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One Woman’s Journey to Life Master. . .

One woman’s journey toward Life Master began in her mid-90s

Tehmi Mulla’s quest to become a Life Master began on June 4, 2018, eight weeks before her 96th birthday. I had walked into the Newtown (CT) Bridge Club with a semi-regular partner. Tehmi pulled me aside and said, “You don’t want to play with him, you want to play with me!”

At that point, I had known Tehmi for about two years. She was one of the first people that I met when I returned to bridge after a 20-year hiatus, and we had partnered once or twice.

Tehmi began playing bridge with her late husband, Dadi, in India in 1960, while working as an obstetrician. They played for money at a local
sports club. With their children already living in the United States, they moved to Connecticut to retire in 1979, but Tehmi soon became bored.
She embarked on a second career as a psychiatrist for 20 years. She has been playing at clubs in Connecticut since 1982 and in Florida since becoming a part-year resident there.

We began to play together the week after she approached me. After several weeks of reasonable games, I asked her about becoming a Life Master. “I would need another life to become a Life Master!” she said. I took a look at her points and decided that there was a reasonable chance that she could achieve it. Because she had joined the ACBL in 1999, she was grandfathered into the 300-point requirement.

By the end of June 2018, her overall point total was 255. So to become a Life Master, she needed less than 50 points overall, including 5 red, 8 silver and over 23 gold. Ouch about the gold. I needed all kinds of points myself, having started from zero at the beginning of 2017. So I encouraged her to entertain the Life Master goal, which meant playing a lot of bridge. That was nothing new or unwelcome to Tehmi. I knew the red would come with the gold, and there were silver opportunities in sectional tournaments and STaC games.

We started our gold quest in August in a gold rush event in Warwick RI. We played one day there and earned 1.67 gold. That was a decent start, almost doubling what she had. The next stop was nearby in Danbury CT in October. After a terrific morning round, we wound up winning the day and 7.58 gold. Things were looking a lot better, but could we ever achieve anything like that again?

Two days later, we won the Gold Rush Pairs again for 6.2 more gold. Now she had 17.31 gold and things we looking a lot brighter.

In November, we made a longer journey to Mansfield MA. We had qualified for the North American Pairs, and decided to go a day early to try to get some more points. That meant staying overnight, the first time I had ever done that for a bridge tournament. We finished fourth overall and got another 4.07 gold. In the NAP qualifier final the following day, we didn’t fare as well.

At this point, Tehmi was ready to travel to Florida for the winter. She had grown her total masterpoints to over 300 and picked up all the red she needed. She still needed less than 5 silver, but she was able to accrue those by December, in STaC games in Fort Myers.

Still evident was the gold shortfall of 3.62 points. Tehmi spent the whole winter in Florida dreaming about the Gold Mine I/N Regional in Sturbridge MA in April. While there were regional tournaments in Florida, they were distant, and she decided that the only partners she could get weren’t strong enough to win gold. She flew back from Florida the week before the Sturbridge tournament, so we could get our partnership back on track.

After playing three sessions a day for three days in Sturbridge, she still needed 1.73 going into the final day, when District 25’s Grand National Teams Flight C Swiss Qualifier was held.

Playing with Roger Caplan and Ken Steele, our team won the event for 7.5 gold points. Tehmi was the seventh-oldest person to become a Life Master.

“At least at my age, I can still achieve something,” Tehmi said. “My late husband, Dadi, would be jealous of me.”

Seven months later, Tehmi achieved yet another milestone when she became a Bronze Life Master at 97.

Mark Blumenthal is an Advanced NABC Master in Trumbull CT.