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Jim Borin

March 3 1935 – October 13 2003

Jim Borin was born in London and attended Haberdashers School in Cricklewood. After National Service in the RAF he worked in the diamond industry before coming to Australia in 1961. In Sydney he met Norma Maguire, and a successful and enduring bridge partnerships was formed. Jim and Norma came to live in Melbourne, where they were married and Jim became Sales Manager for ICL.

The Borins were immediately successful in the Victorian bridge scene. Originally they had played a “Baronised Acol” system developed by Jim in Sydney, but their principal successes were achieved with C.C. Wei’s “Precision” system, and they published Our Precision Style in 1981. Jim had commenced teaching, and his charm and wit and ability to encourage beginners soon earned him a following. Initially resources were limited but by 1970 he and Norma had opened the Borin School of Bridge in Selwyn Court, Toorak. Eventually the School outgrew the Selwyn Court premises and Jim and Norma took over the bridge wing of the English Speaking Union in South Yarra. In 1995, with his new wife Pam, Jim moved the Borin School of Bridge to Spink St Brighton, where it has flourished under his energetic guidance.

Jim achieved remarkable success in competitive bridge at all levels from the time of his arrival in Australia. The extent of his achievements is evident from the Table below. Many of his triumphs were in partnership with Norma.
In Melbourne in 1971, when Australia opposed the Philippines in the Australian Pacific-Asia Open Teams, the match was featured on “Bridgerama”, which allowed a large audience to follow the bidding and play of each hand. The bidding was conducted behind screens, as is customary, and the audience had plenty of time to enjoy the drama as the Borins propelled the auction skywards to Jim’s choice of the final contract, a Grand Slam in a suit not previously mentioned! In the other room the final contract was a mere game. Australia picked up 17 IMPs and won by only 1 IMP.

Jim’s record in the Australian Open Butler Tournament is remarkable. That anyone playing this exacting week-long event could win or place 8 times in 12 years is almost beyond belief. The qualities required would seem to be consistency and mental toughness, which Jim had in abundance.

Jim was always interested in the psychological aspects of bridge. His skills as a motivator were successfully demonstrated in 1979, when an all-Victorian team, toughened by exposure to a series of clinics with Jim acting as guru, won the National Open Teams, a feat repeated the following year but never since. Jessel Rothfield recalls his nervous first team game in Canberra with Wally Scott. Before they started, Jim, a team-mate, produced a pack of cards and insisted on a game of whist to settle the nerves.

By the 1990s Jim had more or less abandoned the Australian tournament scene. His marriage to Norma ended in 1993 and he later married Pam James (nee McLeish). With the emergence of significant Seniors events in the new century he reappeared in fine style, and they became a happy hunting ground for him. He was due to go to the Bermuda Bowl in Monaco in November with the Australian Seniors Team.

For the last several years Jim had been Bridge Columnist for the Age newspaper. He took this responsibility very seriously, occasionally discussing a hand with me (I. McC.) in his search for a mot juste. It was evident from these discussions that although he had been almost everywhere in bridge, and had done almost everything, he remained entranced by the complexities and the perplexities that the game continually produces. Bridge was always fun for Jim.

This was never clearer than the day before he died, when a soft voice from a Coronary Intensive Care Unit led me through the hand that was destined for the Borin column for the next Saturday. He was gleefully exploring the mind of a hapless defender, who reached for the impossible and suffered the fate of Icarus.

Jim Borin’s achievements

Event Dates
Australian Team,
Olympiad or Bermuda Bowl
1971, 1972, 1977, 1979
Aust Open Pairs 1991
Aust. Open Team, Pacific-Asia 1968*, 1969, 1971, 1987, 1989
Interstate Open Pairs 1980, 1984, 1986, 1996
NSW Open Team 1962*, 1963*
Gold Coast Pairs 1980, 1988, 1991
Vic Open Team 1968*, 1986*, 1989*
National Seniors Teams 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
Victor Champion Cup 1988
McCance Senior Teams 2002
Aust Open Butler (placed 1*,2 or 3)
1969*, 1976*, 1977, 1979, 1980*, 1981*, 1983, 1986, 1987*

Note: the first four entries relate to representative teams and * indicates winners. Remaining entries refer to wins, except as indicated in the Butler event.

Prepared by Ian McCance and Jessel Rothfield, former bridge partners and team-mates, with the assistance of Jim’s brother Michael.