More than 40 years ago, and Eric Rodwell formed a partnership that soon became one of the greats in the annals of bridge. In the Grand National Teams, Championship Flight, at Chicago 2015, the two anchored the District 9 squad that won the event for the fifth year in a row. They played 45 of the 60 boards in the final. The victory pushed Meckstroth’s lifetime masterpoint total past 80,000, tops all time. Between them, Meckstroth and Rodwell have been on GNT squads 25 times. They have a combined total of 115 North American championships to go along with 15 world titles, and they won most of the championships playing together. There is no rivalry between the two – “we root for each other,” says Meckstroth – but they know how each other’s major wins are distributed. Meckstroth has 13 GNT wins, Rodwell 12. Rodwell owns 58 North American titles, Meckstroth 57.
Thanks to Meckstroth’s World Mixed Pairs title in 2002, he holds an 8-7 edge on his partner in world competition. Meckwell, as they are known to many in the bridge community, are formidable opponents and loyal teammates.
Referring to the Nick Nickell squad, which Meckstroth and Rodwell joined in 1993, Meckstroth says, “I love our team – every guy on our team.” The other members of the team are Ralph Katz, Nickell’s partner, and another tough partnership: Bobby Levin and Steve Weinstein. Domination of team events is nothing new for Meckstroth and Rodwell. 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.
At age 59, Meckstroth is the proud grandfather of 14-month-old Hunter Jeffrey Meckstroth. His dad, Rob, is in Berkeley CA working on an MBA. Meckstroth’s other son, Matt, is a teacher in Gainesville FL. Winning the GNT this year wasn’t easy. The team –Warren Spector, David Berkowitz, Mike Becker, Gary Cohler and Meckwell – trailed in every match.
They defeated District 19 by 9 IMPs. With the influx of foreign players, Meckstroth says, the fields in major ACBL events are much stronger now than when Meckstroth won his first Spingold, in 1984. “It’s tougher by miles,” he says. “We used to cruise into the round of eight in the Spingold,” he says. “Now there are good, young teams in the round of 32, but I love the challenge.”
Rodwell, ever the analyst, looks at his record with Meckstroth and teams they have been on and concludes, “We’ve had the racing luck we needed in close matches.” As both players advance in age, Rodwell says, it’s harder to maintain the stamina needed to succeed in high-level competition: “You have to work at it.”
Both players know they aren’t going to win every time. Says Rodwell, “Bridge is like anything else – you have to deal with the ups and downs.” Meckstroth adds, “Failure makes me stronger.” Rodwell acknowledges that the opponents are tougher than they used to be, but he says, “My theory is whoever shows up, that’s the opponent.” Since they started playing together, Meckstroth and Rodwell have seen many longtime partnerships dissolve as they endured. “You have to keep the disagreements constructive,” Rodwell says.
Both give credit to their wives for keeping them focused and grounded. At big tournaments, Rodwell says, “it helps to have Donna on site. She keeps me organized.” Meckstroth and his wife, Sally, even play together occasionally. “I love playing with my wife. She’s a great lady.” Reminded of his and Meckstroth’s early Spingold success with the Nickell team, Rodwell reflects, “Those were the days. Let’s bring them back.” Meckstroth seconds that emotion: “I never get tired of winning.”