Terence Reese (1913note-1996)

Bridge player, author, notorious champion

Terence Reese had a way of writing things here and there that seem to have stuck in our various memories apparently again and again the same quotes seem memorable to each of us. ("It is in general not a good policy to double the opponents before having bid the limit of our own cards." "In a lighthearted mood I dropped the ...") In this case I remember the introductory quote in his "Story of an Accusation":

There is a demand nowadays of the sort of man who can make wrong appear right.

Publius Terentius Afer.

Now, PTA is in my Bartlett's, and he said a lot of terrific things, but Bartlett doesn't include this one. So I have always wondered: Could Reese have made this up out of whimsy taking "Terentius" as a nom de plume and teasing his readers that he is dishonest in the very book where he defends himself!? I hope some classic scholar out there in rgb-land can enlighten me.

I was holed up in England for the duration of some bygone war or other and had a small number of encounters with Terence Reese, who was a remarkable person. The only time we played together was when I cut him in a home rubber bridge game. The opponents bid 1S, 2S, passed to me, and with my goodish 3541 distribution I divined a plan which I might not have attempted had my partner been a player of lesser reputation. I doubled. Reese responded 3C, and this was doubled. Had I held 3451 of course I would have removed to 3D, so I felt confident that my legendary partner would understand a redouble as implying preference for hearts. However had that been the case of course there would be no story. With his 2335 distribution he chose to play 3Cxx, which went down 4, an expensive save even under the old scoring table. An altercation ensued. Reese apparently did not approve of my reopening double.

"Even if I bid 3D we lose 300," he said.

"But if you bid 3H as you should it only costs 100!" I retorted triumphantly, fairly exhilirated at my own effrontery.

"Well, perhaps they play that way at Stefan's," Reese retorted, alluding to the bridge club that he took correctly to be my regular haunt, "but I don't."

A bit later the aptly yclept (bridgewise) Mr. Poor arrived. Reese decided to revive the incident. "I had a problem a few moments ago, Dennis. I wonder if you'd have solved it the same as I." Sarcasm comes to him naturally.

"Well, he might," I rejoined, bitterly game as ever, "I'm sure someone would have."

Reese now surprised me. He abruptly transcended the bickering and instead generously admitted, "I suppose I really knew what was going on but I thought my nine points would protect me."


note: born August 28. Thanks to Fred de Smeth of Leidschendam, Netherlands.
notorious: Evidence of cheating had been brought against Reese during the 1965 World Championships and his international career ended thereafter.

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