Most of you know who I am, the guy in charge of BBO’s numerous vugraph presentations, and of course the same guy who does voice commentary with a distinct and maybe even posh British accent.
This is how Roland introduced himself when we interviewed him many years ago. He needed no introduction, of course… There was only one Roland on BBO, and he was equivalent to Vugraph.
On May 25, 2020, Roland’s family announced that he passed away unexpectedly, from a heart attack. In shock and pain we write this eulogy to spend some moments together remembering who Roland was and what a great man we lost…
Roland’s contribution to the world of bridge was massive. He managed to make Vugraph entertaining.
Vugraph went from a handful of people watching quietly and respectfully how the world’s greatest players play, to a live show of entertainment, jokes, and sometimes totally off topic conversations. It kept people glued to the screen for hours, not only to see how the game unfolds, but also to listen to how some of the best players in the world *think* it might unfold.
Roland put long hours into commentating, getting teams of commentators together and organizing them to help all ongoing vugraph events have commentary. He was BBO’s Vugraph Coordinator and inspired many experts and world class players to join him in this venture.
All this work was volunteer. Roland was not an employee of BBO. We of course treated him like one of ours, and he considered himself part of the BBO family, but his was a work of pure love and dedication for the good of bridge.
His efforts did not pass unnoticed. International recognition of his contribution to the bridge world came with a prestigious award from the International Bridge Press Association. Roland Wald won the 2011 Alan Truscott Memorial Award, an honor presented periodically to that person whose contribution to bridge, in the opinion of the IBPA Executive, would be most appreciated by Alan.
He always claimed to be “computer-challenged” but he adapted remarkably well to new technology. He switched from written commentary to voice commentary since voice commentary was on the testbed. Later on he adapted from the older flash BBO to the html BBO. And these past couple of months, when there were no live matches and no live vugraph, he was still present, organizing commentary at high-level online matches. For a tech-challenged person you didn’t do too bad, dearest Roland…
Here’s an excerpt from an older interview with Roland, to remind us all of his sense of humour and unforgettable presence… Farewell, dear friend. You will not be forgotten!
Tell us about the new Voice Commentary feature on BBO. You always say all you know about computers is where the ON/OFF button is… Was it tough for you to adapt?
Ask Uday or Fred, or my sons for that matter, and they will attest to the fact that I am absolutely clueless when it comes to computers. In fact, I am pretty scared when I tread on unknown territory. What if things go wrong? When Fred told me about the new voice feature, I was a little reluctant, but funnily enough it did not take me long to adapt. It was technically easier than I thought, and for that I must thank Fred and Uday. We had a conference call on Skype, and their way of explaining the procedure must have been second to none. Even I grasped it!
What was your favorite voice session so far?
There have been plenty, but if I have to mention one, it must be our inaugural broadcast at the Spingold finals last summer (n.ed. 2011) with Larry Cohen. For some reason we seem to “click”, and we are both determined to do more sessions together (we did three so far).
You sometimes mentor in the Beginner/Intermediate Lounge and other private clubs on BBO. Any stories you would like to share?
I love to teach, so I take great pleasure in having the occasional appearances in the BIL and the BBO Juniors. With regard to teaching most of it now takes place online.
As for the funniest story in my career as a bridge teacher it has to be the one that occurred about 18 years ago. At my bridge center near Copenhagen I had a class where the Stayman convention was on the agenda. I explained this useful convention at length, and everyone seemed to understand the concept. By the end of the lesson I asked the members to read about it in the textbook and come back with questions next week if they had any.
The following Tuesday one of the members raised a finger and said: “Roland, I have read it all and think I understand most of it, but what do you do if you don’t have the Two of Clubs?”
What do you like to do in your free time?
What free time? I don’t differentiate between work and leisure. My life is cricket and bridge, and then add football (soccer), handball, tennis, badminton, athletics and a few other sports. All that keeps me busy 24/7, more or less. Well, to be honest with you, I do eat and sleep occasionally. But all in all, no wonder that no woman wants me for a longer period of time 🙂
You work with the world’s greatest players. Did you get to meet any of them in real life too?
For obvious reasons I know lots of BBO’ers, also from real life. A lot of star players and the nicest people you can think of. Always there to lend a helping hand when you need one. And we all do on occasion, don’t we?
You insisted that we use your “official picture”… What’s so special about that picture?
It’s my favourite picture because of the cards I hold. I had 23 hcp 🙂