Ray Lee

And the nominees are…

The IBPA recently released details of the short list of six for this year’s Master Point Press Book of the Year Award, the winner of which will be announced later this year at the World Championships in Philadelphia.  This is a prestigious competition, and I don’t envy the international jury their task in selecting one book out of some excellent contenders.  Let me, however, while declaring my biases since we published three of the nominees, try to give you an appraisal of the six finalists.

1)  ‘Overcalls’ (Mike Lawrence).   This book’s been a classic since the day it first came out, 25 years or so ago.  Anyone who hasn’t read it, and aspires to being a decent bridge player, should go out and get a copy immediately.  Having said that, we recognized that competitive bidding is probably the area of the game that has seen the most changes in the last quarter century, and it was with that in mind that we asked Mike to update the book.  That he did, and thoroughly too (I don’t think he knows any other way to work).  So now, even if you did read the original, you should still get yourself a copy of the new edition, because everything, yes pretty much everything, has changed.  New ideas, new conventions, new uses for competitive doubles – the lot.

2) ‘A new classic’ is a description that also fits our second candidate, the new edition of Clyde E. Love’s tome on Squeezes.  We all remember reading this (or, to be more honest, trying to read it) in our bridge youth.  It was brilliant, but oh, what a struggle.  Love was a math professor, and it came through in his writing.  And, unfortunately, things that were obvious to him weren’t necessarily so to his readers.  Likewise, without the benefit of modern aids such as ‘Deep Finesse’, it’s not a surprise to find that the original book contained errors, especially in the later, more complex, discussions.  In the new edition, Linda Lee, with the able assistance of Julian Pottage, has revised Love heavily.   It’s more approachable, more explicit, and much less is left as an exercise to the reader.  The errors (we hope!) have been eliminated, and dozens of new squeeze types added (although both author/editors admit that despite its title, the book is still far from ‘Complete’).  This book took three months out of Linda’s life, but she really enjoyed working on it, as a supreme challenge to her skill at technical bridge analysis.

3) Larry Cohen’s ‘My Favorite 52’ was another Linda project, but only in the editorial sense.  Originally published by Larry as interactive software, this book takes the reader through 60+ of Larry’s favorite deals.  Never has the ‘over-the-shoulder’ style been exploited so well – you will really feel that you’ve had a peek into the thought processes of an expert, and begin to understand why the same guys end up the winner’s circle with such regularity.  The bridge deals themselves are fascinating, often spectacular, so the book is a whole lot of fun to read as well as being incredibly educational for players at any level.

4) Jeff Rubens’ ‘Expert Bridge Simplified’ gets my vote as the most misleading title of the bunch.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s a brilliant book.  It applies rigorous mathematics to bridge situations, and tries to come up with helpful ideas that anyone can use at the table.  But I’m afraid not many people are going to get past Chapter 1.  This is the book I (rightly or wrongly) persuaded Bob MacKinnon not to write, when he was working on the manuscript that eventually became ‘Bridge, Probability and Information’.  I wanted to publish a book that had a sound math basis, but kept it as far in the background as we could, so that we kept the bridge players interested until at least half way through the book.  Jeff isn’t concerned with that – the very first question at the end of the Introduction is, ‘Is the following an equiprobable set…?’  There’s great content here for those who are prepared to persevere, but I fear they will be many fewer than the value of the content deserves.

5) Krysztof Martens has won World Championship medals playing for his native Poland, including an Olympiad Gold in 1984, as well as several European titles.  His credentials are not in doubt, therefore.  His recent series of books, designed to complement his Bridge University online, have been receiving acclaim from expert-level players.  ‘Owl, Fox and Spider’ is, I think, a representative nominee for the entire oeuvre.  I couldn’t navigate through Martens’ site well enough to get my free chapter downloaded, so all I know about this book is that Martens often likes to use animal analogies in his writing, to get his point across.  In this case, a good declarer must be wise, sly and cunning by turns, to be successful.

6)  ‘The Romance of Bridge’ is mostly an anthology of material collected by Raman Jayaram, who writes passionately about bridge, and Ghassan Ghanem.  They formed an Indo-Jordanian collaboration to explore the connection between bridge and romance. They have combined exotic locales with interesting deals and escapades of master players from around the world.  Their obvious love of the game is infectious, but much of material will be familiar to readers from its fairly wide publication elsewhere (for example, there is an extensive rehash of the infamous ‘Losers Win’ Canada-Germany incident from the 1990 Rosenblum – as recently as 2008, Bobby Wolff wrote extensively about this in his autobiography, ‘The Lone Wolff’).

So there they are – the final six.  Which will win?  Who knows.  The three we published are all close to my heart, and any of them would be (IMHO) a worthy winner.  But they have stiff competition.  As I said at the beginning, I don’t envy the jury this year – it’s a tough decision.

Links for more information about the finalists:


Love on Squeezes

My Favorite 52

Owl, Fox and Spider

Expert Bridge Simplified

The Romance of Bridge

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