By Alex J. Coyne © 2019 Great Bridge Links
A seemingly quiet little statement in the March 2019 International Bridge Players Association Monthly Bulletin has sent shockwaves throughout the bridge world: Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell have been let go by the NICKELL team, effective in 2020, to be replaced by Geoff Hampson and Eric Greco. Thomas Bessis and Frédérick Volcker will join the FLEISHER team to replace the departing Hampson/Greco.
Great Bridge Links & Alex J. Coyne take a closer look at the Meckwell pair, their history and what the future might hold for them.
Combinations of names are usually reserved for the world of celebrity dating, where couples are given combined names like Brangelina, but the world of bridge has its own celebrity pairs – and this one goes by the name of Meckwell. The playing pair better known as Meckwell consists of Americans Eric Rodwell and Jeff Meckstroth. They’re one of the most successful pairs in bridge, and one of the most feared when it comes to facing them as opponents on the table.
Their first win as a pair took place in 1981 – so they have a history of over 40 years of playing bridge together. That’s more than most married couples, and their combined wits have brought them a considerable amount of bridge wins since then. As George Jacobs notes in an article in the March 2019 ACBL Bulleton, “Between them they have more than 100 national titles and are within spitting distance of 20 world titles.”
Both are professional bridge players, and when it comes to Masterpoints, each are listed as some of the highest ranking players in the world. On the World Bridge Federation’s All Time Open Rankings list, Eric Rodwell sits in 5th place while Meckstroth sits in 6th.
Eric Rodwell, now 62, is one of only 10 players (another of them being Jeff Meckstroth) in the world who has won the Triple Crown – winning the three open world championshops – Bermuda Bowl, the World Open Pairs and the World Team Olympiad. Aside from his amazing bridge playing career, Rodwell is also co-author of 5 bridge books. Find them on Amazon, click here. Jeff Meckstroth, now 63, is also a bridge writer, his most popular book being Win the Bermuda Bowl With Me (Masterpoint Press).
Meckwell in Play
Want to know more about Meckwell-in-play? Take a look at some articles that have been written about their games, team styles and play.
Meckwell Answering Questions at St. Petersburg Bridge Club
NY Times: The Daring Meckwell, Unafraid to Overreach
CBS: Forty Years On Meckwell is Tough as Nails
CBS: Conventions – Meckwell Escapes
Then, there’s the play known as the Meckwell Convention: Yes, it’s named after them – and you can take a look at this article on Bridge Bum to find some more information on the Meckwell Convention (and good-to-know Meckwell escapes).
The Nickell Team
Rodwell and Meckstroth have played as part of the team captained by Frank Nickell since 1993 – at least as long as the writer of this piece has been alive.
In the article “Forty years on, Meckwell still tough as nails,” (ACBL Chicago NABC 2015 Bulletin), we are told that “When Nickell assembled the team in 1993, it immediately went on a tear, winning four straight in the Spingold Knockout Teams and six out of seven from 1993 through 1999. The team later added victories in the event in 2004, 2006 and 2007. “We seem to be the boys of summer,” says Meckstroth.”
The news this year that Meckwell will be leaving the Nickell team has sent shock waves even through the world of everyday bridge.
But despite a big part of the bridge world wondering just why they’re leaving the team in the first place, they don’t appear to say. Discussion on Bridge Winners does little to shed light on the reasons. Some comments imply the two players maybe be going separate ways with Meckwell retiring and Rodwell continuing to play competitively.
We’ll have to see what the future has in store for Meckwell , and we can only hope that all is well and that we’ll see the legendary partnership pop up again in future games soon.Well actually, at the Feb 2019 Sarasota-Manatee Regional there were quite a few gold points won by the Blass team made up of Josef Blass, Jacek Pszczola, Jacek Kalita and Michal Nowosadzki and a 3rd pair, none other than Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell. Bridge trackers might recall that Blass won the Reisinger BAM Teams at the NABC in December. Interesting!
Photo: Eric Rodwell & Jeff Meckstroth won the Blue Ribbon Pairs, the Reisinger BAM, Mitchell BAM at the Boston Fall NABC in 2008. Photo Jonathan Steinberg.