About the Players
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, Zia replacing Soloway in 2008, and most recently Ralph Katz replacing Dick Freeman after his death) proceeded to reel off an amazing run of results. From 1995 to 2009, they reached the final of five of six Bermuda Bowls - beating Canada in the 1995 final in Beijing, Brazil in Bermuda in January, 2000, and Italy in Monte Carlo in 2003 and Sao Paulo in 2009, 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 very little time to play between major tournaments, but he and Ralph Katz have been working on their partnership online between tournaments.
Ralph was born in 1957 in Pittsburgh, PA and raised in Steubenville, OH. He was 22 when he won his first National Championship, the Life Master Pairs, and 24 when he won both the Spingold and Master Mixed Teams at the Summer Nationals. Not long after graduating college he moved to Chicago to trade options, but his loyalty to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers has never waned.
His wife Martha won the World Junior Championship in 1991 and their son Sam was King of Bridge in 2006, so there is a family tradition of Bridge success.
Ralph's partnership with Nick began in 2009, a win in the Trials leading a few months later to victory over Italy in the 2009 Bermuda Bowl final in Sao Paulo. In addition to that gold medal, Ralph has won three silver medals at the world level: 1990 World Open Pairs; 2007 Bermuda Bowl; 2010 Rosenblum Teams.
With 21 North American titles with many different colleagues, Ralph has earned a reputation as a great partner and teammate, perhaps the ultimate compliment attainable from peers.
Bobby has won too many bridge events to list. He was the youngest player to win the Bermuda Bowl, in 1981 when he was 23. He and Steve Weinstein were second in the World Open Pairs in Verona in 2006 and won the event 4 years later in Philadelphia.
Bobby's son Andrew is in college at Northwestern, and Jill’s sons Shane and Justin Blanchard are upcoming bridge players who live in New York city.
|Steve Weinstein is the youngest player on the Nickell team, and also the youngest player ever to win an NABC event (the Life Master Pairs in 1981 when he was 17). He has since won many other NABC events, as well as finishing 4th and 5-8 in the Bermuda Bowl & 1st and 2nd in the World Open Pairs.
Steve has been married to Liz Davis since 1993 (they have been together since 1986). He lives in Andes NY “the middle of nowhere” with 2 dogs, Zeke and Luther, and Archie the cat. After leaving Wall street in 2002, he has pursued a career as a professional bridge and poker player. He won the Borgata winter open poker tournament in Atlantic City in 2009 but is primarily a cash game player.
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 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
|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. He was inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame in 2012.