Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

One Book to Rule Them All

Linda and Ray's Holiday Picks

For December all of Linda and Ray’s Holiday Gift Picks will be on sale for 20% off at ebooksbridge.com. To see a full listing of ebooks on sale visit ebooksbridge.com or
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In the early days of Master Point Press, Ray put together a writing team for a book that he and I conceived. It all began with frequent phone calls from my mother who was an avid social bridge player. 

Each phone call would go something like this:  

“I opened 1  and my partner bid 2NT (Jacoby); I have 18 points with no shortness,” 

“Yes, mom.”

“Well what do I do?”

“Do you know the responses to Jacoby?”  

“Some of them, but not that one.”  

And the conversation would continue with me walking through the responses to Jacoby 2NT.

Sometimes one of the “girls” who played at the local bridge club would bring new conventions or new ideas about responses or continuations to my mom’s home game, and I would be called to make sure they were on the right track.

After a while it became clear that my mom and her circle really could use a book that would teach them about bridge conventions in a more in-depth way, explaining the purpose of the convention, the responses and continuations so that they could use them effectively.

25 Bridge Conventions You Should KnowI didn’t write the book — Barbara Seagram and Marc Smith did. I didn’t edit the book, my husband Ray did. But if I could I would have dedicated the book to my mother who was the inspiration for 25 Conventions You Should Know.

The book was very well executed. Ray, who had a background in educational publishing, suggested some of the features for the book: chapter summaries, examples, quizzes for the readers and little asides called “By the Way”. The book explained each convention, the various responses and the continuations.  Eddie Kantar, whom we asked to contribute a foreword, wrote, ‘The reader who knows nothing or next to nothing about the convention being explained will leave the chapter thinking he or she can play the convention.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

The book was beautifully designed by Olena Sullivan, with special attention to the cover – we wanted that to be bright and eye catching.

Everything worked out to create a prize-winning book (ABTA Book of the Year) that has gone on to be perhaps the bestselling bridge book of the last 50 years. Sales have gone well over 200,000 copies in English, and 25 Conventions You Should Know has been translated into several other languages. It is one of the few bridge books reviewed on GoodReads (the premier book rating website), getting a top rating from nearly all the many reviewers.

So thank you, mom, for providing the inspiration for this wonderful book. As one of the reviewers on GoodReads said, “If you play bridge – you’ll love this book!”

And so I am going to give this book to my friend Victoria. She used to play bridge many years ago and now that she is coming back to it again this book will help her to learn the more sophisticated bidding  methods of today. Welcome back to bridge, Victoria.

Bridge problems that change the way you look at a hand

Linda and Ray's Holiday Picks

For December all of Linda and Ray’s Holiday Gift Picks will be on sale for 20% off at ebooksbridge.com. To see a full listing of ebooks on sale visit ebooksbridge.com or
our informative blog post on BridgeBlogging.com.

There Must Be a WayI remember the day I first saw the manuscript that eventually became There Must be a Waythe second book MPP ever published.  It was a handwritten collection of bridge problems by a Toronto bridge player named Andrew Diosy – someone I didn’t know, despite the fact that I thought I knew all the good players in the area.  Andrew, it turned out, was a medical doctor who had moved to Canada after the Hungarian uprising in 1956. 

Ray asked me to turn the manuscript into a book, and I accepted the challenge happily. I loved Andrew’s problems. They were different from any I had seen before. They required you to think about the hands in new and interesting ways — practical ways too.  The play was always logical but it did require lateral thinking and the use of the creative part of your brain. The solutions needed deeper thought, some consideration of the moves you could make and also of your opponents’ countermoves.  Often the solution was quite simple (and always elegant) – just hard to spot.

So we devised a new format to present them. (I was flattered some years later when master problem creator Julian Pottage used the same format for two of his books.)

It occurred to me that what Andrew had created were not specifically declarer play or defense problems, but problems in analysis – can you make this hand, or should the defenders find a way to beat you?  We decided to start by showing the reader each problem double-dummy, with the title of the problem providing a small hint to the solution.  Then when you were ready, you could turn the page and see a discussion of the play and its issues, and often a hint or two. You were asked to think about it again before looking at the full solution which appeared later in the book.

I felt as I worked on the hands that the process was making me a better declarer. And I liked so many of the hands.  Even then I knew that this book was a great gift for people who, like me, loved cardplay or for those who wanted to improve their ability to think deeply about a deal.

I wrote the book in Florida that winter.  My parents were living in a condo a few floors below but I was basically there by myself, working in the morning and enjoying the Florida sunshine the rest of the day while Ray was home in the cold. I was punished for my happiness when I was given a work assignment in my real-life role as a computer consultant which required me to travel to Calgary and Edmonton and the -30 degree weather.  My first stop in Calgary was at a store where I bought the wooliest gloves, hat and scarf I could find!

Here’s a typical problem from the book.  It’s entitled

Belladonna’s Class

 
N
North
AQ93
83
J9
97652
 
W
West
J86
K7
A532
QJ103
Q
E
East
K10542
4
K1087
K84
 
S
South
7
AQJ109652
Q64
A
 

Contract: 4 
Lead:  Q

Well, can 4hx be made on best defense?  Try it for yourself before scrolling down to the two parts of the solution.

 

Solution Part 1

The problem on this hand is to avoid losing three diamond tricks:  there is an inevitable trump loser so the diamond losers must be held to two. After winning the first trick with the A, you must defer drawing trumps so that you can ruff a diamond if necessary.  You start by leading a diamond to the nine:  West must duck and East will win the 10.  East will not return a trump, and it doesn’t matter whether you rise or duck, the defense will have an opportunity to remove dummy’s trumps, either immediately or when West gets in on the A.

Is there a way to make this hand?

Solution Part 2

This hand can be made.  The problem is to avoid losing three diamond tricks.  The instinctive play is to lead a diamond from the closed hand towards dummy and finesse the 9 when West plays low, but that does not work on this hand.  The key is to make sure that West wins the first diamond, and to do this you cross to dummy on the A and lead the 9.

East cannot afford to rise on the K because this will allow you to set up a diamond trick by force.  The best East can do is to cover the 9 with the 10, but you counter by playing the Q.  West wins with the A, but he cannot play trumps without losing the defense’s trump trick.  Suppose West continues a club:  you ruff in hand and lead another diamond, East’s king winning.  When he returns a trump, you go up with the ace and ruff your third diamond in dummy.

You Have To See ThisThere is a story to this hand: when it occurred many years ago in a rubber bridge game, the great Italian star Giorgio Belladonna picked the winning line after hardly a moment’s thought!

I am going to give this book to my old friend Mike. He loves to play dummy. He is good at it but I know he will be a better declarer after reading this book.  And next year I can give him the sequel, You Have to See This.

A Gift for my Sister

Linda and Ray's Holiday Picks

For December all of Linda and Ray’s Holiday Gift Picks will be on sale for 20% off at ebooksbridge.com. To see a full listing of ebooks on sale visit ebooksbridge.com or
our informative blog post on BridgeBlogging.com.

Does the idea of history make you yawn? Not me. A good book about some interesting person or event is one of my favorite reads. I can read about the Black Death or the Battle of Gettysburg or Henry VIII, and if the story is well researched and the author tells it in an entertaining fashion then I can gulp it down.

Bumblepuppy DaysBut bridge history? It turns out that the story of our great game can be quite fascinating too. Bumblepuppy Days, The Evolution from Whist to Bridge, by Julian Laderman is a really entertaining book.  If you are unfamiliar with the world ‘bumblepuppy’, as I was, you find out on the first page that it was a term for a poor whist player (and related meanings) – and it’s still listed in the Encyclopedia of Bridge.

The book starts with whist as described in the writings of Hoyle (1743-1863) and Cavendish (1864-1898). There are wonderful discussions of playing cards and trump indicators and more “paraphernalia”, with illustrations .

I suppose it’s obvious when one looks at the two games that whist (or ‘whisk’ as it was originally known) and bridge are related.  But the steps by which one developed into the other are fascinating, and Julian takes us on a journey through the many variants of whist to bridge whist, auction bridge, and eventually contract as we know it today.  Along the route we meet the successors of Cavendish and Hoyle:  Elwell, Work, Foster, Lenz and finally the great promoters — Ely and Jo Culbertson and Charles Goren.  Each in their way contributed to the evolution of the various games – they were larger than life characters whose exploits and writings promoted the games and helped them become popular.

We learn not just how but why the games evolved – how the wishes and needs of the playing public changed them and how they themselves influenced changes in society.  Duplicate bridge, for example, is a direct descendant of duplicate whist, which was invented originally in order to test theories about systems by playing the same hand multiple times in different ways.  Most of our familiar duplicate movements, such as the Mitchell and Howell, were developed for playing duplicate whist, not bridge.

And this is not a dry history – it is filled with living characters, and with Julian’s wit and humor. Julian has a wonderful way with a story. I just have to repeat one from the book:

At times I have been told that bridge is only a game. I counter that with, ‘Without the bridge family tree, the U.S. might not have fought for its independence.’ After receiving a confused look, I make my argument.

In 1765 the Stamp Act was passed by the English Parliament. This was a tax on printed materials, newspapers, legal documents, playing cards, etc. The American colonies united to resist this tax. Prior to that time the thirteen colonies had never cooperated; they were all separate entities, not part of a team, and were happy to keep it that way. The Stamp Act was repealed by King George III in March 1766, but a major step toward American independence had taken place. The colonies felt empowered. It was hard to separate how much of the outcry was over the principle of the tax, and how much was over the financial burden of paying it. Playing cards were not durable, and the popularity of whist and other card games meant that a tax on playing cards could be quite substantial. In The Whist Reference Book, Butler wrote: ‘Whist-players were among the chief aversions of that prosaic monarch, George III. No wonder he lost the American colonies.’

This is a book for my sister Judy. While she is only a novice bridge player she loves a good read, and this wonderful story about the beginning of bridge is sure to entertain her.

A Gift for my Bridge Student Friends

Linda and Ray's Holiday Picks

For December all of Linda and Ray’s Holiday Gift Picks will be on sale for 20% off at ebooksbridge.com. To see a full listing of ebooks on sale visit ebooksbridge.com or
our informative blog post on BridgeBlogging.com.

Ray and I teach bridge during the winter to our friends in Sarasota.  We teach eight or nine classes each year.  Some of our students are beginners but several of them have been beginners for several years now. They are keen and enjoy the game but have difficulty with declarer play. One of them told me on one hand, ‘I know the right bid is four spades, but I don’t think I’ll be able to make ten tricks if I’m playing it!’ I think most bridge players look forward to the challenge of being declarer and I want our friends to learn to play well enough that they actually want to play a hand.

Declarer Play at Bridge: A QuizbookSo I am going to give them Declarer Play at Bridge, A Quizbook by David Bird and Barbara Seagram to Mona and Steve.

I like this book for a lot of reasons. First it teaches declarer play using some of the exact same concepts I use. For example, I always tell my students that when they are declarer in a trump contract, as part of their plan they should draw trumps right away unless they have a specific reason not to do so.  And David and Barbara have the same concept in Chapter One.

I really like the way the book describes all the concepts slowly and carefully with examples and explanations at a perfect level.  And I particularly like that the book is a quiz book. It teaches each concept by example. You try the problem and then, when you are ready, look at the solution on the next page. It is how I like to teach and how I like to learn.

Then the “Points to remember” feature reinforces key points.

Here is Problem 19. Now I know that advanced bridge players or experts won’t have any problem with the plan but I bet you can think of some beginners who will be doing well if they slowly work their way through the book to problem 19 and then confidently solve this problem.

Problem 19

 

N
 
Q72
Q98532
7
K82
J
S
 
KJ10983
7
A62
A64
W
West
N
North
E
East
S
South
1
1
3
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

You and your partner bid strongly to a game in spades. How will you plan to make this contract when West leads the  J?

You have one loser in spades, to the ace. In hearts you have one loser and in diamonds you have two losers. In clubs you have a slow loser on the third round. You start with this position:

Losers:         1 Total: 5

You need to reduce the loser count from five to three. You may be able to ruff your two diamond losers in the dummy, but you will have to plan the play carefully to achieve this. Your first decision is this: ‘Where should I win the first trick?’

This book will be wonderful for anyone who is starting to learn declarer play or someone who is having trouble becoming a good declarer. It is the kind of book that teaches slowly and systematically while still letting the reader have fun. I am confident that my friends will be able to master the basics of declarer play with this book.

Oh the answer? I won’t reproduce it all, but suffice it to say, just think about where you want to win the first trick and it will come to you.

Who Should Get my Favorite Bridge Book?

Linda and Ray's Holiday Picks

For December all of Linda and Ray’s Holiday Gift Picks will be on sale for 20% off at ebooksbridge.com. To see a full listing of ebooks on sale visit ebooksbridge.com or
our informative blog post on BridgeBlogging.com.

I have been a bridge player for a very long time. I started playing bridge in high school.  There was no one to teach me.  There was no ACBL junior program in those days.  My parents played social bridge occasionally (my mother continued to be a social bridge player into her eighties) but I didn’t know that at the time. I started to learn the game by picking up a bridge bidding book (now hopelessly dated, of course). Eventually I enlisted the boy next door, Mark, to play with me and he rounded up some buddies and we would often play most of the evening.
So the way I first learned bridge was by reading books and playing in that neighborhood  game — we learned by mistaking mistakes and just having fun.  A bit later on some of us went to the local bridge club. In those days the club was filled with bridge players of all ages including a lively group of young people. It was there I met Mrs. Whaley (our favorite Little Old Lady), the Shoe, Harry the Owl and all the other many wonderful people who populated bridge clubs in those days.
I was a student of the game and I learned by playing, analyzing and reading books.  But my favorite book was not a teaching book; it wasn’t the book that taught me squeezes, or taught me better bidding methods.  It was the book that made me laugh the most. My favorite book in my early years of bridge described in a very humorous way the type of people who populated my bridge club and it did so with a plethora of beautiful bridge hands – Bridge in the Menagerie.
Bridge in the MenagerieI still love the Menagerie books by Victor Mollo. While there are very few rubber bridge players left and most likely far fewer rubber bridge clubs, the players in the Menagerie still ring true despite the fact that the Bridge in the Menagerie was originally published in 1965! I still love HH (the Hideous Hog), the best player in the club, and it is fun to see him execute some coup or deceit to miraculously make a hand but it is the Rueful Rabbit, who can sometimes quite by accident pull off something incredible, that makes me laugh the most.
There are so many wonderful stories filled with wonderful hands that I can’t move on without looking at one deal at least. But in Bridge in the Menagerie every hand is a story and most are too long for this blog. Still, here is a deal where the play is fun on its own. Suffice it to say that the Hog is playing against good opposition for huge stakes (stakes that he can ill afford) at rubber bridge. After opening a strong 2 and hearing partner bid clubs, the Hog arrives in 6 which is doubled on his left.

 
H.H.
A2
AK8762
AKQ32

The Hog rightly suspected that lefty would not have doubled 6 without a solid holding in trumps. So he removed himself to 6NT, also doubled, and received the lead of the Q.

This was the dummy he faced:

 
Dummy
KJ
1054
109
KQJ1098
 
H.H.
A2
AK8762
AKQ32

How would you play this deal? Take your time now. What was the best chance?


Here is the whole deal. Do you see it now?

 
N
Dummy
KJ
1054
109
KQJ1098
 
W
West
Q43
QJ93
J876
A7
 
E
East
1098765
54
65432
 
S
H.H.
A2
AK8762
AKQ32
 

“In less time than it would take him to gobble a pound’s worth of caviar the Hog found the solution. He led a spade towards dummy and finessed the knave. Once the knave held the Hog was home. He led a club and threw on it his SA. Then, with a characteristic flourish, he spread his hand.”

There is no way that West can prevent the Hog from getting to dummy for the clubs! 


So who is going to get Bridge in the Menagerie this Christmas?   It should be someone who plays bridge in a club and loves humor and magical dummy play. I think I shall give it to my old friend Mark, my first bridge partner. I know he has read this book but that was a long time ago. And I know that he will love it still.

A Special Relationship

Linda and Ray's Holiday Picks

For December all of Linda and Ray’s Holiday Gift Picks will be on sale for 20% off at ebooksbridge.com. To see a full listing of ebooks on sale visit ebooksbridge.com or
our informative blog post on BridgeBlogging.com.

Bridge Squeezes Complete: Winning Endgame StrategyI am not sure of the exact date, but it was very early in my bridge career that I first came across Clyde E. Love’s Bridge Squeezes Complete.  At the time, I didn’t know what a bridge squeeze was.  I was fascinated by the idea of producing a trick by forcing the opponents to discard a winner, setting up your own high card.

I read the first few chapters of Love very carefully, over and over.  I would lay out the hands and plan out the play and then check the book.  I put a lot of effort into learning how to execute simple squeezes. My friend Margaret had explained to me that you could frequently make extra tricks in notrump by just running your tricks and forcing the opponents to discard. Often this was the result of the opponents simply making wrong choices but sometimes they had no choice. They were squeezed. They had a choice of evils: which winner to throw.

By reading and understanding the book I came to learn the principles of simple squeezes: removing the opponents’ idle cards, managing your entries and so on.  Later on I was indoctrinated into some of the more complex (and rare) squeezes.  The winkle was a favorite – not because it came up, it was very rare — but because when some of my friends executed a winkle they would stand up on their chair and yell “WINKLE” so they could accept some applause.

When we had an opportunity to republish Love in a new edition,  I volunteered to take charge and I soon enlisted Julian Pottage to help with the technical side since things could get quite complex in the later chapters. While the original was a wonderful book, it had become dated over time. Of course, there was some new squeeze theory that had been developed but that was not really the biggest issue.  One problem was that bidding had changed so much since the 50s and 60s that the auctions in the book were virtually unrecognizable to a modern player. And bidding was important to the book because you used the bidding to make play decisions and sort out which cards each opponent held. The text itself was never easy – Love was math professor, and had a tendency to assume a level of comprehension in the reader that wasn’t there for most of us.  In addition, bridge language itself had changed a bit, making things even harder for a modern reader.

So with Julian’s help, I worked through the book.  We kept most of Love’s terminology for squeezes, much of which he invented and which became the standard for anyone describing squeeze positions.  Anyone who has read the book will always remember BLUE!  But we tried to simplify and to add more explanations.  I wrote a whole new chapter on trump squeezes, which were treated in an almost perfunctory manner in the original – it feels like the publisher told Love, ‘Enough already, no more pages!’  And we added the new squeeze positions that have been described in the last fifty years or so, including Julian’s own mole squeezes.  It was one of the toughest assignments technically I have ever undertaken in bridge, but ultimately I was pleased with the result, and very proud of what we accomplished.

As you can tell, I have strong feelings about this wonderful book. There are other books about squeezes, some perhaps more suited to newer players, but I still love “Love”.  It established the theory of squeezes and created a vocabulary that everyone still uses today.

So now I have to think about who I know that will enjoy this book as much as me.  It is best as a gift for a serious advancing bridge player who loves card play.  This is perfect for Leslie, who comes to our intermediate classes in Sarasota, and gets almost all the play problems right.   I think she’ll  “love” it.

Bridge and Running … my two loves, different, different but the same

I have played bridge since I was about 18. I started playing with Mark, the boy next door and we had some late night games with Mark’s friends. I read books by Charles Goren and as a  counsellor at summer camp taught bridge as a night-time activity to campers who actually thought I knew how to play. At university I feel in with the bridge crowd. All men but me who cared more (a lot more) about bridge than studies. Off and on since then I have played for fun, competed, directed games,taught and wrote about bridge.

A few years ago I retired from my main way of making money: directing large complex computer projects and other related activities. This was a really high stress occupation and frankly though I loved it I had had enough. I became a “full-time” part-time worker at Master Point Press. Now I had time to do other things. I had never been much of an athlete but I had always been a walker… I mean a serious walker, miles and miles of walking.  Eventually in the winter of 2013 this led to a running program and in the time since running has been my avocation. (No, I haven’t given up on bridge. I still teach. i still play (mostly online). I still keep my bridge mind in shape through some work at Master Point Press.) I also muck around with tennis.

If you are ever interested in running the running equivalent of the ACBL’s Learn to Play Bridge is C25K. I love the name… Couch Potato to 5K (or 3.1 miles). Pretty much anyone who is not disabled can do this program. It starts off slowly and gently and at the end of it you can complete about 3 miles of walking and running. If you are already a walker you should be able to do the program in about 10 weeks. There are many plans on your smartphone, smart watch and the web. But also a lot of companies selling something… here is a link to a sample plan if you want to try. I wish we could think of a cool name like that for a learn to play bridge program..B to BB (Bored to bridge bum … maybe not).

One big difference for me between bridge and running is the word competitive. I run races. I do this mainly because it gives me goals but I do love the feel of the race. The runners gathering at the start (hundreds of them in a mostly orderly bunch), the ceremony before the race, the run and chat with others and at the end the cheesy medal, your photo and the big sign that you cross under that says FINISH.

What I really like is that I am there to run and to finish and not to win. I really wish all the others well. I don’t need to beat them. I may have a target time but for me as for most recreational runners the goal is to finish and that alone makes me happy. I pretty much never feel like that at bridge except perhaps at those rare times when I actually won something important to me.

Why I love bridge:

Social (unless you play with robots online like I do sometimes).

Works your mind (I wonder if it really does keep your mind young, I truly hope so).

Fun? (I don’t find serious tournaments actually “fun”, do you?)

Community… I love bridge people (well most of them.)

Why I love running:

Can do it outside most of the time (I won’t run in thunderstorm, hail, and a few other weather quirks).

Requires minimal equipment (note – I have collected a closet full of running clothes, running watches, ipods, water bottles, belts, of course running shoes etc. .. so have most runners),

Can do it alone. I like alone. I like listening to music or an audiobook or even just looking at the scenery. When I run I am transported to my own place.

Running works my body. After about 18 months of running I have a runners body. I am lean. I have strong legs. I have a very healthy heart, lungs and well everything. 

Fun … maybe. It is lovely when you are through and sitting down with something to eat or drink and feel a bit buzzy after a long run.

Community… to me running is mostly alone but I do belong to a running group and have fun with them. Note: most of them are pretty much half my age. Runners as a group are young.

Competing… Winning is finishing.

Of course you could have the best of both worlds and run AND play bridge…. healthy mind in a healthy body.

Twenty Years of MPP

Before Master Point Press

Sometime in the early 90’s I had an idea (always dangerous, if you ask Ray) that it would be nice if Canada had a national bridge magazine.  My thought was that we would try to break even while producing a quality magazine and making it available from coast to coast. I always come up with the ideas but it is up to Ray to make them happen! Somehow he agreed and we set up a committee which included us, Maureen Culp and various others from time to time over the next few years (Diane Bryan, Shelagh Paulsen, Ron Bishop and John Gowdy, among others).

Ray’s idea was that we would give the magazine away at bridge clubs and that the printing and distribution would be paid for through advertising. All our writers and other workers would be volunteers to keep costs down. We started local in the greater Toronto area. We asked fellow bridge players to provide articles. We called the magazine Canadian Master Point. The advertising was initially most from bridge clubs, teachers and tournaments. Over time we were able to reach bridge players coast to coast. It’s fun even now to reread some the articles we published — you can see them by downloading the magazines from www.ebooksbridge.com. Still free!

Ray Takes the Leap

It was a small step from a magazine to books, and indeed, our first books came out of the magazine — Mary Paul’s Partnership Bidding and David Silver’s Tales out of School. We called the company ‘Master Point Press’, without giving it much thought, as basically it was a hobby. One early book was There Must Be A Way by Andrew Diosy, which came out in 1995. I remember this book very well because I wrote the published version, after figuring out how to present Andrew’s quite brilliant problems and solutions in just the right manner.  I loved the hands. They made you think about bridge in a different way: hence the title, a pun of sorts. At the time we had a condo in the Miami area, on gorgeous grounds overlooking the Intercoastal. Every day I would write up my quota of hands and then linger in the sunshine.  One week I had to do a gig teaching computer project management in cities across Canada. It was a bit startling to leave warm sunny Miami and fly to subzero Edmonton. I still like this book a lot. It may not have a fancy cover but it will change your bridge “vision”.

In 1996 Ray was president of the Canadian arm of a multinational book publishing company. But this was a time (it probably still is) where publishing companies were consolidating and in one such consolidation Ray got a buy-out. The kids were grown up and I had a good job as a computer consultant. Ray thought about what he wanted to do – he was fed up with the corporate life. He wanted to run his own business. He was and still is a wonderful editor and a fine bridge player. Ergo, a bridge publishing company. At this time there were quite a few companies publishing bridge books but that didn’t stop Ray.

New York New York

So Ray started actively trying to acquire new authors and titles, while at the same improving the sales of our existing half dozen books.  About this time I read an article about a ‘micropublisher’ in British Columbia. Their little business was selling about $25,000 worth of books a year (or something like that). I thought this was funny so I mentioned it to Ray. He didn’t think it was quite so funny and asked me how much I thought we were making. Gulp!

It was time to spread to the Big Apple. From his corporate publishing days Ray was close friends with a book marketing maven, Karen Strauss, who had set up her own business. She agreed to take Ray on and market his books in the US. She also introduced us to Lyle Stuart. Lyle was a book publisher and distributor who specialized in books on gambling and other even more borderline illegal activities (The Anarchists’s Cookbook was his lead title). He was the kind of guy who liked to thumb his nose at authority and was always involved in lawsuits. Lyle took us on. He provided warehousing and distribution in the US. He also gave us one terrific piece of advice… no cheap covers. Covers sell books, spend money on them, make them look good. Lyle later on tried to buy our company and even later stiffed us for a bunch of money. That was Lyle.

The Big Time

Ray says that two books made the company. The first was 25 Conventions You Should Know by Barbara Seagram and Marc Smith. Well, they wrote it, yes, but the real star of this book was my mother, Toby. Toby loved bridge and played every week (usually twice) with her bridge group. They played for money — half went to savings and half went to the winner and runner-up. This could amount to as much as $5 I think. Years later the savings money paid for a cruise for the entire group. Often when my mother was playing I would get a call asking me about a bridge convention. “What are the responses to Jacoby 2NT?” or “What do I do when partner opens a weak two?” she would ask. We could see that there was a market for a beginner level book on conventions and put together the writing team. 25 Conventions has been translated into many languages and remains the best selling bridge book of the modern era.

The second breakthrough was Eddie Kantar agreeing to let us republish his classic defense book, previously known as “big red”. Our updated and revised edition was called Eddie Kantar Teaches Modern Bridge Defense. It still sells very well and if you check on Amazon US it is rated 5 stars by 32 reviewers.

Since then Eddie has become a good friend and we have had quite a few bridge adventures with Eddie and his wife Yvonne. Eddie LOVES playing bridge and will do so anywhere and everywhere. Once we were having dinner in a nice restaurant in Hawaii and Eddie wanted to play while we were waiting for the food to arrive. So off he ran to a nearby drugstore to get cards… usually he has some on him, but this time he had forgotten to bring them.

MPP Hires Distribution

In the early days, the way we provided books to most customers went along these lines. Originally the books were in our basement. Later we had a storage locker. Ray would go over (I would help sometimes) and pick the books from the shelves, put them in a box with packing material, tape them really well and mail them out. Ray was the best packer ever and I can’t remember any damaged books. But as business picked up it was time to let someone else do the packing and shipping. We negotiated hard and picked a company we still use in Georgetown Ontario. They could handle both Canada and the US, which was important.

Digital Books

I think the move to digital books was a big step for just about all publishers. Bridge books were particularly hard because we had to keep the hands and auctions from being reformatted as fonts and page sizes changed on the reader’s screen. We also had to deal with multiple file formats. We made a couple of decisions early on. First we would have our own website to sell our digital books. Second we would give the customer all versions of the book: PDF, .mobi (For Kindle) and .epub (for pretty well everyone else). We would also allow the PDF to be printed. We would trust our customers. And we would provide very good customer service. If you have a problem we want to fix it so that you leave happy.  It took a long time, a lot of freelancers, and some third-party conversion help, to convert all our paper books to ebooks. We are current now … hurray!

Marketing

Today we manage several websites. Besides www.ebooksbridge.com, we have www.masterpointpress.com, and a website for teachers which is run jointly with the American Bridge Teachers Association (ABTA), www.abtahome.com, and of course www.bridgeblogging.com.

Master Point Press works closely with the ABTA and supports them as much as we can. We also provide funds for an award administered by the ABTA, for the Bridge Teacher of the Year.

We sponsor a book award by the International Bridge Press Association and a sportsmanship award for juniors by the ACBL. 

More

Over the last few years we have taken advantage of technology to move older books to ‘print on demand’. That means books are always available. Before if the demand for a book was very low it was not economical to reprint it; now we can literally print a single copy of a book and ship it to a customer. Using this technology, we can also publish books we think are worthwhile but have a small market.

The Future

If someone had asked me to foresee the Master Point Press of 2014 twenty years ago it would have been beyond my imagination. Not only have we grown and changed but the world has become a much smaller place. MPP books are published in many languages and sold all over the world.  I am proud that we have kept pace with the technology and I am proud of the quality bridge books that we have made available to readers of all abilities.

Our Authors, in no particular order (and without whom we would not exist)

 

  • Terence Reese
  • Mary Paul
  • P.K. Paranjape
  • Dan Romm
  • Michael Rosenberg
  • Zia Mahmood
  • Andrew Diosy
  • David Silver
  • Peter Mathieson
  • Roy Hughes
  • Julian Pottage
  • Mark Horton
  • Eric Kokish
  • Barbara Seagram
  • Marc Smith
  • David Bird
  • Julian Laderman
  • Victor Mollo
  • Bill Buttle
  • Mike Lawrence
  • Brian Senior
  • Eddie Kantar
  • Matthew and Pamela Granovetter
  • Marshall Miles
  • Tim Bourke
  • Barnet Shenkin
  • Robert McKinnon
  • Jim Priebe
  • Jeff Rubens
  • Larry Cohen
  • Roselyn Teukolsky
  • Alan Sontag
  • Frank Stewart
  • Andy Stark
  • Alan Truscott
  • Dorothy Hayden Truscott
  • Willy Dam
  • Ib Axelsen
  • Nick Straguzzi
  • Danny Kleinman
  • Jonathan Berry
  • Paul Thurston
  • Fred Gitelman
  • Ned Downey
  • Ellen Pomer
  • Jude Goodwin
  • Sally Brock
  • Neil Kimelman
  • Danny Roth
  • Bobby Wolff
  • Gary Brown
  • Nick Smith
  • Ian McCance
  • Frank Vine
  • Sandra Landy
  • Patrick Jourdain
  • Barry Rigal
  • Jan van Cleeff
  • Clyde E. Love
  • Peter Winkler
  • Eric Rodwell
  • Jeff Meckstroth
  • Ken Allen
  • Mary Ann Dufresne
  • Marion Ellingsen
  • Paul Holtham
  • Boye Brogeland
  • Patrick O’Connor
  • Jim Jackson
  • Bill Treble
  • Nico Gardener
  • Carole Coplea
  • Krzysztof Jassem
  • Sabine Auken
  • Guy Leve
  • Ken Rexford
  • Ken Eichenbaum
  • Mike Dorn Wiss
  • Michael Schoenborn
  • Ian McKinnon
  • Roger Trezel
  • Kathleen Vishner
  • Gary Brown
  • Joan Anderson
  • Patty Tucker
  • Rosemary Boden
  • Jeff Chen
  • Cathy Hunsberger
  • Matthew Thomson
  • Bill Jacobs
  • Harry Smith
  • Alex Adamson
  • Robert Munger
  • Matthias Felmy 

 List of Awards

 ABTA Book of the Year

A Second Book of Bridge Problems    Patrick O’Connor

A First Book of Bridge Problems    Patrick O’Connor

 The Bridge Technique Series   David Bird and Tim Bourke

 Modern Bridge Defense    Eddie Kantar

Advanced Bridge Defense    Eddie Kantar

 25 Conventions You Should Know    Barbara Seagram & Marc Smith

 Bridge with Bells & Whistles    Mary Ann Dufresne and Marion Ellingsen

 How Good is Your Bridge?    Danny Roth

A Bridge to Simple Squeezes    Julian Laderman

A Bridge to Inspired Declarer Play    Julian Laderman

 25 Steps to learning 2/1    Paul Thurston

 Gary Brown’s Learn to Play Bridge    Gary Brown

 Hands-on Weak Two-bids    Joan Anderson

 Declarer Play at Bridge: a quizbook    Barbara Seagram & David Bird

 Planning the Play of a Bridge Hand    Barbara Seagram & David Bird

 Take All Your Chances at Bridge    Eddie Kantar

  

IBPA  Book of the Year

 North of the Master Solvers’ Club    Frank Vine

The Principle of Restricted Talent   Danny Kleinman and Nick Straguzzi

I Love this Game   Sabine Auken

Duplicate Bridge Schedules   Ian McKinnon  (Truscott award)

Fantunes Revealed   Bill Jacobs

The Rodwell Files   Eric Rodwell with Mark Horton

Canada’s Bridge Warriors   Roy Hughes

The Contested Auction   Roy Hughes

Play or Defend?   Julian Pottage

A Great Deal of Bridge Problems   Julian Pottage

   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

 

A 20 imp swing in the last round of the USBF Quarterfinals

I always love watching the US team trials because there are so many talented exciting players and partnerships to watch, some young and some “experienced”.

The Bramley team was represented by Lew Stansby, and Bart Bramley sitting East-West in the Open Room Room and Bob Hamman and Roger Lee playing North-South in the Closed Room. All but Roger Lee belonging to the latter group.

All of the players on the Fireman team are  talented experienced but young (by bridge standards) group. Sitting North-South in the Open Room was Joel Wooldridge and John Hurd and East-West in the Closed Room with John Kranyak and Justin Lall North-South in the Closed Room.

There was a mere 14 imp difference when the eighth segment of the match between Fireman (npc) and Bramley started.

And what match could be more classic than this one. An epic struggle against veterans and new stars. There were a couple of early swings but the one that stands out is Board 52. Stansby-Bramley in a very complex auction has system confusion and ending up in a silly 6  when 7  bid by Kranyak-Lall is a good spot and makes.  

I have been there and I am sure most of you have too.  It is the cost of playing all the fancy stuff so often used in the modern game.  This put Fireman in the lead by 2 imps.

But if you can keep your composure 2 imps is nothing. A few boards later there was an interesting hand to play and defend.

 

W
Stansby
N
Wooldridge
E
Bramley
S
Hurd
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass
 
 
 

This was the auction in the Open Room. Stansby led the  K.

 
N
Wooldridge
2
AQ953
Q642
J63
W
Stansby
83
82
AK1073
K1075
 

 

Bramley played the  8 (upside count) and Hurd played the  5. Stansby cashed the ace as Bramley followed with the  9 and Hurd the  J. What now? You pick.

There are 19 points that you see between your hand and dummy. South has at least 15 HCP. That leaves six for Bramley. If he doesn’t have have the  A can you defeat the hand? The ♠A won’t be enough since dummy’s clubs  can go on the KQ of spades. A great shift by Stansby and one not found in the Closed Room. 12 imps back

 

 
55
Both
South
N
Hamman/Wool
2
AQ953
Q642
J63
 
W
Kranyak/Sta
83
82
AK1073
K1075
 
E
Lall/Bramle
J7654
J104
98
A42
 
S
Lee/Hurd
AKQ109
K76
J5
Q98
 

There were some more swings and FIreman got close but never regained the lead after this deal.

Canadian Open Team Championships – Light Openings in the Final

I had fun watching the Canadian Open Team Championships on BBO and doing some commentary.   I thought the bridge was good and exciting by and large. What is very hopeful for Canada is that the team that won, McMullin had some good young players. The second place team Gartgaganis are an excellent team of relative veterans. I hope both teams head to the World Championships which are an open event this year.

Here are some deals from the final which I could call The Power of the Opening BId

You are in first chair with everyone vulnerable. Here is your hand.

 

N
S. Nystrom
KJ10
J103
A105432
2

Do you pass? If you open what is your bid?

In the Open Room Samantha Nystrom chose to open with 1  and in the Closed Room Gord Campbell passed. Here is the whole deal and you can see that 6  is a very good contract and one that makes as the cards lie.

 

 
13
Both
North
N
S Nystrom
KJ10
J103
A105432
2
 
W
Jeff Smith
986432
52
98
Q65
 
E
P Thurston
Q5
AQ98764
J7
98
 
S
Tom Walsh
A7
K
KQ6
AKJ10743
 

 

W
Smith
N
Nystrom
E
Thurston
S
Walsh
1
2
3
Pass
3
Pass
4
Pass
5
Pass
6
All Pass
 
 
 

 

Once Samantha opened and Tom found out that she had real diamonds he did not let her out below slam. Paul’s 2  bid didn’t really effect things much I don’t think and even if he had bid 3  I doubt that the auction would have been all that much different.

In the Closed Room Gord Campbell passed and Bryan Maksymetz sitting East open 3 which seems like a perfectly reasonable aggressive preempt to me. Can you see any sensible way to get to 6  from here? Ilya Kuzkin took a reasonable stabe with 5, his seven card suit and they played there.

Maybe I am resulting a bit but I like Samantha‘s opening bid. She has a decent six card suit, a singleton, a useful spade holding with KJ10 and her J103 of hearts may be useful. You can see why players are opening lighter hands. So 13 imps for opening light.

Now here is one that I wouldn’t have opened… sort of how light can you go.

 
3
E-W
South
N
S Nystrom
Q97
Q642
104
Q963
 
W
Jeff Smith
AKJ654
J3
K2
A108
 
E
P Thurston
82
A1095
A9865
74
 
S
Tom Walsh
103
K87
QJ73
KJ52
 

 

 

W
Walsh
N
Smith
E
Nystrom
S
Thurston
1
1
Dbl
Pass
2
2
All Pass
 
 

Walsh was white on red and decided to open his rubbish flat ten count 1 . Smith overcalled 1  and Nystrom made a negative double. Thurston might have found some bid but then again he has length in his opponents suit and only a doubleton in the suit his partner overcalled. Walsh had to perforce bid 2 .  Smith bid 2  which seems reasonable to me. I think Thurston just might have given this a little push with a ruffing value and two aces, especially vulnerable. What do you think? Anyway the auction ended at 2 .

In the other room the auction was much easier for East-West

W
Yan
N
Campbell
E
Maksymet
S
Kuzkin
Pass
1
Pass
1NT
Pass
2
Pass
2
Pass
3
Pass
4
All Pass

After Ilya Kuzkin passed, as I would have, East-West were able to use their normal methods to get to the spade game without much of a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

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