The event was emceed by David Berkowitz.
The ceremony began with Marc Jacobus presenting Cheek for the sportsmanship honor.
“I met Curtis 30 years ago. He’s a great opponent and a great person. He always introduced himself at the table, and he always smiled, but when play started, he was a killer. Curtis is what bridge is about.”
Jacobus is also Cheek’s father-in-law, a point that Cheek spoke about in his acceptance speech.
“My bridge family and my ‘real’ family are connected. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
Cheek – a six-time NABC champion – spoke about a formative experience when he was very young that affected the way he thinks about table demeanor.
“I’ve played bridge 44 years. My dad taught me. But after playing just a little bit, I became somewhat arrogant about my skill and said something to me father at the table that was hurtful, and he never played again. I learned that calling myself a genius but describing my partner as stupid is wrong. And it’s bad for the game.”
Tucker, an NABC champion and a former Honorary Member of the Year — was presented by bridge partner and life partner Kevin Collins.
“Patty is a serial volunteer. She’s worked with the American Bridge Teachers Association, Atlanta Youth Bridge, the Foundation for the Preservation and Advancement of Bridge, and many other groups. She’s also an innovator, always looking to bring players into the game. Learn Bridge in a Day and Bridge in a Box were here ideas.
“When people ask, ‘Where are the young players?’ Patty is the one who did something about it, creating the Youth NABC, now in its 12th year. Patty has given lot of her time.”
Tucker said, “It’s not a solitary accomplishment. I’ve been helped by my unit, my district, by clubs in my area, by the ACBL. It really does take a village. There are many, many people who helped me over the year, not just my bridge family, but my personal family, who sacrificed, too. My parents told me that you can do anything or be anything depending on how much you want it. I want to show bridge to everyone.
“Bridge will exist forever, but what I want is for bridge to thrive and grow.”
Justin Lall presented 16-time NABC champion Seamon for the von Zedtwitz Award.
“Michael was a good friend and partner. He was so good even Jimmy Cayne couldn’t fire him!” Lall quipped.
“The first time we played in a knockout match, Michael told me to never take my foot off the gas because you never know what’s happening at the other table. He made his teammates feel empowered and liberated to play their best. He wasn’t interested in winning postmortems but rather in getting his teammates to play their best.
“It’s amazing how natural and easy card play was to him; but he always wanted to win the right way. It was an honor and a privilege to play with him.”
Michael’s sister, Janice Seamon-Molson, said that she and Michael grew up in a bridge-playing family: the extended Seamon family is one of the great bridge dynasties. Their parents played at all the nationals. One of her earliest memories was falling asleep on a couch at midnight in the lobby of the Americana Hotel in Miami; her parents were still discussing hands from the evening session with friends. But when Michael started taking an interest in the game, Janice did, too, “in self-defense.”
“Michael became more and more brilliant at the game. As we got older, we played together rarely, but I once asked him to play in a national mixed pairs with me. He said no at first, but I kept at him, so he said that we could play, but that if our score after the first session wasn’t above average, we would withdraw. I agreed. So we played and had a nice set: a 69%. Michael, however, insisted that we withdraw. When I objected – we were well above average – he said that average for us was 72%! And we withdrew.”
Boyd was presented by longtime partner Steve Robinson.
“We started playing in 1980. At that time, I was six feet tall and had a full head of hair,” joked the diminutive, balding Robinson, who went on to tell many stories of the partnerships successes and failures over the years.
“But Peter is a highly intelligent, fully educated man, and it has been my pleasure to play with him for the past 39 years.”
Although Boyd is a 17-time NABC champion and former world champion, he opened his remarks by praising his wife, Ellen Klosson, who he met through bridge. The duo plays together infrequently, but the relationship has a place of primacy in Boyd’s life.
“Bridge is my social world, and it gives me a great sense of accomplishment. My day job exists merely to support my bridge habit.”
Boyd thanked Robinson for choosing to play with him four decades ago, and he noted that Robinson was right when he says that bridge is a game, and that everyone should have fun.
Seventeen-time NABC champion Bramley was presented by Bob Hamman. Hamman said that Bramley’s record speaks for itself. “Bart’s an excellent player, and this honor is long overdue.”
Bart’s brother, Richard Bramley, was a co-presenter, and he regaled the audience of tales from their childhood.
“I realized early on that I wasn’t going to be as smart as Bart. He got the brains, but I got the looks,” Richard joked. He wrapped up his remarks by saying, “I’m very proud of my big brother.”
Bart began his remarks by discussing his parents.
“I got interested in bridge by watching my dad play with three other men when I was 5. I was hooked by the time I was 10, the year my father died. My mother was a reluctant participant early on, but got addicted in retirement.
In college, Bramley joined the ACBL in 1965 while attending MIT in Cambridge MA.
“It was the last generation saturated with bridge players,” he said, reeling off a list of players from his college years, before pointing out one in particular: Ken Lebensold, who was in attendance last evening.
“Ken was a fully formed player even at 22, but he happily shared his knowledge. His influence on us at MIT was profound.”
As Bramley advanced as a player, he played with many of the game’s greats. Early on, he met Vic Mitchell (also a Hall of Famer) who, in turn, introduced Bramley to other top players.
“Vic started me in pro bridge. Later, I partnered Lou Bluhm, the first truly great player I ever played with. I also partnered Hugh Ross, John Sutherlin, and Sidney Lazard. Sidney was the greatest man I’ve ever known; he was magnificent in every respect.”
Among Bramley’s partners who are still alive today, he mentioned several including Ross Grabel, with whom he won his first NABC title in 1980, Bob Hamman, a great friend and also his boss for 16 years, and Kit Woolsey “who’s never boring.”
Finally, Bramley thanked his wife, Judy.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without her. She’s been with me for all of my greatest achievements in bridge and life. Judy has always been my biggest fan.”
Four-time world champions and 16-time NABC winner Radin was co-presented by longtime friend and partner Valerie Westheimer and by her husband, Michael Radin. Both praised Judi for her role as a top player – not just a top female player.
“Judi is a pioneer in women’s bridge and in getting respect for women in the game,” said Michael.
Judi spent much of her acceptance speech detailing the many great relationships she’s had in the game, starting with ex-husband John Solodar.
“John was my first boyfriend. He brought me to New York, got me students to play with so that I could pay for my education, and introduced me to several important people, such as Kathie Wei-Sender.
Her teammates at the women’s world championships included the greats of the game such as Gail Greenberg, Jacqui Mitchell, Carol Sanders, Betty Ann Kennedy, Lynn Deas and Beth Palmer.
“I’ve been very lucky playing with great clients and friends over the years. I’ve dreamed about being in the Hall of Fame for many years, but I thought it was never going to come. Tonight, you completed all my bridge dreams.”