Gordon Rainsford

I was born in Kenya in 1960, where my immediate family continued to live – my mother lived in Mombasa until she died in 2015 and my sister lives in Nairobi. I first played rubber bridge at home with my family when I was a teenager, and remember supplementing my pocket-money playing with my grand-mother against her friends. I also used to play at the Visa Oshwal community centre in Mombasa, where they played "Stern" - a variant of the Vienna system using the 7-5-3-1 point count! Then I played at school for a few years, and we used to play in the Daily Mail Schools competition. The first game of duplicate I played was at Stamford Bridge Club, where they made schoolboys very welcome and offered us much-reduced table money. We were often standby pairs when there was a Simultaneous Pairs or other important event for which they wanted to avoid a half table.

When I left school I came to London with the intention of becoming an accountant, but quickly changed my mind and took a degree in Sociology at the LSE. Later I worked in catering for a while before becoming a freelance photographer for twenty years. After school I didn't play bridge for fifteen years, knowing that when I started again it would be bound to take over my life - which indeed it did!

I have lived in West London just near to Portobello Road market for almost forty years, for the last twenty-five of them with Arnaud, my (non-bridge-playing) partner, who is a video director and editor. He directed and edited the series of TD training videos that the EBU produced entitled “How can I help you” worked for EBED on a video promoting “Fast-track bridge”, and produced as series of short videos to encourage bridge players to teach their friends and family how to play, at the start of lockdown.

We travel quite a lot: in the past we've been to South Africa, Cambodia, Thailand, Morocco, Istanbul, Rome, and all over the South of India by train, with frequent visits to the South of France where Arnaud is from. Slightly more recently we went to Mexico, where we travelled all over the Yucatan, tried surfing in the Pacific and spent a great few days in Miami Beach on the way back. Some years ago we spent a month in Kenya, seeing my family and learning to kite-surf in the Indian Ocean, concluding with a magical week in Ethiopia on the way back – including being in Lalibela, the town of rock-hewn churches, for Ethiopian Christmas on January 7th. Another Christmas was spent in Cuba, travelling all over by bus and shared taxis. Our current aim is to go to Japan, but our planned trips there have been cancelled twice over the last couple of years with the Covid pandemic so it remains a plan for the future. I have also managed to travel quite a lot with my TD work for the EBL and WBF – as far afield as Wuhan in China (just before the pandemic started!) and extensively all over Europe, which in bridge terms includes Turkey. Sometimes Arnaud comes to meet me for a short holiday after my work has finished.

I read a lot when I'm on holiday but after work I'm often too tired to read more than a few pages at night before I fall asleep. I frequently have several books on the go at one time, many of them travel writing. I also love watching movies – often foreign-language art films, but the occasional thriller too – though Netflix means this more often happens at home than in a cinema. Being able to record on TV also means we often watch complete series, such as those of the “Nordic Noir” genre, often all in one go.

During the six years I was manager of the Young Chelsea Bridge Club, most of my bridge was played filling in with irregular partners to make up the numbers in the duplicates. Since then I’ve played rather less, but more of it is with partners of my own choice! I enjoy the social aspect of playing face-to-face but I am also happy playing online on RealBridge and I play quite a lot of robot bridge on Funbridge and BBO.

My highlights from the past as a bridge player were winning the Guardian Trophy with Paul Martin, and winning the Premier Life Masters Pairs three times in a row with Dom Goodwin. Dom & I were also in a Young Chelsea team that won the Garden Cities trophy a few years ago. Nowadays my two main regular partners are Jonathan Lillycrop, one of my EBU colleagues, and Brian McGuire, with whom I play regularly in his Young Chelsea Super League team.

Like most tournament directors, I started by accident out of necessity, because in small clubs someone needs to make sure the games happen. Later I thought that being a TD would make a nice little retirement job for the future, but I soon discovered how much more hard work was involved than I had realised, and I decided to make a start on it just under 20 years ago, rather than waiting. From there things progressed faster and further than I anticipated, and I became Chief TD of the EBU in 2012 as well as now being an Assistant Chief TD of both the EBL and the WBF.

In 2017 I became the General Manager and then Chief Executive of the EBU. I’m still the Chief TD as well, and I do continue to direct some EBU events, but my deputy Robin Barker has taken over much of that role from me. The Covid pandemic had a huge effect on bridge in England, pushing us faster and further down the path of online bridge than would otherwise the case, and we are now left with the challenging but interesting task of determining the path of the EBU in the future, particularly in finding a balance between the different platforms for bridge, to provide a programme that satisfies all our members’ wishes as much as we can.

Last updated: November 2022

Easter Congress Guardian Trophy winner: 2004

Read Gordon's blog "A day in the life..."