Stephen Green, 52, who believed himself to be a better player than his wife, Carole, 57, would drink heavily and then criticise the way she played.
He is alleged to have stabbed her to death in January at their flat in East Beach, Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire, inflicting more than 100 “savage” wounds with an eight-inch knife.
Diana and Peter Sizer, fellow members of Lytham Bridge Club, told Preston Crown Court that club members would regularly visit each other’s houses socially for card games and travel together for competitions across the country. Intense debates over what hands were played at meetings would also take place at local pubs afterwards, the court was told.
Mrs Sizer said: “Initially it was fun. It was very competitive. After bridge congresses we would print out the hands we played to compare them and discuss what we had done right,” she said. “It was all very good-humoured and enjoyable.”
It was noticeable that Mr Green’s attitude changed over the past three years. He began drinking heavily, leading to vicious criticism of his wife’s prowess at the card table. Mrs Sizer said: “Stephen became increasingly more critical of Carole. He put her down, said she was stupid, said she did not understand.
“Normally she went very quiet. She would tell me afterwards a lot of things. She said she would argue back at home. She would get upset, she got tearful without crying if she was in public.
“Stephen would like to drink but his drinking became heavier and he started drinking spirits. His drinking became exceedingly heavy.”
She recalled that at a card game at the flat in late 2008 or early 2009 the defendant shouted at his wife, becoming extremely aggressive and “calling her the c-word”.
She described how Steve “exploded” and shouted “any more from you and I will throw you off the balcony”.
Green pleaded guilty to common assault against his wife in April last year when he drunkenly attacked her at home. He received a 12-week jail term suspended for 12 months.
Mrs Sizer said that her friend drove around to her flat shortly after that attack and had bite marks to her hand and upper left arm.
There was also bruising and bumps to the back of her head in the area where she had previously been operated on to remove a brain tumour, she said. She and her husband did not visit the Greens’ home again after the incident.
Mrs Sizer said: “She was trying to get him to seek professional help. She tried to get him to moderate it (the alcohol). She felt that when she was there he did not drink so much.” Mrs Sizer said she accompanied Mrs Green to a local solicitor for advice on seeking a divorce but was told that she could only undergo a separation because she had been married for less than a year.
“She did not want a divorce, she wanted her old Stephen back, the Stephen that was not violent or drunk. She loved him even after what had happened,” she said.
“We considered Stephen and Carole as our friends. We were also trying to help Steve,” she said.
Mr Sizer told the jury the defendant’s drinking became more obvious in recent years. He said the Greens would start off the night playing together before drinking began and partners were swapped. “When he thought she had made errors or was not playing well, he could be quite vicious,” he said.
The trial continues today.