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JUNE_08_EB_p44 Byrne and Mestel 13/5/08 12:03 pm Page 40

Tulips Beyond the green baize




AS I sat listening to the Special

Relativity lecturer – a young man with

plenty of hair – my friend nudged me

trams and said: ‘That guy is the best amateur

chess player in the world’.

Michael Byrne an old -fashioned penalty double. His eyes

must have lit up when he saw the opening

lead from his partner, Tom Paske: the king

IN mid-March, when the Tulips were in of trumps!

full bloom, no fewer than ten English This was the full deal:

Juniors in two teams travelled to the

cultural centre of Northern Europe,

Amsterdam, to compete in the annual ♠ K 10 8 5 2

White House tournament. ♥ 8643

Held every Spring, the competition has ♦ A7 Jonathan Mestel learnt his bridge at

grown in size from eight teams up to this ♣ 74 school in Manchester, but virtually gave

year’s twenty-four, combining many ♠ J63 ♠ AQ94 up on going to university. From then on

different nationalities and age groups. The ♥ K N ♥ A J 10 2 he focused seriously on chess, and


majority of teams were under 25, with a ♦ 10 9 8 5 2 S ♦ KJ43 earned himself three British Champ-

few under 20s thrown in to add to the mix. ♣ Q 10 3 2 ♣ J ionship titles, adding to his earlier

Every team would play a full ten-board ♠ 7 World U-17 title.

match against every other, with the top ♥ Q975 It wasn’t until some years later, when

four going through to knock-out stages. ♦ Q6 he met Paul Barden over a computer,

This meant sixty boards a day, played ♣ AK9865 that he took up bridge again and started

with screens (as is common in top inter- a formidable partnership, soon win-

national tournaments) and thus was not ning the Corwen and other bridge titles.

for the faint hearted! This went for 500, and E/W couldn’t even His good humour ensures that the

The England Under 20 team performed make a game (although 5♦ could be made game is always interesting when he is at

unevenly, not doing themselves justice on by playing an unnatural diamond to the the table, and as county newsletter

several occasions but also scoring some king, at the other table declarer ran the ten editor he has entertained many with his

terrific wins. They beat European Silver and ended one off for 11 IMPs to England). bridge parodies such as Macbeth, and

medallists Italy thanks in part to this board. This contributed to a comfortable 18-12 by initiating the Aunt Agony series, in

Adam Hickman, fresh from winning the VPs win to England Under 20s. which she pours her scorn on those

Channel Trophy last December, held this Even better was to come later on when brave enough to write in.

He also likes composing obscure

hand as East, dealer, with N/S Vul: they beat Poland 25-5, but in spite of gain-

problems, such as what is ‘the min-

He opened 1♦ and saw ing some good results, ultimately consis-

imum number of points needed to make

♠AQ94 the bidding continue tency was a problem and our Under 20s

3NT unbeatable’ (either with a suitable

♥ A J 10 2 with a 2♣ overcall on ended 20th out of 24 teams.

lie of the cards, or against any lie).

♦KJ43 his left, 2 ♦ from The U25 team also did well against the

While he now rarely competes at the

♣J partner, double for strong teams but struggled to get full marks

chess table, he has become a serious

take-out on the right, against the weaker teams, finishing 15th.

competitor in the World Chess Problem-

and he called . . . ? Both teams, however, gained great ex-

Solving Championships, winning the

Partner’s 2♦ was fairly wide-ranging, 5 -9 perience from the event, and warned the

individual title in 1997, and the team

points, and game was not out of the rest of Europe to watch out for the future.

title for the last three years.

question. It may seem tempting to intro- When Jonathan isn’t playing games, he

duce your chunky heart or spade suit, or England Under 20s: Tom Paske, Adam lives in Cambridge with his wife Anna

perhaps bid 3♣ to ask partner for a Hickman, Tom Rainforth, James Thrower; and 15-year-old son David, commuting

stopper. Adam passed for the time being, npc Michael Byrne. to Imperial College where he is a lecturer

and when his left hand opponent’s bid of England Under 25s: Mike Bell, Joe Mela, in mathematics.

2♥ was passed back to him, he wielded the Ed Jones, Ben Paske, Ian Angus, James Chris Jagger

‘Rod of Justice’ and put a red card on it – Rogers; npc Steve Eginton.

40 English Bridge June 2008


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