Ralph Katz learned bridge at the age of 16 while visiting his uncle. He always loved sports and competition and says that the competitiveness in bridge was an immediate attraction for him. He says, “Bridge was also a very fun game to learn, and when the light bulb went on and I started understanding it more, it just made the learning more about the game even more fun.”
At age 22 at the Summer NABC in Las Vegas, Katz and partner Ken Schutze wanted to practice for the Spingold, but they couldn’t find teammates. “We decided to play in the (von Zedtwitz) Life Master Pairs to practice. It worked out pretty well,” says Katz. The pair notched their first North American championship by winning the prestigious three-day contest.
Since then, Katz has won 22 additional NABC titles including five Vanderbilts, three Spingolds and two Reisingers. He topped the Player of the Year race in 2001 and nabbed the Fishbein trophy in 1981 and 2001.
Shortly after joining the Nickell team, Katz achieved a lifetime goal of winning a Bermuda Bowl in 2009. Katz’s other successes on the world stage include the 2010 Rosenblum Teams (also with the Nickell team), a silver medal in the 2007 Bermuda Bowl and a bronze in the 2000 World Team Olympiad as part of the George Jacobs squad, and a silver medal in the 1990 World Open Pairs with Peter Nagy.
Nickell says Katz is very funny and a lot of fun to be with, both at and away from the bridge table. “Ralph is a super nice person, a gentleman and a great partner. A testament to this is that he has won national titles with an extraordinarily large number of different partners.”
Katz says playing on the Nickell team is “like playing on the New York Yankees, in the most positive way.”
Prior to retiring to play bridge professionally, Katz traded options on the Chicago Exchange. He was also the CEO of an options-trading firm.
Bridge runs deep in his family; his wife, Martha, was a World Junior Champion; Martha and son, Sam, were Queen and King of bridge; and mother-in-law, Chris Benson, is a Grand Life Master.
Katz says, “The reasons I loved the game in the beginning still continue.”