Who Should Get my Favorite Bridge Book?
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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.
I 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.
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:
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?
“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.