Rick Olanoff – Sapphire Life Master
I learned to play bridge in the dorm lounge at Harpur College (Now SUNY Binghamton). That is how I got to know my first wife, Claudia, the mother of my two bio daughters. She was my partner in some early District 112 sectionals. I remember one time playing our opening match against a team headed by Don Dalpe, knowing we’d have to be fortunate to win. So I psyched Flannery (legal back then), we won the match, lost the next three and won the consolation.
I won my first master points at a club near Binghamton playing with my roommate Marc Saperstein. We played a homemade system borrowed from a friend’s brother that required us to open every hand e.g. 1C=0-6 HCPs. The director thought about this and let us play it. We finished 5th of 18 pairs….Interestingly Marc started playing in clubs and sectionals a few years ago, with a renewed passion and we’ve played a few times on BBO.
I made Life Master back in 1977 in the Toronto Nationals playing with Peter Katz, a favorite friend and partner, who also went to Harpur, but we didn’t meet until we each had moved to the Syracuse area.
I remember the joy of winning the first ever District Flight B GNT’s. Our team was Larry Merritt and I along with Anne Scharmach and Jan Scanlon. We won the final very easily, but alas there was no national Flight B GNT until the next year.
The GNT’s became my favorite event, and fortunately we won Flight B a few more times and Flight A several times. In 2010 playing with Doug Dye, Howie Cohen, Corey Krantz, Andy Kauffman and Elliot Shalita, we won it all after qualifying last. They were excellent teammates and none of our matches were nail-biters. And you, Joann, were there to congratulate us. I never expected to win. My teammates did, while I told Doug that my goal was to become closer to him and our other team members.
I won my first Regional titles playing on a Men’s team with Peter Katz, Bernie Gorkin, Dan Boye, and a Canadian pair who drank beer throughout the event. Fred and I later won a pairs event in a Niagara Falls Regional. (no beer drinking, though).
I later developed a partnership with Don Dalpe and we won several Flight A GNT’s but never contended at the national GNT’s. We did have high finishes in the 3- day National 0-5,000 limited pair events, including a third, as well as a third in the North American Pairs, Flight B. Another time we won the District 4 NAP’s in the top flight and after trudging through 10 inches of snow in Detroit to find our hotel we finished 23rd overall.
However, when Don moved his bridge affiliation to his other home in Florida, Fred died, Larry and Peter had moved away long ago and bridge club games dwindled in Syracuse, so did my enthusiasm for playing in clubs, Sectionals, Regionals and Nationals.
I exclusively played bridge on-line with Don mainly. More recently I’ve also played with an old partner Bill Burnet and even more recently with Doug Dye. I thought it would take me years at about 50 mp’s a year to reach Sapphire Life Master. But along came the on-going endlessly tragic COVID-19 era and on-line bridge appealed to me more often.
Bridge is a great game; I’ll play it as long as I can. I do miss in-person bridge, larger club games, tough fields in sectionals, the GNT’s and many of my old friends and partners, but I’m very happy that one of the ways people relaxed at Harpur College was to play bridge in the dorm lounges.