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David Caplan (1964-2019) - Our Story
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David Caplan, my lifelong friend and first bridge partner, passed away on July 25, 2019 at age 54. This is our story…

In 1977, when I was 12 years old and a recent “new kid” at St. Andrew’s Junior High School in Toronto, a second new kid was introduced to our class as one David Caplan. It seemed natural for me to seek him out as a friend.

In retrospect, perhaps my attraction to David was Darwinian in nature - I already knew about the predators among our classmates and could use some help evading them. But I like to think that David’s character had something to do with my attraction to him.

Even at 12, David had the gentlest of souls. There was something very special about his disposition - David was always peaceful and content in an almost Zen-like way. He enjoyed being alive. To the best of my knowledge, David Caplan was not capable of anger.

There was a lot of standard early teen stuff going on. I was a small kid with a big mouth. David was a bigger (but not huge) kid with a massive heart. Our encounters with the predators did not always end well for David. We liked playing sports, but were not especially athletic. We played in the school band together (David on saxophone, me on clarinet - we were both awful). Our circle of friends expanded, but by and large, the girls ignored us.

Around that time I got my first home computer, a Commodore PET with 8K of memory. I became obsessed with computer programming and David was one of only a handful of my classmates that showed any interest in my new PET. We would spend hours doing experiments and playing games on my computer. That was not a normal thing for kids to do in 1977.

In short time I got to know the whole Caplan family. David had two younger brothers, Mark and Zane, and a younger sister, Meredith.

Mark plays a starring role in this story. There is no other way to describe his relationship with David other than to say, they were “like brothers”.

Mark has the same sunny, positive, disposition that David radiated, but he expresses it differently. David was always calm and serene. Mark is more outgoing - he likes to smile and laugh, but just the right amount. He also makes other people smile and laugh.

David and Mark were very different personality-wise, but they both had a gift of making the people around them feel good. They were the best friends a kid like me could ever hope to have.

In retrospect my 3 years at St. Andrew’s were good ones, but my enjoyment of education took a turn for the worse when David and I entered York Mills Collegiate Institute as 10th graders (Mark would join us atYMCIone year later).

There were plenty of good teachers atYMCI, but it seemed like the majority of the students were vacuous entitled brats, primarily concerned with collecting $40 alligator logos that cost 3 cents to make (glad to finally get that off my chest!). By this time David and I had began to think about things. I worried about what would happen when the creatures of our generation were put in charge of the world. David said everything would be OK.

I was looking for an excuse to skip school and David was soon going to help me find it.

TheCaplansare a serious card-playing family. David and Mark, who learned about trick-taking games as children, became active in theYMCIbridge club. It was not normal for high schools in Toronto to have bridge clubs at that time - we were lucky that Mr Daniels, an English teacher atYMCI, was a casual player who agreed to supervise the club.

Since this article is intended primarily for bridge players, it should also be noted that anotherYMCIfaculty member, RayJotcham, was (and still is) a REAL bridge player. Ray (who I still can’t help but call “Mr.Jotcham”) taught math and computer science. He influenced all of us bridge-wise and he influenced me computer-wise.

I was introduced to bridge in the usual way - my friends, theCaplanbrothers, needed a fourth. The third was Ian Goldman, the only person I knew from high school who was both a great athlete and a first class geek (did that word exist in the early 1980s?). After high school Ian drifted away from bridge and we lost touch. Recently, as a result of David’s passing, I heard from him for the first time in over 30 years.

After 2 hours of bridge at theYMCIclub, I dropped my computer obsession and switched to a bridge obsession instead. The next weekend David and Mark suggested we go play in a 1-session Swiss Teams Consolation at a Toronto Sectional. They taught meStaymanandBlackwoodin the car on the way to the tournament. After losing our first 3 matches, I felt confident about the 4th - we had all plus scores! I didn’t know that +170s and +180s were not very good scores.

We would often skip school in order to play at Ted Horning’s local club. I remember one day that David had somehow been allowed to borrow his father’s beautiful red TR-8 convertible. We were running a bit late to get to the club, so we decided to save time and leave the car in the parking lot with its top down. That was a safe thing to do in the Toronto suburbs at the time.

After the game, David and I were walking through the parking lot toward the car as we talked about the hands. David opened the car door without really paying attention and an absolute flood of water came rushing out - it was sunny before and after, but there had been a huge rain storm during the game and the sports car had filled up with water while we were playing!

David thought this was very very funny. He didn’t seem to be especially concerned about how his father might react.

I am sorry but I don’t remember how David’s father,Wilf, actually reacted but my guess is that he also thought it was funny even if he kept that to himself. I always thought that David had a lot ofWilfin him while Mark seemed more like his mother, Elinor (who is famous in Canada - ask Google if you are curious).

Elinor andWilfwere the closest thing I had to a second set of parents (not that I needed a second set - I lucked out with my real parents). Sometimes theCaplanboys and I would play in team events with their father and Uncle John (alsoCaplan). We would call ourselves “Uncle John’s Band”.

Once we got into bridge, David, Mark and I were inseparable for three years of high school. I remember sitting next to David in chemistry class when it was announced that John Lennon had been killed. We cried. We loved the Beatles. Some of the other kids (who loved disco until it became unfashionable) made fun of us.

During a club game in the early 1980s, David found himself as declarer in 6H, after his left hand opponent had shown at least 5 cards in both minors. The Jack of spades was the opening lead. I don’t remember all of the original spot cards.

87654

KQ76

A43

4

AQ2

A5432

Q2

A32

(You might want to think about how you would play as declarer, but be warned this is not an easy one!)

David took a sensible and normal-looking line of play that failed when his LHO proved to be 1-1 in the majors. We spent a while thinking about it and decided that the contract could not be made against that distribution.

When I woke up the next morning, I somehow could see the light - 6H can (and should) be made when West is 1-1 in the majors, but only if you allow his Jack of spades to win the first trick!

I instantly phoned David and told him what I had learned. I did not need to see his face to know that he fully appreciated that something unique and beautiful had been revealed only to us. It was a magical moment and the clearest possible reminder of why we play bridge.

That bridge problem would eventually become deal A-26 from Level 5 of the Bridge Master software that I wrote many years later. It appeared on the back of Bridge Master promotional t-shirts.

Theoretically the early 1980s should have been a golden age for bridge in Toronto. There were dozens of strong players roughly 15 years older than us (they seemed so old to us at the time but they were still in their 30s!!!). The events at the TorontoRegionalsfilled massive ballrooms at the Royal York Hotel.

But something was wrong in the bridge paradise of Toronto - theCaplansand I seemed to be virtually the only bridge players of our generation. We did find a couple of other friends our age in sisters Susan and Karen Cooper and had many good times packing lots of people into small cars and hotel rooms as we attended nearby tournaments. We ate atMcDonaldsand playedhackysack andfrisbeebetween sessions. We enjoyed some less wholesome activities as well, but we generally behaved ourselves.

I should mention that several of those former young experts from Toronto (who are now pushing 70) have been close friends with theCaplansfor almost as many decades as I have been (ShelaghPaulsson, JohnGowdy, Roy Dalton, David Turner, VinceOddy, and Doug Fox come to mind - I am sure there are others).

David and Mark went to college at Western University in London, Ontario (about 100 miles West of Toronto). I stayed at home and (in theory at least) went to the University of Toronto (in practice I was playing and studying bridge).

It was in London that David and Mark became friends with Brad Boyle, a bridge player who was a few years older than us. Brad, yet another first class human being and dear lifelong friend, knew more about bridge and had more tournament experience than the rest of us. When we decided to form a bridge team to play in tournaments, I am fairly sure that Brad was our only Life Master.

Brad and Mark were partners while I played with David. Mark had the most natural talent of our group. I have no doubt that he would have become one of the best players in the world had he focused his life on bridge. David and Brad were both solid players and absolutely perfect partners which was important as both Mark and I were sometimes difficult to play with. Of the four of us, I was the most serious about bridge.

Our team had two early successes. First, we won a huge Sunday Swiss Teams at the Toronto Regional. It may be hard to believe now, but at that time winning such an event really meant something.

Uncle John’s Band was on the map and we had managed to attract a dedicated kibitzer - a shining ray of light named SheriWinestockwho I fell in love with immediately. A few years later our friendship became romantic. We have been together ever since, partners in life, business, and bridge.

Shortly thereafter our team qualified for the 1988 Canadian National Team Championships Finals in Vancouver. I could be wrong, but as I recall we actually finished first in the Southern Ontario qualifier which was considered a miracle. There were many teams that on paper were much stronger than ours.

You know you are doing well when you start hearing rumors that some of the stronger players in the area think you must be cheating!

TheCNTCFinal was a great experience, but not a great success from a results point of view. Mark and I had a triumph shortly thereafter in the 1991 World Junior Championships when our unheralded Canadian team won the Silver Medal. David was unfortunately born 45 days too early to qualify as a Junior in 1991, but of course he came to Ann Arbor to cheer for Canada in the Finals.

Three members of Canada’s 1991 Junior team,BroniaJenkins,GeoffHampson, and myself (and also Sheri), won National Championships at the recentLasVegasNABC.Geoffis one of the elite players in the world today. A fourth member of our team, Mike Roberts, went on to become both a fine player and (IMO) one of the best Tournament Directors anywhere. Mark’s partner for the World Juniors was Eric Sutherland who, as far as I can tell, is having a very successful life, but is no longer involved in bridge.

Brad Moss,GeirHelgemo, BrianPlatnick, John Diamond, and Debbie Rosenberg are some of the other stars of today who played in the 1991 World Juniors (the latter three were on the USA Team that beat Canada in the Final to win the Gold Medal).

David, Mark, and Brad knew all along that, although they loved bridge and had the potential to be champions, they did not want to dedicate their lives to the game. They all opted for the real world - families and jobs. Mark and Brad have done very well in business whereas David has spent much of his life working in politics.

OK. So you have read this far and hopefully I have given you a picture of this amazing person and now I am telling you he became a politician!WTF?

Here isTF: While it is nice to think that our political leaders should represent the best of who we are, reality suggests that a disproportionate percentage of those we elect turn out to come from the worst of us.

But DavidCaplanwas both a politician and one of the best of us. He really wanted to make his community and his country a better place for all its citizens. Really. I know this because we talked about this extensively before he became a politician and, being somewhat of a cynic then, I gave him a hard time about it.

About a decade ago, my mother called from Toronto and said: “DavidCaplanjust did the most decent thing I have ever seen from a politician”. I don’t know enough to report the details (Google if you care), but Mom told me that, in the public interest, David had taken responsibility for some giantscrewupthat wasn’t really his fault thereby effectively ending his successful political career. It was obvious that my mother was in tears on the phone.

While you are on Google, look for some of the tributes from David’s political colleagues. While I am normally skeptical of what such people have to say, on this day they speak the truth.

During the past 28 years bridge has been almost my entire life, but David and Mark rarely played, focusing instead on their families and careers. We have run into each other at only a handful of tournaments over the years.

On the rare occasions when our paths have crossed, it was always great (“like old times”) and we would make a point to try to reconnect. You know how it is. Our intentions were good and our feelings were real, but we were all too busy and it never happened. And now it can’t happen. There is a lesson here.

In recent years, as their children have grown up, David and Mark have returned to bridge. At the 2019 Canadian National Championships, they were Gold Medalists in both the Open Pairs and the IMP Pairs. The future looked bright for theCaplanbrothers’ partnership.

David and Mark also qualified to represent their District in the Championship Flight of the 2019 Grand National Teams. That gave them an excuse to come toLasVegas for the Summer Nationals which took place a couple of weeks ago.

It was wonderful to see my two oldest friends. For an hour or so it felt like we were teenagers again. We even talked about trying to put the band back together for a futureCNTC. Now that will never happen, but I am so grateful that I got a chance to see David (and Mark) at the Nationals.

Thank you for living, DavidCaplan. You made the world a better place just by being yourself.

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