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Gordon's Big Weekend

dblqueen writes :
Gordon Smith is a regular of the ACOL club,
spending many hours of his time
helping less experienced players
and taking a special interest in junior players.

Zia Mahmood and the "All Stars" team    Photo © Gordon Rainsford


Thanks to the endeavours of Stephen Cashmore (stepec) and Maureen Dennison, a Bridge match was arranged between our team of Stuart McCreadie (Macdude), John Dick (j dick), Sam Malkani (malkani) and Gordon Smith (Gordon smi) and Zia Mahmood, Andrew Robson, David Price and Colin Simpson. Although no one in the first-named team was invited to play in the (60th Anniversary of the) 2006 Lederer Memorial Trophy, all of the members of the other team were, and the match was arranged for the day after the Lederer Trophy weekend – Monday 30th October 2006.

Most of our team planned to travel to London on the Saturday morning, and watch a good deal of the Lederer event over the two days. 

However, by an amazing coincidence, Helen, who lives in Perth, Australia, was to be on a trip to Europe with her husband, and she was arranging an informal get-together of Bridge Base Online (BBO) players in the Brighton area for the Saturday. Helen was one of the first “strangers” I spoke to on BBO, and my plans for the Saturday and Sunday were altered (and history changed forever).

The Journey South

The current UK XFactor show includes the MacDonald Brothers, who live in the same area as I do, and there was some interest waiting to board the plane in seeing and talking to several MacDonald Brothers supporters, most wearing kilts and zany t-shirts. When we all dispersed after reaching London Stansted Airport, and I never saw the supporters again, it was confirmed to me that they hadn’t travelled to London to watch the Lederer Trophy or our match.

Stupidly I forgot that I was carrying the items to be presented to our Bridge opponents in my hand-luggage – including miniature whiskies – liquids – so security stopped me and sent me back to check-in extra baggage – the rest of my group thought I had fallen at an early hurdle!

Hove Saturday

Walking into the upstairs room at The Avenue Bridge Club and seeing Janee and Helen and the others for the first time was a very special moment – although I appreciated it more later – maybe nerves at the time. Soon one of the ladies asked me if I happened to know a gentleman who lives in my area called Ian Adamson. Well, Ian and I have known each other for about 37 years, and he, Jim McClymont, my late father Peter and I made up the team which reached the final of the Scottish Cup in 1973/74, losing in a very one-sided match to Victor Silverstone, Willie Coyle, Victor Goldberg and Patrick Jourdain. The lady, Moira, is Ian’s sister!

24 boards partnering Janee were very enjoyable, although unsuccessful. The Bridge itself was almost irrelevant!

When we ate at “The Blind Busker”, we wondered what view the waiting staff had of our group, and one of us enlightened one of the waitresses. She and her colleagues had assumed that we were (rather eccentric?) work-mates.

The draw for the short evening session paired Helen and me together (it seems to me that coincidence is playing a large part in this story!) and we had a very pleasant game – more successful this time. Then goodbyes to most of the group.

Hove Sunday

What beautiful weather! I was surprised to see a fox in the back garden of my hotel while I was eating breakfast.

I went out for a short walk, which soon became a longer one – down to the seafront, and while I was there I received a text message from Janee to tell me that the meeting-place for “breakfast” was the outdoor café close to the Peace Statue, along the front on the way to Brighton Pier (I was late already, so no surprises there). It appeared that I should be able to find it easily, but I thought I should overcome my natural shyness and ask someone for directions. I considered carefully, and decided I should ask someone with a dog, and THEN along came the black labrador puppy (we lost our 13-year-old black labrador at the end of September). Max was, of course, lovely, and I had a nice chat with the young couple (and the puppy!).

On to the café, meeting Janee, Aisha, Alex, Helen and Goff (plus a few dogs and owners/walkers).

Finally had to say goodbyes to Helen and Goff (although there was a possibility they would see me in London the next day), and Janee drove the rest of us to Brighton station. Said goodbye to Janee (although there was a possibility she would see me in London the next day).

London Sunday

Said goodbyes to Aisha and Alex at Victoria Station.

I already knew that the kindest descriptive word for our hotel in London was “grotty”. One member of our party didn’t even check in – he went elsewhere. Stuart and Sam each had a room to himself on Saturday night, but Stuart and I were supposed to share a so-called twin room on the Sunday night. The room was a small single one containing two beds which were very close together. However the good news was that “the light” didn’t work, and, as a result, as Stuart said, we got an “upgrade” to a more suitably-sized twin-bedded room for the Sunday night.

I arrived at the Young Chelsea Bridge Club in time to see the latter stages of the second last round of matches – mostly on vugraph, after which the All Stars team of Zia Mahmood, Thomas Bessis, Sabine Auken and Daniela von Arnim held a narrow lead over the England team of David Price, Colin Simpson, Tom Townsend and David Gold.

While I was outside the Club, a car drew up, and I recognised the occupant right away – the actress Susan Hampshire. Overcoming once again this extreme shyness of mine, I had a nice chat with her. She was there to see her husband (who, I know now, is Sir Eddie Kulukundis) being presented with one of the 60th Anniversary prizes – her applause for her husband’s success was very enthusiastic!

In the final round, on vugraph, the All Stars opposed Ireland (the holders for the last two years), and the All Stars did easily enough to win the event, England losing to the Young Chelsea team, but still finishing in second place.

At the presentation of prizes, typically, Zia had some fine words to say. He said he had called Michel, the father of Zia’s partner, 22-year-old Thomas Bessis, and told Michel that he had some good news and some better news for him. The good news was that Zia’s team had won the tournament and the better news was that Thomas was a wonderful human being.

London Monday

Zia had requested that we start at 10am, but Andrew Robson (having cycled to the Club as he had done the previous day) was the only one of our opponents to arrive on time. Soon Andrew was on phone, I believe discussing system details with Zia – and they were still talking to each other when Zia walked in to the Club!

David Price & Colin Simpson       Photo © Gordon Rainsford

Zia’s phone was also required to buy shares and organise golf (I think). We got started, Sam and I playing 14 boards against David Price and Colin Simpson (photo, right). Sam was Declarer a lot, David on lead a lot, and Colin, instead of saying “no questions” after the face-down opening lead, said, simply, “shoot”. We didn’t think we were too bad – but Zia’s team was plus 56 IMPs at half-time!

Chatted to Colin about golf – he and his wife both play, and Colin has my number and Zia has John’s in case golf at Troon can be arranged – really by John.

Against Zia and Andrew, one time Sam opened 1C, and Andrew paused for some time. Before Andrew bid, Zia alerted, saying something big was coming.

56 IMPs at half-time became about 118 IMPs at the end, but, apart from being a great thrill for our team, it was a very enjoyable experience. As often happens in our matches, although we are playing “seriously”, there are laughs along the way.

The Journey North

Although we had time on our hands, we nearly left it too late to check in at London Stansted Airport, and a member of our party discovered that the booking was for the morning flight instead of the evening one – oh dear! Landed safely at Glasgow Prestwick Airport, and, although the weekend had been wonderful, I was a very happy chappy to be reunited with my wife Irene there.

Click here for details of the 2006 Lederer.