Magazine article The New Yorker

Partners

Magazine article The New Yorker

Partners

Article excerpt

Victor Mitchell was born in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, near the Navy Yard, in 1923. When he was a teen-ager, during the Great Depression, the owner of a local social club rerouted his life by introducing him to bridge. He won numerous national and international titles; was written about in Sports Illustrated; appeared, as himself, in a mystery novel called "I Shot My Bridge Partner"; and was inducted into the American Contract Bridge League's Hall of Fame. He died in 1995. He was known not only for his card-playing but also for his sense of humor and his generosity to novices. The Greater New York Bridge Association conducts an annual tournament in which beginning players are paired with experts, and, fittingly, the tournament is named for him.

This year's Victor Mitchell Pro-Am was held at the New Yorker Hotel, on Eighth Avenue. Sitting at the registration table as players began to arrive was Eric Mock, a retired lawyer and a past chairman of the G.N.Y.B.A. Mock first played bridge sixty years ago, when his mother decided that a six-year-old partner was better than none. "I played seriously in college and law school," he said, as he attempted to match nametags with players. "And then I took a thirty-year leave of absence to raise a family and have a career and such"--distractions that are now behind him.

One of the most accomplished players in this year's field was Kelley Hwang, a fifty-year-old New York City attorney, who was among the winners at the 2008 Grand National Teams Championship. "I started playing in 1996 or so," he said. "The reason I started was that my marriage was very rocky, and my wife and I thought we should find an activity together. Now I don't have that wife anymore, but I still have bridge." The game is notoriously stressful on personal relationships. Stephannie Russo, another expert participant, said, "My ex-husband and I met playing bridge, and then we un-met playing bridge. But he remains my favorite person to play with. In fact, being divorced has greatly improved our bridge partnership."

The winning amateur in one section of the tournament was Jonathan Sauer, who will begin fifth grade this month--making him, by at least a couple of decades, the youngest participant in the competition. …

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