Hugh Kelsey


The Bridge world was saddened by the death of that doyen of bridge writers, Hugh Kelsey. He had been ill for a number of years with constant heart problems. It was his wont to pay scant advice to his medicines and he prefered to enjoy life's little pleasures, often at the expense of his health.

Hugh was born in Edinburgh and was raised in a religious atmosphere. His father, an Episcopalian minister, frowned on card playing. Hugh joined the army during World War II and spent many years in Malaya where he met his wife-to-be, Flora Macdonald Duncan, a Red Cross nurse. They were married in 1956 and had two sons and two daughters. Before becoming involved in bridge writing. Hugh wrote two novels, A Bullet For Charles and Please Don't Squeeze The Trees.

In 1966 Hugh won his first Scottish National Championship, the Masters Pairs, and thereafter won every major Scottish title at least once. His successes included the Masters Pairs, and thereafter won every major Scottish title at least once. His successes included the Masters Individual five times and the Gold Cup twice, plus fifteen representative appearances in Camrose matches.

The year of his initial tournament triumph saw the appearance of Killing Defence At Bridge, the first of a number of books on card play which have become classics. Killing defence was immediately recognised as the definitive book on defensive play, a must for all would-be bridge experts. Prior to Killing Defence, Hugh Kelsey was an almost unknown name. After its appearance, his reputation as one of the great bridge writers of all time was assured and each succeeding book served to enhance that reputation.

In 1968, his second book, Advanced Play at Bridge received equality laudatory reviews and two years later, Match Point Bridge appeared and became the standard text on duplicate technique.

Although Hugh did write about bidding (Instant Guide to Bridge, Slam Bidding) most of his bridge books are concerned with card play, particularly declared play and defence at the highest levels. Of his other books, those suitable of the intermediate-advanced player include Winning Card Play, Logical Bridge, Sharpen Your Bridge Technique, Bridge for the Connoisseur and Improve Your Partner's defence. In addition, his Test your Play series (16 titles in all, including Test Your Trump Control, Test Your Communications) regularly received the highest acclaim. You knew you were doing well if you managed to get half the problems right.

In addition to Advanced Play At Bridge, the titles aimed at the expert world were the four books on the squeezes (simple squeezes, Double Squeezes, Triple Squeezes and Strip-Squeezes) and that toughest of all bridge books, Adventures in Card Play, written in collaboration with Geza Ottlik. Although much praise was heaped on Ottlik for this surrealistic work, Hugh was responsible for much of the material. All in all, Hugh produced over forty titles, but not only was he a prolific writer, his name became a byword for excellence.

In the mid-seventies, Hugh became Editor and Bridge Adviser to the Master Bridge Series, the most influential and successful bridge publishing programme. I owe a personal debt to Hugh for it was his initiative that led me into writing for the Master Bridge Series. I met him a number of times at the world championships and well remember when he was captain of the Great Britain Ladies team at the 1984 Olympiad. Hugh suffered a heart-attack near the start of the championships be he left the hospital bed to rejoin his team for the semi-finals.

The world has lost one of its greatest bridge writers but the world has been fortunate that Hugh Kelsey was around and showed so many of us the way. There are few bridge experts who would not have a number of Kelsey titles on their list of the Top Ten Bridge Books. He was the expert's expert and among the beat bridge analysts in the world. There are few bridge players beyond the novice level who do not owe part of their techniques and skill to Hugh Kelsey.

We will miss you Hugh, and we thank you

-from english Bridge June 1995 edition

Gold Cup winner: 1969 and 1980