July 25, 2024
George Smolanko

George Smolanko

Bridge had me from hello!!  It was the late 1960’s, and from the first moment I saw an interesting looking card game called Bridge being played at lunch time in the refectory at Adelaide University, I was totally hooked.

I joined the South Australian Bridge Association and started playing competitively.  There was also a large influx of other students taking up the game during that era, and that benefited us all in being able to discuss and practice, and to develop and improve our standard.  Many of those players from that time have gone on to win numerous national titles.

In those early years I also met Bob Robertson who not only was an excellent bridge player, but also was a professional punter betting on thoroughbred horse racing.  He used a computer to process the many variables of horse racing and develop ratings that could be used to calculate the odds of winning for each horse in a race.   Bobby introduced a few of us younger bridge players into the world of racing and we used his odds to take on the bookies.  Bridge and racing seemed a natural fit, as both involved playing the odds and not getting rattled to arrive at a winning result.  There were lots of thrills and excitement both at the race track and at the bridge table.  They were heady days with strong camaraderie that continued for many decades.

My first taste of success at the national level came in 1971 when I was a member of the South Australian Team that won the Open Interstate Teams.  In those days that event was regarded as the premier teams event on the national calendar, and we had to beat the mighty NSW Team which had legends such as Seres, Smilde, Cummings, etc.  I was told at the time that I was the youngest player (22 years) in the world to win an open national title.  That record was short-lived however when Bobby Richman won the following year beating me by a few months.

Since then I have gone on to win most of the national events on the Australian bridge calendar, many more than once, and have represented Australia internationally both in Open and Seniors events.

The success which I enjoyed the most was being in the Australian Open Team to contest the World Bridge Olympiad in Salsomaggiore Italy in 1992.  I still get tingles and feel so proud about marching behind the Australian flag at the opening ceremony.

Bridge systems have evolved significantly over the years.  In my opinion bidding methods today are so much more effective than they were when I first started.  I expect that the average player of today using modern methods would bid better than the champion of yesteryear.  I have tried to keep abreast of new methods and endeavored to adapt those which I feel would enhance my system.

One of my favourite conventions is serious/non-serious slam tries after agreeing a Major. 

I have come to learn that bridge satisfaction comes not only from focusing on minimising mistakes, but also from celebrating the successes.

I have enjoyed playing with many partners, and in the main feel that I have learnt something useful from each of them.

I am a civil engineer who specialised in contract management in the later half of my career, before retiring in 2011.  Besides bridge I enjoy the brilliant entertaining company of my wife Linda, sharing the company of our children, travelling, going for long walks, gardening, and friends.

My Master Point Rank is Gold Grand Master.

International Appearances

1992  World Open Teams Olympiad.  Salsomaggiore, Italy

2005  World Senior Teams.  Estoril, Portugal

2010  Asia-Pacific Senior Teams (1st).  Hamilton, New Zealand

2015  Yeh Bros Cup (Open Teams).  Shanghai, China

2017  Asia Pacific Senior Teams.  Seoul, South Korea

2021  Tri Nations Senior Teams (1st).  Online.

2022  World Senior Teams.  Salsomaggiore, Italy

Wins in National Events

National Open Teams:  1991, 1993, 1994

Interstate Open Teams:  1971, 1974, 2002, 2009, 2013, 2017, 2019

Spring National Open Teams:  1992

Grand National Open Teams:  1991, 1998, 2013

Autumn National Open Teams:  1995, 1996, 1999, 2001

Victor Champion Cup Open Teams:  1984

National Swiss Pairs (Open):  2004

Australian Swiss Pairs (Open):  2010

Australian Open Butler Trials (top 3 pairs):  1990 (3rd), 2017 (2nd), 2021 (2nd)

National Senior Teams:  2005, 2010, 2011, 2019, 2020

Interstate Senior Teams:  2016

Bobby Evans Senior Teams:  2019

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