Tony Sowter

Tony first played Bridge in his second year at Nottingham University when he was asked to make up the numbers for a drive. It went well so he rapidly found himself playing for the university which was a step up from playing inter-university Tiddlywinks matches the previous year and a lot safer than playing Rugby.

Back in those days there was nowhere near the same range or number of national ranking events. By 1968 Tony was a lecturer in Economics at Nottingham and well remembers having to collect the award for collecting the most local points in the country. Not so easy to be in Eastbourne to collect that and have to be back in Nottingham to deliver a lecture at 9.00 am the following day. A similar event happened when he first played with Irving Manning in the Gold Cup. In the final that year, he learned a lesson that many good players fail to take on board. By all accounts Irving and Tony played will together but the only hand that ever saw its way into print he played in 3NTX and miscounted his tricks. He well remembers the report that started “Sowter unaccountably played…”. Had they asked him, he would have told them what had happened. What was the lesson? Simply this, the biggest compliment anybody can pay a bridge player is to name the player who made a fool of himself.

Tony has won a lot of British events notably the Gold Cup 3 times, he was in the winning side in all 12 Camrose matches he played in the 20-year period over 30 years ago, He was part of both the runners up in the 1981 European played in Birmingham and the winning team in Killarney 10 years later.

However internationally he was probably even better known as an author and editor of many bridge-related publications including a magazine that was quite prepared to call a spade a spade. Tony will tell you if you want to know that criticising the authorities for some of their worst choices is not the easiest way of earning a living.

Tony’s favourite bridge memory is that he was invited to Paris to stay with Omar Sharif while he recorded the bridge tutorial for a Californian based video. Tony had been asked to write the video script after Omar had refused to do anything with the script the publishers had provided.

Tony couldn’t believe how well Omar read his words – and he watched Omar sweep into a Parisian restaurant with Tony’s life partner on his arm and every single table turned to see who Omar was with.

Tony spent many years away from bridge but came back to the game about 7 years ago when his wife had to retire. He has had eyesight problems and after a recent Seniors Camrose a hand of his was written up in the press praising him for a psyche of one spade on a 3523-hand causing his opponents to miss a vulnerable 4 spades contract bid on all the other tables. But the fact is Tony had 2 diamonds in with his spades, so he thought his shape was 5503.

Tony was a Lecturer in Economics for 10 years from the ripe old age of 22. He says he only got the job because in a very high qualified field he was the only candidate qualified to teach MicroEconomics with a bit of Statistics on the side. His research dealt with the effect of changing prices in competitive markets and levels of brand loyalty. His biggest memory of the Metropole hotel in Brighton where the EBU Summer Congress was staged for many years was delivering a lecture to the annual conference of the Market Research Society to a well packed ballroom. It came as a surprise to the companies involved that if you increase the price of Nescafe, it has very little effect on the sales of Maxwell House. Back in the sixties and the early 70s if Nescafe reduced the price, they sold more but not because Maxwell House buyers changed their habits but because Nescafe buyers stocked up when the price was low.

Tony ran an SSRC survey of Decimalisation in 1971. 25 years later the BBC contacted him to ask if he was interested in appearing on a programme on the subject. Whoever it was went on to say that we all know it was responsible for the inflation in the 1970s to be told by Tony that was not true. The main cause was the increase in oil prices which was accompanied by a removal of any control of bank lending by Edward Heath. Decimalisation had the effect of making it harder for the consumer to recognise the increases.

In the early 1970s a big fire at Eveready in Birmingham had the effect of creating a substantial loss in Germany. Apparently, nobody could understand why there should be such a problem when Eveready only supplied the very low selling batteries to its German subsidiary that it was not deemed sensible for them to make themselves. A Nottingham bridge player bribed Tony by saying they would visit the Mayfair Hotel on the way and watch the Blue Team playing the then current GB team.

Tony duly accepted the challenge and soon found himself in front of the board of Daimon batteries asking difficult questions. Back in England Tony wrote a report which apparently generated a large settlement. It was simple, the products concerned might have only been 2% of their normal sales but batteries are normally marketed as a range and the German subsidiary lost a substantial proportion of their retailers because they could not supply the whole range.

For the next 50 years most of Tony’s income was generated by the application of common sense and some basic stats to business interruption claims, to the detriment of the insurance industry mainly.

Funnily enough those skills are largely responsible for him getting involved in the game again and playing with Dave Robinson. But that is another story…

Gold Cup: 1973 1978(capt) 1980 1984 1986 2001

Pachabo Cup: 1976 2002

Portland Pairs: 1978

National Pairs: 1980

Crockfords Cup: 1985 1987

Teltscher Trophy Selections: 2023

World Bridge Games: 2024