Liz Smith

We do not have an obituary for Liz at present. The following article was printed in Bridge International in June 1987 during Liz’s time as editor of English Bridge. One of the most intriguing things about how people become involved in the bridge world is that they all seemed to have started in a different direction. Consider our present crop of bridge editors – mathematicians, economists, TV producers, linguists – they all seem unlikely starting points for a literary career. Liz Smith started in perhaps the most unpromising way possible. She was born in Aberdeen, the middle one of five sisters, and her mother was a fanatical player. It may sound promising but, as so often happens, it worked the other way. Her father was a retired rubber planter in Malaysia, and mother spend a great deal of time playing bridge. Long weekends away, Liz returning jaded from school to find a hard working four and the news that bread and cheese can be found in the refrigerator…At this time Liz decided that bridge was not for her. (Her mother, Freida Hayes, regularly played with Maisie Wilkie, representing Scotland successfully in the Lady Milne. It was not long before the partnership became known as ‘Hazy and Maisie’ and the name of the ‘Hazy’ has never been lost – we first met her when she hosted at the London School of Bridge and she is still and active rubber bridge player). Liz was educated at the Girls’ Grammar School, Aberdeen until she was 17, the moved on to Commercial College where shorthand, typing and book-keeping skills were acquired – all assets that proved remarkably useful. Liz started work as a secretary, then, when the family moved to London, switched to secretarial work with a film producer. One thing led to another, she became a film production secretary and then became involved in the wardrobe department of full-length films. Indeed, she worked with Darryl Zanuck on a B-film entitled “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” You may not remember it (alas, we do not) but it was all about the changes in fashion, so the wardrobe was all-important and most of the filming took place in St Tropez. In the way that these things happen, Liz graduated to producing TV commercials herself and copy-writing for commercials, both for TV and the press. The connections with the stage world led to an acquaintanceship with Nicol Williamson (the actor) and when he suggested that it would be rather fun if a foursome took up bridge with a view to playing a cheerful social game, Liz finally weakened. They all started at the London School of Bridge in 1971 and Liz was hooked from the start. Amazingly enough, her tutor was your editor – but such were the attractions of the game that she still could not resist. She took up duplicate in the late 1970s and joined the London Duplicate Bridge Club, where she met a rather Duncan Smith. Always in favour of the direct approach she asked, “Would you like to play with me sometime?” (Well, it’s a change from “Come up and see me sometime” – Mae West). They played, he was horrified with her bidding and suggested that something be done about the problem. As a result, they were married with the year… Duncan, like most bridge players, started in one direction by taking a degree in physics at Cambridge and then working as an accountant. (Which he detested). As a result of their marriage he has decided to adjust his lifestyle by unexpectedly taking a teachers’ training course, acquiring a teenage step-daughter and (later) two cats (Henry and Pom-Pom, the scond of whom helps Liz with her editorials and hand analyses.) Tara, Liz’s daughter, has embarked on a writing career, winning a literary prize, and is currently working on a novel. Unless it is about the problem of looking after bridge-playing parents, we do not promise to review it… While we were interviewing Liz at home the phone kept ringing, Most of the calls were earnest enquiries as to where they should send their Master Points – perhaps it is a mistake to publish her number in English Bridge? But on the other hand, and we are only too familiar with the problem for, if people cannot get in rouch with you easily, you simply do not hear the latest news. It is all very well waiting for the latest press releases but, with notable exceptions, they do not come in time. One of the interesting things was how Liz became the editor of English Bridge. Free-lancing at the time she saw the advertisement, but there were tactical problems, Replies were invited to Bill Pencharz who was not only a personal friend but the family solicitor, Using the soubriquet SLAM Punter, the application was submitted. “Would you kindly expose yourself?” was the reply. On doing so, although short-listed, it was suggested that she was not expert enough for the job. But the counter-arguments that she had experience with the simple mechanics of design layout and page make-up and the rather telling point that it would be better if somebody with no pretensions to being a super-expert tackled matters and so appealed more to the reading public finally won the day. And so, three years ago, she became editor of the EBU’s journal. “What is wrong with bridge nowadays?” we asked her. “Why do not more players participate in tournament bridge?” Liz was distinctly forthright, explaining – as she has done editorially – that many bridge players are socially unattractive – both young and old, possibly in their dress and by their display of bad manners at the table. “What do they see in their bridge?” she demanded fiercely. “Do they regard it as their social ‘fix’? They cannot shout at their acquaintances in real life, so they choose the bridge table as a good place to be rude! What is there to attract pleasant people to the game?” Although Liz mainly plays with Duncan (second in the Crockfords, finalist at Brighton) she also enjoys playing with Jack Marx, Norman Selway and Andrew Thompson – an unlikely trio. Liz and husband Duncan have taken up with vegetarianism and find that not only to they like the idea but it suits them. (It seems to horrify our Hurricane Liggins, who favours four square meals a day with a little bit of supper, preferably of the knife and fork variety, to follow). When we asked Liz for a hand, she gave us one where bidding played an important part, but you can carry things too far. Holding S 765432 (a sequence!) H J2 D 10972 C 6, would you, facing a passing partner be tempted to join in at the five level? Possibly not, and you still have to find the right lead against the eventual seven no-trumps doubled.

West North East South
  (Jack Marx)   (Liz)
1D No 2C No
2H No 4NT 5S
No No 6C No
No 6S No No
Dble No 7C No
No Dble all pass  

We are sure that you got it right, but if you do not lead a heart it is all too late. It did not seem a good front cover hand so we simply tested Liz with a deal from a recent teams’ match. This was the full deal:

S 864
H AK653
D Q3
H QJ87
D 8
C KQ96532
S K1097532
H 1094
D K5
C 8
D AJ1097642
C 107

West opened two hearts, showing 11-15 points, four heart and five or more clubs. 9They described it as reverse Roman and they do do these things) North passed, East bid a non-forcing two spades and South’s effort of five diamonds was raised to six. West led the queen of spades and although the dull trump finesse brings home the bacon, there is a much better play. Knowing the heart distribution, Liz won in hand, took a spade discard on a top heart, and ruffed a heart. Then she led DJ and (as long as trumps were 2-1) there was another entry to dummy to ruff and establish the long heart for a club discard. A big furniture removal coincided with a London event and Hazy promised to mastermind the move. Surprisingly enough, all went smoothly, but a large glossy photograph of Liz on the piano attracted the attention of the removal men. Later, with Liz now at home, a repulsive spotty-faced and greasy-haired youth rang the bell. “Are you the girl in the photograph?” he demanded. On being assured that this was the case, he said “I was going to ask you out but now that I have seen you, I don’t think I’ll bother.” All we can say is that he must have been short-sighted to add to his other drawbacks, for Liz is surely the most attractive of our bridge editors.