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Master of the Game at 14

 by Jean Marbella

Fort Lauderdale News & Sun-Sentinel — April, 1984

Richard Pavlicek Jr. is a 14-year-old Life Master at bridge

Some parents have their child’s first shoes bronzed as a sentimental souvenir. Mabel and Richard Pavlicek, however, saved their child’s first bridge hand, the cards forever stacked in a metal board on a shelf in their Fort Lauderdale home.

Prophetically enough, Rich Jr. is now the nation’s youngest Life Master at bridge, the highest rating among serious players. He is 14 years old.

“I like to win,” Rich said simply.

The title, held by about 30,000 players, is won by garnering at least 300 master points in various tournament matches. Rich, a ninth-grade student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, passed that milestone last year.

His bridge-playing prowess might be attributed to both heredity and environment — his father is the co-author of Modern Bridge Conventions, a best-selling book, and both parents are well-known teachers of the game. He began playing at the age of 10.

“My mom and dad have played bridge for as long as I’ve known them,” Rich said. In fact, his parents met at a bridge tournament. His mother played in a bridge match the day before he was born. When he was three weeks old, they brought him to his first bridge tournament.

At school, however, Rich is more famous for playing chess and messing around with computers. Bridge does not come up in cafeteria chatter very often.

Bridge is a game that takes keen concentration and a mathematical memory — which this serious youngster, who wants to be a computer engineer, no doubt has.

“They say,” said his mother, “that a naked woman could run by during a bridge tournament and nobody would notice.”

“I would notice,” Rich said.

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© 1984 Jean Marbella