Ok, these books are exactly what you would think from the title. How to help guide your partner to finding the correct play. The book would be nice as one (very large) book, but it is divided into two books (part 1 is 300 pages, part 2 is only 259 pages).
Part one has only two chapters, each about half the book. chapter one is "putting back on right track". Chapter two is "suit preference". In the first chapter many things covered are familiar like "ALARM CLOCK "plays, The suit preference chapter is a tour-de-force on the subject, with more than enough examples to clarify your thoughs on this subject. I have seen a variety of reviews of Part 1 before I bought it, and all were glowing. Add my views to this group.
Part two has five chapters. 1. How to play honor cards, 2. Attitude signals, 3. Count signals, 4. Substitute count, and 5. Complex Count. The first chapter has nothing new, I think most of us will read the problems and say, yes of course, I play that. Chapter 4 covers what I called the "off suit signal" several months ago (offsuit signals) but which really should have been called "Side suit signal" as that was the title of the article from decades ago in Bridge World where i first learned of this concept. Of course, Martens expands on this. In fact, three chapters on variety of funky count signals -- including vinje signals in trumps by very weak partner. In fact, the entire 5th chapter deals with signals by a partner "with no other information to convey". When this situation exist, they use vinjie signals to show three odd and one even, or one odd and three even suits. This is what the "complex count" means (3 odd-1even or 1 odd - 3 even).
This book has been more controversial in reviews and comments I have heard. For one thing, Martens downplays attitude signals. Let me quote him.
"Attitude signals are given to the suit that partner has lead. They convey our attitude about the future continuaton of that suit. The weakness of this method is that it lacks cooperation between defenders. One member of the defenders conveys only a suggestion and decides for himself the best line of defense."
Of course, Martens admits that attitude signals are "needed" but he specifies specific hand/problem types where attitude is to be given. At other times, he says count signal is the priority. He even introduced (to me at least) the concept of an ALARM CLOCK signal when given count,. A false count signal serves the same purpose as an unusual honor card, that is to wake partner up to the need for an unusual or unexpected play.
I am going to give Martens count first attitude a try (along with his rules for when attitude is given instead of count. I have ALWAYS been attitude first player (as I think most players are), so this will take a while to get use to. On the other hand, I have been using suit preference and side suit signals for a long time so that will not be a big deal for me. I will load the guide dog books to my partner and prepare practice hands to make sure we are on the same page with what cards mean what. The complex count signal will be new to me (although I have a book on the idea), and will try that as well. Trouble might be trying to decide if partner has "no other information to convey."
A few minor poinst. At 34 us dollars each, these are more expensive than most books -- even his. Second, there are a few typographical erros in the books I bought. Interestingly, someone went through the book with white out and a pen and corrected them (wow). Actually the books I bought were brought to kentucky by Martens himself in a suit case, and Randy Barron (I went to college with him) was selling them. I bought one of every one of his books on sell (other than his on opening leads--- I went back to buy that one, but someone had snapped it up). I didn't buy calf which was there, as I have it electronic format. I plan to purchase his other books.
I highly recommend the two guide dog books -- but understand these two books will cost almost as much as a year's subscription to bridge world. These two books are clearly in my top 5 bridge books I own, I will have to think if they become number one. I think I will treat them as "one book" for such placement.
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Guide Dog, part 1 and part 2
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