Larry Kozlove, Champion bridge player

| July 6, 2011

Larry Kozlove.Later this year, Larry Kozlove will compete in the World Bridge Tournament in Veldhoven, Netherlands. A member of one of two teams chosen to represent the United States in Veldhoven after competing in the U.S. Senior team trial in Detroit, Kozlove is certainly a talented card player. However, until recently, he hadn’t played bridge competitively in more than 20 years.

Kozlove sat down with me to explain how he regained his passion for the game, why he doesn’t play here, in Louisville, and how he plans to compete in Veldhoven this October.

How does it feel to be ranked as one the top bridge players in the world?
Well, let me tell you, there are a lot of very, very good players, and the competition we had (in Detroit) was against very good players. I was, needless to say, very excited – after having been out for so many years – to know that I was still able to compete at that level.

When did you start playing bridge?
In college. I played at a very high level and won a North American championship in 1978, and it became a game that, if I didn’t play at a high level, I lost interest.

I didn’t have as much temperament to play professionally, nor did I want to travel to a big extent. So I really haven’t played competitive bridge for about 25 years. I hadn’t played since probably the early to mid ’80s. I played some, but not at a high, competitive level.

When did you start competing again?
Really this year, in January. My wife and I had rented a house in Boca Raton, Fla., for a couple of months this winter. There happened to be a game with a lot of the people I’d known throughout the years – who either lived near Boca Raton or were snowbirds. A very competitive game was held once a week on Wednesdays. I was invited to play in this game and one of the people said, “Larry, I’ve got a team for the U.S. Senior team trials coming up in June. We’re playing in Detroit. Would you be interested in being my partner?”

I started playing again, and I could tell I’d been a little bit rusty. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle, but I still had a very strong, competitive drive.

We went to Detroit and played in the team trials. It’s open to anyone 59 or over.  There were two teams selected that won the rights of the competition to represent the U.S., and we were one of those teams.

Do you follow a particular strategy? Can you disclose your secret to the game?
I don’t think there are secrets. I think every partnership has a lot of systems and conventions that they play, but as a partnership, you’re not entitled to know any more about your partnership – understandings and agreements – than your opponents are allowed to know. That way they have the ability to know how to compete against our systems and the same for us. In fact, we have to submit convention cards for approval so that all the teams know our system and vice versa.

Where, and with whom, do you play here, in Louisville?
I do not play. My wife, Ellen, is a very, very good player. But we do not play. (Laughing) It’s probably not good for husbands and wives to play together.

You’ll compete in the World Bridge Tournament in Veldhoven, Netherlands, later this year. How are you and your team preparing?
We don’t practice. We need to. We discuss things on the phone, but we don’t practice. We’re going to two tournaments coming up, so that’ll be practice.

We are required to be in the country at least two days prior to the beginning of the opening ceremonies so that we can adjust to the time difference, so we’ll be mentally and physically prepared.

What do you do when you’re not playing?
I worked for what used to be Citizens Fidelity Bank, now PNC Bank, for 22 years. Then I headed up a private banking department with Bank of Louisville, which became BB&T. Then I was hired by Republic Bank, and I worked there for the last six years of my career.  I retired three-and-a-half years ago.

If you want to know what I’ve been doing since then, I play competitive poker.

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Samantha Stratton

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