John Collings – the British Giant by Chris Dixon (GBR)
Source: EBL, Malta 1999 Bulletins
Chris Dixon (GBR), the captain of the British Open team was more than happy with the form being displayed by the legendary John Collings, once the ‘enfant terrible’ of British Bridge. And this is the article he wrote for the bulletin:
About 38 years ago, I got myself a part time job hosting and teaching in a small bridge club and school in North London. Here I met, for the first time, the co-proprietor, John Collings. He was a larger than life character with a charismatic personality and a keen eye for an attractive female student. I soon learnt of his reputation at the rubber table – a feared, unpredictable tiger with an uncanny flair for producing the most remarkable coups.
Here is an example from a late night game from those days. The stakes were not enormous, but most of us used to play for just a bit higher than we could afford. John was the dealer at game all, opponents having 40 part score.
John opened 1NT. In those days, we used to play that an opening 1NT showed 12-14 points. This is how the bidding went:
It was all explained to be afterwards. Joe knew that John would know what he had when he bid 3NT. John knew that Joe would know that he would know what Joe had, but knew that Joe would not have the nerve to pass the redouble.
The opening lead from West was (wait for it), the fourth best of his longest and strongest – the diamond ten. Was the position of a queen ever so significant?
In the early ’60s, John formed a tournament partnership with another British player of formidable talent – Jonathan Cansino. They played in the 1965 European Championships in Ostend. Here they had many successes, and were acclaimed as one of the most formidable and talented pairs in Europe. However, there is one hand for which John is remembered from those far off days:
West opened 2 and East responded 2 (natural, positive). John now bid 4! and West cue bid. Jonathan now produced his master bid – 7!!!. When this was doubled by East John had nowhere to go.
The lead was the A followed by a cunning low trump. John won with the Queen, ruffed a heart and led the 4. West was caught napping and dummy’s 6 won. This produced a penalty of -1900 (old style scoring) and a loss of just 10 IMPs on the board.
“I can accept the occasional error, but cannot stand stupidities!” said John. Well, the two are sometimes hard to distinguish. Anyway, however harsh his criticisms are, there is no malice in John. He is lavishly generous both with money and praise – he would give you his last pound (and in the old days, he was often down to his last pound), and his honesty and ethics and unquestioned.
What of the future? I asked John if he would consider playing in the Seniors.
‘Only when I am dead!‘ was the immediate response. ‘And even then, I’d expect to be above average!’
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