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Karl Gohl

1939-2022

By Neil Kimelman

 

Karl passed away peacefully, with his wife at his side, on August 26, 2022. I had the honour of calling Karl my bridge partner, and more importantly my friend. Karl was one of a kind. His mixture of decency, passion, humour, competitiveness, humility and loyalty is unmatched in my experience. Here is part of his story.

Although I had seen him around, I first met Karl at a sectional Swiss team, around 2005. We were playing against each other in the last round for the championship. When he came to our table I was taken aback. Karl’s size is a bit intimidating, and mixed with his high octane competitive spirit was a little scary. We competed fiercely during the seven boards. I am not sure who won, but we talked about the hands afterwards. This scary dude was in fact just very intense at the table, and I soon realized, a wonderful person away from it. In fact we hit it off so well we starting playing together in 2005, and we soon became a regular partnership.

Unwavering optimism and zest for life and bridge

Karl always had a twinkle in his eye. He addressed all with respect and had a way to make instant friends. Many a times we were in restaurants, bars, or at the table, and Karl started to engage others in conversation. It could be politics, sports, climate change or how to make the best apple pie crust. Karl had a wide knowledge on so many subjects, and a respectful and fun way of engaging people.

Karl was a teacher by profession. He taught math, physics, and science for about 30 years, both at the high school level, as well at the Assiniboine Community College.

I asked around and one of Karl’s good friends and bridge partner, Alex Bertrand shared the following story with me. As a young lad (11 to 12 years of age) Karl played cards with the old men of the North end of Winnipeg. They played for small stakes and Karl became very proficient at winning enough money to pay for his lunch.  Since he was a young kid they called him Charlie.  This name stuck when he started to play duplicate bridge since some of those old men also played duplicate.  The old guard for most part has passed away but Maureen Marsh to this day refers to Karl as Charlie. 

He would not hesitate in trying new experiences. When in St. Louis for the 2007 NABC we visited the St. Louis Arch and faced the choice of riding it to its apex (did you know you could go inside of it?). Despite the very close quarters, apparent slow ascent, and having a bit of claustrophobia, Karl said sure, why not.

I remember sitting with him in our hotel room at a CNTC qualifying in Thunder Bay, him sipping the Irish Mist liqueur he adored, and talking for 15 minutes, whether it was better to play the seven of spades or the eight of spades on a particular deal. He showed humility in all conversations, whether he was right or wrong.

Karl loved his bridge. He loved analyzing hands and bidding methods. He was always looking at obscure international publications, gleaning ideas from these publications. When we started making up our convention card I was astounded by Karl’s knowledge of a variety of gadgets.  In fact we started to play conventions no one else locally, or for that matter across Canada, were playing. These included Transfer Lebensohl, Catsfeet, Miser, and Klinger. Eventually, many of the top Winnipeg experts started playing these systems, when they saw how successful we were in using them.

Karl has had many Regional wins and overall finishes in Canadian Championships. He is ranked 2817 (about 10,000 players listed) in the World Bridge Federation All Time Open Rankings. This puts him as the 73th highest ranking Canadian on this list, and the 2nd highest Manitoban.

Probably his great success was the 2010 World Open Pairs final, played in Philadelphia. After 5 qualifying and 5 semi-final sessions Karl and I were the only Canadians to make it to the finals. 300 pairs started playing the qualifying with about 130 advancing to the semis. In the semis 50 odd pairs dropped in from the Rosenblum to make it a 182 pairs, of which only 49 qualified for the finals. With the medal winners dropping in from the Rosenblum the field consisted of 72 of the strongest pairs in the world.

Karl was playing great, inspired bridge, and he was not intimidated by our famous competitors. Three of our hands got written up in the Official World Championship book. We bested the best players in the world many times, with several 70 tops, and scored better than all other 36 E-W pairs in the 3rd final session! After 3 of the 5 sessions we were in contention, but Karl caught a very bad cold that night, and we dropped out of the running. Despite that, Karl fought hard and earned much respect and made new friends.

In the first session of the final, Karl demonstrated excellent judgement in bidding 6♠. We scored 53 out of 70:

 

Gohl Kimelman
   
♠KQJ975 ♠A42
♥82   ♥AJ1076
♦K9873  ♦AQ
♣Void     ♣1096
   
  1♥
1♠     1NT (15-17)
4♠      5♦
6♠  

 

When his wife Ann called me with the news of Karl’s passing, she shared a couple of pieces of information with me that spoke volumes. First, Karl did not want to burden any of his bridge friends in the last few years, when he had many health problems. He knew he was dying, so took the time to say goodbye to Anne, and to try to comfort her, and give her some final requests and suggestions for life after him.

But right to his last night Karl maintained a nightly reading routine in bed before going to sleep. First he read passages from the bible. Then he read excerpts from his favourite bridge book.

Rest in peace my friend, and I hope to see you on the other side.

 

Karl and me in St. Louis 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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