Sally Sparrow

So long, Chicago

I’m back in Toronto this morning and that means back to work. But I have one post left of my Chicago adventures. So here goes…

The last morning in Chicago my Mum, her friend Ollie (both bridge teachers) and I visited the Art Institute of Chicago. We only had a few hours and there was so much to look at. The Institute has one of the largest permanent collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, so we focussed our efforts there. Walking in, the first painting we saw was A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, very cool to see in person, particularly to observe the pointillist technique up close.

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There was also a room dedicated to Degas and his ballerinas, as part of a special exhibit. More than half of Degas’ paintings are dedicated to this subject. I didn’t know that a lot of his other work depicted horses and racing, many of which were also on display. My favourite Degas was his sculpture Little Dancer of Fourteen Years.

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If I’d stayed longer I would have visited the American art wing as there are many famous paintings I’d like to see there. But two hours is about my limit in an art gallery, my feet especially were protesting! And I had a plane to catch home. Next time.

One last visit to Millenium Park and some better photos of me in front of the cloud gate. It was not as sunny a day so it was easier to photograph a giant mirror-like structure, ha!

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Then, (okay, after ONE last trip to Target) I made my way back to the hotel, packed up, checked out and got in a taxi to the airport. A rather interesting ride, as the driver showed me how to get there fast without letting other cars get in your way. I was surprised at how forgiving Chicago drivers seemed in comparison to Toronto drivers… we were only honked at once! A new technique I learned: if there’s too long a line-up of cars in the left-hand turning lane, and you need to turn left, just drive up the straight-on lane and turn left in front of them all. Easy!

Then, in the air to say au revoir Chicago…

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And hello Toronto!

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It’s nice to be home, but it was an awesome trip. I feel some good connections were made, and I hope some of the people I met will contact me. If you are one of them, please leave me a comment!

Let the games begin!

Was too tired last night to blog! But I’ve had a great week in Chicago. And as I prepare to leave today, the NABC is off to a roaring start. I got to play yesterday in a 0-5 game, it was free all day for novice players. I was ready to put my name in at the partnership desk, when my Mum ran into a young man in the elevator. His name was Shawn and he was looking for a partner. He’d only started playing bridge in April, so had no points yet. He was here with his 10-year-old daughter, Ella, who was playing in the junior division. She did very well and was playing with people up to 19 years old. He showed me this photo of her playing:

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She placed second against people twice her size! She had started playing in school, and he started playing because of her. What a great story! I should have taken a picture of Shawn and I. Sorry.

I won’t go into too many details about the game itself because there were no real standout hands. Let me just say that I was pretty nervous about playing with someone I didn’t know. But once it all started I felt right at home. Our first opponents were young people too! (Well, by young, I mean turning 40 like us…) We all remarked how nice it was to play with people our age. I was able to show them a few things, like how to use the machines and how to keep their score on the scorecard. No one had even played in a club before. Next time I’ll challenge myself more and play in a higher division, but this was a good start.

After playing my mind was full of bridge. So I didn’t do much else last night, other than stop by the book selling booth to chat to the booksellers. But because the games were on, there was no one to sell books to! I did get to run around and search for bridge experts. I got to meet Boye Brogeland to do some business for the publisher. He was very cool (and good-looking!). It was exciting for me because I’d worked on his book, Bridge at the Edge, which was full of exciting hands and stories of his experiences at top-level championships. He told me they’d not had a good result earlier that day. But when I ran into him again later on, they had done well. As we learned from Zia yesterday, it’s all about the last hand. Make it a good one and you’ll come out of it with a good feeling. Good luck to all the players!

It’s my last morning in Chicago, so we’re off to the art gallery. Then packing up and off to the airport! I’d be sad, but I know I’ll be back again. It’s a great city.

This post needs at least one more picture, so here’s my favourite so far, from the boat as we ended the tour.

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My first Nationals

This morning wrapped up the ABTA presentations. We heard from the one and only Zia Mahmood, who told many hilarious and insightful stories about his time as a world champion bridge player. He has stories from far and wide, of success and failure. Hearing him talk was a bit like reading his book, Around the World in 80 Hands. What a guy!

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This was just a quick update because I’m about to play in a 0-20 game, with a partner I haven’t met yet! I’m excited but also nervous. Of course, the best thing to do before playing in your first national event is to go out for lunch and eat THIS:

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Amazing food in a great atmosphere, the Eleventh Street City Diner. I highly recommend this place. It’s just a few blocks from the hotel (if you’re reading this while visiting for bridge) at 11th and Wabash.

Okay, off I go… wish me luck!

2015 ABTA awards

This afternoon, bridge teacher Jeff Schuett, from Riverwoods, IL, was presented with the 2015 Teacher of the Year award. Here’s a photo of Jeff with me and the trophy I got to present to him. Congratulations, Jeff!


Tonight, after running into Jeff Meckstroth in the elevator (very exciting!) I made my way to the banquet dinner, which was followed by the presentation of the ABTA book awards. I was delighted when Julian Laderman received a special certificate and mention from the panel for his book, Bumblepuppy Days. He was pretty delighted too! 


It’s a wonderful book about the history and development of the game, from about 1800 to 1950. Julian makes it an engaging read, even for the non-history fan. An essential item for any bridge player’s library!

Then a second nice surprise as the ABTA announced the winner of this year’s Intermediate Book of the Year… David Bird’s Winning Duplicate Tactics! This is another excellent book for club players who want to improve their skills playing duplicate. David addresses issues specific to this highly-competitive form of bridge, all presented in his usual witty prose. Since he lives in England, I got to accept the award on his behalf.


A third book from Master Point Press was nominated this year but lost out to Larry Cohen’s newest book, Larry Teaches Opening Leads, which was chosen for the beginner/novice award. Our book is the new quizbook by Barbara Seagram and David Bird, Bidding at Bridge. I have to give it an honourable mention here because it is my favourite of the three quiz books. So many bidding topics are covered and not only do you get many quiz hands, but a mini lesson for each topic as well. I think this book helped my bidding a great deal. It really helps to practice something when you’ve just read about it! And there are certainly many practice hands in here. Two of Barbara and David’s other books in this format have been past ABTA winners, so we can’t win them all, but this one is definitely my favourite. 

All this excitement was followed by an excellent panel of experts, who were hilarious and surprisingly in agreement on many of the bidding issues posed to them. One thing that stuck: Jerry Helms’ definition of the “North Carolina game-try”: you bid game and then try to make it. They wrapped up with a question about everyone’s most embarrassing moment at the bridge table. I hope video was taken because it’s a you-had-to-be-there sort of thing.

The night was topped off by my finally meeting the tournament bookseller, Jeremy Lewis, who I have been talking to on the phone for years (when he orders books from us), and today was our first meeting. We totally hit it off! Funny, you instantly get a feel for people who are booksellers. Jeremy shares the same passion for books (bridge books!) and is quite the salesman too. If you’re at a National event or even a regional tournament, you’ll probably meet him someday. And he’ll sell you not one but two books!

As I was heading up to my room, I noticed all the bridge happening down in the basement. The NABC has finally begun! It’s a new energy here in the hotel. A great energy. All because of a game.


More tomorrow as I try my luck selling books!

Chicago Day 3 part 1

Just a mid-day post as there’s much still to come today. We’re about to announce the Teacher of the Year award down in the ABTA room, but I snuck back to my room first to post some of the pictures I took earlier of the city. I’ve been sneaking away from the convention in the mornings to walk the city. Today I wandered up a block from the hotel to Wabash, where the L train (short for “elevated) weaves its way through downtown. I love how the rails run above the road, dwarfed by the buildings surrounding them. Just like being in a movie (filmed in Chicago)! I took many more panoramic shots.


This one’s for you, Ollie!

After some shopping (too much shopping), I came across the Chicago Cultural Centre, which I was told yesterday is the old library building. So I had to go inside. Beautiful ceilings that look like embroidery, names of famous authors throughout the brickwork, and famous quotes about books, too. A great space to visit.


Then I made another trip through Millennium Park, where I perfected my selfie in the cloud gate. You may be able to make me out in the centre with my sun hat on.


Okay, off to discover the winner of the Teacher of the Year award, and later on the winner of the ABTA book of the year award! Stay tuned!


Chicago day 2

Today was a long and exhausting day but a good one! I started the morning with a long walk across a lakefront, down a river and through a city filled with amazing buildings, ending up at Millennium Park. Some awesome sculptures and many photo ops, including trying out the panoramic feature on my iPhone.


Back to the hotel after having lunch near the Trump tower, and it was time for my presentation to the teachers. I’ve been to many publisher previews in my time as a bookseller at Indigo, and usually the biggest thing I come away with is a renewed passion for books (not to mention a million new titles I want to read). That’s due in part, I think, to the people who work for the publishers – they believe in the books they’re selling and are excited to share that with people. Well, today for the first time I got to share my excitement about what I do with people. People who actually understand what these books are all about! So that was a great thing. With so many books and little time, we really tried to choose books that teachers would find useful, that they could best recommend to their students, or that they would consider using in classes. I’ll go into more detail on these specific books in a later post (it’s been a long day!), but I just hope the teachers went away with one or two titles in mind that could help with their students and their classes.

After the presentations many of us went on an architectural boat tour… right through the centre of the city, on the river, on a boat!


ABTA adventure!

The tour was breathtaking as I tried to take in all the details about almost every tall building surrounding us. It seems everything in Chicago has a story, and the history of the city is right there in front of you every turn you take.

I also got to try a local craft beer called Revolution golden ale, brewed right here in the city. It was very refreshing. 


Kathie MacNab and I enjoying a pint on the boat.

After the tour, we went for dinner at a highly-recommended restaurant called Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. The name says it all. Amazing.

Tomorrow we find out (and I get to present a trophy to) this year’s winner of the Teacher of the Year. And in the evening, the winner of this year’s ABTA Book of the Year is also announced. Whether we win or not, book awards are always a good thing.

The implementation dip

Hello, Chicago! 

Well, I made it to the ‘windy city’, which so far is not so windy, rather a nice refreshing change from the heat and smog of Toronto. And can I mention my dinner tonight?


The world-famous Chicago deep-dish pizza

The American Bridge Teachers’ Association kicked off their annual convention today, with a newcomer’s luncheon and afternoon speakers, including two of our MPP authors, Barbara Seagram and Julian Laderman. Both excellent and engaging speakers, despite Barbara’s admission of how nervous she was, because speaking to teachers is different than teaching students. Still, she did an excellent job. I’m not a bridge teacher (yet), but I could relate to her point about students approaching her complaining that they were actually getting worse, not better, once they started taking her classes. She pointed out that this was an illustration of something she calls the “implementation dip”, that once you start to learn, you start to notice how many things you are doing wrong. A student first starting out will do 100 things wrong, but not notice any of them. Once taking classes, the same student will now do 50 things wrong, and notice perhaps 15 of them. So from the student’s perspective, there are 15 new things they are doing wrong. But really you’re improving. Makes sense. I think she’s put her finger on one of the most frustrating things as a bridge student. When will I get it all right??

Julian’s talk centred around teaching mathematics to high school students using bridge. I liked the idea that bridge teaches not only mathematic principles, but ethics. It could be a very valuable addition to the curriculum. Julian also talked about “Bumblepuppy Bridge”, a simplified version of the game that he has created. He lamented that these days, you can take a flight and have a variety of entertainment to choose from, including almost 100 different games to play. But none of these is bridge. Perhaps a simple version of the game is just what we need to attract more people in venues such as these? By the way, you can download Julian’s handout on this game for free on our ebook site:

Tomorrow: I get to talk to bridge teachers about our books! Using a microphone! Stay tuned…


2015 Chicago NABC and ABTA convention

One week today, I am very excited to say, I will be in Chicago attending the ABTA convention, meeting many bridge teachers, and attempting to track down a few of our authors on behalf of MPP. I’m most looking forward to visiting the booksellers who will be selling our titles at the NABC, perhaps jumping back into the skin of a bookseller as I do so! These are people I’ve been talking with for years on the phone as they place orders with me, who I have never met in person. I’m looking forward to hearing our authors, such as Julian Laderman and Barbara Seagram, talk to the teachers and I’m anticipating the presentation I get to make to the teachers about our books. It’s my first real “work” trip!

I remember in 2011 when the NABC happened in Toronto. We were downtown every day meeting with players and authors, carting books around, and just generally enjoying the atmosphere of so many bridge players in one place at one time. I was able to meet Eric Rodwell in person, since we filmed an interview with him by Mark Horton, about his new book, The Rodwell Files. Here’s the video, if you haven’t seen it:

Perhaps I’ll see you in Chicago? 

Hello? Is there anybody out there?

Greetings, blogosphere! 

It’s been FIVE years since my last post. Can you believe that? Well, I suppose I can. Blogging is something that has been pushed (by me) to the wayside in the day-to-day business (busy-ness?) of my job here at Master Point Press. My once frequent (or at least tri-annual) “new books” posts have been replaced by writing copy for newsletters sent directly to the inboxes of those we wish to reach with news about our new releases. I’ll try to keep the updates coming on that front here as well, since I’m still writing that stuff. 

We’ve seen the release of so many great titles in the past five years here at MPP, from new editions of bridge classics, to exciting new ideas and stories from both existing and first-time authors. So I’m jumping back into this. Look to my blogs for information about our books, for news from Master Point Press, and for publishing-related discussions in general (if anyone would like to start a conversation about that I’d gladly jump in!). I’ve also tried to become more diligent about visiting my local bridge club with my neighbour once a week (most weeks) and making time to play online with my Mum (who is a bridge teacher) as well. I’m a Junior Master now! Yay me! I have a long way to go, and find it hard to fit in even a weekly game some weeks, but will keep up the momentum as best I can. I can see now why the clubs and tournaments are full of people primarily in their retirement years. I can’t wait to retire and play more bridge! But… I have many years to go… For now, I’ll just say I feel so lucky to be able to read about and think about bridge almost every day as part of my day job.

I’ll also be blogging my experiences on a work-related trip, which is very exciting and coming up next week. Stay tuned to my next blog for more details!

New books available from Master Point Press

Happy December to all! The holiday season is fast approaching, in fact today is the first day of Hanukkah. So it’s appropriate that I have three new books to tell you about, all of which will make great gifts and, coincidentally, each one is blue!

Defensive Signaling by David Bird

Oh how I wish I had retained all of the concepts this book introduced me to (I need much more practice). Bridge defense is so logical it almost feels like cheating! Of course, you have to remember to pay attention. This is a great workout for the brain!

9781897106631You defend half of all the deals you play. Think about it. That makes defensive signaling a vital topic, although one often neglected by players and writers. This book examines the real purpose of defensive signaling, and the basic kinds of signals that are available to defenders. The author goes on to recommend a comprehensive set of signaling agreements, and analyzes more complex situations in the light of these agreements.

Most of the chapters are followed by a quiz, the answers to which demonstrate the effectiveness of the recommended signal. The book finishes with a chapter that looks at the signaling methods of eight world-class pairs, with examples of their methods in action.

A book any player looking to improve their results will want to read.

David Bird (Southampton, UK) is one of the world’s best-known writers on the game, with almost 100 books to his credit, including Planning the Play of a Bridge Hand (with Barbara Seagram) and Bridge Endplays for Everyone.

Out of Hand… and Off the Fairway by Bill Buttle

This book is the perfect size for stocking-stuffing.  Guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of bridge and golf players alike!

9781897106648Canadian cartoonist Bill Buttle is well-known to readers of The Bridge Bulletin in the USA for his trenchant lampooning of bridge and bridge players. In this, his first collection, he targets not only bridge players, but golfers. This book of hilarious one-panel cartoons will make a great gift for any bridge nut or golf addict.

Bill Buttle (Arnprior, Ontario) is a former dentist who took up drawing cartoons post-retirement. His ‘Two’s a Crowd’ and ‘Double Bill’ features have been syndicated in newspapers across Canada. Bill’s bridge humor is familiar to North Americans since it appears regularly in the ACBL’s monthly Bridge Bulletin (circulation approx. 200, 000).

The Pocket Guide to Bridge Conventions You Should Know by Barbara Seagram and Marc Smith

This is my personal favorite of the three, in fact it’s my staff pick this year (as you will soon see), due to my student-of-bridge status. I cannot go anywhere without it!

9781897106655Seagram and Smith’s 25 Bridge Conventions You Should Know was published in 1996, and has gone on to become the bestselling bridge book since Charles Goren was writing. This handy pocket guide presents the material from that book as a concise, easy reference. From Blackwood to Negative Doubles, Splinters to Transfers, you will find all the answers to your questions about basic conventions right here at your fingertips.

Barbara Seagram (Toronto) is one of the best-known bridge teachers in North America. Her books on the game have sold well over a quarter of a million copies in five different languages.

Marc Smith (England) is a bridge journalist and author who regularly writes for BRIDGE magazine in the UK.

All three books are now available from Baron Barclay online (or 1-800-274-2221) and will be available very soon on and in Canada at Start your shopping now!

I should also mention that the ebooks are available from if you prefer a digital copy.

We are already working on some exciting new titles for 2011. Want a sneak peak? Download our catalogue here.

Barbara Seagram (Toronto) is one of the best-known bridge teachers in North America. Her books on the game have sold well over a quarter of a million copies in five different languages.
Marc Smith (England) is a bridge journalist and author who regularly writes for BRIDGE magazine in the UK.