Stephen Landen, professional bridge player

Stephen "Steve" Landen died of hypothermia complicated by a fall he suffered while walking near his Ellicott City home.
Stephen "Steve" Landen died of hypothermia complicated by a fall he suffered while walking near his Ellicott City home. (/ HANDOUT)

Stephen “Steve” Landen, a top-ranked professional bridge player who competed in a world championship in Monte Carlo, died of hypothermia complicated by a fall he suffered Sunday while walking near his Ellicott City home. He was 64.

Born in Detroit, Mich., and raised in West Bloomfield and Birmingham, he was the son of Delmar “Dutch” Landen, a General Motors executive and industrial organization consultant, and his wife, Margaret Landen, a social worker.


He was a 1971 graduate of Seaholm High School.

He enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but left the school to pursue playing bridge in competitions. After a few years, he returned to the campus and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree.


“Steve was always a nonconformist,” said his wife, Lynne Schaefer. “He spent a while touring the country. He was a fierce opponent. But away from the bridge table, he had a great sense of humor and loved his family deeply.”

Mr. Landen became a consultant to small businesses in Detroit. He worked in information technology and assisted dental offices and other operations with computerized business practices.

About 20 years ago, before the time he and his wife moved to Ellicott City, he focused on playing bridge professionally. He worked with a partner, and they competed in numerous tournaments.

He achieved a ranking of a Grand Life Master.

“One of the reasons we chose Ellicott City was that it was close to BWI airport so Steve could get away to his tournaments easily,” said his wife. “Since the games were mostly on weekends, he was a a stay-at-home father and cared for our two children.”

He was a winner in bridge competitions affiliated with the American Contract Bridge League, including the Silodor Open, the Wernher Open, the Blue Ribbon Pairs, the North American Pairs and the Reisinger.

After this string of highly ranked wins, he and his partner, Pratap Rajadhyaksha, who lives outside Columbus, Ohio, won the bronze medal at Monte Carlo in 2003.

Mr. Landen was a silver medalist in 2012 at the World Bridge Games Championship in Lille, France.

“As a player, Steve was as good as they came,” said Mr. Rajadhyaksha. “He and I won six national championships.”

“Steve was a fighter at the bridge table,” he said. “He was also a good gambler and excelled at casino games such as backgammon and craps. He knew how to get the best odds.”

“There is a psychological action on the bridge table,” said Mr. Rajadhyakasha. “It’s not just computation and logical reasoning. You have to have the ability to size up the opposition and read their minds. Steve was very good at this.”

Mr. Landen gave up playing bridge at the highest levels after being diagnosed with a brain condition nearly five years ago.


He cultivated house plants and was a good cook, including chicken Marsala and honey Dijon salmon. He also enjoyed singing songs by Billy Joel and Elton John.

He had a Shih Tzu-poodle mix named Lucy, which he walked daily in Ellicott City neighborhood.

“He was the one who greeted the neighbors with a smile,” his wife said. “He was very gregarious. He and Lucy became a popular pair in the neighborhood.”

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to his wife of 25 years, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County vice president in finance administration; survivors include a son, Matthew Landen; a daughter, Samantha Landen, both of Ellicott City; two brothers, Keith Landen of Birmingham, Mich., and Doug Landen of Lakeland, Fla.; and a sister, Ann Landen, also of Birmingham.

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