Don Smedley

1933 – 2020

Don Smedley (1933 – 2020)

Everyone involved in Derbyshire bridge and many other bridge players from all over Britain who knew him will be saddened to hear of the death of Don Smedley. His first love was chess – he was a Derbyshire youth player – but while doing his National Service he could not find enough opponents to keep him occupied. Most of his comrades played bridge, so he learned the basics and never looked back.

After graduating from Manchester University he taught English at schools in Belper and Heanor before becoming a lecturer in the teacher training department of Loughborough University. Though an English graduate he always demonstrated an aptitude for mathematical analysis. This ability, together with his knowledge and love of bridge, led him to achieve the national status of both Bridge Grandmaster and Double Dummy Grandmaster. His interest in solving problems led him to become a setter of problems. These, and many of his articles, have been published in bridge magazines over the years. He also maintained an interest in setting and judging the quality of solutions to chess problems.

Don had bridge successes with many different partners over more than 50 years, far too many to list. Our partnership began in the mid 1970s but only on an occasional basis. We played for different clubs and didn’t team up as a regular partnership until the mid 90s. Within Derbyshire Don was a winner of every significant club and County level event on many occasions. Just to single out the County Pairs - his first win was with Bill Murday in 1966, his most recent win was in 2019 with me – a total of 10 wins with 4 different partners. His successes at the national level were: The National Swiss Teams in 1978; The Pachabo Cup in 2003; The Corwen Trophy in 2005; The Silver Plate in 2008; The Premier Life Masters Pairs(with Alex Hogg). He reached the Crockfords final 3 times, on one occasion ending up in joint 2nd place. Our best performance in the National Pairs was 3rd place(we would have won if the other Derbyshire pair playing had not sacrificed in 7H against our 6S contract).

Don also made an enormous contribution to bridge administration in Derbyshire. From the time he joined Derby Bridge Club in the 1960s he worked tirelessly for the club in his preferred place - behind the scenes. With his unassuming manner he organised events, ran competitions, scored results, handled disputes, and for several years, up to 1999, he was the club team captain. In the early 1970s he became a regular DCBA committee member serving in a number of capacities. He served as Vice-Chairman from 1997 to 2000, then as Chief TD from the year 2000 for more than 10 years. He also sat on several other committees for many years – Laws and Ethics, Competitions, and as a selector for County teams. Following each county match he used to do a wonderfully detailed and amusing analysis of performance presenting his findings with his unique mixture of politeness, honesty and whimsy. For all his services to bridge he was presented with a County tie on their introduction in 1985, and with the Dimmie Fleming Award by the EBU in 2004.

Don will be remembered at least as much for his personal qualities as his bridge achievements – as being the friendliest and most pleasant partner and opponent imaginable. Obviously he was a strong competitor but could not be described as a ferocious competitor because ferocity was not in his nature. At the table it was always easy friendliness and humour, pleasant to play against him even if you were losing (like being licked by a Labrador even whilst you are being duffed up is the way Jennifer Floutier described it). Certain constant characteristic traits will be remembered with amusement by Derbyshire players - asking people whether they played 5 card majors(some players would pre-empt the question and blurt out ‘No’ before it was asked); almost always apologising before he put the dummy down.

Our heartfelt and deepest sympathies go to Don’s wife June(who never played bridge) and daughter Janet. Don has a special place of affection in Derbyshire bridge, but also beyond that in the wider bridge community. He was a special player, a special person, and a wonderful bridge partner.

(John Griffin)