Ian Spoors

The EBU is sad to report that National Tournament Director, Ian Spoors, died this week after a brief illness.

Born in 1948, he found great enjoyment with bridge and was a founder member of Brunton BC in 1973. His first success as a bridge player was winning the ‘Charity Challenge Sim Pairs’ in 1975 with Len Wood. Later on he developed a lasting partnership with Steve Ray, playing in many NEBA events when his directing commitments allowed. He worked for the EBU for many years being promoted to National TD in 1990. Ian always demanded that things be ‘done proper’.

Here are some memories from people who worked and played with Ian:

Steve Ray:

It was soon after becoming a student at Newcastle that I first met Ian. He was the tall skinny one in the yellow anorak. I soon discovered he was a top bridge player and a rising star of tournament directing. He took me to Brunton Bridge Club, where we have both played ever since. By chance, my student house was just around the corner from his, where he lived with his parents, and I was a frequent visitor. His father, Hedley, installed the carpets in my new flat just before his untimely death - Ian was chuckling to Georgia only last Saturday that I had chosen an impractical colour but Hedley failed to dissuade me.

Ian and I played together in the NEBA teams trophy, the Kempson Cup, usually as partners, and in some EBU events when he could afford not to direct. He was fun although rather frustrating as a partner but we normally did well. When asked about system, partners or agreements, he would always say the same thing - 'I will do as I am told'. The only exception were 1st, 3rd and 5th leads which were non-negotiable.

His mum, Doreen, lived with him as her cooking and many curries expanded his body shape. He worked at a local private school, teaching a vast range of subjects at a ridiculously low rate of pay. His intellect and knowledge inspired his pupils who missed him when he was let go as the class sizes became untenable. It is a tribute to the affection in which he was held that many of his former pupils were to be found at his bedside, bringing their children, a source of great delight to Ian.

After his mother's death, Ian gradually slimmed, pursuing his many interests in classics, coins, organ music and sailing, and working tirelessly on behalf of the NEBA and EBU. For many years he has been writing commentaries on the Latin poet Catullus, working from texts in Latin, French and German. His main regret would be not completing this opus magnus, but he told us that he has made arrangements for it to be accessible to other Classical scholars.

My best memory will be playing a needle knockout match with Ian as team-mate against other good friends. Ian was declaring a very dodgy vulnerable 3NT which was taking forever. After a huge trance, he selected the card to play from dummy, by pointing an imperious finger; when the outcome proved successful, he declaimed loudly, 'Well done me!!!' We have never forgotten this (AND we won!) and 'Well done me!' is frequently heard in the Ray household at appropriate moments.

Ian was a good friend who kept relationships over many years. In his last days, he was visited in hospital by friends from school, neighbours, and many bridge players and directors. He was a regular chez Muir, having known Ian since they were at school together. Both Ian and Liz feel that Christmas will never be quite the same without him.

I know it was in some ways a source of sadness to Ian that he never found a soul-mate and had children of his own. It is comforting to know that he found great joy in his niece, Bronwen, and his nephew, Hedley jnr, who were probably as close to him as his own kids might have been.

Ian was probably the most intelligent human being I have ever met and, like his many friends, I shall miss him very much.

Mike Amos:John Pain:

I remember Ian with great fondness. Those of us in the Tournament Director family will miss him enormously. He and I worked at most of the large show-piece congresses for many years. We must have worked together at the Brighton Summer Meeting for at least 20 years. Over the ten days at Brighton you get one day off but we rarely coincided in our days off – I usually had Monday and Ian had Thursday. A few years ago we found we both had Thursday evening free, so we embarked on an evening of fun and frivolity. A cocktail in the Grand followed by a good meal was about as far as frivolity permitted. We chose to visit the Thai Restaurant in Preston Street – always a popular favourite with the bridge players. But we had the place almost to ourselves – well the evening bridge session had started.

We were happily working our way through the menu – eat as much as you like, when two young ladies came into the restaurant. Thinking nothing of it I was surprised when they approached our table and ‘offered to show us a good night out’.

To say we were both flabbergasted would be an understatement, but Ian was able to take it all in his stride – suggesting perhaps that ‘we batted for the other side’. We turned them down preferring to return to the Metropole in time to catch up with the other TDs just finishing their evening shift and another couple of beers.

Happy times at Brighton.

He will no doubt soon be organising the Celestial Open Pairs using that Double Weave Mitchell of which he was so fond. Ian – save me a North-South. I never could work out that movement.

North Eastern Bridge Association: