Our conversations with the Unit's top players
This month, the Unit 141 Newsletter debuts a new regular feature. We have the great honor of interviewing top Unit 141 players about their experience, history, and thoughts on the game we all love. We kick off the series with bridge champions, teachers, and Philadelphia residents, JoAnn and Danny Sprung.
JoAnn's many accomplishments include a championship in the World Mixed Teams and back-to-back wins in the National Mixed Pairs (with Ken Cohen and Danny). She is a Woman's International Life Master. Danny has won the National Mixed Pairs and is a World Master.
During this interview, we were lucky enough to be visited by the Sprung's friends, former Unit 141ers, and Rosenblum World Champions John Diamond and Brian Platnick. You will see their comments sprinkled throughout the interview as well.
141: How did you start playing bridge?
JoAnn Sprung: I was going to college and sitting in a commuters' lounge when a group dealt me in. They all started yelling at me while we played, but that didn't stop me.
Danny Sprung: I started by watching my parents.
141: What is your most memorable win?
JoAnn: Winning the National Mixed Pairs with Danny.
Danny: Winning the National Mixed Pairs with JoAnn. But JoAnn's World Championship win in Philly last year was a big deal too.
141: What's your favorite convention?
JoAnn: Good-Bad Two No Trump
Danny: We play transfers after a 1 club opening so I'd say that. But I think that everyone should play the "Keller" convention, which means that you should be like Helen Keller at the table: blind to your partner's mistakes, deaf to criticism, and dumb about giving it.
John Diamond: Drury
Brian Platnick: Blackwood
141: What do you think is the worst convention? What won't you play?
JoAnn: 2 hearts as a double negative over a 2 club opening.
Danny: Puppet Stayman and coded 9s and 10s. I'm not crazy about Bergen raises either.
141: You have both played bridge with a lot of great and interesting players. Other than your spouse, who is your favorite partner?
JoAnn: Betty Ann Kennedy
Danny: Paul Lewis
141: From a fan's perspective, who is your all-time favorite player?
JoAnn: Sidney Lazard, he is a true gentleman.
Danny: Benito Garazzo
141: And what if you could only play one more round of bridge. Living or dead, what player would you pick as your partner?
JoAnn: Benito Garazzo
Danny: Well, if Benito is taken, I might pick Howard Schenken.
Brian: Jeff Meckstroth
141: You're both teachers. What do you like about teaching?
JoAnn: I get to talk...
Danny: ...and people listen [laughter].
JoAnn: I also like entertaining and the interaction you have with people.
Danny: I like it when you see the lightbulb go on for a student.
141: Bridge isn't always smooth sailing. What pet peeves do you have at the table?
JoAnn: Card snapping!
Danny: Equivocators - opponents who won't given you a straight answer when you ask them a question at the table.
Brian: People who won't stop "post-morteming" at the table.
141: What's your best bridge tip for advancing players?
JoAnn: Bid no-trump before the opponents do.
Danny: "Push 'em to 3 and let 'em be."
Brian: Don't think about the last hand.
141: What is your best idea for how to improve the game for the future?
JoAnn: There are too many tounaments and events within tournaments. Have fewer events at all levels.
Danny: Have schools offer bridge as a for-credit college course.
John: Do more to encourage younger people to play.
141: So let's jump ship for a minute and talk about something other than bridge. What's your favorite food and drink?
JoAnn: Chocolate; Rombauer chardonnay
Danny: French fried potatoes; port
141: Aside from something bridge-related, what would like to learn to do?
JoAnn: Make the perfect souffle.
Danny: Play the piano.
141: We can't thank you enough for sharing your thoughts with us!
JoAnn and Danny: Our pleasure.