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Book Reviews

#1 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-February-02, 13:54

"Winning Declarer Play" by Dorothy Hayden (Truscott) (an oldie from 1969)

For Beginners I rate it A+.
For Intermediate Iíll give it a B+.

This is an outstanding beginner book. In fact itís got several sections that intermediate players would gain from reading. Nothing in the book is super complex, so don't think you canít do some of what she discusses. What I especially like is the author seems to focus on problems that declarers frequently get wrong. Rather than a theoretical book on card play, like Play of the Hand, this is a practical, applied book.

1) The section on computing percentages at the table is well done. Itís easy to read and she makes some observations I'd never have thought about.

Example: trumps are pulled, both hands have one. In a side suit Clubs you hold:
Dummy: KJxxx
Declarer: Ax

You also have finesse available, in another suit. With one other entry to dummy.
What do you do?

Play A, then small to the J, right?

No. Play A (see if the Q drops), then Play the K.

If the Q doesnít drop, you have 2 options -
a) Take the finesse
:) Ruff a small club, and hope the suit breaks 3-3

What should you do now? 4-2 is 48.5%, 3-3 is 35.5%.

The point is that percentages change as distributions are eliminated. Not only are the 6-0 and 5-1 layouts gone, so are all the 4-2s where Q is a doubleton. 1/3 of the 4-2 distributions involve Qx, so the 4-2 percentage drops by 1/3, to 32%.

Since 35.5% > 32% its better to play for the 3-3 split, and ruff, and forgo the finesse. This isnít rocket science, and with a bit of practice players can become more aware of things like this.


2) There is a nice section on simple Squeezes in 3NT contracts. Some of the squeezes at the end you may not use, but the simple squeeze is easy to use if you just look to see if the conditions are right.

3) The section on Inferences and placing the opponentís cards is nicely done. A few simple points to keep in mind, to help you decide who has what.

4) There is also a section on deception, with some basic fundamentals. Well worth reading.

5) Lastly, she has 41 problems at the end. Most are not very hard; they don't involve some crazy squeeze. She warns that during the heat of play its likely most people would get almost everyone wrong. I some easy, some took me several minutes to think about before getting, and I also missed some. While these are not as hard as Bridge Master problems, they are very common situations you will likely see repeatedly at the table.

I came across it because it was recommended on Karen Walkers Bridge book list
(http://www.prairienet.org/bridge/)
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#2 User is offline   Double ! 

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Posted 2005-February-02, 20:15

I have always felt that she was a superior bridge author. Easy to read, easy to understand. Try another book of hers, "Bid Better, Play Better" (I think that's the title.)
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#3 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-February-08, 07:59

Why You Lose at Bridge by SJ Simon in 1949.

This is supposed to be a classic, and I was really looking forward to it. The first half is about a range of topics like card play, doubling, and bidding. The second half is about psychology. And at the end are 9 hands from a rubber that contain mistakes, either in the play or bidding.

I found the first half generally useful, as it contains common mistakes many people make (myself included). Nothing earth shattering, but when you stop to think about it, it makes sense. For instance, don't go doubling slams just because you hold 2 aces. You may indeed make an extra 50 points (100 instead of 50), but if one of the opponents is void, they may make a doubled slam contract. You are risking a gain of 50 for an enormous loss. The time to double is when you think it will set the contract, such as a Lightner double. The example he gives is RHO opens 1NT, LHO responds Stayman (2), RHO responses 2, they end up in 3NT, and then pard doubles. The double is of dummies bid suit, and itís not clubs. Had pard wanted a club lead, he would have doubled the Stayman bid. So the double is of Spades. If vulnerable, and itís a tossup (50%) to bid game or stay in 3 of a major, go for it. The upside is a lot bigger than the down side.

The section on psychology was ok, but because it focused on Rubber Bridge, it had less value to me. Know your partner, and play accordingly. If they are not strong, donít make difficult bids, or put them in close contracts. Play for the best result you can realistically obtain, not the theoretical best possible score. The section on psych bids was good, essentially don't worry about them too much, you will suffer far greater harm if you constantly expect psyches.

The last section on the play of 9 hands was ok, but again, it was Rubber Bridge, with some weak players, and old bidding systems.

Overall I rate it a B, or maybe a B+. While the material was good, Iíve seen some of it elsewhere. Probably because it was a classic other authors incorporated some of its lessons into their books. Because the bidding was old I didn't enjoy some of the sample hands as much. Itís a good book, but probably when it was written there was nothing else like it, so it got an extra benefit for being the first and only book on the subject. I suggest reading the first half, which is around 80 pages.
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#4 User is offline   guggie 

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Posted 2005-February-09, 02:34

Maybe you might guess I am a fan of SJ Simon. What you forgot to say that it is very well written, one of the reasons it is a classic. Of course the bidding is old fashioned. Try reading the blue book...
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Posted 2005-February-09, 03:46

guggie, on Feb 9 2005, 08:34 AM, said:

Maybe you might guess I am a fan of SJ Simon. What you forgot to say that it is very well written, one of the reasons it is a classic. Of course the bidding is old fashioned. Try reading the blue book...

Ditto, Mrs Guggie :blink:

SJ Simon's books were not designed to cover bidding methods (plenty of stuff out there), but to explain "commonsense" to bridge readers.

Is there a need to explain commonsense to bridge players ?

I would guess that a kibitzing session wandering randomly through BBO advanced/expert tables (or at your local club) would suggest that, even 50 years later, most concepts of the book still apply (which will not be true in 30 years for any book on esoterical bidding methods ).

As for the Rubber Bridge session: this part of the book is my favourite, and as a matter of fact I enjoyed even more the followup, "Cut for partners", entirely devoted to the adventures of the 4 fictitious characters ! :)

Sincerely yours
Futile Willie :P
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#6 User is offline   whereagles 

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Posted 2005-February-09, 04:36

SJ Simon's books are quite unique. It is paradoxal that so few books are written about psychology and attitude at table, when those are precisely the things that can improve your game the most with the less effort. Most of my mistakes at table are exactly of the type Simon describes: not technical ones, but VERY simple things like loss of concentration in an important moment.
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#7 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2005-February-09, 15:58

Another situation where Simon is useful today: his notes on partner psychology work very well with pickup partners (a very frequent opportunity on BBO).

"The best result possible, not the best possible result" does, I admit, fall down pretty badly at recorded matchpoint duplicate. But it does play well with "let's see what I can play for an hour."

And, you know, the characters are stilll there - the "superscientific youngsters" are playing relays and Precision asking bids now, or the usual hodgepodge of modern conventions that multiple someones told them were good (which works with their regular partner, but only them - by the way, I'm one of these), the Unlucky Expert still makes the master bid which goes totally over their partner's head, and one still has to play 12 boards with Mrs. Guggenheim when you sign up for the tourney. And Skid Simon's suggestions on how to survive - without running away, to drink, or afoul of abuse@ - still apply.

And a couple of years ago, now, the auction went 2C strong by P, 3C by RHO, a GF Pass by me, pass by LHO. Opener doubled, RHO *redoubled*, p, p, p. 3C was Michaels, and he expected his *pickup partner* to get it.
Obviously the man had never read Simon, because the same thing happened (at the 6 level, but in clubs, even) to the Unlucky Expert.

60 years ago.

Finally, as a director who likes to psych, anyone who comes to me complaining about it gets sent to that chapter in Simon.

Michael.
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#8 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-February-11, 10:53

The Finer Arts of Bridge by Victor Mollo 1978.

The book is mainly about psychology (bluffing).

1) Anticipating the opponents bid and bidding accordingly.

2) Deceptive bids (psyches and confusing bids). Mollo says the same thing Simon does, that if you start assuming the opponents are psyching all the time, thatís when you will really get hurt.

3) Deceptive plays to confuse the opponents during play, allowing one to make / set an otherwise lost /cold contract.

4) Plus there is a section on Match Point play and rubber play, some of it from Kelseyís books and some from Mollo's other books.

The book is good, with many examples, but itís far above my level (as I still make fundamental errors). For an expert it may give them some ideas on deception and what to look out for. For intermediate players itís a reality check and makes you realize how far you still have to go, but it will have little practical value for you. For novices, donít even bother (read Why you lose at Bridge instead). I rate the book around a B-; perhaps experts will rate it higher as they appreciate its value more.
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#9 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-February-17, 08:32

More Points Schmoints by Marty Bergen 1999.

I very much enjoyed this beginner/intermediate level book.

Subjects covered include (but are not limited to):
1) Hand Evaluation
2) an assortment of bidding conventions (Drury, Puppet Stayman, Jordan, others)
3) Bidding examples
4) Law of Total Tricks (LAW) - with lost of bidding quizzes
5) a very short section on signaling count

The book was fun to read, with a smattering of amusing stories. I don't agree with all of the LAW parts, but overall the book was great. A minor annoyance is he reused some of the exact same hands from "Points Schmoints" in the beginning as a test. I'd have preferred he use different examples. Some of his other books are rather skimpy in content, with lots of filler pages. Ex. Bergens Best Bridge Tips has lost of filler and advertisements for his cruises, and books. Not much meat on the bone.

Overall I rate it an A.
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#10 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-March-09, 07:53

Bergen for the Defense by Marty Bergen

A fun beginner/low-intermediate book. I read it during my lunch break over a period of a few days. I think it can be finished in around 2.5 hours of dedicated reading, perhaps a little more. Bergen touches on many elementary aspects of defense. An enjoyable read. However, for the money I think How to Defend a Bridge Hand by Bill Root offers much more. Its not as much fun to read, and costs $6 more (actually, you can buy it used and in great condition for 5$ less than Bergens book) but covers much more, and gives you a much larger set of problems.
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#11 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-March-11, 08:46

The Complete Book on Balancing by Mike Lawrence.

I found this to be a deep and slow book to read, and it took me 3 weeks to get through it. (Which is probably the same speed as I went through The Complete Book on Overcalls). What makes the book so slow to go through is there are close to 1000 hands with bidding sequences to go through.

Lawrence tries to teach you to imagine the other 3 hands, and why they are/aren't bidding. A lot of the concepts from his Balancing book apply here as well (in fact the intro is the same). I found the book valuable because with all those hands it helped improve my skills at imagining what the other players hold. It's not just imagining that the balancer has a "king less", you learn to imagine what his hand might be, sprecifically his shape. At the same time, because of it's density I only picked up a fraction of what he was trying to get across. Many of the examples are geared towards MPs rather than IMPS so I found it less useful. There are also a number of bidding tricks which one would have to discuss with each partner. If/when I reread this book I'll take notes.

This is not a book for beginners. I'd say its geared towards well read or experienced intermediates, though advanced players would also benefit. I'd suggest reading the Complete book on Overcalls first, then taking a rest before tackling this one.

Overall its hard for me to rate this book. It has a lot of information (broad coverage and thoorough), and a huge number of examples, but I didn't come away with that much. I think this is the kind of book one must read a few times, with each reading a few years apart. I will reread it again, perhaps in a fe years.
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#12 User is offline   pdmunro 

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Posted 2005-March-11, 18:19

This is a limited review of Terence Reese, Play Bridge with Reese, Dover Publications, 1960.

In an attempt to improve my play, I read some of "Play Bridge with Reese". In this book, Reese writes about his thoughts during the play of the cards.

I had a flash of inspiration: I could put the hands on Deep Finesse!

The book opened at Hand 18, "No Suicide". Reese revealed his table thoughts. It turned out that the hand was all about squeezing both opponents. I have never knowingly done a squeeze. Give me a simple finesse any day. Deep Finesse let me move cards between the opponents' hands. I worked out a relationship between failing finesses and successful squeezes.

Next I tried Hand 19, "A Hail of Bullets". This hand was a combination of end plays and trump control. Unfortunately, I did not reach any dawn of understanding. Reese commented at the end, "that it would not have helped East to hold off the first diamond". Well Deep Finesse disagreed! It was some consolation to think that Reece himself could make a mistake in analysing that baffling hand.

After some hours of study, I wondered, "Would all this study of two dastardly bridge hands improve my play?" The immediate effect was not good. I went on BBO, miscounted trumps, and went down in a contract that most made.

Some of Reese's comments stuck in my mind. "I can't form much of a plan until I know what is going to happen in spades". In other words, there are hands where you have to get the count in one suit, before you can stop and plan the rest of the hand. "I am going to play a diamond next (from dummy) ... If I lead from my hand and West has a doubleton he will begin an echo which will give East a count." This idea of denying one particular opponent an early crucial count was new to me.

That night I met a friend whom I hadn't seen for about a year. I told a few funny jokes about being sucked into black holes by bridge analysis. Two days later, he turned up on my doorstep really worried. From our conversation, he had concluded that I was on drugs.

In conclusion, the book "Play Bridge With Reece" is about Reese's thoughts during some spectacular plays of baffling hands. Using Deep Finesse adds a whole new dimension to what you can get out of the book. But, after a heavy study session, give yourself a reasonable break before dealing with the general public.
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#13 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-March-23, 12:16

100 Bridge Problems: Poker tactics in Bridge by Mike Cappelletti, 2004.

The emphasis of this book is on how to analyze the entire situation, not just your hand and the immediate bids. The author asks the reader what they think the other plays bids will be. So while your bid may be technically correct, it wont produce a good overall result. Also covered are bluffing, and psych bids.

Some examples:

Say you have a strong distributional hand, something like 8 or 9 Spades to the AKQ and another ace, or perhaps KQJ. You are pretty sure you can make 4 Spades. But rather than just bidding it, you walk the dog, meaning bid slowly. Let the opps exchange data and know they have the majority of the HCP. Commit the "mistake" of rebidding your hand at a high level, as an apparent save, unsupported by pard. The opps will double you and hand you some extra points.

White against Red, pard opens a minor, RHO passes, and you have support for that minor, and very few HCP. Rather than bidding 4 or 5 of the minor you bid 3NT. You can run if doubled, but may take a cheap save, as the opponents have game.


There are sections on:

- cue bidding

- fake bids to fool the opponents into not leading a suit

- a few problems where the author pushes his pet conventions which miraculously work in these unusual situations.

Overall it was an interesting book to read, especially since the material was relatively new to me. Its fast reading, and you can put it down and come back to it later without losing the theme of the lesson. I'd give it a B (meaning decent but not spectacular).
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#14 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2005-March-23, 13:14

Istanbul 2004 DVD

Solid B

It is expensive and there is room for improvement but bridge lovers will enjoy it.

Fun to see all the World champs at the table.
4.5 hours long. Perhaps better if they could make it much longer so one could savor it over many weeks viewing but at a low cost.
Hand graphics need to be improved a bit.
Missed the give and take of comments as on Vugraph.

Solid first shot at showing championships on a DVD. I look forward to improvements over the years.
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#15 User is offline   ArcLight 

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Posted 2005-March-30, 07:39

Countdown to Winning Bridge by Tim Bourke and Marc Smith. Master Point Press 1999.

The book teaches you about deduction and gathering inferences. The reader is presented with many hands, a few rounds of card play, and then a crucial point is reached. What do you play? You have all the clues you need.

There are section on locating Queens, marked finesses, KJ Combos, counting HCP, tricks, Shape, and even playing for Jxxx. (Did you know that Jxxx - x will occur about 25% of the time 5 cards are outstanding?) It takes some time to go through all the hands and think about what to do, but it's well worth the effort. It shows (yet again) why counting distribution and HCP is crucial.

There are also section of how to discard to fool the opponents. Example: Dont throw away "useless" cards that will let the declarer get a count on a suit, and by implication a different suit. But you may want to "reveal" information if it will help an opponent make a mistake, or misguess. There is a section on testing the accuracy of the defenders count signals.

The book rates itself Intermediate/Advanced and I agree. Its a fabulous book and I rate it an A+. Its similar to Mike Lawrences "How to Read your Opponents Cards", but perhaps better.
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#16 User is offline   Flame 

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Posted 2005-March-30, 09:55

Test your matches play by huge kellsy (hope i got it right, i dont have it with me)
It was just after i finished solving 32 bridge master level 5 hands, i was driving home with a freind who is a better player then i, we discussed bridge, we compered books and bridge master problems to real life bridge problems, and i agreed with his claim that those 5 level hands wont come at the table, but i also claimed that most bridge books hands are just the same, and sadly im much better solving problem from books then at the table, he took this book out of his bug and told me it has real life like problems. After reading most i totally agree, and reccomand this for advanced and experts. I really see the different bettween this book and others, to put it in one sentense, the hands in most books are clear, you need to find a line and when you think of it you are 100% sure you got it right, there is usually only one good line, while in real life and in this book, in most hands you arent sure you solved it until you see the solution and the full hand, the information you have isnt 100% clear , you need to make assumptions.
Great book (my success ratio solving in this book is not as good as other strong books i read which support my thory that this book has more real life problems)
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#17 User is offline   Chamaco 

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Posted 2005-March-31, 09:40

Flame, on Mar 30 2005, 03:55 PM, said:

I really see the different bettween this book and others, to put it in one sentense, the hands in most books are clear, you need to find a line and when you think of it you are 100% sure you got it right, there is usually only one good line, while in real life and in this book, in most hands you arent sure you solved it until you see the solution and the full hand, the information you have isnt 100% clear , you need to make assumptions.

Hi Flame !!
I like the book you mentioned (to be fair I have to say I like most Kelsey's books).

However, I only want to point out this:
if you like typical and practical hands, of the sort that arise at the table, I have found that Terence Reese' books are great.

Among others, "Play these hands with me" is a book that - for an intermediate player like me - is incredibly well suited.
It's like you say: in most "teaching" hands, there is only one or two techinical difficulties, that are easy to detect and diagnose (not necessarily to solve).

In hands at the table (and in this book), instead, it's not to easy to make a plan, and that is the sort of hand that for non-experts are more difficult: no clear immediate plan.
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#18 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2005-May-30, 02:48

"I fought the law" by Lawrence/Wirgren

It's well known that the LOTT (without adjustments) is accurate on less than 50% of all boards. How much of this can be corrected for by adjustments is difficult to say because adjustments are difficult to formalize.

The authors propose a more accurate method, called Short Suit Total and Working Points. It is very similar to LTC and also similar to the LOTT with all the adjustments proposed by Cohen, with the major difference that much more emphazis is put on duplication of ruffing value and honours, including vasted honours oposite a short suit.

It is difficult to compare SST/WP to the LOTT in terms of accuracy since
1) SST/WP is used for estimating your own side's tricks rather than total tricks
2) SST/WP makes use of information which is not used by the LOTT

The authors give many examples of how SST/WP can be used to making better decisions than the LOTT would let you make. Some of the examples banal, but many are convincing.

I'm dissapointed that the authors do not (or maybe I just missed it?) discuss the similarity to LTC. Once I tried to develop a hand evaluation formular based on short suits and working points but abandoned it when I realized that it added very little new in comparison with LTC. I'm left with the feeling that this is still the case, allthough of course the authors studied this much more in dept and based on much more insight than I did.

At least the authors deserve credit for formalising the value of duplication. And as said, they provide many convincing examples.

I'm sure this book is interesting for advanced players. For ordinary players like me, it's way too advanced. The LOTT has helped me a lot, this book will not.
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#19 User is offline   Chamaco 

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Posted 2005-May-30, 02:57

helene_t, on May 30 2005, 08:48 AM, said:

The authors propose a more accurate method, called Short Suit Total and Working Points. It is very similar to LTC
.....


.....
I'm dissapointed that the authors do not (or maybe I just missed it?) discuss the similarity to LTC. Once I tried to develop a hand evaluation formular based on short suits and working points but abandoned it when I realized that it added very little new in comparison with LTC.

Good point, I felt the same way.

Of course the SST/WP accounts for the LOCATION of honors (e.g. "working Points" in "working suits"), so it avoids overbidding that would occur with the acritical ("acritical" = mechanical, becoming just "losers-counters" instead of "point-counters") use of LTC.

BUT, if one makes use of LTC with a grain of salt (e.g. deevaluating honors in misfitting suits, and reevaluating short suit honors fitting with pard's suit), I have a feeling it amounts to more or less the same as SST+WP, but LTC is quicker to use.

=========

As a side note:
most hands used in the book to demonstrate the failure of LOTT are hands with duplication: either duplication of shape (mirrored singleton-doubleton-trebleton) or duplication of values (eg AQTxxx opposite KJxxx, when at least some of these honors are superfluous).

Many of such duplications cannot be diagnosed with most bidding systems (of course with some exceptions), so the fact that an evaluation system fails in such circumstances seems to me an unfair criterion to say it's unsound.
"Bridge is like dance: technique's important but what really matters is not to step on partner's feet !"
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#20 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2005-May-30, 05:28

Inside the Bermuda Bowl by John Swanson

Have read this book 5 times and it gets better and better with each rereading.

If you want to know all about bridge at the top in USA and Bermuda Bowls in 1960-1980 buy this book.

If you want to know the true life stories of the Fathers of 2/1 buy this book. I have not laughed so hard in ages. Real life bridge problems you will not read any other place. Example what do you do when you are getting on plane to play for a big championship and you think your teammates are traveling on stolen tickets. Worse, they got them from your Partner? Where Smolen is a way to get your partner out of jail in time to play as well as an inventor of conventions.

If you want to hear about the many famous worldwide bridge scandals of these 2 decades, buy this book.

If one want another take on the Blue Team, buy this book.

Best of all, John, late at night, may even chat with you on BBO.
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