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Why I love to devour books about bridge

Figure 1

I’m always puzzled as to why bridge players rarely read bridge books – granted, there are some that are a bit technical and dry, and appeal only to the cognoscenti, but the majority of them are full of stories, wit and humour, and at the same time contain fascinating and instructional bridge hands.

I think I must have read pretty much every bridge book published between 1970 and 1990 and I usually devoured them in a couple of sittings.

I think I’ve told the story of going up to New York for a meeting in the late 1970s and picking up the just-published The Bridge Bum by Alan Sontag, surely one of the ten best bridge books ever written. I started reading it in a Chinese restaurant and continued through the night, finishing it not much before the start of my morning meeting. Accounting meetings are tough at the best of times, but this one was pure murder, and only my relative youth helped me stay awake!

Going back further, Victor Mollo’s Bridge in the Menagerie series is still a delightful read. One of his books was in fact my first prize at a bridge tournament and was signed and presented to me by the great man himself in London – well, he handed it to me during the next session!

These books and a few others are part of a collection I donated to the Bridge Club a few years ago and there are some gems in that collection and one that comes to mind is The Great Bridge Scandal by Alan Truscott which is well worth a read.

So with all of that as a backdrop, and with the bridge summer slumber ahead of all of us, I’m going to introduce you to four great new bridge books over the next few weeks in the hope that you will order them on Amazon or elsewhere. All four books are among the nominees for the International Bridge Press Association’s Book of the Year and I think you will enjoy them all!

The first is Peter Weichsel’s Bridge’s First Hippie, Book 1 (The First 40 Years), 2023 Master Point Press, paperback or e-book (235 pages). Peter was half of the feared Sontag- Weichsel partnership who played Power Precision and were dominant through the 1970s and 1980s. Weichsel has won five world championships, and 27 North American titles, and became a member of the Hall of Fame in 2004. But that’s just his bridge career.

This fascinating autobiography tells the story of the man behind those accomplishments. Weichsel has always marched to his own drummer, from his early years as part of a Jewish immigrant family in New York, through his time in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, then experiencing the 1960s counterculture in San Francisco (and bringing that sensibility and dress style to the staid bridge scene), and living through periods as a sports betting baron, a pool shark, and even a mob hit target.

There’s great bridge in the book, of course – lots of it – and plenty of tips for readers to learn from. This is a man who has spent almost 60 years playing with and against the best in the world, and he pulls no punches when it comes to partners and opponents – or, indeed, his own failings. Book 1 covers Weichsel’s life up to his first Bermuda Bowl win in 1983.

This week’s hand (see Figure 1) is all about thinking at trick one – one declarer did this, and made a counter-intuitive play at the first trick which actually gave nothing away but left the defence helpless.

This was a deal from a Teams game, and both sides played four hearts – South opened one heart, North made a limit raise to three hearts and South went on to game.

The ten of clubs was the obvious lead after which it was over to the declarers to make ten tricks. At the first table, declarer called for the Jack of clubs from table. East took this with the Ace of clubs and shifted to the Queen of spades.

West took declarer’s King of spades with the Ace and returned a fourth-highest four of spades to East’s ten. Declarer had lost three tricks and he had to lose a diamond for one down.

At the other table, instead of playing an honour from dummy at trick one, declarer called for the six of clubs. This stymied the defence.

If East played the Ace of clubs and returned the Queen of spades, then, while the defenders would have three tricks in the black suits, declarer would eventually throw his three losing diamonds on dummy’s three club winners and make ten tricks.

In practice, East let the ten of clubs hold. West could do no better than play a trump at trick two. Declarer won in dummy, East covered dummy’s Jack of clubs at trick three with the Ace, which declarer ruffed.

After drawing trumps, declarer threw his two low spades on the King and Queen of clubs. Declarer still had to lose a spade and a diamond, but he had ten tricks: five trumps, a diamond, two diamond ruffs in dummy and two clubs.

Declarer’s playing a low club at trick one was an avoidance play designed to neutralise the danger hand (East). This move became obvious once declarer realised that since the Ace of clubs was surely on his right, and that playing low would catch East in a variation of a “Morton’s Fork”: no matter what he chose to do at trick one, declarer would win out in the end.

David Ezekiel can be contacted at davidezekiel999@gmail.com


Friday, June 28

1. Martha Ferguson-Judy King

2. Jane Smith-Margaret Way

3. Richard Gray-Wendy Gray

Monday, July 1

1. Gertrude Barker-Jane Smith

2. Patricia Siddle-Diana Diel

3. Sancia Garrison-Harry Kast

Tuesday, July 2


1. Sarah Jane Varley-Barbara Elkin

2. Joanne Edwards-Marion Ezedinma


1. Malcolm Moseley-Mark Stephens

2. Amanda Ingham-Heidi Dyson

Wednesday, July 3

1. Gertrude Barker-Jane Smith

2. Patricia Siddle-Jane Smith

3. Betsy Baillie-Sharon Shanahan

Thursday, July 4

1. Betsy Baillie-Delton Outerbridge

2. William Pollett-Martha Ferguson

3. Kristy Pollett-Linda Pollett

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Published July 06, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated July 06, 2024 at 7:17 am)

Why I love to devour books about bridge

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