Alan Truscott of Surrey and New York, who has died aged 80, was the world’s leading bridge columnist and the principal witness in Britain’s most celebrated scandal of cheating at cards.
British-born Truscott was bridge correspondent of the New York Times from 1964 until his recent illness, the longest period of service for any of the distinguished newspaper’s correspondents. In 1965 Truscott was the key witness for the prosecution when Britain’s leading bridge partnership of the day, Terence Reese and Boris Schapiro, were accused of cheating at the World Bridge Championships in Buenos Aires.
Truscott was born on the 16th April 1925 in Brixton, and learned bridge at the age of 15 at Whitgift School in Croydon whilst the Battle of Britain was in progress. After a spell in the Royal Navy Truscott was already an accomplished bridge player when he arrived at Oxford University in 1947 and represented the university at chess and bridge.
At the age of 26 Truscott and the partner he had met at University, the late Robert D’Unienville, won the British Bridge Trials and represented Britain in the European Championships the following year with Reese and Schapiro in the team. Britain took the bronze medal. Later D’Unienville returned to his home in Mauritius and Truscott had to find a new partner.
In 1955 Truscott and a Dutch bridge writer Herman Filarski edited the first Daily Newspaper for the European Bridge Championships, a practice in being to this day. In 1958 Truscott took up bridge fulltime, writing his first bridge book, and becoming secretary of the British Bridge League.
The team took silver at the Europeans losing on a split tie with Italy. At the 1960 World Team Olympiad Truscott, partnering Tony Priday, the future bridge correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, first met the American woman who was later to become his wife. He was also head-hunted by a leading American player, Richard Frey, to ghost-write his newspaper column, write for his magazine, and co-edit an edition of the Bridge Encyclopedia. At the time Truscott was organising the European Championships held in Torquay in 1961. He was in the British team for the event that won the title of European champions. Soon after, he moved to New York to work for Frey.
In 1964 Truscott became Bridge Editor of the New York Times. For forty years Truscott wrote a daily column, establishing him as the world’s leading bridge columnist. At world championships he would report a hand that, due to time zones, would often appear the same day in his newspaper.
In 1965 came the Buenos Aires affair with Truscott as the main witness against Reese and Schapiro. His book on the subject, The Great Bridge Scandal, was not published in Britain whilst Reese and Schapiro were alive, for fear of legal proceedings.
In 1970 Truscott separated from his British wife Gloria and they then divorced. She returned to England with their children. A year later he proposed to Dorothy Hayden at dawn in front of the Taj Mahal and she accepted. They married in 1972.
Truscott was the author of thirteen bridge books and Executive editor of the first three editions of the Encyclopedia of Bridge. He had a prodigious recall of humorous songs and ditties with which he would entertain his friends. He ran the New York Marathon at the age of 61. He leaves his widow, Dorothy, and three children by his first wife, one of whom, Philip, was a Liberal councillor before emigrating to the USA.
16th April 1925 to 4th September 2005
P. D. Jourdain
Major International Appearances
European Championships: 1951 1958 and 1961*
Bermuda Bowl: 1962
* = 1st place
Camrose Trophy Selections: 1953 1954 1955 1958 1960 and 1962