Home > Member Services > Player Profiles > Diana Smart

Diana Smart

How did you get started in bridge? At what age? Who from?

When I went to Melbourne University in the 1960s, I visited their bridge club as our family had played lots of different card games while I was growing up and I thought I might like bridge.  The club’s membership was predominantly male which was another attraction!  (In fact that’s where I met my husband, who is a fine player.)  I played there for my first few years and went to several intervarsity competitions. At that time, there was a thriving university bridge scene across our nation, with the likes of Ron Klinger, Zollie Nagy and others who later represented Australia participating.  In many ways, it was a golden age for youth bridge. We also had annual grudge matches against Monash University.  Through the Melbourne University bridge club, I met and played regularly with Bob Richman and David Watkins both of whom I learnt much from.

Eventually we made our way to the Victorian Bridge Association and I’ve played there ever since except for a short time when we lived in Sydney. Bob Richman and I made the Victorian Open team in 1972 as very young players playing Animal Acol and our team ended up winning the Australian National Championship! (We counted losers, not high-card points.  A seven loser hand was an automatic one opening.  Not for the faint hearted!). The team was anchored by Ian McCance and Wally Scott with two novice pairs of  Bob and myself, and Victor Muntz and Walter Lowen.  Wally had been caught speeding at 150 MPH on the way to the event and as he only had a very out-of-date international licence, he was in huge strife.  He was consequently on his best behaviour and form. Our win was entirely unexpected as several other teams were very strong.  (The hot favourite was NSW, led by Tim Seres, Denis Howard, Roelof Smilde and Dick Cummings).   

What do (did) you do professionally?

I had a long career as a researcher, being a registered Psychologist by training, and held several senior positions towards the end of my career.  I was very fortunate to be involved in two famous longitudinal studies of children’s development – the Australian Temperament Project and later on, Growing up in Australia – the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children.  I came out of retirement to lead another longitudinal study of the settlement experiences of humanitarian migrants – Building a New Life in Australia.  I am now retired for the second time.

Who is your partner and for how long? Longest partnership?

I play with Elizabeth Havas, one of the finest Australian women players ever. We have played together since 2019. I had a more-than 40 year partnership and friendship with Felicity Beale until her death in 2016 and we had many successes together. I still miss her. I have also played with another outstanding woman player, Paula McLeish.  Additionally, I was lucky to play with Ian McCance for many years.

If you had a choice who would you like to play with? Australia and Internationally- living or dead?

There are many players who I admire and would like to learn from by watching.  That would be my preference.  But I imagine playing with Zia would be a fun experience too.

In your playing career, what is the bridge success that has the most meaning for you?

Probably winning the Asia-Pacific Women’s Championship in 1991 as my mother had just recovered from a serious illness and I wasn’t mentally “there” at first. Our team was very strong and supportive and “carried” me. I also recall that in the final match our opposition defended very well on the first board to beat my game and I mentally told myself to put it aside and play each hand as if it was the first one of the set.  I was proud that we had a good match in a key situation and after that start. 

And your worst moment in bridge?

This was when I had the afternoon session off at an international tournament and returned to the hotel after lunching to wish my team mates good luck only to find that we were playing China on Vue Graph and I was made to play. (There was no reason preventing my team mates from playing.)  I was entirely unprepared mentally and very angry.  Luckily, the worst thing I did was misdefend 1NT and let it make.  It could have been much more horrible.

What do you do you do between sessions to put you in the best frame of mind for the following session?

I try to have a quiet time by myself doing something relaxing like reading or puzzles or just resting.  If I am to play on Vue Graph, this is essential. 

Do you have a favourite and least favourite convention?

My favourite convention is Puppet Stayman. Felicity brought it back from the USA in the 1970s where it had just been invented and we were among the first to play it here. I particularly dislike non-natural weak jump overcalls that show two outside suits.  It’s so easy to make an automatic natural bid and then realise you’ve shown something else entirely.

Would you prefer to have more system or less?

What I play now is about enough.  Everyone is different, but I’ve learnt that if I have too much system to recall, my game suffers a bit.

What do you do to improve your game?

I read bridge magazines and books.  The world bridge championship books are particularly good for this.  I also like to re-read some theme books like Killing Defence at Bridge and declarer play books before I play in a tournament to sharpen my thinking.

Favourite bridge book?

Has to be Bridge in the Menagerie.  I also greatly enjoyed Bob Hamman’s bridge biography.

What interests or hobbies do you have besides bridge?

Reading, watching movies, doing puzzles and dare I say it, shopping.

What is the number one thing that bridge has done for you as a person and for your life?

Through bridge, I’ve made, and been able to keep up, many dear friendships.  I’ve also been fortunate enough to visit parts of the world that I never would have. I think it has helped keep my mind sharp.

Bridge Results and Awards

I have represented Australia 25 times. I have been a member of the Australian Women’s team at 6 Olympiads, 5 Venice Cup championships, and 12 Asia Pacific championships.  I have been on a winning Asia-Pacific women’s team 3 times and come 2nd another 4 times as well as coming  2nd in the women’s Asia Cup championship in 2014 (defeating the then-current world championship Chinese women’s team in the semi-final).  I’ve won numerous top-level Australian women’s championships on multiple occasions, including the ANC teams, ANC Butler pairs, South-West Pacific teams, Spring National teams and VCC women’s pairs.  I’ve won or placed in several open championships.  But it is fair to say that with my limited available time, I have focused mainly on women’s bridge and it has been very enjoyable and rewarding.