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Post 11. Captain Ewart Kempson - “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” Monday, 18th September 2017.

Good evening everyone.

What does it take to make a good systems analyst ?   I can tell you.   A dogged pursuit of the facts, trust no-one, believe nothing, seek out the source, follow your own convictions wherever that might lead.   It makes, perhaps, for not a very nice person !   Lucky for me I have a partner, Judy, who trusts everyone, believes everything and never looks back - we balance each other quite well.   Let’s examine the evidence.

i. The UK Births, Marriages & Deaths Register gives : “Ewart Kempson, Death Age 70, Birth Date : About 1896, Registration Date : June 1966, Registration District : Durham”.

ii. The U.K. database of books held in the main deposit libraries and all the research establishments (COPAC) lists for just one of his books, say this one : “The Quintessence Of Cab, London : Kaye (1959), Author : Kempson, Ewart 1895 - , Held At : British Library, Cambridge University, National Library of Scotland, Oxford University, Trinity College Dublin”.

iii That obituary by Mr. Bernard Westall in Bridge Magazine posted by Mr. Hasenson gives the dates 1895 - 1966.   I believe Mr. Westall was sometime chairman of De La Rues.   I have a huge “bone to pick" with that company.   According to “The World Of Playing Cards” website, on Monday, 30th November, 1970, the entire De La Rue collection of playing cards was sold at auction by Sotheby's for £12,000 to the Fournier collection, Spain.   Why oh why couldn’t they donate it to a British institution, where surely, it belonged.   When I became aware of this, I cried a little, I really did.   For the record, Mr. Bernard Westall, President of the E.B.U., died on 11th January 1970, according to an E.B.U. obituary.  The Worshipful Company Of Playing Card Makers had "Bernard C. Westall" as their Master in 1943 & 1944 - I assume that is the same person.

iv. For my Volume II, I began assembling the evidence about Captain Kempson three or more years ago.   There was only ever one likely name in Ancestry.   But, I thought, maybe he had another name such as “William”, born in 1896.   But as I got deeper, the only candidate that fitted was “Ewart Gladstone Kempson”, born in Kingston, Jamaica on the day I stated in my earlier post.

v. Every time I checked the British Library newspaper archive, I couldn’t find any obituary.   I contacted various authorities, but nobody knew anything.   So you can see, it took quite something to put that date, 23rd September 1898, up on Bridge Winners.   That means he was only 67 years when he died, not the 70 years replicated in every website, every magazine, every book, every article all over the world.

vii. I had a restless night, what with Mr. Fleet’s comment, followed by Mr. Barden’s, on my “Post 10”.

viii. Every time I had looked for his obituary over three solid years, I couldn’t find it.   Last night (Sunday) I jumped for joy.   Judy & I were ecstatic.   I found his obituary in the Aberdeen Press - you can all see it for yourself.   I think why I had missed this before is that the reproduction is the worst I’ve ever seen.   The computer text download is absolutely “double dutch”.   This time, for some reason, the search terms I chose made a hit.   Or maybe, it’s only recently been added.   But even so, I’ve had to guess some of what is printed in the article, it’s just so scrambled and blurred.

ix. The obituary is in the “Aberdeen Press and Journal, Friday, 6th May 1966”.   This is what it says :                                      

                          "NOTED BRIDGE PLAYER    Ewart Kempson dies at ’67.

        An internationally-known bridge player and writer who had many friends in the North and North-east, Mr. EwartKempson, has died in hospital after several weeks illness.     His wife, also a fine bridge player, died last Sunday at their home at Gainsford, near Darlington.     A private double cremation will take place at Darlington today.   Mr. Kempson, who was 67, was captain of the British bridge team for many years and a few months ago was appointed non-playing captain”.

x. The final paragraph is interesting : “It is quite amusing to realise how he came to be so skilful with card games.   While in the Army as a professional soldier he found it most hard to reach a ????? result, in other words he realised it was harder to avoid taking tricks than making them.   So he concentrated on the mechanics of winning”.

xi. The article mentions that he - “suffered almost incessant pain, the result of a head wound in World War I”.

xii. All that tallies with what I had discovered.   I have his birth record, issued in Kingston, Jamaica, giving the 23rd September 1898 birthdate, and his full name “Ewart Gladstone Kempson”, not “Ewart M. Kempson” as some have said.

xiii. He married “Lyn Davison” in 1937, but had no children.   I wonder whether, in hospital, he knew his wife had died at their home three days earlier - in his will, he had left everything to her.   His brother Walter, who was two years his elder and lived about two or so miles away from my house in Bournemouth, was his executor.   The trail of copyright ownership went to Jamaica, and there the footprint goes dead.

xiv. So, how could all this happen ?   I can only imagine.   He enlisted in the Honourable Artillery Company as a private and served in France from 1st July 1915.

xv. So on 23rd September 1914 he was 16 years of age.   The official start date of WWI was 28th July 1914, according to Wikipedia.   Maybe he joined the H.A.C. then, a boy soldier, I don’t know.   And that’s why, perhaps, he added three or so years to his age, he wanted to fight the “Hun”.   He was commissioned into the King’s Royal Rifle Corp as a lieutenant on 30th November 1916.   I can find no entry of his date of birth on his army records, so maybe a “nod & a wink” got him in - who knows.   That “deception”, however noble it was, had to go with him all his life, I suppose.    And we forgive, don’t we ?

xvi. And what if I’m wrong after all - well, I’ll live with the fact that I tried my best to uncover the truth.

xvii. In my post, Mr. Fleet and others discussed the Stayman Convention, and how Captain Kempson had, maybe, invented it.   Richard mentioned Captain Kempson’s November 1935 book (there is a copy of that book for sale on the internet at the moment, if anyone wants it).   I had not intended to open that “can of worms” - but it’s done.   So may I add - nearly a whole year before that book, Captain Kempson started a series of articles in "The Aberdeen Press and Journal”.   The significant one was in the "Saturday, 26th January 1935, page 2" issue called “Opening On Four-card Suit”.   I show just the latter part, where opener has bid one no trump :    

                                    “Common Sense Response.

     The response of two in a minor suit is a strong bid, the reason for which is based on common sense.   With a non-fitting hand for no trumps the player would be ill advised to advertise the position.   One side of the opposition has already passed, why give him another chance.     It is a different kettle of fish when the responding hand is a strong one.   On certain types of strength it would be unwise to jump straight into three trumps, and here is the alternative - a response of “two” in a minor suit.   Here are two hands on which a response of two diamonds is preferable to a response of three trumps :—

               ♠AJ2    ♥10642   ♦AQJ6   ♣75    &     ♠AQ64     ♥72     ♦AK65       ♣943

In the first case, the opener may have a four-card major suit in spades or in hearts.   If, over the two diamond response, he calls either, the responder abandons no trumps and calls in the major.

                                   Secondary Major Bids.

In the second case, the opener have this type of hand :  

                                ♠KJxx     ♥AKxx     ♦QJx     ♣10x

Over partner's two diamonds he calls two hearts.   There is no "fit" here for the responder, but instead calling three no trumps he tries the spade suit - three spades.   If the opener does not like this suit, he calls three no trumps.  This secondary bidding of major suits shows, in each case, the possession of only four cards ; thus the partner will not normally support such a bid unless he, too, holds four cards.

The take-out into two of a minor suit might be very much weaker than the above ; it will, however, be rather stronger than a direct raise to two no trumps.   Here is hand for a two club response :         

                               ♠K10x     ♥xxx     ♦Qxx       ♣AQxx

This is rather stronger than the requirements for two no trumps, but not quite strong enough for three trumps. If, over the two clubs, the opener bids two no trumps, it would be advisable to pass.   If, however, the opener calls two in hearts or two spades, the responder would call two no trumps, thereby showing his exact type of hand. i.e. - No support for a secondary major suit”.

That article elevates Captain Kempson to one of the all-time greats of Bridge, I hope you agree.

xviii. The concept of “transfers” may date from the idea of “wriggling”.   Mr. R. E. Kemp describes “Wriggling” in his column in “The Scotsman, Tuesday, 20th August 1935”.   He gives an example of where :     

               “At one table Z was very ingenious. He redoubled, which is generally accepted as a call for help, and should guarantee that any take-out the partner makes can be supported”.

Isn’t the redouble a transfer of sorts ?   Mr. Kemp sued Colonel Buller for libel - that’s another fascinating story to tell.

xiii. Also in “Post 11”, Mr. Walker adds some very valuable information about Mr. Herbert Rowson.   It took me a lot of searching and guess work to uncover who Mr. Rowson was - it’s a fascinating story too.   But surely dear Bridge Winners readers, I'm allowed to retain some secrets for my volume II - otherwise who will buy it ?   "Picture Echo Calling" is just another one of those books that went under the radar.   Eward Kempson rubbished it, and there it floundered.   But my guess is (based on the 5 3 2 1 point count for hand evaluation that it uses) that it would be an interesting system for one of those BBO robots to embrace - we will see.

Thank you Mr. Hollander for putting my “Post 10” ship back on course.   May I ask anyone who has a handle on a Bridge website or in a Bridge magazine - “could you possibly put out a request for information about Valet de Pique ?”.   Someone, somewhere, might know who that person was - but time is running out.

Best wishes,

Ken in Bournemouth.

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