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So you knew Skid and Stern?
(Page of 3)

What a thought? As a researcher of bridge in the 30s and 40s, I was somewhat surprised to have found a person who still enjoys an occasional game of bridge, and knew both SJ Simon (also known as Skid) and the mighty Dr Paul Stern, originally Austrian, but moved to London, England, because of WW2.

It was a pleasure to meet Valentine Ramsey, a son of Guy Ramsey, author of “Aces All”, one of the best compendiums of short biographies (the others being “The Bridge Immortals”, by Victor Mollo, and more recently Marc Smith’s “World Class”).

I enjoyed the company of Valentine. He was reminiscing learning bridge as an 18 year old, from Terence Reese (a birthday gift from his father Guy ... six lessons) whilst playing his favoured version of bridge, rubber bridge, traditional style, in his home, at Sherborne, Dorset, England, just 10 days ago.

I asked Valentine: what was it like to learn bridge from Reese? He replied, “He didn’t like answering questions”.

In particular, I enjoyed reading the passage on page 2 of this article to him, something that he was not aware of.

I’ll be writing a feature length article about the Ramsey family, their literary successes, and Guy’s headline grabbing article on Rudolf Hess … which ended up in a court martial for his source.

If this aspect of bridge history interests you, please let me know and I’ll get the link of the final published article sent to you.

Meanwhile, do take a moment to read the text on page 2, which is from “The Walk of The Oysters” by Rex Mackey. 

I should add: if you happen to know anyone who met either Skid or Stern, and would be interested in talking about it, please do let me know.(both Skid and Stern died in 1948)

quoted by kind permission of the publishers:

The Walk of The Oysters

Chapter 14: "We Weep for You ..."

It is a tribute to the remarkable capacity for punishment of the human race that soon after the outbreak of peace a larger section of it than ever was playing, studying, and even fighting about Contract Bridge. As one would expect, its postwar reconstruction policies were so arranged that playing cards were in general use long before ration cards ceased to be. After all, not by bread alone . . . !

As early as 1946 the Camrose Cup matches, between England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, were resumed, and September of the same year saw the publication of the Contract Bridge Journal. Among the contributors to the first issue were Ewart Kempson, M. Harrison-Gray, S. J. Simon, J. C. Marx, Paul Stern, Boris Schapiro, and an earnest young politician called Iain Macleod.

The editorial introducing the magazine informed the public: "Bridge is no longer a game for the Smart Set, the Professional Gambler, the small fanatical colony of Experts. Bridge has kept minds by the million from dread of air-raids, boredom of prison camps, inertia of troop-ships," and so on.

It goes on to refer to "diehards who maintain that England is capable of selecting an adequate team of English born players without the adventitious aid of ex-mid-Europeans," and rightly comments that, "it would be inconceivable that such British players as S. J. Simon and R. Lederer should be debarred."

The following month Guy Ramsey, a later editor of the Journal, returned to this subject. In dealing with the composition of the "new look" British team, and having suggested that no one should be barred merely because he was an alien, in particular he made a strong plea for the inclusion of Jewish players. One would be inclined to dismiss such advocacy as unwarranted impertinence were it not that a man of the integrity and good feeling of Ramsey would not have indulged in it without good reason. He was obviously reacting against some attempted influence which at the distance of almost twenty years is as obscure as it must have seemed at the time astonishing.

These passages, however, afford the chronicler the opportunity of referring to the debt which Contract Bridge in Britain owes to those very players whose cause it was apparently necessary to plead. The Acol system, which we have seen was the cornerstone of Britain's postwar prestige in the game, was the creation of Marx and Simon. In the last competitions held prewar, three of the Gold Cup winning team were Jews, and Harrison-Gray won the National Pairs partnered by Simon, who played at the Hague on the British team. Since the war, the list is so long as to be tedious, but it is of interest that of the record-breaking British team in Baden-Baden in 1963 no less than three were Jews, including the captain. 


 The Walk of The Oysters Rex Mackey ISBN 0-86379-123-9

 Links on next page, more about some of the people mentioned above.

Jack Marx

SJ Simon

Paul Stern

Guy Ramsey     obit written by Terence Reese, Nov 1959


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