Welcome to the Kudos page of the SOMBA website. From time to time SOMBA will recognize local players on this page for their local, national and international bridge exploits and for their good deeds in the metropolitan community outside of the world of bridge. As in the other sections of our website, our readers’ suggestions for material will always be appreciated.

Michael Crane Achieves Platinum Life Master Rank. (Posted October 31, 2011)

One of the highest recognized levels of achievement in the world of bridge is the attainment of the rank of Platinum Life Master, the accumulation of at least 10,000 masterpoints. The rank is attained not just by longevity at the bridge table but by the demonstration of consistent enormous skill while playing. SOMBA member Michael Crane reached this rank at the Wolverine Regional this past May and became only the second SOMBA member, after Beverly Gardner, to become a Platinum Life Master.  Michael was playing with his partner, Bob Webber, and teammates, Henry Shevitz and Daniel Suty, when he picked up his 10,000th masterpoint. The quest took roughly 40 years since Michael won his first two red points at a tournament in 1971. Michael learned to play bridge from his roommate, Cono Emanuele, while at college, and has been a serious student of the game ever since. 

It was approximately three years ago that Michael became an Emerald Life Master (7,500 masterpoints) while playing at a tournament in Toledo with one of his regular partners, Ed Herstein. And although he doesn’t quite remember exactly when he hit the Diamond level (5,000 masterpoints) he recalls clearly that his reward was that the ACBL made him a voting member for the ACBL Hall of Fame. Since then he has had the opportunity to vote for the entry into the Hall of Fame of many deserving members and against at least one candidate he felt quite undeserving.

In addition to playing, Michael enjoys directing, teaching and serving the SOMBA unit as recorder. He has also served on the SOMBA board. He currently directs four games each week; Tuesday afternoons in Bloomfield Hills and Tuesday evenings in Rochester with his fiancée, Vickie Vallone, and two games in Ann Arbor on Thursdays. He is also regionally certified as a director (along with Beverly Gardner and Willie Winokur) so that he can fill in at local tournaments helping ACBL director Ken Van Cleve when needed. Michael has some strong opinions on the rules and believes directors should have more discretion to invoke equity at the table and try to adjust an irregularity by getting the hand back to normal.  This frequently comes up in the area of revokes.  Michael points out a case where during the play of a board one side revoked once costing three tricks and the other side revoked once costing no tricks, but the rules said that a revoke from one side cancels the revoke on the other side no matter how many tricks were involved.  Michael is also a believer in Zero Tolerance of bad behavior and penalizing slow play, neither of which he feels is strongly enough enforced.

Michael’s work as SOMBA recorder (Bob Crafton is the MBA recorder) involves keeping directors and occasionally the ACBL home office apprised of ongoing rules or ethics violations committed by local players. This job requires him to keep track of recurring problems and sometimes doing some investigating. 

He has cut back considerably on teaching bridge but his advice to new players is that it is best to keep their game simple and no matter what conventions they choose to play, they should learn their system well. They should be comfortable with what they already have learned before taking new steps. For advanced students he advises that they should learn how to recognize a simple squeeze position and know the steps needed to execute the squeeze. 

Michael plays regularly with Vickie Vallone, his significant other, and with Bob Webber.  He considers Bob a great player and says he learns something new almost every time he plays with Bob. Although he believes good judgment at the bridge table is far more important than intricate conventions he does prefer weak notrump openings (although falling out of favor with other experts) and a variation of the Jacoby two notrump bid.  He prefers to play two over one.  Generally, when playing with other partners he is happy to play whatever conventions they prefer.  Michael currently plays two times per week in club games and frequently in local and nearby tournaments. He and Vickie plan to travel to Memphis in March for the Spring NABC and he plans to enter two nationally rated pairs events and one nationally rated team event looking for that elusive first place finish which would automatically elevate him from Platinum Life Master to Grand Life Master.

Michael has played against some of the best.  He distinctly remembers playing against two great players of the past. In his early days as a player he played against Oswald Jacoby who psyched a bid against him which resulted in Michael and his partner getting a bottom on a board.  Michael said to the great one: “Do you know who I am?” Jacoby said “no.”  Michael said:  “Exactly! How can you psych like that against someone you don’t know?  I was already scared to death to play against you.”  On another occasion, while playing with Henry Shevitz, they made a Gerber four clubs bid which worked out very badly. Michael said that they should never use that “stupid” convention again.  Of course, unknown to them, their opponent was John Gerber himself.  Gerber agreed that the convention wasn’t that terrific.

In the bridge world we frequently see only one side of people.  But everyone has a life away from the bridge table and there is far more to Michael’s life than bridge.  A native of the Detroit metropolitan area, Michael spent his working career with the United States Postal Service. He has been retired ten years now.  He and Vickie Vallone have made a life together and Vickie’s family is now his family also.  He and Vickie enjoy not only playing bridge together, online and at clubs and tournaments, but also enjoy a rich life away from the bridge table in addition to sharing family functions.  Michael is a sports enthusiast and also a lover of trivia.  He is also a connoisseur and collector of old movies, especially westerns and horror flicks.  If you don’t know who the only person was to kill Roy Rogers in a movie, just ask him.  And you won’t find many other people who consider Bela Lugosi their favorite movie actor.

SOMBA is proud of everything Michael does for the local bridge community and warmly congratulates him on his enormous achievement as a bridge player.

Beverly Gardner becomes a Platinum Life Master.  (Posted May 6, 2011)

The SOMBA unit celebrates the elevation to Platinum Life Master of Beverly Gardner Beverly won her 10,000th masterpoint while playing with Rick Kaye in a STAC game at a local club this past December.  She is the first SOMBA member to attain this status.  Beverly is well-known in our community as a friend, a player, and as a director and teacher.  

Beverly ’s bridge career started in the 1970s when she moved to Detroit to take a job as a systems analyst with Burroughs Corporation.  In order to start a social life in a city where she didn’t have many connections she started to play club bridge on a regular basis.  There she made many wonderful friends including the man who not only became her regular bridge partner but her life partner as well, Tom Gardner.  They were together for 35 years before Tom passed away several years ago.  Together she and Tom played regularly in local club games and in major tournaments and she started accumulating masterpoints rapidly.  She became a life master in 1976, a diamond life master in 1994, and an emerald life master in 2007.  In the process she also accumulated dozens of blue ribbon and silver ribbon invitations.   

Beverly , until recently, ran several club games.  She recently gave them up except for the game she runs Wednesday evenings at the Bridge Connection.  She takes great pride in starting from scratch an intermediate game for players with less than 1500 masterpoints which meets on Tuesday mornings at the church on Lone Pine and Woodward in Bloomfield Hills and building it up to a 36-table game.  Together with Tom, she helped to spearhead the movement to bring the Spring NABCs back to Detroit in 2008.  After accomplishing that, Beverly and Gail Hanson and others, devoted much time and energy to building excitement in the beginner, novice and intermediate bridge player community for playing in the Spring games, helping to make the event a success.  

Beverly has contributed greatly to the game she loves by serving for many years on the SOMBA board.  She has held many positions including Vice President, Education Liaison Chair, Directory Supervisor, and Trophy Races Chair.  Along the way Beverly found time to become an ACBL certified master teacher and a member of the American Bridge Teachers Association.  Although now retired as of 2003 from software development, Beverly still keeps busy in the bridge world by playing, teaching and running the Wednesday evening club game. 

We applaud Beverly Gardner on attaining her new status, take pride in her accomplishments and thank her for her many contributions to our bridge community.

Mark Leonard and Morrie Klienplatz and Their Team Win Mini-Spingold (Under 5000 Masterpoints). (Posted September 27, 2010)

We recognize Mark Leonard and Morrie Kleinplatz and their teammates, John Boyer and Robert Stayman, for winning the Mini-Spingold (less than 5000 masterpoints) at the North American Bridge Championships competition in New Orleans in July, 2010. 38 teams entered the competition which is played in knockout style. Winning the competition required playing all day Monday through Saturday. The Kleinplatz team survived the Monday competition to make it into eight 3-way matched on Tuesday. Surviving that, they beat their opposing teams in the round of 16 on Wednesday, the quarter-finals on Thursday, the semi-finals on Friday and then they faced the number one seed, the Jim Russell team, in the final on Saturday. It was a tough match but they won the final 137-93.

Morrie Kleinplatz is a clinical psychologist, Mark Leonard an implementation manager, Robert Stayman a full-time bridge instructor, and John Boyer a high school teacher. Both Kleinplatz and Leonard play actively in tournaments in the metropolitan Detroit area. We are proud of their victory in the Mini-Spingold.