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Don Evans

August 31, 1933 – February 9, 2012

Don Evans, one of Australia’s classiest players, was born in England on 31st August 1933. He passed away on 9th February 2012 after a long illness. He had a legendary collection of anecdotes about bridge, about life, about the human drama and was constantly eager to share them. To see him conduct a bridge class was sheer entertainment. He was dynamic, he was exuberant, he was irascible, he was larger than life.

Don emigrated to Australia in the early 1950s and represented New South Wales in the 1953 National Interstate Teams. He and his partner Lt-Commander John Corbett played Baronised Acol (light openings) and enjoyed the use of psychic bids. An account of their style and its impact can be found in Cathy Chua’s History of Australian Bridge at pages 131-133.

New South Wales lost to Victoria in 1953, but Don was a member of the winning NSW teams in 1955, 1957, 1962, 1963 and 1965.

Together with Dick Cummings, Denis Howard, Tim Seres and Roelof Smilde, Don was on the Australian Open Team at the 1964 World Bridge Olympiad. There were 29 countries competing and Australia finished sixth.

This deal comes from ‘A Personal Report’ of that Olympiad by the late Dick Cummings:

v BELGIUM: Evans earned a swing for Australia with some splendid dummy play on the following hand:

All Vul
W Dealer
A 8 7
A 7 4
K J 6
A Q 7 6
K 10
Q 5
A 9 7 5 2
K 10 4 3
[ 4 ] Q J 6 2
J 8 3
10 3
J 9 8 2
  9 5 4 3
K 10 9 6 2
Q 8 4

The groundwork for the coup was laid by the bid of 3 in the auction:

West North East South
  Smilde   Evans
1 Dble 1NT 2
Pass 2NT Pass 3
Pass 4 All pass  

A club was led and finessed. The ace and king of trumps were played, followed by the queen of diamonds, which held. West took the next diamond and continued the suit, ruffed by East.

Another club was ruffed in hand. Declarer next crossed to the ace of spades, then played ace and another club, ruffing. The club suit at this stage was stripped. West was now thrown in with the king of spades and had to concede a ruff-and-discard for the contract.

Don Evans – Ron Klinger played one season together in 1977-1978. It was not to last longer, primarily because Don wanted to play ‘count only’ in defence, while attitude signals and suit preference have always been primary for Klinger. They managed to win the 1977 Australian Open Pairs and went on to  compete in the 1978 World Open Pairs and the Rosenblum (World Open Teams).

Playing the New South Wales System they had an early triumph in the World Pairs with these cards:

West East
AK9732 Q864
AJ65 K
953 AKQ7
Evans Klinger
1 3 (1)
4 (2) 4NT (3)
5 (4) 6 (5)
7 (6) 7

(1) Asking bid in clubs

(2) 0 or 1 club, A and A

(3) Trump asking bid

(4) K plus an extra trump

(5) What is your club holding?

(6) It is the void!

Only four pairs reached the 27-point grand slam, which was worth 75.5 match points out of 77. They do not build systems like that any more.

In the Rosenblum Open Teams, they teamed up with Jim and Norma Borin and George Havas – Alan Walsh. They won the knock-out matches in the Rounds of 64, 48 and 24, but were knocked out in the Round of 12.

For many years Don was the lifeblood of the Lindfield Bridge Club and the Lindfield Congress and in the 1970s Don focussed on bridge directing at the national level. He wrote a weekly bridge column in the 1970s and early 1980s in the Sunday Telegraph titled Modern Bridge which was always a lively read. In 1982 Don was captain of the Australian Women’s Team at the PABF in Bangkok.

Don was a frequent competitor at the Gold Coast Congress winning the open pairs five times (1965, 1971, 1973 and 1973 partnered by Ian Weiss and in 1978 partnered by Paul Lavings). He won the Gold Coast Teams in 1965, 1966, 1972, 1973 and 1978 and was in the NSW team at the 1973 Bridgerama Challenge in Sydney Town Hall where he was partnered by Ian Weiss. Don was in the winning team at the 1993 Grand National Open Teams with Leiv Bornecrantz as his partner.

Peter Jamieson: “I recall playing my first ever congress in 1971 – it was the NSWBA Winter Congress held at the Carrington hotel in Katoomba. My partner (Eileen Gumbley) and I qualified for the pairs final (much to our surprise and delight). In the final our first opponents were Don Evans—Ian Weiss who proceeded to carve us into little pieces.  In the following years I can recall some conversations with Evans – he was always enthusiastic and frequently ‘dramatic’ talking about bridge and that attitude was clearly discernible in his newspaper columns.”

In his late years Evans suffered from declining health and eyesight. It’s best to remember him in his heyday when he was a top bridge player, fine director, and always something of a livewire … a showman and a ‘character’. He had many friends. Don and his sense of humour will be sorely missed.

True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation. (George Washington, 1732-1799).

Peter Jamieson and Ron Klinger