Ray Lee

Three great bridge books you haven’t read – part 2

Canadian Master Point magazine was born in 1991 and was laid to rest in 1997, with much regret, to make way for Master Point Press and a new focus on book publishing.   It was a labour of love — which meant that no-one associated with it ever got paid.  And while it was based on the idea of providing a forum for Canadian writers, it soon had a stable of international contributors too, from India, the UK, the USA, and elsewhere.  Everyone involved with the magazine was volunteer — even writers who made their living out of bridge made their work available to us gratis.

Some of our writers were instantly recognizable — Eric Kokish, Allan Falk, Danny Roth to name but three.  Others, like Fred Gitelman, were to become recognizable, but were at that time still labouring in obscurity.  During the six years the magazine existed, we published several hundred pages of original material.  It varied from technical to humorous, from comment on bridge issues to bridge-oriented puzzles and diversions.  And far too much of it was too good to be just forgotten.

So eventually Linda and I picked out our favourite pieces, and put together an anthology entitled Northern Lights, which is the subject of this blog.  The fact that it didn’t sell very well didn’t bother us — like CMP, this was a labour of love.  It was a book we felt should be out there, and available.  It’s just a little sad that more people haven’t got to enjoy it.  But we liked putting it together, and rereading all our favourite articles once again.  Those would, for me, include the following:

Michael Schoenborn’s Three Minutes to Winning Bridge.   The true and hilarious story of how the author needed a replacement partner for the last 2 rounds of the Yacht Club duplicate, picked up someone at the bar who had never played the game, gave him a set of rigid rules to follow, and scored 92% over the four boards they played together.

Mike Cafferata’s Colbert’s Rules.  This article was referred to in a previous blog – everyone should know and obey them.

Truly Explosive versus Merely Unpleasant by Roselyn Teukolsky — surely the ranking expert on surviving spousal bridge.

Fred Gitelman’s Close but no Cigar.  An emotional and very personal account of losing the World Junior Championship.

Why do we do it? by Marilyn White. A psychology professor’s wry take on why we all keep coming back to such an aggravating pastime…

It was gratifying to see a number of CMP articles being reprinted in other magazines.  Eric Sutherland’s erudite explanation of Restricted Choice and the Monty Hall problem was cited in a a Ph.D thesis at Dartmouth College, for example. Fred Gitelman’s A Suitable Study appeared in BRIDGE magazine, as did a number of David Silver’s parodies prior to their appearance in book form. The following short article ran as an editorial, and was picked up by Australian Bridge.  I guess they empathized with the issue.  Sometimes I classify the piece as humorous, but then I think about it some more…


Special Alert

by Linda Lee

‘Everyone move over one place,’ said the March Hare.

‘Hurry up and and sit down dear, the round has started,’ the Mad Hatter called over to Alice.

Alice sat down opposite the Dormouse, who was looking very nervous, and picked up her cards.

Her hand seemed to fit the definition of a balanced 15-17, so she took a sip of tea and opened 1NT.

The Mad Hatter passed and then had to shake the Dormouse, whose head had fallen on the table while he rested between bids.

‘Two diamonds,’ burped the sleepy creature.

Oh dear, oh dear, thought Alice, I’m pretty sure that’s no longer an alert, but I do think it’s one of those new ‘announced bids’.

‘That,’ said Alice out loud, ‘is a transfer.’

‘I didn’t want to know that!’ exclaimed the Hatter.

‘Is not, is not,’ said the Dormouse, who was busy cleaning the duplicate board by dipping it the teapot, but, as usual, he was completely ignored.

‘Well, well,’ said the March Hare, ‘tell me more.’

‘It’s a Jacoby transfer, showing at least five hearts and asking me to bid two hearts.’

‘So he’s bidding diamonds when he really has hearts,’ said the March Hare. ‘Well, you better mean what you say, since your partner doesn’t say what he means.’

‘Double!’ he continued,

‘Alert!’ said the Hatter.

‘Please explain, ‘ asked the Dormouse.

‘It’s not your turn,’ Alice pointed out. ‘Please explain,’ she said, turning to the Hatter.

‘It’s for penalties, shows diamonds, and is probably lead-directing.’

‘That’s not an alert,’ said Alice indignantly.

‘Yes, it is,’ said the Hatter.

‘No, it’s not,’ said the Hare.

‘Whose side are you on anyway?’ the Hatter demanded, accusingly.

‘The side of the law,’ said the Hare, with great firmness.

‘Oh, let’s get on with it,’ said Alice. ‘I pass.’

‘Special alert, special alert!’ cried the Dormouse, who was now busy buttering his cards.

‘How can that be a special alert? In fact, I don’t think it’s an alert at all.  Let’s call the director, ‘ suggested the Hare.

‘Pass,’ said the Hatter, with a glare at his partner, who knew he had better not complain again.

‘Pass,’ said the Dormouse without looking at his cards.

‘We play upside-down signals of course, reverse suit preference, inverted remainder count and upside-down-even-odd discards,’ announced the Hatter, as the Hare made the opening lead.

‘No, no, you’re supposed to pre-alert carding before the auction,’ said the Hare.

‘You don’t have to alert carding at all any more,’ said Alice, but what are upside-down-even-odd discards?’

‘None of your business, you’re the dummy!’

‘Pre-alert, pre-alert,’ said the Dormouse, absent-mindedly dropping his hand on the table.  It seemed to consist mostly of diamonds…

‘Surely, we’re entitled to protection here,’ snarled the Hatter.  ‘Director!’

‘Oh, this is ridiculous.  I don’t think I’ll ever play this silly game again,’ cried Alice, and tossed her cards in the general direction of the ACBL Board of Directors, whose members were too preoccupied to notice.

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