On the Record with ... Karl Dencker

Karl Dencker of Lake in the Hills is a competitive bridge player. He recently received an award from the American Contract Bridge League.
Karl Dencker of Lake in the Hills is a competitive bridge player. He recently received an award from the American Contract Bridge League.

Karl Dencker has worked as a corporate executive for Macmillan publishing company in the Colliers Encyclopedia division, worked in real estate, and has owned a roller rink. He retired in the early 1980s.

For the last 10 years he has served as president of the Northwest Illinois Bridge District 8-Unit 239. He is currently planning a bridge tournament for June 16 to June 22 at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn. However, he does plan to retire from his post soon.

Dencker recently received the Goodwill Member of the Year award from the American Contract Bridge League, for “unselfish dedication to the causes of good conduct, worthy participation and ethical behavior.”

Dencker recently spoke with reporter Joseph Bustos about playing the award and playing bridge.

Bustos: Why did you get the award?

Dencker: I suppose a lot of it was the work this unit has done. I’ve been president for 10 years. When I took over as president, I think we were running about 500 tables of bridge, the regional tournament was in Rockford. I brought it up. This year ... we’ll be running 1,200 tables. That’s a lot of work. We have the largest tournament in the state of Illinois.

Bustos: How many people go to these tournaments?

Dencker: You probably have in this coming one, 1,100 people. They come from all over, Canada, Poland. They come from all over. You never know who is going to show up, until you open the door. We’re very fortunate, we have an extraordinary reputation, which is really great.

Bustos: How long have you been playing bridge?

Dencker: There’s two kinds of bridge. There’s social bridge and duplicate bridge. We’ve been playing social bridge off and on for 40 or 45 years. You may play it or drop it for a year or two, depending on the circle of people you’re traveling with. Duplicate bridge ... is very competitive. I’m not a bad bridge player, but I don’t play the game competitively serious. It’s a game. It happens to be an extraordinarily great game. I put on seven tournaments a year, I know how to put on a tournament, but when I go to a tournament, I don’t play much bridge ... because I’m so busy.

Bustos: How did you get into bridge?

Dencker: We were living in St. Charles, and started playing in the park district down there. We played down there, I guess we played for quite a while and moved up here and started playing at the Dole Mansion. We played some sanctioned games, and some nonsanctioned games.

Bustos: Did you start playing to socialize with people?

Dencker: I suppose. It’s a funny thing about duplicate bridge. We were just starting out, and a lady came in, who I didn’t know, with her husband, but it was like a family reunion. People are hugging, [asking] ‘how are you?’ ... this is what happens. You go to a tournament and see the same people. A lot of the people are the same people; you don’t see them any other time, but you see them at tournaments. It’s the same thing with clubs. I ran a club in Elgin for seven or eight years every Thursday. I was running 17 to 18 tables, which was a fair-sized club. But these people are the same ones who come to your club every week, and it becomes a friendship.

Bustos: What’s the benefit of teaching kids bridge?

Dencker: They have to make decisions, they have to evaluate the hands of four people, they have to anticipate, have to learn conventions. They’re learning a mountain of things.

Bustos: You mentioned you were retiring?

Dencker: I’ve done it for a number of years, and we run great tournaments. The reputation is outstanding, and like all good things, it’s time to pass the wand on to somebody else and allow them the opportunity to do one of two things: either screw it up or make it better than what it was. I hope it’s makes it better than what it was. 

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