Steve Barnfield



It is with great sadness that I report the death of my old friend, Steve Barnfield, who has succumbed to a long battle with cancer.

Steve and I met in September 1969, at a meeting of the Manchester Grammar School Bridge Club. Steve was a talented mathematician and went on to study Maths and then Computer Science at Christ’s College, Cambridge. There he met John Armstrong, whose untimely death some 11 years ago deprived England of one of its greatest players.

The University Bridge Club was very strong during the 1970s, with many players going on to represent their country. Steve was a keen player and represented the University in league matches on numerous occasions, though he missed out on selection for the Varsity Match.

On leaving Cambridge, Steve obtained a post with the Inland Revenue and served as a Tax Inspector in Bury St Edmunds. Whilst Civil Service starting salaries were attractive at that time, retention of gifted staff was more problematic, and it came as no surprise when Steve decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the tax divide. He joined the prestigious firm of Arthur Andersen and, having qualified as a Chartered Accountant, spent the rest of his long career working for professional firms. Steve’s métier lay in detailed technical analysis of tax law. He was primarily the invaluable “back-room boy”, perhaps more comfortable with statutes than clients.

Steve’s career took him to Manchester and then to London. Careful management of his finances meant that he was able to purchase a flat in Chelsea without a mortgage: although London property prices had not then (in the 1980s) reached the sky-high levels seen today, this was still an extraordinary achievement.

Steve’s flat was convenient for the Young Chelsea Bridge Club and he became a regular player there. It was at the club that he met Frances Connell, herself a keen player, and they married in the early 1990s. As Steve commented at the time, they were doing something which then seemed unconventional, getting married before having children; however, David and Laura followed not long afterwards.

Steve was an extremely competent player though his innate conservatism perhaps held him back on occasion: his cautious treatment of a hand with a 9-4 distribution at a congress in Peebles was still remarked on by his partner (Jeremy Dhondy) many years thereafter. He won a number of national competitions, among them the Four Stars Teams at Brighton, the National Swiss Teams, the Swiss Teams Congress, the Tollemache Cup, the Williams Lea Perivan Trophy and, as recently as last year, the Garden Cities Trophy. He represented England in the 1978 Junior Camrose, the trophy being shared with Scotland on that occasion.

In addition, Steve made a major contribution to the administration of bridge. He served for a number of years on the London Committee and on the EBU Laws & Ethics Committee for over fifteen years, six of those as its Chairman. In addition to this, he acted until recently as the EBU’s “pro bono” adviser in succession to Gerard Faulkner, giving free and unbiased advice and expertise to those facing the possibility of a disciplinary hearing. In his younger days, he was a Tournament Director, having on one occasion to mollify an irate Boris Schapiro (not the easiest of tasks) after an adverse ruling. Steve was particularly pleased that his administrative efforts were formally acknowledged by the EBU’s conferring upon him a Silver Award earlier this year.

In recent years, Steve’s main hobby was running, mainly on roads but also cross-country. He was a good enough runner to twice finish the London Marathon in a respectable time. To those of us who remember Steve in his younger days, this seemed a surprising hobby for him to take up.

Steve is survived by his sister Sarah, as well as by Frances, David and Laura.

By Richard Fleet

Biography from Steve in his own words:

I started playing bridge in the form room in the third form (year 9 it would be now) at school. By the time I got to the sixth form the school had a team, which I played in. Usually we played teams of 8 against other local schools. There was no organised league; I would guess we played a handful of matches a year.

After leaving school I worked for a few months before starting at University. By one of those coincidences two or three colleagues played bridge and I started to play a lot more, including at local clubs.

At University (Cambridge) there were many keen players; apart from the University Bridge Club several colleges had bridge clubs. The University Bridge Club met once a week in term time. Local residents were also allowed to play there, which added extra interest. The University had its own teams of eight in the Eastern Counties League and I played a few times for the second team and occasionally for the first team; obviously there was also the Varsity match, but I never played in that!

University and my first couple of years at work were when I learnt most of what I know about bridge. I played a lot, talked a lot and read a lot about bridge. After a couple of years of work I cut down bridge to fit in exam and other work. To keep in touch with bridge I did some tournament directing for several years. After that I served on the Laws and Ethics Committee for quite number of years.

My wife's a keen player, and plays rather more than I do. Our son plays a bit at local clubs when at home; our daughter can also play a bit, but hasn't yet played at local clubs.

Bridge is a really great game and I certainly plan to keep playing at local clubs for many years to come. We're lucky to have an excellent local club within walking distance.

People who knew me years ago might be surprised to hear I took up running a few years ago. Running is now my main hobby. When not injured I run quite a lot, mainly road running, but I also take part in cross-country races. I've completed five marathons and hope to do a couple more, including the Virgin Money London Marathon, in 2014. I also run quite a lot of shorter races. Non-runners tend to think running, especially in races, is just for people in their 20s and 30s. However that is not so. Increasingly people run competitively at younger and older ages. The club I belong to includes several members aged over 70 who race regularly. They aren't as fast as some, but they compete and enjoy themselves!

Last updated: January 2014

Junior Camrose selections: 1978

Brighton Four Stars Teams winner: 1990

Tollemache Cup winner: 1980