Andrew Thompson – an Appreciation (By Ian Payn)
Andrew Thompson, a perennial on the tournament scene for fifty years has died, aged 69. He had been ill for some time, confined to Edgbaston Hospital.
His father was a doctor and his mother was from the Orkney Isles. Andrew attended St. Paul’s school, where he was a contemporary of Alan Woo. How his education progressed thereafter is unclear, but the early seventies saw him enter the world of bridge in a big way, being one of several in the circle of Joe Amsbury. Early Gold Cup Victories and International appearances (mainly partnering John Reardon) cemented his reputation. He gained another reputation as well: he was often unreliable – he might book to play in two teams in the same event, he might have two different partners for an evening’s duplicate. Indeed, one evening at the Young Chelsea he rang up to speak to me at 7.29. He apologised, and said that he was stuck in South Croydon and consequently would not be able to partner me that evening. I assured him this was no problem. Just as I was about to ring off, he said “by the way, could you see if you could find Freddy Herd and tell him? I’m supposed to be playing with him, as well.” In the days when the first and second rounds of the Gold Cup were played in large venues, two teams at Hove Town Hall were looking at their watches, wondering where Andrew was: he was, of course, playing at another venue altogether.
Life was too short to get annoyed about this sort of thing – it was just what Andrew was like, part and parcel of being a friend of his. It seemed somehow churlish to get upset about someone who was such good company, and who was such a terrific player when he eventually arrived at the table. After a spell teaching at the newly set-up West of England Bridge Club with his friend from the Amsbury stable, David Carlisle, Andrew returned to London – his mother’s house in Chiswick – and led a life that seemed to revolve around playing bridge, mainly at the Young Chelsea and London Duplicate Club, where I first met him, and we fell into an easy friendship.
It helped that we had another shared interest, Golden Age Detective Fiction. For a while Andrew was a member of the Edgar Wallace Society, and stood unsuccessfully for the office of Treasurer. He was a lifelong Liberal, and would canvass for the party, come rain or shine.
Andrew was known to all his friends as The Professor. Something about his manner and dress suggested an academic background, and if he never really gained the dizzy heights of professorship, I can’t see that it matters all that much.
For a long time his regular partner was Tony Clark. If I can offer a travel tip, it would be this: don’t sit in the back of a car going through Paris with Tony Clark driving and The Professor navigating. This, as The Professor himself might have put it, is more than flesh and blood could reasonably be expected to stand. Later Andrew enjoyed playing in various tournaments with Mike Fletcher (their itinerary seemed to be based on where they fancied going on any given weekend), and more recently with Rob Lawy or Dan Crofts.
Andrew liked a quiz (woe betide the quizmaster who got an answer wrong), he liked a cigarette (happily not for the last couple of decades) and he liked a drink. That sounds to me like a fairly normal person. His eccentricities were not extreme, and did not prevent him being one of the most extraordinarily gifted bridge players that the country has ever seen. As recently as 2008 he was due to go to play in the World Seniors Championships in Beijing. A last minute illness, alas, prevented this, but in the period since then he has been a prominent feature across the tournament scene, perhaps not standing on the winner’s podium as he so frequently had in the past, but not too far away from it, either.
His memory for bridge stories was excellent. Now they are gone for ever. But those who knew him will never forget him. And if some of the stories about him are not for the faint-hearted (don’t get me started on the row in the Star Kebab House on the Earl’s Court Road) they will be told and re-told for the foreseeable future.
Andrew Thompson – The Professor (1949-2019)
Major International appearances:
Junior Camrose - 1973 and 1975
Major domestic victories:
Crockfords – 1979
Spring Foursomes – 1978
Tollemache Cup (representing Middlesex) – 1977, 1978, 1982, 1989
Harold Poster Cup (Summer Meeting Swiss Pairs) – 2000
Four Stars (Summer Meeting Teams) – 1976, 1977, 1978
Grand Masters Pairs – 2000
Easter Championship Pairs – 1994
National Swiss Teams – 1993
Gerard Faulkner Salver (Seniors Knockout) – 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Silver Plate – 1996, 2003, 2014