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Great bridge books that leave an impression

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Figure 1
Figure 2

New instructional bridge books are something of a rarity nowadays in this online world, due mainly to there being a plethora of information being available at the click of a keyboard on Google et al.

And that is a shame, as there is something exciting about grabbing a brand new book off the shelves. There is, however, still a place for non-fiction bridge books and those that tell a story.

There was a time when I consumed every new bridge book within two weeks of publication, quite often in one sitting! My favourites are probably The Great Bridge Scandal by Alan Truscott , about the Reese-Schapiro cheating scandal in Buenos Aires in 1965, and The Bridge Bum by Alan Sontag which I remember reading in an all-night session at the Plaza Hotel in New York the day I got the book in 1977. I went to straight into an all-day meeting the next morning and that was no fun at all!

I remember Alfred Sheinwold writing of The Bridge Bum: “This book is one every bridge player will enjoy reading and that every bridge writer will wish he had written.”

I loved watching Sontag and his partner Peter Weichsel in action and when Sontag published Power Precision a couple of years later it became my bible.

I still have the Truscott book and The Bridge Bum, which I did not include in the large batch of books I sent to the Bridge Club, and am happy to have players borrow them for a read, so just contact me.

The greatest bridge book ever written, however, and there is really no contest, is The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge , which used to be published every five years or so by the ACBL, but I think ceased publication in 2011. The last edition was edited by Brent Manley and the previous two editions were edited by Dorothy Francis in 1994 and her husband Henry Francis in 2001, both good friends of mine and of the Bermuda Regional, and Henry was our bulletin editor for many years.

I have the 1994 edition to hand and have the 2001 edition somewhere - the 1994 edition is 800 pages and weighs about 4lbs and in each volume contains the wealth of knowledge and experience of the top players throughout the world.

Different editions of the encyclopedia (I think there were six) are available online , including at Amazon. They are each an indispensable reference book for those who want to keep improving, and also a fascinating one for those who love the game.

Talking of which, this week’s hand comes straight out of the 1994 encyclopedia as I looked for a good illustration of a “dummy reversal” play .

On most hands, success comes from using the trumps in the hand with fewer trumps to ruff some losers and use the trump length in declarer’s hand to eventually draw the opponents’ trumps, but sometimes one needs a different approach (see Figure 1).

South opened 1 spade and over partner’s forcing 1NT response decided to bid 3 clubs based on good high card strength and the 5-3-1- 4 shape. North then had an easy raise to 4 spades.

The defence at most tables took three heart tricks early and then shifted to a club.

Most intermediate and advanced players then drew trumps and hoped for clubs to be 3-3. When this didn’t happen the contract fell to a one trick defeat.

Some of the better declarers gave themselves an extra chance by drawing only two rounds of trumps and then playing three rounds of clubs – if clubs are 3-3 Declarer now draws the last trump and claims . If clubs are not 3-3 there is a chance that the hand with the long clubs will have started with three trumps – this allows declarer to ruff the losing club in dummy , return to hand, draw the last trump and claim. As you can see that also didn’t work - one down again .

One player, however, was good enough to employ a technique called a “dummy reversal” to make the club loser disappear – in effect, Declarer uses dummy’s trumps to draw the opponents trumps, and uses the trumps in her hand to ruff dummy’s losers.

Win the club in hand, Ace of diamonds, ruff a diamond with the spade queen, low trump to dummy, ruff another diamond with the spade King, low trump to dummy and ruff the last diamond in dummy with the spade Ace.

This is now the position (see Figure 2):

Declarer now crosses to the club Queen , draws the last trump and claims ten tricks. Try it yourself.

This play only needs 3-2 trumps and is much better than the first two approaches.

The Dummy Reversal play presents itself infrequently, but when it does you need to know how to implement it.

This week’s Bridge Club results will be published with next month’s column.

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Published March 06, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated March 06, 2021 at 8:55 am)

Great bridge books that leave an impression

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