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Canterbury News with Max Robb

Apologies but the second half of this report which was published last week was incorrect.

Brian Ussher 1950-2019.

Brian, a Grandmaster of Bridge, was well known locally and at provincial level representing Timaru and Canterbury on many occasions. Brian amassed a remarkable record at the Timaru Bridge Club, winning the Championship Pairs on no less than 28 occasions and the Individual Championship a total of 29 times. It is hard to imagine that there are too many clubs up and down the country with a record like that.

Brian Ussher.png

His health declined over the past 18 months but in his last game of bridge on Friday 7th February, he still managed to finish second with 60.63%. He is survived by his children Mathew and Kelly, grandchildren Eden and Brydie and partner Nikki. He was 68.

 The Timaru Bridge community has asked me to send through information about Brian.

                My contact with Brian was at Canterbury tournaments only, but on the first occasion we met a decade ago he showed considerable charm in welcoming me as a fledgling tournament player. He was one of the rare breed of people who accepted all other players no matter what their ability, and showed genuine interest in how they were faring. It is for this that I will remember him and travelling to Timaru for the Congress this year was not be the same knowing that Brian Ussher would not be there.

Max Morrison, a regular tournament partner for Brian, added the following:

“I first met Brian in 1998 at a bridge tournament in Ashburton. In the year 2000 we decided to play together in a tournament. Little did I know that this would be the start of a partnership that would last some 15 years.

Bridge was very important to Brian and he loved playing PRECISION. We didn’t play a complicated system, and only minor changes were made to it over the years.

Apart from bridge I didn’t know Brian that well, except that he was a keen gardener, with a wonderful veggie patch, liked fishing for whitebait and salmon, and played golf.

At the Bridge table, Brian was a very disciplined player, but he also played with a lot of flair. His declarer play was outstanding and he was able to make difficult contracts.

I remember the following hand from playing against Otago in the Inter-provincials one year. He showed about 24 or 25 points with a balanced hand, and I held, a seven card heart suit headed by the Jack.

I transferred him to hearts and then bid 4NT asking for key cards. Brian showed four and we declared in 6Heart-small. Diamond-smallK was led and when dummy was put down, he looked surprised and said “Only one point!?”

I replied, “Yes, but it is a seven- card suit and the point is in the heart suit!”. Here are the hands:

South Deals
None Vul
6 5 4
J 10 9 6 5 3 2
9 5
W   E
A Q 7
A Q 4
A J 5
A K 7 6

Brian won the Diamond-smallK and immediately ruffed a diamond; now he took the heart finesse which worked, the hearts breaking 2-1.

Now we give you Brian’s challenge of how to make this contract. What is your plan and how must the cards be distributed? The answer is below.

Together we played in many big tournaments mainly in the Canterbury Region. Much success came our way and the A points started accumulating. In 2003 Brian became a Grand Master.

Brian was a member of the team (Brian Ussher, Max Morrison, Colin Marshall and Tony Fitzgerald) that won the South Island Teams in 2008. He represented Canterbury in the Inter-Provincials at least six times, twice coming runner-up. As well as bringing a lot of skill to the Bridge table, Brian helped many people with their bridge over the years. Only ill health prevented him from becoming a Silver Grand Master, but to me he was a Gold GrandMaster.

 Solution to 6Heart-small hand:
South Deals
None Vul
6 5 4
J 10 9 6 5 3 2
9 5
K 9 8 2
K Q 8 7 3
J 8 2
W   E
J 10 3
K 8
10 9 6 2
Q 10 4 3
A Q 7
A Q 4
A J 5
A K 7 6


Entries are an issue. At trick 4, Brian played his two winners in clubs, ruffed a club, only now drawing the last trump by returning to his heart ace. He then threw his left-hand opponent in with the Diamond-smallQ, pitching a low spade from dummy. The helpless defender could only give a ruff and slough, or lead away from his Spade-smallK up to Brian’s ace/queen. Fortune favoured the brave here  as the initial lead located the Diamond-smallQ, the heart finesse worked, and the defender did not have the last club with which to exit.”   Max Morrison, March 2019.



I have no idea why Tony Biddington started twisting my arm, but he kept it up for a year, and I eventually agreed to taking up the roll of Canterbury Regional writer in 2017. I have written 11 articles over 18 months, but a frustration has ended, because this is the first time I am able to even mention myself.            

Ashburton Anniversary Pairs, 9 March 2019

                In early March, Ashburton held their Anniversary Pairs. I wonder if they had to close the entries because the room was filled with 20 tables, played in two sections, a Howell and a Mitchell. The players had been divided into three sections.

                In the morning Max and Tony headed the room with 64%, followed by Giles Hancock and Jill Lockett (Akaroa) 62.85% Annette Blain with Rona Brownlie (Ashburton) 62.04%. and Julia Thomas with Janis Franc 60%. These last 6 made a great start for section B.

In the afternoon it was Chris Bras and Michael Hume’s turn to shine with a stellar 67.7%. However Max and Tony held steady with 65% to hold their position.

                Meanwhile Janis Franc and Julia Thomas had another very steady score to oust Giles and Jill, and Pippa Foley with Rosemary Parker from the top spot  in section B.  Annette Blain and Rona Brownlie came 4th.

                Clear winners in C Section were Jeanette Joyce and Carol Anderson. This has to be the result of the day because their average of 56.5% was good enough to place them 13th in a field of 40 pairs. Well done for this pair from Rangiora.



Chris Bras- Michael Hume



Kay Nicholas – Lesley Andrew



Mike Holdaway – John Fechney



B Section


Julia Thomas – Janis Franc



John McDonald- David Sewall



Giles Hancock- Jill Lockett



Pippa Foley – Rosemary Parker



C Section


Jeanette Joyce – Carol Anderson


Robyn Howie – Karen Walker


Colin Clemens – Maryke Blignault



Open Pairs                                                                                     


Jane Lennon- Jane Skipper



Tim Schumacher – Michael Ware



Joan Small – Margaret Burgess


  Janes Lennon and Skipper 2.jpg                        Sally Croy and Tracey Bruce.jpg
  Jane Lennon and Jane Skipper                      Sally Croy and Tracey Bruce

Intermediate Pairs


Sally Croy – Tracey Bruce



Chris Darvell – Cath Preen



David Sewell – John McDonald



Junior Pairs


Gavin and Angela Spence



Stewart and Lee Whyte



Ann Paterson – Pam Taylor



Alan Grant, Janes and John Skipper.jpg

The Open Teams were won by Alan Grant, John and Jane Skipper and Jane Lennon (pictured)while the winners of the Intermediate Teams were Gordon McCormick, John McKenzie, Tracey Bruce and Sally Croy.

Rangiora 5A

                It is always a pleasure to play here – lovely rooms, friendly people and in recent years invariably directed efficiently by Craig Shanahan.

There were 12 A points earned in session play – two pairs who can be pleased to have won a point were Julia Thomas with Catherine Fitchett, and Sarah Waldron with Tony Biddington.  Two Rangiora Club members who can justifiably be proud of their efforts that day were Ken Johns and Jack Lyon, both Local Masters, who for the first time gained A points in a pairs competition. Well done by these six people.

Open Section



Pam Tibble – Margaret Burgess


Max Morrison – Richard Lapthorne


Paula Gregory – Michael Johnstone


Ken Johns – Jack Lyon

 B Section winners were Margaret Fraser and Janis Franc.

Pam Tibble and Margaret Burgess 2.jpg    Richard Lapthorne and Max Morrison 2.jpg  Michael Johnstone and Paula Gregory 18.jpg 3.jpg Ken Johns and Jack Lyon 2.jpg
Pam Tibble and Margaret Burgess  Richard Lapthorne and        Michael Johnstone and          Ken Johns and Jack Lyon
                                                         Max Morrison                      Paula Gregory


Canterbury Easter Congress

                Again I have found that Cantabrians like to play bridge on occasions that I have thought would not attract a crowd. Yet, Easter Friday walk in bridge was a real hit, attracting 30 tables!

I have developed an irrational craving for Easter eggs, because for 12 years I lived in Singapore where there were none! My ploy for good luck is to always take the first tickets available in raffles. So I was pleased to secure tickets # 1 and 2 in the draw for large arrangements of Easter eggs of all sizes. The 150 tickets sold like hot cakes, and I am still without an Easter egg. The bridge was an opportunity for casual practice before the big events of the weekend


Open 10A Teams

                On the first day Moss Wylie/Tony Fitzgerald and Bruce Anderson/Kris Wooles established a commanding 24 VP lead, and they were not to be headed, eventually winning by a clear margin of 17 Victory points!

 Moss Kris W Bruce Anderson.jpg
 Moss, Bruce, Tony and Kris....clear Open Teams winners

Intermediate Teams

                1st           Sam Gurney, Caroline Casey, Amber Newton and Jo Sharp 

                2nd          Madge Baker, Jan Lenton, Margaret Fraser and Helen Gardner


Junior Teams

               1st             Pauline De Vere, Janine Mussen, Nancy Buxton and Hedley Bamford

Open 10A Pairs

                Jane Skipper and Jane Lennon continued their fine form in recent times to win yet again.

                1st           Jane  Skipper/ Jane Lennon         

                2nd          David Skipper/ Glen Coutts

                3rd           Matthew Bristow/ Mairi Bristow [all the way from Napier]    

Worthy Volunteer of the Month

In a sizeable article published in this column in March, Giles Hancock from the Akaroa Club did himself and Canterbury proud by being named Volunteer of the Month in New Zealand. It seems strange to me that he is named volunteer for March because his work spans  several years of course!





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