Sally Sparrow

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 My once frequent (or at least tri-annual) “new books” posts have been replaced by writing copy for newsletters sent directly to the inboxes of those we wish to reach with news about our new releases.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.

Books, ebooks and more books…

I have four brand new Master Point Press titles to tell you about. Brag about, actually, because they are pretty good. But since I’m the author of none of them, only the blogger here to spread the news, I think I’ll just get right to the point.

1. Breaking the Bridge Rules: First hand play by Barry Rigal

Breaking the Bridge RulesI start with this one because it is the first of a planned four-book new series on cardplay. Rules are made to be broken, and bridge is no exception. This book deals with situations where the player on lead – defender or declarer, at the start of the deal or in the middle – needs to do something that is ostensibly ‘breaking the rules’. Not, obviously, the rules of bridge itself, but the well-tried adages that every player is taught – the rules of thumb that work in a lot of cases. Knowing when to break those rules is one of the marks of an expert player.

I am pretty good at breaking the rules, but alas, I am not the author of this book. Nor am I any sort of bridge expert. Here is a little bit about the author:

Barry Rigal (New York) grew up in the UK and is a professional bridge writer and commentator. He contributes regularly to various magazines, and is the head VuGraph commentator at World and European events.

2. Bridge at the Enigma Club by Peter Winkler

Top Secret!Robert Tischman is just looking for a game of bridge, but when a mysterious woman persuades him to play in a two-session event at the Enigma Club, he gets much more than that. This is a book that can be enjoyed on several levels:

1) as a fun bridge novel with lots of great deals;

2) as a glimpse of what the game might be like if technology were applied to it with more imagination;

3) as an exposition of the author’s ideas on encrypted bidding and encrypted signals – bids and plays where in full compliance with the Laws of Bridge, partners can exchange information that cannot be deciphered by their opponents.

Consumer Warning: the methods represented in this book, though fascinating and ingenious, are illegal in many bridge jurisdictions.  [This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds.]

Peter Winkler (Hanover, NH) is a former cryptographer who now teaches mathematics and computer science at Dartmouth College. He originated the idea of encrypted signals some twenty-five years ago, and has been fighting to legalize them ever since.

3. Deadly Hold-Up by Jim Priebe

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?  Well, see for yourself.

Deadly Hold-UpArt Fraser, the bridge-playing detective who made his debut in Takeout Double, has left Buffalo and moved his new family to Florida, where he is setting up as a private investigator. However, he’s soon called back north to help the bridge authorities in Boston, where a robbery at the Fall Nationals has left one man dead and a whole lot of money missing. The local homicide cops are less than overjoyed to have Fraser involved, but they’re also struggling to understand the ins and outs of the bridge tournament world. The two sides work out an uneasy arrangement as the mystery deepens.


Jim Priebe (Toronto) is a Canadian international bridge player and the author of two previous Art Fraser books, as well as two technical bridge titles. He is a retired executive, who divides his time between bridge, golf, and grandchildren.

4. The Pocket Guide to SAYC by Ned Downey and Ellen Pomer (‘Caitlin’)

The Pocket Guide to SAYCUsing the same format as The Pocket Guide to Bridge, this book will provide a handy pocket summary of the popular SAYC bidding system. In a concise but readable manner, it goes over the basic ideas of SAYC, which is the most popular natural system for online bridge players around the world. The contents are based on Standard Bidding with SAYC, by the same authors.

Ned Downey (Hawaii) and Ellen Pomer (Toronto) are experienced bridge teachers and partners in the ‘Bridge Forum’ web site. Ned is also teaches bridge via the Swan Games online playing site Ellen is well-known on the Internet under her handle ‘Caitlin’, and regularly writes for various magazines on Internet bridge.


You will be pleased to know that all four of these books are available now as ebooks at We have some free downloads coming soon, so stay posted. The printed copies will be available for order in July.

New Year, New Books

Our Spring titles are complete and ready for your enjoyment!   Linda has been blogging about them for days (or in the case of Clyde Love, months!) and they are now ready for immediate ebook purchase on, or in hard copy in a few weeks (most sites are taking pre-orders now).  Here are the details, feel free to post comments on our beautiful covers.  Also, keep reading for information on free materials from all three books!

9781897106587Bridge Squeezes Complete by Clyde Love

In the original foreword to the 1959 edition of Bridge Squeezes Complete,  Woodson and Norwood wrote, “We confidently predict that this work will become an all-time classic.”  The book has lived up to this claim, unlocking the mysteries of squeeze play for players of all levels, and appearing on most published lists of “the top ten bridge books ever written.”  Love’s system of classifying squeezes has been used by most writers who have succeeded him.

However, a classic, like a Renaissance painting, may eventually need restoration.  The game of bridge has changed a great deal in the past fifty years, and bridge theorists have built on Professor Love’s foundation to advance our knowledge and understanding of squeeze play.  With respect and appreciation for Love’s original accomplishment, Linda Lee and Julian Pottage have revised the book, making it more accessible for today’s reader.  Little is now “left as an exercise for the reader.”  A substantial number of new examples have been added, bringing to light the areas of trump squeezes, entry squeezes and non-material squeezes.

In this new edition, Bridge Squeezes Complete will be as valuable to the modern player as the original was to its readers half a century ago.

Clyde E. Love (1882-1960) was a professor of mathematics at Ann Arbor, Michigan.  He was (obviously) an expert on squeeze play, and wrote books on both bridge and mathematics.

Linda Lee (Canada) is a WBF World Master who is equally at home teaching beginners and analyzing complex squeezes.  In addition to several books, Linda is the author of the popular bridge blog,

Julian Pottage (Wales) is one of the world’s best constructors of bridge problems.  He is a two-time winner of the IBPA Book of the Year Award.  Julian’s most recent book for Master Point Press is Bridge Behind Bars with Nick Smith.

9781897106532Bridge, Probability and Information by Bob MacKinnon

Bridge, unlike chess, is a game of incomplete information.  We bid with thirteen cards in view and play each deal seeing only twenty-six.  We must deduce the positions of the rest from the auction and from the cards played.  Some knowledge of the laws of probability is a critical weapon for any successful player.

Using a semi-fictional narrative approach, Bridge, Probability and Information develops the ideas of probability and information theory, applying them to bridge in a way no previous author has done.  Concepts discussed include Vacant Spaces, Restricted Choice and how the split in one suit affects the probabilities in the others.  Readers emerge with some very practical advice that will make them more successful players.

Robert F. MacKinnon lives in Victoria, Canada.  His bridge writings include a blog on mathematical issues in bridge, various magazine articles, and two books of bridge fiction, including the remarkable Samurai Bridge.

9781897106563The Mysterious Multi by Mark Horton and Jan van Cleeff

The principle of the “Multi” – the idea that one bid can encompass a variety of different meanings – has a well-established history.  In the modern game, the Multi Two Diamonds is one of its most popular applications.  If you adopt the Multi, you have now opened up interesting alternative uses for as many as three other two-level openings.  This book is a first comprehensive look at Multi ideas as they are used today, also covering the Multi Landy (Woolsey) defense to 1NT and defenses against the Multi, making this a valuable book even for those who don’t wish to play the convention themselves.  The final chapter, entitled “The Multi in Action,” consists of a wealth of examples from top-level play.

Mark Horton (England) is an internationally-known player and writer, and is Editor of BRIDGE magazine in the U.K.  His most recent book was Misplay These Hands With Me.

Jan van Cleeff (Netherlands) publishes and edits IMP magazine.  He is a frequent contributor to the Daily Bulletins at World and European Championships.

Now on to more fun stuff, the free stuff!  Visit and click on the “free downloads” link.  You will find supplementary materials for all three books.  For The Mysterious Multi we have posted the ACBL defenses to the Multi for your playing pleasure.  Bob MacKinnon has written three new stories, not included in Bridge, Probability and Information, upon his further consideration of all things probability.  And still to come (just ironing out the squeeze kinks) is a set of practice exercises for squeeze play.  Not for the weak-of-heart (only perhaps the weak-of-hand?), these exercises will hone your squeeze skills even further.  You do not need to have read the book to try them, but you may find that it helps!  Stay tuned for more Love!

New Books from Three Great Bridge Authors

Fall is a nice time to grab a new book and cozy up by the fireplace (or radiator?) and deny the fact that the colder weather is here to stay.  And what better place to start than one of these three new books, recently added to our eBook site ( and available by November 1st in hard copy.


9781897106556 Take All Your Chances by Eddie Kantar

Selecting the best line of play in a bridge hand as declarer is not easy.  Most novices know something about basic odds and percentages, and can often find a line that offers a reasonable chance of success.  However, the expert will skilfully combine options, so as to take advantage of more than chance.  Rather than putting all his eggs in one basket, he will ‘stay alive’, squeezing out every extra chance. In this book of intermediate problems, Kantar shows the reader how to do this – there is always a line of play that will allow you take all your chances, and bring home your contract.

Eddie Kantar (Santa Monica, CA) is one of the most popular and prolific bridge writers in the world.   A winner of two World Championships, and a member of the Bridge Hall of Fame, his many books include Modern Bridge Defense, the hilarious Kantar on Kontract, and of course, Roman Keycard Blackwood.  His work appears regularly in many bridge magazines around the world.


9781897106457 The Complete Book on Overcalls by Mike Lawrence

Originally published in 1980, this book quickly became recognized as a ‘must-read’ for any would-be bridge expert, and has never been out of print.  Now, almost 30 years later, the author has revised, updated and expanded it to take into account modern developments in the theory and practice of competitive bidding.  Anyone serious about improving their game needs to own a copy of this book.

Alfred Sheinwold’s review of the original edition: ‘If you read only one bridge book this year, this should be it.’

Mike Lawrence (TN) has Hall of Fame credentials both as a player and a writer.  An original member of the Dallas Aces, he has won three world titles and eighteen national titles.  Several of his books are widely regarded as classics of the game.


9781897106570 It’s Your Call by Marshall Miles

For about 25 years, Marshall Miles was the moderator of an all-star bidding panel for a California bridge publication.  This book is a compilation of his favorite bidding problems from those years, together with the panel’s views and Miles’ own trenchant comments.  As ever, he is prepared to go his own way; he refuses, for example, to assign scores to various bids on the grounds that he wasn’t going to give himself 20/100 when he knew his answer was right, even if no one on the panel agreed with him!  A bonus section includes Miles’ latest thoughts and recommendations on a number of cutting-edge bidding ideas.

Marshall Miles is the author of six previous books, including the all-time classic How to Win at Duplicate Bridge.  He is a WBF World Master and has won several North American Championships. He lives in California.

Great summer reading from MPP

Q J 10 9 8 5 4 2   —   A K Q 8 6  

Do not adjust your glasses.  This hand was actually dealt to me!

So begins Larry Cohen’s My Favorite 52, new this summer in book form from Master Point Press.  What is the correct opening bid?  I’m not going to tell you the answer.  But you can find Larry’s answer by visiting to view a FREE sample (including this chapter and the next) and to upload your new eBook.  All four of our new summer titles, available in hard copy by July 1st, are now for sale on our eBook site.  Here are the details:

1. My Favorite 52 by Larry Cohen

Larry Cohen is one of the most successful American bridge players of the last 20 years.  In My Favorite 52, Cohen presents a collection of his favorite personal bridge moments, using an intimate ‘over-the-shoulder’ presentation, taking the reader through more than 60 deals (no, not just 52!).  Each deal is important to him in some way, or technically interesting, or just plain fun.  The book’s interactive style allows the reader to follow bidding and play, and even to make their own decisions at key points.  Read this book for fun, or study it in depth and learn from it – whichever you choose to do, you will find it hard to put down.

Read Judy Kay-Wolff’s review of the book here.

My Favorite 52 was originally published as interactive software, and won the American Bridge Teachers Association ‘Software of the Year’ award in 2005.  Adapted by Linda Lee, this is its first publication in book form.

Larry Cohen (Boca Raton, Florida) won his first National Championship at age 22 and went on to collect 25 more titles before retiring from competition in 2009.  Director of the prestigious Bridge World Master Solvers’ Club and a frequent contributor to bridge magazines around the world, he is a popular bridge lecturer on land and at sea.  His book To Bid or Not To Bid: the Law of Total Tricks is one of the all-time bestsellers on the game.  Aside from bridge, his passions are playing golf and watching sports, especially his beloved Yankees.

Linda Lee (adaptor – Toronto, Canada) is a World Life Master.  The author of four previous books, she conducts a popular bridge blog.  Her most recent book was Barbara Seagram’s Beginning Bridge (with Barbara Seagram).

Bobby Wolff (foreword – Las Vegas) is one of the all-time great American bridge players. He started winning world championships in the 1960s with the famous Dallas Aces. Since then he has accumulated 11 world titles, 10 solver and bronze medals in world competitions, and over 30 National titles. In 1994 Wolff was unanimously elected to the WBF Committee of Honor, and he is a member of the Bridge Hall of Fame. His ‘Bridge with the Aces’ column, which has been appearing daily for over 25 years, is syndicated in more than 130 newspapers worldwide and featured daily on


2. Patrick Jourdain’s Problem Corner by Patrick Jourdain

Patrick Jourdain’s Problem Corner has been a popular regular feature of BRIDGE Magazine in the UK for many years. This collection of challenging declarer-play problems has been selected from the best of the material that has appeared in the magazine, and will be welcomed by advanced players.

Patrick Jourdain (Wales), who is President of the International Bridge Press Association, is one of the world’s best-known writers on the game. This is his third book.


3. Planning the Play of a Bridge Hand by Barbara Seagram and David Bird

Do you get that terrible sinking feeling when you first see dummy?  Does your mind go blank as everyone waits for you to play to the first trick?  If so, you’re not alone.

Beginning bridge players are taught some of the basic techniques of declarer play: suit establishment, ruffing losers, the finesse, and so forth.  The hard part is learning what to do when.  In the dreaded moment following the opening lead, the typical novice declarer has no idea where to start.  Yet the key to success is simple: before playing from dummy at Trick 1, make a plan.

In this book, two of the world’s best bridge teachers/authors explain how to go about making a plan as declarer, using a simple step-by-step process.  Readers will learn how to decide what to do on a given deal, both in notrump contracts and suit contracts.  By the end of the book, even the most inexperienced declarer will be comfortable with more advanced material, such as entry management and counting the hand.

Barbara Seagram (Toronto, Canada) is one of North America’s best-known bridge teachers and has more than 250,000 copies of her books on bridge in print.  These include the bestselling 25 Conventions You Should Know and most recently Barbara Seagram’s Beginning Bridge.

David Bird (Southampton, UK) is one of the world’s best-known bridge authors, with more than eighty books to his credit.  Recent titles include Somehow We Landed in 6NT and 25 Ways to be a Better Defender (with Barbara Seagram).

4. The Pocket Guide to Acol Bridge by Mark Horton and Barbara Seagram

The original Pocket Guide to Bridge has sold more than 30,000 copies since its publication in 2002.  Thousands of bridge players have found it an indispensable and handy guide to bidding – something that can be tucked into a purse or pocket and easily used for reference at the table during lessons and practice games. This new version employs the Acol bidding system for readers in the UK and other places where Acol is played, and will doubtless be as popular as the original.

Mark Horton (UK) is one of the world’s best-known bridge journalists and professional players. He is the editor of BRIDGE magazine in the UK.

Barbara Seagram (Toronto, Canada) has more than 250,000 copies of her books on bridge in print. These include the bestselling 25 Bridge Conventions You Should Know and most recently Barbara Seagram’s Beginning Bridge.

An exciting announcement

Some of you may have read my previous post about our three new spring titles.  Well exciting news: all three are now available at the click of a button at! If you have been keeping up-to-date with our progress you will know that recently we launched our new ebook site and have been adding new titles regularly.  Check it out!  Just scroll to the bottom of the page to find our new titles, and a free download.  Even if you don’t have an ebook reader, you can download the books right to your computer and even print them out if you wish.  That way you can own the three new titles before anyone else (it may still be a week or so until they are available through most retailers).

There has been much discussion in the book world lately about ebooks.  The most obvious argument is that ebooks are more environmentally friendly: they use less paper.  Yes, a book will be around a lot longer than most computers these days, and computers certainly contain more hazardous waste than one book, but everyone already has a computer anyway and you can download umpteen ebooks to the one device and use it again and again.  I don’t think ebooks will ever completely replace the book itself, no matter how many improvements they make to the Sony Reader or the Kindle, but it reminds me of the favorite question among booksellers: if you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one thing, which book would you pick?  If I had an eReader with hundreds of books on it, I would definitely take that!  Of course, not until they become solar powered.  The biggest advantage for me is apparent when you walk into my apartment and take one look at my bookshelf.  Yikes!  Think of all the space I could save.

Are ebooks the wave of the future?  What do you think?  Only time will tell.

Spring 2009 Titles from Master Point Press

Well spring is just around the corner (despite that pesky groundhog seeing his shadow!) and to kick off the changing season, Master Point Press has three new titles to add to its catalogue.  Let me tell you a little bit about them.

1. Somehow we Landed in 6NT by David Bird

What better way to beat those winter blues than to pick up a good book.  And this is the perfect choice: part fact, part fiction, well written and funny, all with the added excitement of a slam contract.  Read on:

Can you make twelve tricks?

The stories and anecdotes in this collection have one thing in common: in every case the contract is 6NT!

The first half of the book features the world’s finest players at work, tackling all manner of 6NT contracts — some commendable, some truly awful.  You will have a chance to plan your play in these contracts yourself, before learning what fate befell the orignial declarer.

The second half of the book contains humorous short stories, featuring many of David Bird’s well-loved characters: the bridge-crazy monks of the St. Titus Monastery, the nuns of St. Hilda’s Convent, and the Rabbi and his entourage.  There is further action from Cholmeley School, from the missionaries whose main task in life is to convert the Bozwambi tribe to the Acol bidding system, and even some tales involving Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham and the much-maligned Sir Guy of Gisburne.  Although some of these stories have been published in bridge magazines around the world, none of them have previously appeared in book form.

David Bird (Southampton, UK) is one of the world’s best-known bridge authors, with more than eighty books to his credit.  Recent titles for Master Point Press include Bridge Endplays for Everyone and 25 Ways to be a Better Defender (with Barbara Seagram).

2. Bridge Behind Bars by Julian Pottage and Nick Smith

Yes the title says it all, this is a bridge novel set against the backdrop of a prison!  This makes for a unique novel filled with colorful characters and very interesting bridge hands.  Here’s a small excerpt:

“There was a loud metallic thud as the outside door closed behind Timothy Newman.  So this is my new home then, he thought.  Prison.  Clink.  The slammer.  Prison is no place for an ordinary, law-abiding, middle-class guy like me, he reflected.  Not even Great Yarborough Prison.”

But it turns out that prison life in Great Yarborough has a silver lining for Tim — bridge.  An expert player, he finds that his ability earns him unlooked-for respect amongst his fellow-prisoners, many of whom pass their ‘time’ at the card table.  This is a bridge novel filled with unusual characters and great deals — and a bridge game that gives new meaning to the term ‘cut-throat’!

Julian Pottage (Wales) is well-known as one of the world’s best creators of problem hands.  His previous Master Point Press books include the award-winning Play or Defend? This is a first book for Nick Smith (UK).

3. A Bridge to Inspired Declarer Play by Julian Laderman

Many of you will remember A Bridge to Simple Squeezes which was named 2006 ABTA Book of the Year.  Julian Laderman returns with a book on declarer play filled with insights to inspire novice and intermediate players toward expert play.  The book contains two appendices on probability, as well as quizzes to help its reader practice identifying the key features discussed.  Here is the official word:

Every bridge player learns basic cardplay techniques: finesses, eliminations, endplays, loser-on-loser, and so forth.  The trick is to know which technique to use on each particular deal.  What features of a bridge hand lead an expert to select the correct line of play from all those available?  The carefully chosen examples in this book will help advancing players recognize those features and take action accordingly.

Dr. Julian Laderman is a New York math professor who writes a bridge column in The Bronx Journal.  His first book, A Bridge to Simple Squeezes, was named 2006 Book of the Year by the American Bridge Teachers’ Association.

So curl up with your favorite warm beverage (or if you are lucky enough to live in a warmer climate, head on down to the beach with a chair/blanket) and one of these great new additions to our collection.

The “Really Big Hand”

A few nights ago I had a great time on BBO with my mother and two of her students.  Mum and I have often played in a private room against robots so I’m familiar with the set-up but I have to admit I was pretty nervous playing against real people for the first time.  I was introduced right away to Brian and Mary-Lou and they seemed very welcoming and I instantly felt better when Brian admitted he was a bit rusty and my mother told them both I was a beginner.  I have had more experience at this point playing hands than bidding, since I’ve been working my way through Bridge Master and reading a lot on play of the hand (not always stuff that I understand but I think some of it sinks in occasionally).  When it came to bidding, since the lessons have not taken me as far as NT bidding, I was allowed to ask questions (it was, after all, a teaching room).   However, I found that with Barbara Seagram’s Pocket Guide in hand, I was able to quickly look up my hand type and make decisions based on the book’s suggestions.  Was this the best thing to do?  Most of the questions I asked were about my partner’s bid.  I felt confident bidding my own hand, not necessarily understanding the reasons behind it.  Perhaps occasionally this led me astray, judge for yourselves.  For example, I was delighted to pick up this 22-count sitting West:

♠A K 8 A 7 A 9 2 ♣ A Q 6 3 2

Immediate excitement (I had four aces!) made me grab the book and open to the “really big hands” page.  In retrospect, perhaps this wasn’t a “really big hand” rather just a big hand, but I was too excited to open something I had never used before, Strong 2♣. Besides, my hand was balanced and met the requirements, “balanced hands too strong to open 2NT start with 2, then rebid notrump.”  That’s just what I did:

West North East South
2 pass 2 pass
2NT pass 3NT all pass

I was very excited at the prospect of playing out my hand.  North led the 3 and down went the dummy:

♠10 6 4 2 Q 10 5 4 2 Q 8 6 4

Now I had a problem: I could only count five sure winners and with one club in dummy, I had little or no access to my longest suit.  Now my beginner-ness will start to show through (I’m sure a more experienced player would have no problems with this hand?).  I won the heart lead with my ace and was able to get back to dummy (somehow?) by playing a heart to the queen.  My plan was to finesse the K, so I (probably foolishly) played the 4 to my Q.  No such luck, South showed the 10 and North won with the king.  Now I had lost control and had no entry to clubs from dummy.  After winning two rounds of hearts, North returned a spade and I was back in the game.  But I had already lost three tricks and had three aces but not much else.  I tried the diamond finesse, again, no such luck and now South was in control.  By this point I didn’t know what had been played of the remaining suits and after winning my three aces, I led a diamond.  Bad move.  In the end I was down three tricks.  So much for my “really big hand.”  This was the full layout:

Dealer: W

Vul: Both

Q 3
K 8 6 3
J 7 5 4
K J 7
West East
A K 8 10 6 4 2
A 7 Q 10 5 4 2
A 9 2 Q 8 6
A Q 6 3 2 4
J 9 7 5
J 9
K 10 3
10 9 8 5

Perhaps if I had know more about bidding I could have come to some other contract?  Looking at the results from other tables, it seems that everyone in 3NT was down three, sometimes four, tricks.  That makes me feel a lot better.  Even suit contracts went down, come to think of it.  No one made their contract.  Maybe it wasn’t a “really big hand.”  Maybe it was a “really bad hand!”

Beginner on BBO

Yikes, just the title of this one could start a debate given some of the discussions here lately, but rest assured I am only here to blog about my first experiences this weekend playing on Bridge Base Online. As a Mac user, I was initially disappointed that I couldn’t run the ACBL learn to play bridge software which my mother had recommended, but will continue to explore software options for my Mac that will enable me to do run PC programs (any suggestions welcome!). I did play on BBO once a few weeks ago with Ray, Linda and Becky in our last bridge lesson before Becky left, which was fun. This time I met my mum online and we played in a room together with robots. This was quite fun because the pressure was off, and I could take my time and ask her questions as we went.

We played a couple of games last night (while my soup was cooking) and five or six tonight and I have to say that I am now officially addicted. I even took my Beginning Bridge (Barbara Seagram) book to work with me today to read on my break, in hopes that I could refresh some of my declarer play. Alas, I was declarer only once, and was playing in notrump (which we haven’t learned yet). It was fun though and I felt a little like one of the characters in David Bird’s books, the newest of which I am currently editing at work – Somehow We Landed in 6NT. Well maybe not quite that glamorous, but somehow I was playing in 1NT and didn’t know what I was doing. In the end it was pretty straightforward and I made the 7 tricks I needed and that was that. More! More!

I learnt that trying to squeeze someone when you don’t know what a squeeze is doesn’t usually work (and, well, you don’t know if it does). And I learnt that an endplay is not termed as such simply because it happens at the end. At times I had to ask for clarification on what the bidding meant (those robots got pretty carried away!), but the clarification didn’t usually clarify anything other than that I have a lot more reading and practising ahead of me! It’s a good place to be though, knowing that there will be many, many more exciting times to come. And I’m really looking forward to it!