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NICKELL TEAM - Nickell-Freeman, Hamman-Zia, Meckstroth-Rodwell - Bye to Semifinal PDF Print E-mail

The Nick Nickell team won last year's USBC. This cycle, Nickell finished first in the Resinger, 3/4 in the Vanderbilt and 5/8 in the Spingold, earning a bye to the semi-finals of the USBC. 

System Information

Nickell-Freeman System Summary Form, ACBL Convention Card, 2007 WBF Card

Hamman-Zia System Summary Form, ACBL Convention Card

Meckstroth-Rodwell System Summary Form, ACBL Convention Card, 2007 WBF Card

About the Players and Their Coach

Nick Nickell

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Nick Nickell, photo by Peg Kaplan
 

 

 

Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Frank T "Nick" Nickell now lives in New York most of the time. Nick is the driving force behind the composition of one of the strongest ever bridge teams. An investment banker and entrepreneur, Nick wanted to put together a very good team in the early nineties. His partner, Dick Freeman, suggested that Bob Hamman/Bobby Wolff and Jeff Meckstroth/Eric Rodwell were the two pairs needed. How right he was!

This group (with Paul Soloway replacing Wolff in 1998) proceeded to reel off an amazing run of results. They have reached the final of four of the last five Bermuda Bowls - beating Canada in the 1995 final in Beijing, Brazil in Bermuda in January, 2000, and Italy in Monte Carlo in 2003 but losing to the French in Hammamet in 1997 and to Italy in Estoril in 2005. They have also won too many US titles to list. Playing with Hamman, Nick won the Cavendish Invitational Pairs in 1998. He is a WBF Grand Master, ranking 10th in the current standings.

Business and family commitments leave Nick and Dick very little time to work on their partnership between major tournaments, but there are rumors circulating that Dick, the consummate old schooler, will finally get hooked to the Internet to permit some online practice.

Dick Freeman
 
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Richard Freeman, photo by Peg Kaplan
 In 1952, at the age of 18, Richard A Freeman became the youngest Life Master in the history of the ACBL. In the 1950s he was one of radio's original 'Quiz Kids' and he brought that 'whiz' with him when he took up bridge. For many years he was the fastest and most accurate matchpointer in the world.

Dick won his first North American National title at the age of 22 (the Mens' Teams), an event he won again in 1962 and 1966. He won his first 'major' in 1979 - the Vanderbilt Teams. Playing exclusively with Nickell, he has added significantly to that tally. Dick is a WBF Grand Master, 11th in the current rankings.

A Senior Account Executive for a Securities firm, Dick currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Louise.

Bob Hamman

 

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Bob Hamman, photo by Peg Kaplan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert D. Hamman was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1938. He lived in California for several years early in his bridge career, learning much from the many great West Coast players of that era. He returned to Dallas when he became the sixth member of Ira Corn's Dallas Aces, and has lived there since. Most observers consider him to be the consummate bridge player, with a remarkable ability to focus only on the deal being played, irrespective of the circumstances. He is particularly noted for his tenacity and his never-give-up attitude.

Unlike many of the top American players, Bob has a job away from bridge too - he is the President of SCA Promotions, Inc, a prize promotion company in Dallas, Texas. Petra, his wife of 15 years, has won North American titles and was a member of the winning USA women’s team in Maastricht, while his son, Chris, is also a promising player. Remarkably, Bob even has time for a few hobbies - all games, sports and playing backgammon.

Bob might be considered the high priest of the four-card major, but he also believes in limited openings and the power of a strong club system. His partnership with Paul Soloway provided an opportunity for Bob to indulge his creative side, and he never stopped tinkering with the system, which currently runs to nearly 200 pages. Soloway, who had more free time than Bob, learned the system well and mastered its more arcane sections rather better than The Great One himself, and it is possible that they did well despite the system rather than because of it.  

Zia Mahmood, by Michael Rosenberg

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 Zia Mahmood needs a bio less than any other world-class bridge player.  His name is probably the best known in the game, and his countless successes have been widely publicized.
His triumphs have come with many different partners. It seems that he plays each National Pair game with a different partner, yet his name is always up there on the leaderboard - often on top. And lest you think his main skill is taking advantage of some of the weaker parts of the field, you should note that he has won the prestigious invitational Cap Gemini tournament (which no longer exists, but was the premier pairs event in the world) SIX times, with 4 different partners.
Almost nobody can play the game on Zia's level, and just occasionally he reminds his partners of that fact.  However, there is some relief for these poor souls. A support group has been formed - ziaanon - and the sharing at the twice-monthly meetings has been enough to prevent permanent scarring on the psyche of those who have had the fortune(?) of sitting opposite Zia.
Several years ago, Zia stunned millions of bridge groupies by marrying and then having two children. I believe his priorities now are family, golf, haute cuisine and bridge, in that order. However, winning this Trials would put him in the 2007 Bermuda Bowl and, if that happens, his priorities will be temporarily altered. Winning a major World Championship is the only accomplishment his resume is missing.

Michael Rosenberg

P.S.  For more information on Zia, read his book "Bridge My Way" - or, better still, read MY book "Bridge, Zia.... and Me"

Jeff Meckstroth

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Jeff Meckstroth, photo by Peg Kaplan
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeffrey John Meckstroth was born in 1956 in Springfield, Ohio and now lives in Tampa, Florida. He has been a star of the bridge world for over 20 years and we can expect him to continue dominating both national and international events for at least another 20. At his current pace, Jeff is set to compile a record second to none.

Although Jeff and Eric Rodwell are two of the world's leading players, it is as a partnership (known universally as "Meckwell") that they have built their widespread reputation as one of the greatest partnerships of all time. Together, they have won virtually every major title in the game, most of them more than once. They are renowned not only as great players, but also as brilliant theorists. Their bidding system (starting from a Precision base) is complex, their agreements extensive, and their trademark style ultra-aggressive.

A WBF World Grand Master, Jeff is sixth in the current world rankings, three places ahead of his partner.

Jeff has played in the finals of eight World teams championships, the first at the age of just 26. All of his major international successes have come in partnership with Eric. They have won the Bermuda Bowl four times (1981, 95, 2000 and 2003) but had to settle for Silver medals in 1997 and 2005. At World Team Olympiads, they won Gold in 1988 and Silver in 1992. They also won the World Pairs in 1982.

In 1974, At the age of 18, Jeff was one of the first recipients of the ACBL King of Bridge scholarship. Five years later, he broke onto the tournament scene with a vengeance, winning three North American titles that year, including the Reisinger, and reaching the final of the Vanderbilt. He also won the ACBL Player of the Year race in 1992 and the Barry Crane Top 500 in 1996. In 1998, he was awarded the IBPA's Charles. J. Solomon Award for the year's best-played hand.

It is surely only a matter of time before Jeff surpasses John Crawford's pre-Hamman record of 37 NABC titles. Indeed, with more than a 15-year age advantage over the big man, perhaps one day Jeff will surpass even his teammate's incredible achievements.

Jeff is one of those people who work hard at whatever he does, but he is also blessed with a natural ability for many things. When he is not playing bridge or spending time with his family, he can usually be found on the golf course. As a teenager, he was a scratch golfer and harbored hopes of playing the game professionally - golf's loss is the bridge world's gain. Not that he has given up all intentions in that direction - he says that he may try to get onto the Senior Golf Circuit when that time comes.


Eric Rodwell

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Eric Rodwell, photo by Peg Kaplan
 

 

Eric V. Rodwell was born in 1957 in West Lafayette, Indiana and now lives in Florida with his wife Donna and Eric's two children from his first marriage.

A professional player and writer, Eric is the main creator of the vaunted "R-M Precision" system, and has invented many popular bidding treatments, including Support Doubles. Eric is constantly tinkering with their system, looking for the elusive perfection in constructive bidding to mesh with their trademark ultra-aggressive style.

In addition to his many successes with Jeff, Eric also won the 1988 Staten Bank tournament (with Zia Mahmood), the Icelandic Pairs and Teams and the Pan-American Open Pairs, all in 1992, the Notrump Challenge Match in 1993, and the 2000 Cavendish Invitational Pairs (with Marty Fleisher).

A graduate of Purdue University, Eric is an accomplished pianist and enjoys composing music for relaxation. Ragtime is a special favorite. He has also co-authored a number of books and is a major contributor to the ACBL Teaching Series authored by Audrey Grant.

Coach Eric Kokish

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Eric Kokish, photo by Peg Kaplan
 

 

 

 

 

 

 Canadian Eric Kokish has been coaching the Nickell team since 1998. Eric was born in 1947 in Montreal, and now lives in Toronto with his wife Beverly Kraft, son Matthew, dog Jackie Robinson, and latest addition Kitten, of that ilk). After his Canadian team lost the final of the 1995 Bermuda Bowl to the Nickell team, Eric was not expecting to be asked to work with Hamman and Soloway to develop a viable bidding system for their new partnership. However, a week with them at Duke University’s weight-loss clinic (for Hamway, not the coach, much to Hamman’s chagrin, as he was sharing an apartment with Eric, who was free to cook wonderful meals that Bob was not allowed to eat) proved to be a positive experience that segued into a full-time coaching position with the team. Eric claims his biggest failure was not being able to convince Bob to give up four-card majors for a weak notrump/five-card major base before it was too late, but the results haven’t been completely disappointing. Eric rarely gets to play any more, but most of his time is devoted to bridge: coaching, writing, commentary, analysis, and consulting. His other hobbies are as space consuming as his bridge library – collecting baseball cards and rock ‘n roll records/CDs/concert tapes.

 

 
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