ACBL Bridge Beat #88: Meckwell’s First NABC Title
Fondly known as Meckwell, Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell claimed their first NABC title – the Open Pairs (now Silodor Open Pairs) at the 1979 Spring NABC in Norfolk VA.
Here is the story as reported in the Bulletin:
Just a few days after it appeared that two old-time stars, George Rapée and Sam Stayman, might meet in the Vanderbilt final, the national Open Pairs produced perhaps the youngest set of champions ever to win a major pair event in ACBL history. Jeff Meckstroth, Columbus OH, 22, and Eric Rodwell, West Lafayette IN, 21, took the lead during the qualifying, then steadily increased it during the final two session to win by almost two and a half boards – one of the biggest victory margins ever.
For Meckstroth, this was salve for his near miss in the Vanderbilt, where he was a member of Kathie Wei’s runner-up team. Meckstroth is nearing the end of a two-year break from his college work during which he made a solid name for himself among the top players in the game. He finished third in the McKenney race in 1977 with 1269 points, the followed that up last year with 1252 points, good for fifth place.
He made a fine showing at the Fall North American Championships in Denver where he was third in the Reisinger and fourth in the Blue Ribbon Pairs – but his performance in Norfolk was far better. In just the Open Pairs and the Vanderbilt, he earned more than 200 points. A former King of Bridge, Meckstroth plans to return to college next fall.
Like Meckstroth, Rodwell is a well-adjusted young man who tempers great enthusiasm with good manners. A graduate of Perdue University, he plans to pursue management studies there on a graduate level. He compiled 855 masterpoints last year to place 24th in the McKenney race, and he was Meckstroth’s partner in the Blue Ribbon fourth and the Reisinger third in Denver. As a pair, Rodwell and Meckstroth have had much success using their own version of the Precision Club.
The youngsters had two good qualifying sessions to go to the final in first place. They failed to top their section in the first final, but still had a good lead going into the last 26 deals. Then they really poured it on, scoring 431 on a 325 average, to outdistance runners-up Dan Zirker and Larry Cohen by 80 ½ points. Another 26 points back in third were Dennis McGarry and Hal Mouser.
The champions’ favorite hand was one in which they took advantage of a play that is close kin to the “idiot’s finesse”. What’s an idiot’s finesse? That is the situation that occurs when a player, usually without realizing it, assumes that his opponent is an idiot. For instance, if you hold five small opposite A-K-10-x, you no doubt would lead a top honor. But if an honor comes up in front of the ace and you later take a finesse, well – you deserve to lose to a doubleton. If you take the finesse, you’re assuming your LHO is an idiot, playing an honor from queen-jack-third.
The play here was similar, although it did not involve a finesse. This was the layout:
|Dlr: North||♠ 10 2|
|Vul: N-S||♥ A J 7 2|
|♦ 9 8|
|♣ K 8 6 5 2|
|♠ J 8 5||♠ Q 9 6 4|
|♥ 8 3||♥ Q 10 6 4|
|♦ K Q 10 5 4||♦ 7 6 2|
|♣ Q J 10||♣ 9 4|
|♠ A K 7 3|
|♥ K 9 5|
|♦ A J 3|
|♣ A 7 3|
Meckstroth was allowed to hold his opening lead, the ♦K, but he quickly switched to the ♥8 when he saw the discouraging ♦2. Declarer won the 10 with the king and went after clubs. Ordinarily a declarer, noting he had to lose a club trick anyway, would duck a club, then score four tricks whenever the suit split 3-2. But Meckstroth gave South something to think about by playing the queen on the first club. South shouldn’t have thought about it – he should have ducked just as he originally planned. But he changed his mind and won with the king – he couldn’t see how that could hurt because he still had a heart entry. Rodwell followed with the ♣9.
Still mesmerized by the ♣Q, declarer now tried to guard against a 4-1 split by finessing the ♣7, sort of an “idiot’s safety play”. This play, of course, didn’t make much sense because why would Rodwell have played the 9 from an original holding of J-10-9-x?
Now declarer fouled up his communications, and the champs took quick advantage. West won the club and reverted to hearts. Declarer ducked, so Rodwell won the queen. A lesser player might have taken advantage of the chance to lead a diamond through declarer’s ace-jack, but Rodwell saw partner’s plan clearly – he continued with the heart attack. That took the entry out of dummy while the ♣A still blocked the run of the club suit. Declarer abandoned clubs, cashing dummy’s good heart. His only chance now was a diamond endplay, so he cashed his black winners and led a third spade, hoping West would have to win. But Rodwell overtook the jack with the queen, and declarer was down in a contract that made at every other table – a clear top for the young champions.