By David Burn
BM December 1989
Jeremy Flint, for over 30 years one of the greatest of British bridge players and writers, died on November 15th at the age of 61.
He was born on 30 August 1928, the son of a surgeon in Leeds, and was educated at Radley. His original choice of profession was the Bar, but he soon forsook a legal career for the no less challenging worlds of professional bridge and the turf. He was a consistent winner in the high-stake games at Crockford’s, in the days when that club included most of Britain's finest money players.
A top rubber bridge exponent does not always make an international tournament player, but Jeremy Flint was a shining exception. Tournament bridge was in any case his real love; he was a professional who played bridge - and the horses - for the money, not for the excitement of gambling. He first played for Great Britain in the Turin Olympiad of 1960, and made his last international appearance in the Venice Olympiad of 1988. In the intervening years, he was only once omitted from the British team for the Olympiad, and became the second most capped British player of all time, behind Kenneth Konstam. He won every major national title in Britain many times over.
In 1963, Flint was part of the team which won the European Championship, the last occasion on which the British Open team has won a major title. Perhaps the achievement of which he would have been most proud, however, came in 1987 when the British team finished second to the United States in the World Championship, after a match which was closely fought until the final session.
But for illness, Peter Pender would have been playing against Flint in that match. The two players were, however, partners when in 1966 Flint travelled to the United States and, almost incredibly, achieved the highest rank of Life Master in ten and a half weeks. From that partnership came the Flint-Pender System, which although not generally played in its entirety today, contained many original ideas now in widespread use among expert players. Flint was also involved with Reese in the development of the Little Major and the prime mover behind the Boomerang Club with which he and Sheehan achieved such success in the European and World Championships of 1987. The unfamiliarity to opponents and the expertise of their practitioners turned these systems into formidable weapons.
Jeremy Flint was a truly professional player, and recognised that a professional approach to the game would be required if Britain were to succeed on the international stage. His tireless campaigns to increase the status of the game and its leading players, and particularly to promote a structure in which young players could develop as bridge professionals, did not always make him popular with the bridge authorities, but Flint never worried about that. He was aware that a professional game requires sponsors, and sponsors require publicity, so the obvious move was to follow in the footsteps of chess and put bridge on television. He was the commentator for, and the driving force behind, the BBC’s Grand Slam series and the later International Bridge Club.
His greatest success was with the Sobranie Tournament, aimed at the rank and file of players who would not normally enter the world of tournament bridge. This event easily outstripped the official tournaments in terms of attendance, prizes, publicity and treatment of players, a fact which gave Jeremy considerable satisfaction. The Sobranie was greatly enjoyed by a vast number of players, and created an ideal opportunity on which the official bodies could capitalise, but as Flint had resignedly predicted, they did nothing as usual. In other countries, where the professional approach was far more in evidence, Flint was a favoured guest, especially in the Far East.
Flint was bridge correspondent of The Times for eleven years. He was surprised at being offered the job, since his English master at Radley had despaired of ever teaching him even the rudiments of composition. However, he rose to the task with the same professional attitude which he brought to all areas of the game, and during his tenure the newspaper had by far the best column of any national paper, daily or weekly. His other writings included the novel Trick 13 with Terence Reese, Tiger Bridge with Freddie North (with whom he also wrote a book on racing) and The Winning Edge. A master of the technical aspects of the game, Jeremy’s chief interest lay in the psychology of top-level bridge, and all his work is full of insight into the expert mind.
Jeremy was a lover of good food and wine, and of quality in life in general. When anything failed to meet his meticulous standards, he would not hesitate to say so. A non-playing captain, reporting on the morale of his team on the eve of battle, said: “Flint’s complaining about the food, the air, the noise, the sea, the service and the beds, so he’s perfectly all right.”
For 32 years, Jeremy was helped in his work by his wife Honor, herself an international player. She survives him, as do his first wife and two sons from that marriage, Dominic and Noel. Our sympathies go to all of them at this time.
Major International Appearances
European Championships: 1962 1963 1970 1971 1974 1975 1977 and 1987
Bermuda Bowl: 1965 and 1987
World Olympiad: 1960 1964 1972 1976 1980 and 1988
Camrose Trophy Selections: 1955 1956 1958 1959 1965 1968 1969 1971 1972 1973 and 1975
Gold Cup Winner: 1964 1965 and 1985
Crockfords Winner: 1968 and 1972
Spring Foursomes Winner: 1965 1971 1972 1973 and 1977
Autumn Congress Two Stars Pairs Winner: 1963
The Hubert Phillips Bowl Winner: 1972
Tollemache Cup winner: 1959