Welcome! The Northampton Bridge Club welcomes anyone who wishes to play duplicate bridge. Online open pair games are played on https://www.bridgebase.com/ at 7:00PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays; In-person games are played @1:00PM on Wednesdays at the Christ United Methodist Church, 271 Rocky Hill Road (Route 66) in Northampton.

If you need a partner, look HERE first, or contact Philippe at phgalaski@gmail.com for help.

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Staying in the game: Longtime Greenfield resident keeps bridge alive by bringing it online

By MARY BYRNE Staff Writer

Bob Sagor plays an online game of bridge. STAFF PHOTO / MARY BYRNE

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit three years ago, one longtime Greenfield resident never would have guessed that the online bridge community he helped to create would later become the one he’d rely on.

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We owe our thanks to Bob Sagor. He was interviewed by the Greenfield Recorder and this article appeared on Saturday, June 10, 2023.

At the beginning of every month the District 25's Director sends out congratulatory emails to New England bridge players who have advanced in rank during the previous month. Some of them respond, and the director selects a few of the most interesting ones to be posted on NEBridge.org. Below are the few from our club players.

Tim Joder

Diamond Life Master June, 2022

It's taken 38 years of mostly sporadic play and a succession of fairly accomplished partners who screamed at me regularly until I got better. 

There were some high points along the way. After winning the Flight B GNT in 1989 ( there were only two flights in those days) I was fortunate to play for a long time with the late Grand Life Master Jack LaNoue and counted the legendary Sidney Lazard among my partners. A killing job limited my attendance at the Nationals to a couple of events every year or two, with several top ten finishes.

When I retired to the Berkshires from New Orleans in 2007, I imagined a place where culture and education insured a thriving bridge community. Wrong! So now I'm giving back, taking a couple of players under my wing, and playing a few times a week online.

I have to say I've been reflecting on all the time and money I've spent to get to 5,000 - but if it kept me sharp it's been worth it.

Tim Joder
Lanesborough, MA

Kate Spencer

Bronze Life Master July, 2022

The first bridge hand I remember when is playing with my mother in our living room in Great Falls Montana. I was probably 13 or 14. She was a very capable party bridge player; of course in 1962 we had never heard of duplicate, though I think there was a club in town. Left hand opps opened a heart. Mom made a takeout double. RHO passed. I smiled and passed. I'll never forget the look on here face. She did teach me what to do about a takeout double, didn't she? I admit that I don't recall the exact carding in my hand, but I held lots of hearts and lots of points. We set them quite readily and she was ever proud of me. 

I played bridge in college, then took a long hiatus. I returned to bridge to spend more time learning from my brother Tim Spencer, who is probably the best player in Montana, and an excellent teacher. He went to aforesaid mentioned club at age 12 or so and with his 9 year old partner took first. He was hooked and got his life master at age 22, a major accomplishment in those days when one had to travel a thousand or so miles in any direction to Seattle or Denver or Minneapolis to get gold for life master.

BBO has been a great pleasure for me since the Covid limited club time.

AS for suggestions, an easy on-line learning program with bells and whistles—or monsters and dragons? might lure teenagers to bridge and away from other phone games. I.e., ramp up computer bridge, to ease them into real bridge.

Kate Spencer
Montague, MA

Philippe Galaski

Sapphire Life Master December, 2017

I learned bridge when I was a senior in High School in Paris France. My brother was my partner and we entered a duplicate tournament at the high school and had a 70+ % game. However after high school we went our different ways. College then work took over and it isn't until 1994 after I had moved to the US that I came back to the game. I joined the Jenkintown Bridge Club in Jenkintown, PA and after fumbling early on with the changes in the game (i.e. weak 2s), my game returned and I started getting better. My regular partner then, Harold Weiner, was a great help. I moved back to MA and joined the Northampton Bridge Club. For a long time I partnered with Leo Sartori with very good success and over the past few years my partners have been Paul Bacon and Roger Webb, the latter has been my regular partner in tournaments lately. While Playing with Paul Bacon we qualified for the B NAOP and where in 1st place with one round to go, but a very bad result brought us down to 5th. Three years later I won the event playing with Roger Webb, Eventually I reached the 2,500MPs level and thought it would be a while before I reached 5,000, but I still continued to go to tournaments 3-4 times a year with an occasional NABC. When the Sapphire level was established it didn't feel too far away and I decided to try and reach that level by the end of this year which I barely did by accumulating just a little over 268 MPs this year (some of them online). I really enjoy the game and like to play against strong opposition even if the final results aren't what I would have liked. I find playing against experts has helped improve my game. My strong point is the play of the hand. I try to improve my bidding by playing the ACBL It's Your Call more regularly. I also give back to the game being the Manager of the Northampton Bridge Club, the head of directors and the partnership helper. I also teach at the club once a month on the play of the hand.

I know that my next level is the 5,000 MPs level. I am planning to be at Cromwell part of the time (2/15-2/18) and also at part of the Philadelphia Nationals. Hope to see you there.

In re. experience in District 25, there used to be more regional tournaments in Western Mass that were moved to the East. I understand that it was connected to attendance, but it prevents some of my club's newer members (and some old timers) to participate as they feel it is too far or expensive. It doesn't affect myself so much as my reasons to not be at tourneys as often as I would like are related to family matters.

Philippe Galaski
Florence, MA

Margaret Winslow

Silver Life Master August, 2017

I started playing duplicate bridge on the island of Maui at the Kihei bridge club in 2009. A girlfriend of mine asked me if I might be interested in trying it. Her name is Diane Pierce and I am forever grateful to her for asking me to try this wonderful game. We went over to the Maui Bridge club in Kihei, Maui Hawaii and met the director Ned Downey. We played a few games there and then when my husband and I returned from our winter there, I convinced my husband to take me to the Pembury bridge club in Pittsfield, MA. where we walked in like deer in the headlight waiting to see what would happen. We were greeted by Manny Henriques who was the director at the time. I cannot thank Manny enough for taking me under his wing and helping me through the process. He managed to get seasoned players to play with me even though I certainly was a novice. I joined the ACBL that spring as a member of Unit 196 of District 25.

From there it was slow going at first. In 2009 I managed a total of 10 masterpoints.

In 2010 I started going to tournaments: sectionals in Auburn, MA, and Springfield, MA. as well as the snowbird sectional in Maui. I also started taking lessons in Maui under Ned Downey who has published two bridge books, which were very helpful in those early years.

2010 brought a total of 45 master points. I was improving.

2011 I attended many tournaments: Sectionals in Sturbridge, MA. Kihei, HI, and Auburn, MA. Then on to regionals in Warwick, RI and Danbury, CT. This is where I began to understand the difference between red and gold points and how difficult those gold were to come by.

2011 brought a total of 88 master points.

2012 I was lucky enough to attend two national tournaments the first one was in Philadelphia where four lady friends and I played and also kibitzed. I was fortunate to kibitz at Zia Mahmood’s table where he needed a break and asked me to turn his cards when he was the dummy!!! I attended the fall national in San Francisco as well. Both events went well. I also managed to get some gold points in Knockout events in Warwick, RI. Saratoga, NY, and the Honolulu regional.

2012 brought 113 master points. I am getting there.

2013 I struck gold and silver at various tournaments. Knockout events in Sturbridge, MA and Saratoga NY, and I won the Golden Opportunity pairs event with my friend Roger Price in Danbury, CT. That event gave me enough gold for my Life Master. It was a day that ranks up there at the top of those memorable lifetime experiences. I also started taking lessons with our new Pembury club director Tim Joder. He volunteered to teach the members all he had learned in his long and successful bridge career. We took lessons and I took copious notes and recorded them all in a 110-page book that I complied as a result. He wanted to elevate the play at the club. He was also kind enough to start playing with me on occasion.

2013 brought 130 master points.

2014 I continued to play in Maui at the Kihei bridge club as well as the new West Maui Bridge Club which just started running duplicate games under the direction of Jeannie Murrell. She runs a great game which includes lunch in paradise. I also met a new partner from South Korea. Her name is Sophie Lee. She and I play almost every Tuesday in the winter. I played the Maui Snowbird sectional as well as the EGG tournament in Sturbridge this year, acquiring my Bronze Life master as a result. I also started to play with Tim Joder on a more regular basis and as a result continued to learn and improve my bidding and play.

2014 brought 131 master points.

2015-16-17 I am now playing steadily with Tim and have had many positive results at the Great Barrington Sectional, the Saratoga Regional and the Kihei sectional as well. I played with my good friend Chris Ryder in 2016 in the Kihei sectional and we won the open pairs event.

In the last three years I have won both the Ace of Clubs and the Mini McKenney in unit 196 for my master point group and have accumulated over 490 master points. This has brought me up to Silver Life master as of this writing.

Bridge doesn’t take a village, but it does take kind and understanding partners and directors. So, as a result I want to take time to thank all my partners over the years: My husband Lyndal Winslow, who plays with me even when he doesn’t want to, my Pembury partners: Sandy Walters, Coreen Nejame, Paula Dambrauskas, Stephanie Beling, and Valerie Solon. My Maui partners: Diane Pierce, Chris Ryder, Mari Livingston, Sophie Lee, Jan Hendrix, and Satish Gupta.

Finally, my present partner Tim Joder deserves most of the credit for making me the bridge player I am today. Thanks Tim.

Margaret Winslow
Dalton, MA  

Sheila Ryan

NABC Master April 2018

My story is that I earned the needed silver points at the Falmouth tournament playing In the 299er game for two days with two partners I hadn’t met until just before we played for the day. In one round we had a 71% game! As a non-Life Master I, like many other newer players, resisted the advice to play with people I didn’t know. In the past year I have done this three times at tournaments — all with good results and would encourage other players to challenge themselves and take the opportunity to play with other partners. I have found that it encourages me to be more focused on both bidding and playing the hands. It has also given me the confidence to seek out better players at our club for partnerships.

An added benefit is that I can travel to more tournaments with my non-bridge playing husband and we can both enjoy the travel!

Sheila Ryan
Florence, MA

Gail Perry

Bronze Life Master March 2019

Dear Bob,

Thank you for notifying me that I have now earned the distinction of Bronze Life Master. I’ve had an interesting journey reaching this level. Every month when I received the ACBL Bridge Bulletin, listed on the back cover I would watch my point count of 499.59 never move.

In Las Vegas, I lived in a community where they had a non-sanctioned duplicate game, so even though I couldn’t earn any points there, there many life masters & excellent players, ACBL members, like me, who took advantage of the convenience of playing near home. So even though I played all these years, I didn’t stand a chance of getting to the next level.

One nice thing about playing bridge, is that no matter what city I’ve ever visited or lived in I could walk into any local club & pick up a partner. I moved here from Las Vegas about a year ago & recently started playing bridge locally only to find that in most clubs here, unless you come with a partner you can’t play.

Since I didn’t know anyone here I asked my daughter, Lanette Sweeney, if she would be willing to learn. She started taking lessons from a wonderful woman & great bridge player in our area, Judy Hyde. So even though I knew my daughter wasn’t ready to play at the club level, I was so anxious to play that I brought her along. Previously I had played with a few people in this area, but even though I only needed a fraction of a point to reach the Bronze level, it wasn’t to be.

Well, lo and behold, my daughter actually surprised me that night, played exceptionally well, and we scored well enough to earn the half or three-quarters of a point I needed to become a Bronze Life Master!

It’s quite exciting to realize my daughter, who didn’t know how to play bridge a few months ago, was the one who got me over the hump!

Gail Perry
South Hadley, MA

Judy Hyde

Ruby Life Master March 2019

Dear Bob,

What good news for me this is! I thought I would have to earn the last scrap of points in Cromwell next week, but apparently my 6th place fractional point in Hartford this week did it.

Here's my story, such as it is, and probably not that unique.

I learned bridge from my mother 68 years ago, when I was 12. Fast forward to age 40 when I met a serious bridge player who taught me the modern ropes and took me to tournaments. After that relationship ended, many bridgeless years went by until I found my way to the Hartford Bridge Club and the warm welcome of Donna Feir. She had helped me get my life master status once upon a time, in a team game in Springfield, back when there were Springfield regionals. I played at HBC for 10 years with many partners but it wasn't until I moved to Northampton that I found a steady partnership with Bob Sagor. The very first time I played with him, in a swiss team event in Cromwell, he decided we were losing, so bid a desperate 7 no trump. I made it and we won that round, and came in in the event. Having evolved into something of a bridge missionary, I'm on the Board of the Northampton Bridge Club, teach beginners, have started a daytime game, and work to expand the number of players in the area.

Judy Hyde
Northampton, MA

Yan Drabek

Club Master January, 2016
Left to right:Yan, Audrey Grant, Allison Ryan. This photo was taken at the NABC in Providence in 2014.

What a pleasure to have received your letter about the club master status on Feb 7, 2016!

My father loved playing rubber-bridge, and he introduced the game to me and my brothers. Growing up in China it was one of the fun things we did together as a family. With my mother the five of us rotated to play at the table. I did not understand much about conventions or scoring, but my father installed in me some card sense and manners at the table.

The good family days ended with constant political turmoil in China in the 60s and 70s. I lost my mother in 1978, my father was locked up and we were sent far away for “re-education” during the “Culture Revolution”. We were never able to play bridge at home again. I came to the U.S. in 1980. Between studying, getting a job and getting married there was no time to think about bridge until 1990. I took a crash course in Tucson, AZ where I lived – it was once a week for four weeks. I bought a couple of bridge books from a used book store and intended to learn. I even started a lunch bridge club at my work place. That adventure was short lived because of job changes and to be honest, we did not have a clue what we were doing.

Fast forward to moving to the pioneer valley of western Mass 10 years ago. We met a couple who were interested in playing bridge. We got together on weekends alternating cooking dinner and then playing a few hands of bridge. This social event lasted a year.  In fall of 2014 I met a neighbor, Allison Ryan, who was looking for a bridge partner. My husband volunteered me for the challenge. I did not want to do it at first afraid that once I start I’d be obsessed. But they both insisted. Allison introduced me to her teachers. The lessons were already covering intermediate conventions so I tried my best to keep up. My teacher Paul Bacon was very encouraging. He kept telling me that he expected great things from me.  In October 2014 I played my very first game at the Northampton bridge club. To my surprise we were third from the bottom, not dead last as I thought it would be. Then we went to Providence for a day and thrilled to get some points there. In the winter of 2014 I played with different partners from the club, and learned a lot from each person who was gracious enough to play with me.

On April 7, 2015, I received a letter from Rich DeMartino, who informed me of my junior master status. The person I most wanted to tell this news to was my father, who unfortunately passed away in 2009. I would pay anything to play with him again! My husband occasionally regrets his decision to sign me up because he thinks that I now spend more time on bridge than with him. But after reading the letters he shared my joy and was proud of me.

I hope our Northampton club can continue to grow and someday will be able to install the necessary equipment and software so that we can review our hands played as I found that is tremendous help for a beginner like me. If the ACBL and the district can lend some help toward that goal it would be great.

Yan Shen Drabek
Florence, MA

Yan Drabek

Regional Master August, 2017

Thank you for your letter congratulating me on attaining Regional Master status. I just had a terrible play the day before, and your letter cheered me up. :-)

The Valley Gold Diggers Team:
Yan Drabek, Barry LaFlam, Jan Nettler, and Sheila Ryan

Since I wrote you last year, my wish has come true! An anonymous donor gave money to our club, the Northampton Bridge Club, to purchase a dealing machine, and then, starting this year, our club has added another day of play each week. Playing twice a week and being able to review hand records has really helped my game and that of many others in our club.

Earlier this month we formed a team and played our first ever Knockout in the Warwick Regional, and we tied for third finish in our bracket. Needless to say, we are now hooked and can’t wait to play in Mansfield!

To the anonymous donor, thank you so much!

By the way, I am now happily helping out in maintaining my club’s blog, which you can read at http://www.northamptonbridgeclub.org/.

Yan Shen Drabek
Florence, MA

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