COUNTY NEWS: Outstanding bridge player dies aged 101

Alan Jeffery at Worthing Bridge Club in 2014, celebrating his 100th birthday

Alan Jeffery at Worthing Bridge Club in 2014, celebrating his 100th birthday

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Contract bridge players have paid tribute to one of the county’s finest competitors, who has died aged 101.

Alan Jeffery was still playing the card game until recently and is remembered for his skill at the bridge table.

Dick Wheeler, secretary of the Sussex County Contract Bridge Association, said: “Alan passed away peacefully on March 3. He reached the wonderful age of 101 last Christmas but his consummate skill at the bridge table, displayed regularly at Worthing until only a few weeks before his passing, reflected the fact that he honed his game on the London high stakes rubber bridge circuit in the 1950s, alongside running a highly-successful bookmaking business.”

Alan moved to Worthing on retirement in 1980 and became a qualified duplicate bridge teacher.

He was appointed president of Worthing Bridge Club in 2012 and was always active in encouraging the management committee to continue the positive evolution of the club and its offerings to members.

His name appears on the Worthing honours board 100 times, more frequently than any other, but his bridge career in the county is best summed up by one of his regular partners, Ken Shillam.

“Alan was an absolutely outstanding bridge player and even at 101 years was without doubt the best player at the Worthing club,” said Ken.

“I had the great honour of being his main partner during recent years.

“He was a few points short of being a Grand Master – a level he would have achieved several times over had he continued to play in EBU events. These demand great stamina, much travel, late nights, etc., and who can blame him for not wanting to take it a bit easier as the years ticked by.

“Plus his work as a high-level bookmaker for Ladbrokes frequently took him out of the country for long periods. That said, over the years he had been selected and played in the first teams for Surrey, Kent and Sussex - not many people can equal that.”

Many people have benefited from his bridge lessons and testify to his teaching skills and general bridge wisdom.

Ken added: “Alan was not an easy person to play with simply because he was unbelievably good. I am confident he would have more than held his own, even at 100, with the county first teams of today.

“Watching him taking the correct line in bringing home tricky and seemingly unmakeable contracts always made one think ‘I couldn’t have done that’. Conversely, when I was declarer, he would watch every move with eagle eye and was often aware of my mistakes even before I made them.

“But he was quite tolerant of his partner’s shortcomings. What I particularly liked was the absence of any swagger or bravado about any of his superior moves.”

As well as representing Sussex, Alan was a regular winner of county events, including the Sussex pairs, bi-annual congress pairs and teams on several occasions. He was a six-times winner of both the senior sims and the new year Swiss teams, his last win being in the seniors in 2006 at the age of 91.

Ken concluded: “He will be fondly remembered by all at Worthing, particularly those who benefited from his expertise as a teacher and his incisive advice at the table, and will remain a hugely impressive example of the mental benefits of the mind sport that is contract bridge.”

The funeral will be at Kingswood Chapel, Worthing Crematorium, on Thursday, March 17, at 12.20pm. Donations to St Barnabas House hospice via the funeral director, H.D. Tribe.

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