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January 31 1996 OBITUARIES

 
Terence Reese, right, with his former bridge partner Boris Schapiro, in 1981

TERENCE REESE

Terence Reese, bridge player, died on January 28 aged 82. He was born on August 28, 1913.

A HIGHLY celebrated figure in the world of bridge, Terence Reese was considered not only one of the finest players in the history of the game but also generally acknowledged as the most outstanding writer on the subject.

He won the first of many titles as a member of the victorious British team in the 1948 European championships, a triumph he was to repeat on three later occasions. He was Bermuda Bowl champion (the world's top event) in 1955, World Pairs champion in 1962 and World Par champion in 1961. He also won the Gold Cup (Britain's senior challenge) eight times and the Master Pairs seven times.

His partnership with Boris Schapiro (now the bridge correspondent of The Sunday Times) became truly legendary, in part because of what happened at the 1964 Bermuda Bowl in Buenos Aires. The pair were accused of cheating by conveying information about the heart suit through finger signals. They were convicted by the World Bridge Federation, and later acquitted after a more exhaustive investigation by a special inquiry set up by the British Bridge League. The whole protracted affair was the card playing world's equivalent of Bodyline. Neither player again took part in international team competition, to Britain's undoubted loss.

Several experts dismissed the charges on the ground that they were absurd: Reese was far too good a player to need to cheat. But the Buenos Aires incident led to recrimination and litigation on an epic scale. Reese himself wrote about it in Story of an Accusation.

John Terence Reese played his first tournament at the age of 14. He was a top classical scholar at Bradfield College and then at New College, Oxford, after which, somewhat unusually, he went to work for two years in Harrods.

It may have been during a lull on the counters there that Reese decided to start writing about ­ as well as playing ­ bridge, for in 1938 he published his first book. He proved to be an outstanding author and was still turning out excellent books more than 50 years later. At least three of his titles ­ The Expert Game, Reese on Play and Play Bridge with Rees ­ are recognised as classics, as are the several titles in the Master Bridge Series, co-authored with Roger Trézel in the 1970s and 1980s.

Reese was also a highly regarded bridge columnist, notably in The Observer and the Evening Standard. In the latter he pulled off the always difficult trick of illuminating points of great subtlety with astonishing succinctness.

The criticism was sometimes voiced that a man with such a fine mind should not have devoted his whole life to a card game. But, most creditably, this former classical scholar discovered many of the arithmetical inescapabilities contained within the finite world of 52 playing cards.

Some of the concepts Reese identified and named ­ the "vice", the "winkle", the "principle of restricted choice" ­ are today common parlance among rubber bridge players. "Terence says . . ." has been the final arbiter of many a domestic bridge dispute.

Reese was both witty and sharp. He wrote of himself: "One often hears a player say, almost as a boast, 'I've never read a book on bridge'. I always answer agreeably, 'I can see'." Partnering him required strong nerves and a thick skin.

In later life increasing deafness made the bridge table an uncomfortable arena for Reese, but he remained a keen golfer and backgammon player, and even wrote a book about the latter. He was also a lifelong supporter of Queens Park Rangers football team, whom he always referred to as "our boys".

Terence Reese is survived by his wife Alwyn, whom he married in 1970.

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