Ian Trackman 1945-2023

It is with great sadness that I have to announce that Ian Trackman passed away at the end of June 2023 aged 78.

Ian was born in March 1945. After completing his schooling and graduating, Ian started his professional life as a lawyer. But he changed direction having discovered the world of computers, and decided to become a programmer. Under the BBC Micro platform Ian wrote the programs called Battlefields and Record Keeper, and a few others. This led him to becoming a software consultant for the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project.

Ian met his wife Susan, when they were both students together, where they also learned to play bridge.

Ian’s interest in computer bridge began as a hobby in the early 1980’s. He realised that if he wanted to produce a good program, then his hobby would have to become a commercial enterprise. The bridge program Blue Chip became a fulltime occupation. Ian considered himself to be an average player, but realised that if he was going to succeed with this enterprise, it would require input from a seriously good player. Ian teamed up with Mike Whittaker, for whom bridge had been a hobby since school days, Mike has enjoyed success as a Scottish Junior International, and Mike was later a co-author of two books on the Acol Bidding system. But his time was taken up with Blue Chip Bridge after 1995.

Blue Chip came a long way between 1995, and the closure of the project in 2020. Blue Chip appeared at the World Computer Bridge Championships from 1997 to 2006, usually finishing between 5th and 8th place against strong competition from all around the world. But the biggest contribution that Ian and Mike were responsible for at this time, was an add on to Blue Chip Bridge known as a Table Manager. The Blue Chip Table Manager was the first of its kind, which made it possible for different bridge computer programs to play against each other with very little human assistance other than bridge bidding convention enquiries.

Without this addition although superseded in later years by a more recent program. The World Computer Bridge Championships would never have been possible in their current form.

I’m sure all of the computer bridge robot authors, who knew Ian would like to join me in sending our deepest condolences to Ian’s family and friends, and people Ian may have met along the way on this amazing journey.

Christine Goulden