Sidney H. Lazard Jr. Sportsmanship Award.

Lowell Andrews, the late Max Hardy’s best friend, spoke for his friend, honored with the Blackwood Award for service to bridge.

Andrews said he first met Hardy when the two of them were assigned to work Bridge Week in L.A., at the time the best-attended regional in North America. It was Andrews’ first assignment, Hardy’s second.

Andrews recalled that he and Hardy worked a room with five or six sections of a side game. At the time, all scoring was manual, so the TDs had to do the recaps by hand.

“Max did his sheet,” Andrews said, “and then took mine, which was half finished, and completed it.”

The Los Angeles area has lots of sectionals every year, and most were close to where Hardy and Andrews lived, so they got to know each other and became fast friends.

Andrews told one of his favorite stories, about a time when he and Hardy were playing together at the Bridge Academy in Tarzana. They were well known by that time, so there were lots of kibitzers around their table.

At one point, someone walked in and asked why so many people were at their table. “Oh,” said the club manager, “that’s Lowell and Hardy.”

Tall and good looking, Hardy was known for dressing in a tuxedo on Saturday nights at tournaments, and he was widely known for his books on bidding. He was also a successful player, amassing more than 11,000 masterpoints and dozens of regional wins.

Said Andrews, “Max did it all. He was a great writer, player and teacher. I still get a great feeling when I overhear a bridge discussion and someone says, ‘Well, Hardy says . . .”

In an emotional closing, Andrews said, “I’m proud to have been Max’s best friend.”

Next was Hardy’s wife, Mary. “Bridge,” she said, “was Max’s vocation, but more important, it was his avocation. He loved to write, and we know he would be so proud if he could only be here.”

Jill Levin, Greenberg’s daughter, was first to speak for the next presentation. The von Zedtwitz Award is presented for contributions to bridge with top-class play.

Levin noted that the fifth edition of the Official Encyclopedia of Bridge has an entry for bridge-playing families, led by her mother’s family. The list of champion players, led by Levin and Brad Moss, is indeed impressive.

Interestingly, said, Levin, “my mother didn’t want us to learn bridge. She thought she underachieved at Barnard because she majored in bridge.”

Levin told the audience how thrilling it was to win a world championship – the 1996 event known at the time as the World Team Olympiad – with her mother.

She also told the story about the time when her mother played against one of her grandsons, who doubled her during a competition. Grandmother looked at grandson and said, “I hope you’re not going to cry.”

Levin said her mother imparted a love of bridge to all her children and grandchildren – just for starters. “Hundreds of people have fallen in love with her and the game of bridge,” Levin said. “This is a well deserved and overdue honor. We love you.”

Moss said his mother’s greatness as a player is well documented. Even more significant, he said, was her way with people. “She connected with all of her students,” he said, “and she knew how to get the most out of people. She is still the best partner and teammate I have ever met.”

Following his mother’s example, Moss said, “I strive to be the best person I can be.”

When she took the podium, Greenberg noted that the occasion was bittersweet for her because Brad’s wife, Jennifer, is ill, and neither she nor their children could attend.

Greenberg recalled a conversation with her mother involving bridge. Her mother was aware of her keen interest in the game. When her mother asked if she wanted to be “another Helen Sobel” – a great player whose life was difficult away from the table –Greenberg’s response was, “Wow! Do you think I could be?”

She recalled receiving a gold medal from Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco, and playing with Hall of Famer George Rapée, who told her father after playing with her that the assessment of her as “great player” was accurate.

Greenberg’s resume includes five world championships, including three in the Olympiad Teams. She has also written several books, and has completed an update of the Dorothy Truscott classic, “Winning Declarer Play.”

“I’m particularly grateful,” Greenberg said, “to receive the von Zedtwitz Award. Bridge has been the passion of my life. I’m grateful to the ACBL for giving me the opportunity to give and to receive so much.”

She also expressed gratitude to her husband, Jack, who she described as “my most loyal and enthusiastic supporter.”

David Sokolow was the presenter for Cronier and Willard, two-time world champions and owners of multiple gold medals in high-level European competition. They would be on the short list of top women’s pairs worldwide.

Willard and Cronier are the first partnership to earn the honor for outstanding manners and ethics at the bridge table. Sokolow quoted his wife, Tobi, as saying Willard and Cronier “are the teammates of your dreams.”

Sokolow said the two consider their behavior at the table to be routine. “They are No. 1 in my book,” he said, “as a class act.”

In true partnership fashion, when Willard and Cronier took the podium, they read their message of thanks by taking turns at the microphone: “We are especially happy and proud to get this award,” they said, “and our federation was honored. We were on the front page of every website in France. We are so happy to play (at NABCs) that it is easy for us to win this award.”

Mary and Ben Hardy

Cronier and Willard

Brad Moss, Gail Greenberg and Jill Levin