Brian Reviews Bridge Books
Brian Bankler
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Pretty much what it says. I have a large library of Bridge Books, and haven't had much to do recently so I've been re-reading them (and buying a few new ones). Full disclosure -- some of these reviews aren't from a recent re-reading, but from memory of my last reading.

Most bridge books are worth reading if you are a fanatic. There are few dogs (at least, not that I've come across) but some are better than others. Advanced/Hardcore bridge players will probably want to skip the basic books, but if you are an advanced player then you probably don't need this geeklist.

I'm going to mostly categorize these by author, but a few books (or series) deserve their own entries.

The first page are in some semblance of an order, but starting on page two I'll just be putting these at the end whenever I update the list. I'll probably add another few every now and then as time permits.

Also -- I have "Bridge" listed as "Want in trade" and those would mainly be for books I haven't read. (One book I have read and lost and would like a copy of again is Kleinmann's "The NoTrump Zone").
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1. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Bridge
Brian Bankler
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What to read if you only want to read a single book?

Five Weeks to Winning Bridge by Alfred Sheinwold

This small paperback was the first book I read and (for a while) could be found everywhere for a dollar or two in used book stores. It has 35 chapters (one per day!) that alternate between bidding and play. It's actually a fairly reasonable book to learn from, with the exception that even when I read it in the late 80s, the style toward bidding had already changed from opening four card majors (that the book teaches) to five card majors (which get a brief aside).

Who should read this? -- If you are only going to read one book on bridge, this is reasonable since it covers card play and (archaic) bidding. I've been wracking my brain for a better more updated version, and I can't think of it, since I have no reason to read a book for a complete novice. The ACBL has an online "learn bridge" software you can download that is also pretty good and I reviewed.

The "ACBL Series" is actually a good set of books for learning, but isn't a "single book".

Another possibility is the The Fun Way To Serious Bridge by Harry Lampert, which has lots of cartoons (and mnemonics). This would be a better book for anyone intimidated by walls of text...
 
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2. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Get Lucky
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What if you are willing to read two books? One on card play, and one on bidding?

Card Play Technique, or The Art of Being Lucky by Victor Mollo and Nico Gardner.


If you only want to read one book on card play at Bridge, this is it. I first read Watson's Play of the Hand at Bridge and that's a fine book, but Card Play Technique is just better. Watson's book is workmanlike. Mollo is a great writer (as evinced by later entries in this list).

Story-time: a few years ago I found a stack of these at Half Price Books for $5. I bought them to give away to players I was mentoring. Our Tournament Director (an expert player and national Tournament Director) saw that, asked where I found them, and then hit all the other Half Priced Books in the area to pick up their copies for the same reason.

Who should read this? -- Anyone who wants a solid foundation at Bridge (or, I suppose, other trick taking games). Watson's book is a reasonable substitute (but you only need one).
 
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3. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Bid It Right: The Price is Right Card Game
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And what book on bidding?

Standard Bridge Bidding for the 21st Century, by Max Hardy

(Not to be confused with Bidding in the 21st Century by Aubrey Grant and Betty Starzec .... Full disclosure -- I never have actually read the ACBL series. I skimmed them for a few minutes and they are fine, but I think that gamers appreciate a denser style and the ACBL series is a bit light. Maybe that's just me.)

A single bidding book will always be contentious because even for "Standard American" there are lots of variations and dialects. The Grant/Starzec book (which is part of the ACBL Bridge Series) is probably "more standard", but I think that newer players are more and more often learning "2/1 Game Forcing" and its arguable that its slightly more artificial system is actually easier for new players (because it quickly sorts many hands into "Game forcing" and "Not").

There were a few styles of 2/1(which I call "Hardy" style and "Lawrence" style, based on the books), but I think Hardy style is more common. Even Lawrence admits its easier for new players.

(In "Hardy style" a non-jump response in a new suit is 100% forcing to 3NT or higher. In "Lawrence Style" if responder rebids his suit (it can sometimes cancel the force. The "sometimes" is the confusing part).

This book is a cleaner update of Hardy's "Yellow Book" Two Over One Game Force (which I bought at my first "big" bridge tournament an Austin Regional). The Yellow book's organization is weird in that it doesn't cover the bids in natural order. Opener's rebids are discussed before responder's first bid (or something like that), which was confusing but later cemented what the system had. The Yellow Book also introduces more conventions than this book.

Who should read this? -- If you want to play club/tournament games, this is a reasonable bidding systems and many of the people at the club will play something similar.

But for bidding, the most important thing is that you and your partner agree, so make sure you read the same book!

Another reasonable candidate is Commonsense Bidding by William Root, and Eric Rodwell and Aubrey Grant have their own Two Over One Game Force (which I haven't read, but is probably good).
 
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4. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Get Hooked
Brian Bankler
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I know the basics, now what?

Once you are hooked there are lots of ways you can go about it. My general strategy is to read every book that looks interesting or good, pretend to absorb the information, fail, then re-read it. Eventually some of it sticks. So -- what to read?

The following entries are in no particular order, but are good for anyone who has a basic grasp of the game ...
 
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5. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Lawrence of Arabia: The Arab Revolt 1917-18
Brian Bankler
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The oeuvre of Mike Lawrence.

Mike Lawrence is good. He has three world championships, oodles of national titles, was a member of the Dallas Aces, etc etc. Once he was in town and one of my partners paid him to teach a session of bridge for three of us. Just playing hands and talking.

It was very expensive and (for me) pretty much a waste. Because he had to calibrate the lesson for all three of us at pretty different levels (I was by far the strongest player) and also ... because I felt like General Patton gazing over the fields with my binoculars screaming about Magnificent Bastards ... "I read your books!"

The first book of his I read (and one of the first few books in bridge) was How to Read Your Opponents Cards and it's a great "your first bridge book once you've got the basics."

That book is an introduction to counting out the hand, using tips from the bidding (and opening leads) to get an idea of where certain cards are, how suits break, etc. In some extreme cases you will know the exact location of every important card before you play to the first trick. But Lawrence also has some examples where counting out the hand tells you nothing, because sometimes that happens too. But counting out a hand is the hallmark that separates the novices (no matter how much experience they have) from the good players.

After that I went through Lawrence's "Complete Book On..." (Takeout Doubles, Contested Auctions, Passed Hand Bidding, Overcalls, Falsecards, Opening Leads, Hand Evaluation) as they were published and they are all excellent. Lawrence is a great player (of course) but also a great explainer and while you'll spring $20 or so for each of those, that three hour course was several thousand dollars, and pretty much every point he'd made I'd already read for the grand total of maybe $200.

Lawrence goes into detail about each topic, while still explaining his thoughts about as clearly as possible. (IMO).

(I do wonder what it would have been like if I'd been the weakest student at the table...).

Also recommended are the books where he just plays through hands and gives his thought processes. These include How to Play Card Combinations (not a full catalog, but gives several standard combinations and some sample hands exploring what he might think about), Play Bridge with Mike Lawrence, Play Swiss Teams with Mike Lawrence, Dynamic Defense. These are just full of random insights, but not categorized like the first set of books.

I just recently read the first two volumes of his Insights on Bridge and they were similar, full of simple problems, and made me realize how rusty I've become during Covid, because I should have gotten all of them right.

I haven't read his "Tips on" series, but I would imagine they are fine. You might want to skip his books in particular bidding systems (or conventions) unless you have an interest in them...

Who should read these books? -- If you are a novice or intermediate player looking to improve, Mike Lawrence is a great starting point.
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6. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Canterbury
Brian Bankler
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The oeuvre of Eddie Kantar.

Eddie Kantar has been presenting problems in book form (and ACBL columns) for something like fifty years. His writing voice (maybe a schtick) is simple and direct, with a few folksy sayings and the occasional "dad joke." Most of his problem solutions say "You play so well" (for getting it right) or a joking chide if you got it wrong.

I highly recommend his play/defense quiz books to players who have a little experience . The problems are approachable and simple enough that even a newer player can have an "A-ha!" moment (either before or after seeing the solution) and learn something.


These include Test Your Bridge Play and Kantar for the Defense, and Take All your Chances at Bridge (each have two volumes), and I think I've owned them all at some point. They are now simple enough that I can get them all mostly right (with a few "oops" tossed in, but haven't tried in a few years. (The trick is getting them right when they aren't presented as a problem). The titles sometimes give away the solution (if you know bridge jargon) so don't read the titles.

Kantar also was "the guy" for defensive books for a while. (Now there are many more), I have an old giant doorstop of a book covering Defense. The more modern version is Kantar Teaches Modern Bridge Defense (and an "Advanced" book). I assume they are good.

He also has books on Declarer play (haven't read) and giant books of "552 bridge tips" (or whatever number). These are just collections of good ideas, the things that you'll pick up as you play but if you are new it can save you a lot of time.

He also wrote Bridge for Dummies.

Finally, Kantar wrote Roman Keycard Blackwood: The Last Word which has gone through edition after edition. I don't (in general) recommend system/convention books to players, because they usually cover the basics and leave out the why and don't go into detail. This goes into insane amounts of detail and is arguably the largest wall of text on a single convention ever (and a great convention). I bought the latest version and read it and decided that even I didn't care enough to incorporate much more than I already played.

There is also a book or two of his collected stories (which are pretty funny) and "treasury of humour" which you can get if you decided you liked it from earlier books. I found a $1 copy or so and skimmed it once.

Who should read these? -- The quiz books are great. His intro to defense books are very close to bibles, so much so that I should have probably put them as one of the first books (breaking up "card play" into two categories.
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7. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Know Your Partner
Brian Bankler
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Partnership Defense at Bridge by Kit Woolsey

Kit Woolsey is an all-around gamer. He's won a world championship at bridge and come close in backgammon. Partnership defense does go over the basics of defense but it emphasizes thinking at the table over rote rules. This book tries to expand the reader's vision from the 26 cards visible (your own and dummies) to try and make sure that you see things from partners point of view. A classic.

Who should read this book? -- First and foremost, your favorite partner. Also you.

Also, Woolsey has been publishing "Kits Korner" (at Bridgewinners.com) for many years. This is the best resource for bridge on the web. Kit places you in a hand and discusses every single option. (You will be using his bidding system and defensive signals, which may not be standard depending on the hand).

https://bridgewinners.com/article/series/kits-korner/
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8. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Go Slow!
Brian Bankler
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The oeuvre of Victor Mollo.

If I could be reincarnated as a famous bridge player, I would be Victor Mollo. While there are undoubtedly better players, and more successful, none had a better life. From his wikipedia page....

Quote:
Mollo's life style was exceptional. He would play rubber bridge at his club each afternoon, enjoy a dinner and wine with his wife, whom he referred to as "The Squirrel", and then work all night until 6 am, when he would take a brief sleep. While Mollo occasionally successfully competed in the major duplicate bridge tournaments, winning four national titles, he preferred rubber bridge. Many of his daily achievements at the rubber bridge table would become elements of fictional stories later in the night.
Apart from "Card Play Technique" (mentioned above), Mollo wrote a number of 'quiz' books that present simple problems (often three to a page, with answers on the following page). Mollo's theme is that while advanced techniques are nice to know, winning at bridge involves nothing more complicated than counting to thirteen. His quiz books drill it into your head.

Of those, I've read Bridge: Case for the Defence and I Challenge You, but there are more.

Mollo is most famous for The Menagerie series of books. These are set in the fictional "Griffins Club" where all of the players are animals, each representing a specific type (or style) of player. The Hideous Hog, Rueful Rabbit, Papa the Greek, the Secretary Bird, Oscar the Owl and others clash at the card table.

(I was tickled to find "Mollo L'escargo!" in the images section).

While you can learn a fair bit from these books, the deals are often eccentricities, there is a mix of high and low technique. But -- apart from inspiring some bridge knowledge -- the books evoke the spirit of the old European Bridge Club (which may have existed at one time, but I've never set foot in one), with H.H. storming through the door like a bond villain in Casino Royale, berating his opponents, and then ordering some wine and cavier from the maitre'd

And they are funny.

Mollo's Menagerie works are simply the best gaming related humour -- of any game -- that I have ever read. I've read maybe a hundred chess books, a dozen books of Go, and titles about dozens of games. Games without luck just seem humorless by comparison, but card games (such as Bridge and Poker) have it because you can "play the player" and swindle them.

As for Mollo's work, because of his excellent writing, you barely need to know any bridge to enjoy them. I've stolen some of Mollo's lines (and colorful insults).

Mollo published five menagerie books in his life and another eight menagerie books were published after his death (previously unpublished articles collected together, and other writers stepped in to add more stories). In general the quality might diminish a bit in the books by "Victor Mollo" (in quotes) and/or "Victor Mollo and Robert King" (or Mark Horton), but honestly until I studied the covers I wasn't 100% sure which of the books I read were joint efforts.

Who should read these? -- Anyone with the slightest interest in bridge should check out the Menagerie series.
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9. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Abbott's New Card Games
Brian Bankler
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The oeuvre of David Bird

If I handed you a random bridge book (pulled out of a bag from all the bridge books ever written) and asked you to guess the author, "David Bird" would be your best guess. He's apparently churned out multiple books a year for a long while, well north of 125.

He's got books on everything.

Bird's probably best known (in the US at least) for his humor series set in St. Titus Monastery (with "The Abbot" taking the role similar to that of the Hideous Hog. They are well written, with good bridge deals. Or he's got "Kosher Bridge" (with Ron Klinger, which I've read a few of), or "Beaten by masters" (at a British boarding school) or "Bachelor Bridge" (the latter written in the swinging seventies and apparently problematic now according to review published in the ACBL Bulletin last year, although again I haven't read it).

Come to think of it, The Abbot goes on a mission to Darkest Africa, and while the joke is that all the "savages" play better than he does (even the Parrot is world class) its still distasteful (even though he clearly meant no harm).

The bridge content is all solid. The jokes are OK, but more of in a "yeah, I guess that's funny" way, unlike Mollo. As such, while I pick up Bird's books if they are cheap, he only occupies a small section of my bookshelf.

Bird also has a number of non-story books just focused on one issue or another like Famous Bridge Disasters and I've read some of them and they are workmanlike, fine and forgettable. Partially his works are often based on British (Acol) bidding (which I don't use), so I haven't really sought out his technical books, but I've acquired a few.

Who should read these? -- You probably already have (if you read bridge books). In general, if the title appeals to you, go for it, but he's not worth seeking out (IMO). Bird has the sort of books that I read once and never re-read.
 
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10. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy's Game of Topper
Brian Bankler
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The two oeuvres of Marty Bergen

Marty Bergen's Partnership with Larry Cowen took the US by storm in the 80s. (So I hear, I wasn't playing tournaments back then). With super light preempts and a partnership built on the Law of Total Tricks (more on that later), Bergen/Cowen won 10 national events in the course of 8 years and the ACBL even passed some laws specifically aimed at reigning them in. (The "Rule of 5 and 5" said you had to have at least five cards and 5 HCP to make a weak two bid in a suit. Sometimes when Bergen didn't meet the requirements for that, he would preempt one level higher).

Marty Bergen's most famous book is Points, Schmoints!, that tried to teach hand evaluation in a simple, friendly way. Its a fine book for newer players (although I personally prefer Lawrence's work) and apparently quite popular, judging from the ton of follow-on books with the same graphic style and "From the author of "Points, Schmoints!" and making sure to get his name into the title, with the "Marty Sez!" series and Declarer Play the Bergen Way.

By the time these came out, I already knew most of what was in it, but they are fine books for newer players. Bergen has a simple but engaging style and tries to make things memorable and explains them well.

But for me Marty Bergen's works are two simple books. Better Bidding with Bergen Volumes 1 and 2, which I read as a younger player. These are full of great and (controversial) ideas at the time when they were published and even when I read them, but many of the ideas that Bergen espoused have taken over and become mainstream. Most important is "We need more ways to support partner." This idea has become mainstream, with "Bergen Raises" being a very popular convention.

(Despite being an early adopter of Bergen Raises, I no longer play them because of a book that will appear later....)

Who should read the Points, Schmoints / Marty Sez (etc) books -- Newer players.

Who should read the BBB series -- These were (IMO) great reading for tournament players 30 years ago, but most of the ideas in them are now mainstream enough that these are of interest, but not necessary. (Also, in general, books on bidding systems are only of interest to people who are really interested in bidding systems .... which I am one, but even among bridge players that's somewhat rare).
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11. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Killing for the Crown
Brian Bankler
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Killing Defense at Bridge by Hugh Kelsey

This is a book in the Master Bridge Series and a true classic. For any book that Kelsey wrote, you'll probably need to be an intermediate to get much from it ... the opening to Killing Defense says "If you don't like counting, turn around and return this book to see if you can get a refund" (paraphrased). But even advanced players can benefit from reading (and re-reading) any Kelsey books. (So I put this in the intermediate section).


Also recommended are More Killing Defense at Bridge, and Advanced Play at Bridge, but definitely start with Killing Defense first.

Who should read this? -- Intermediate players who are up for a challenge.
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12. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Crazy Theory
Brian Bankler
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A section of important theoretical books ....
 
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13. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Match Point
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Matchpoints by Kit Woolsey

Bridge was originally a gambling game for money, but tournaments took over. Total Points (two teams of four playing the same hands) gave way to International Match Points (IMPs), which reduces the value of slams (particularly after matches were won or lost based on if a finesse failed in a slam).

But most club games (and quite a bit of tournament games) use Matchpoints -- If you sit N/S in a game with 13 tables, each hand will be played 13 times and your score will be compared to each of the other 12 N/S pairs. For each pair you beat, you get a point on that board (for each pair you tie, 1/2 a point).

Which means that some things that would be ludicrous in a game of rubber (or IMP) bridge, are routine. Would you risk 500 points for a 70% chance of gaining an extra 10? You should. (But there are times you shouldn't, of course). Woolsey goes into the weeds (in a good way) about how to understand and exploit the scoring system.

I bought a second copy when it was reprinted and updated.

Who should read this? -- Anyone who plays matchpoint games seriously
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14. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Point Of Law
Brian Bankler
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To Bid or Not to Bid: The LAW of Total Tricks &
Following the LAW:The Total Tricks Sequel by Larry Cohen

As mentioned in the entry on Marty Bergen, his partnership with Larry Cohen is based on the Law of Total Tricks (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_total_tricks), which states The total number of tricks available on a deal is equal to the total number of trump cards both sides hold in their respective best suits, where the total number of tricks is defined as the sum of the number of tricks available to each side if they could choose trumps.

So, for example if N/S have 8 hearts between them and E/W have 8 spades, there are 16 total tricks. Perhaps N/S can make 2 hearts (8 tricks) and E/W can make 2 spades (+8 tricks,=16). Or perhaps N/S have many more points and they can make 4 hearts (10 tricks) while E/W would only take 6 tricks in spades (16).

"The LAW" has implications in bidding. Bergen covered this in the Better Bidding with Bergen series, but only bidding nerds read it. Cohen's book (and sequel) were aimed squarely at the mainstream of tournament players, and were hugely influential. I believe this book (and not B.B.B.) that popularized Bergen Raises (where you make a jump bid that forces you to the three level with four trumps, no matter if you just have six HCP, because "The LAW" says that even if you go down it will likely be a good result, because your opponents could make a two level contract).

Now, Cohen is quite aware that the law is not perfect (the second book goes into warning signs that that it may be wrong), but he apparently still gets plenty of people who show him hands where it didn't work to ask him what happened.

Who should read this? -- If you want a simple summary of the Law of Total Tricks, by all means. But the popularity of this book means that all of the ideas in it have permeated into the mainstream. This book is kind of the bridge equivalent of "The Secret" ... it gives you that one true trick that will improve your life. It's not a total scam (Bergen and Cohen are great players, and they really did run over a bunch of people by building a bidding system around the LAW) but its written like it. It's a very fast read, as well.

The sequel does have a good amount of detail and discussion that many players never really understood. Both books are cheap pick ups, too, since they were so widely printed.
 
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15. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Gunman's Law
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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I Fought The Law of Total Tricks by Mike Lawrence and Anders Wirgen.

When I say that Cohen popularized the Law ... I could have said "evangelized" and it would have maybe not even been hyperbole. If they had called it "The handy guideline of total tricks" it would have been correct, but not sold a zillion copies. But -- much like the game Titan doesn't have rules, it has LAW -- the LAW of total tricks was a catchy name.

So a nerdy little holy war sprung up.

Of Mike Lawrence, I have spoken. Anders Wirgen was a Swedish expert who decided to try and come up with a better law. This book is the result, and I think succeeded in demonstrating a better law.

"I think" because I've read the book several times (years apart) and followed it and then after I've put it down the "new law" vanishes from my mind. Its a formula with Short Suit Totals and something. All of the examples of showing where the LAW didn't work I retain, but I also got that from the second volume of the Cohen book.

Unlike Lawrence's solo works, this book is somewhat of a mess. Which is a shame, because I happen to think it is also correct and I've incorporated the easy parts into my system (I no longer play Bergen raises unless my partner insists, and my more theoretically minded partners have read this book and do not). But I wish I could retain more of this. I should re-re-re-read it, I guess, but mostly what I got out of this is "The Law is wrong more often than right, but it is within a trick more often than not."

Who should read this? -- Only Bridge Theory geeks (with a better memory than me, ideally). But be aware of it's existence.
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16. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Advanced Civilization
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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The following section of books are advanced. Players who could win a club game from time to time will find these books difficult, but you can learn from them.
 
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17. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: The Sherlock Files: Elementary Entries
Brian Bankler
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The Rodwell Files by Eric Rodwell and Marc Horton.

Eric Rodwell is one of the greatest players to ever live. Five pairs have one the triple crown of bridge (and one has since been caught cheating). Eric Rodwell won with Jeff Meckstroth (together known as "Meckwell") have dominated bridge for decades. Rodwell has won fifty-seven national events ...

When I learned bridge I was taught you needed 26 HCP to make game. Later this was down to 25. A commentator broadcasting a high-level match with Meckwell once-joked that they considered having the full 25 'unsporting' and would routinely get to 3 NT with 22 or 23. And then make it.

This book is Rodwell's guide to advanced card play. The first few dozen pages cover all the basics of Card Play Technique (or any other book) as a refresher, and then it's onto Rodwell's thought process.

Helpfully, Rodwell gives these techniques catchy names, but be assured, this is a difficult book for near experts. Counting is assumed. Inferential counting is assumed. Despite what Mollo says there is at the highest level a fair bit of math.

Rodwell also includes "Defogging questions" (mental checklists for what to do if you get stuck) and a bunch of tips.

I re-read it every year or so, and I wish that more of it would stick. If you want to be a great player, this is a must have.

Who should read this? -- Aspiring experts.
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18. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Test of Fire: Bull Run 1861
Brian Bankler
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Test Your Card Play Vols 1-4, Test Your Matchpoint Play, (etc) by Hugh Kelsey

Kelsey quiz books are hard. As a player with a few years experience I got these and pretty much missed all of them. Now I might get some. If you can consistently get these right, you are a very good bridge player. As such, these are great books to learn from, as you'll pick up advanced techniques by osmosis (when you read the answers).

Who should read this -- Players up for a challenge.
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19. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Supremacy: High-Tech Edge for Conventional Forces
Brian Bankler
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Books about Bidding Conventions ....

(The picture is from the Supremacy expansion -- The High Tech Edge for Conventional Forces. And yes, I owned that).

These books aren't necessarily advanced (some of them are) but they are more specialized than the earlier books, hence their own section.

In general, these are only for tournament players. I am a system/convention geek so I get these books, but for the most part don't recommend them. I enjoy books that go into great detail.

What I do warn against are books that explain the "How" of a system but don't really go into the weeds about "why" and deal with follow ups. (If I were to teach a class at the local club, it would be "Better Bidding With Brian -- Understanding the systems you already play." I think I've written an article about how to evaluate a bridge convention several times, but I can't find it right now). But in any case, unless you are an intermediate player (and even some very strong ones) learning a new convention is like being handed a hand-grenade with 20 pins, half of which are duds. It could be very useful, if you ever figure it out.

Or it may have twenty five pins.

Twenty-five Bridge Conventions you should know by Barbra Seagram and Marc Smith is a prime example of the problem my class would solve. There is nothing wrong with the conventions given in the book, but Mike Lawrence spends a book on takeout doubles. Seagram/Smith cover them in 10 pages. Negative doubles are even harder. Honestly half the book is basic systems stuff and not really even conventional even when it was written.

There's nothing wrong with the information in there, and if you want a handy single reference its not bad, but a bit of googling will get you a roughly similar level of understanding for any convention you may wish to name.

The second book (Twenty-five More ... picks more obscure things and a few really useful ideas like Italian cue-bidding, but also a lot of stuff that's fairly obcure and low utility.

Who should read this? -- People bewildered after their first time playing in a club. This book is clearly written for the "four players around the kitchen table" who may have invented their own bidding system.
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20. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Off Topic
Brian Bankler
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San Antonio
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Eric Rodwell's Bidding Topics (two volumes) by Eric Rodwell.

In "Meckwell", Rodwell is the bidding theorist.

I picked up his two volumes on conventions just because the Rodwell files is a great book, not really expected to learn much because they covered bread and butter conventions that I've played for years (or decades).

Rodwell goes into such great detail that I learned a few new twists and tricks. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the player who invented Support Doubles (just to name one section), who is also one of the greatest players to ever live, has though about them more deeply.

Each chapter starts with the basics, discusses when the convention applies, and then layers on more and more detail. These are what convention books should be. The conventions presented are the type that are generally useful and common. (Exclusion Keycard Blackwood is probably the one you least need, because it shows up very rarely ... but is incredibly valuable when it does).

Who should read this? -- Tournament players or people who really want to understand the nuances of the conventions covered. Volume II is much more advanced that Volume I. Because of the detail each book only covers eight or so conventions.
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21. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Etc.
Brian Bankler
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This is the section for individual books that I haven't mentioned elsewhere....
 
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22. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Don't Be A Loser
Brian Bankler
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Why You Lose at Bridge by S.J. Simon.

Probably the first great bridge book (written during WWII) was by the British Expert (and one of the primary developers of the Acol bidding system) S. J. Simon. The book is dated, but primarily aimed at casual rubber players. While the bidding is dated (and British), the book is still relevant as it introduces a number of psychological ideas that still apply today.

Some of them don't apply to club players (who do not play with randomly cut partners), but the idea that you shouldn't make a master bid when playing with a palooka partner is timeless (and translates to other partnership games).

The most novel part was a rubber bridge between four fictional people: Futile Willie, Mrs Guggenheim, Mr Smug and the Unlucky Expert. Despite being only six or seven hands, each player makes numerous mistakes and the rubber is a draw (no money changing hands). Simon then replaces each player with a random solid player, who is not allowed to make any brilliant plays (like the Expert) but doesn't make any ugly mistakes. In all cases the solid player wins.

The sequel (Cut For Partner) is less widely known, but OK. No doubt if Simon hadn't died in '48 he would have written much more.

My father-in-law (who I never saw play bridge) had a copy of this on his bookshelf for years.

Who should read this? -- Simon's book is dated, but the advice is solid.
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23. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Psychological Warfare
Brian Bankler
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Master of Bridge Psychology by Jeppe Juhl with Peter Fredin

I'd never heard of Peter Fredin before this book, but its a great read. Fredin seems like an odd duck and hosts a high stakes money game out of his apartment in Malmo ("The Balcony"), and while he (like any international calibre player) has an expert-level technique he's also pulled off stunning plays making unmakeable contracts. In particularly, he's quite good at playing his cards to provide his (often expert) opponents with an incorrect mental picture and really understands the mistakes they'll make because they can't see his cards. But he "dials that up to 11" by forcing them to commit early.

After 30 years of playing I intellectually know some of the tricks in the book, but to really see them in use at high level games is great and there were still some shocking card plays and inventive bids.

This book is a master class on false carding, card reading (particularly highly inferential card reading), and a huge bag of tricks. His chapter of tips at the end was full of newish ideas to me. However, Fredin himself comes across as a jerk at times (one chapter is called "A Controversial Player," and that may be sugar-coating). That may put you off.

Who should read this? -- Players interested in brilliant coups and how to pull them off. You'll need a good foundation in card reading to get this (in some of the problems I correctly placed the cards, but had no idea how to make the hand after that...)
 
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24. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Computer Rage
Brian Bankler
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The Principle of Restricted Talent and other Bridge Stories by Danny Kleinmann and Nick Straguzzi

This book is (IMO) the only thing has come close to de-throning Mollo as the king of bridge comedy. These stories follow the exploits of Chthonic, the bridge playing robot, capable of destroying any human at the bridge table who then mercilessly mocks them (usually in the voice of George Sanders, but willing to use Daffy Duck or whatever audio file he has handy), and then complains bitterly about humanity. He's also working on a plan to exile us all to the moon, but is thankfully not really competent at anything except bridge and sarcasm.

(The Principle of Restricted Talent is a joke about The Principle of Restricted Choice (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_restricted_choice), which deals with card positioning. Chthonic's theory deals with humanity's poor reasoning skills. Also, one of the funny things about these stories and one of the reasons bridge is so fun is that sometimes the theoretically better play fails and the stupid simple play works. That's partially why Chthonic is so angry).

Kleinman also wrote a very good book of advice "given by Chthonic to humanity" which has one of the best titles of any book in bridge, gaming, or even general non-fiction...

Human Bridge Errors: Volume One of Infinity

Some of Kleinmann's advice is iconoclastic, but its is always interesting.

Who should read these -- The deals can be followed by intermediate players, although they were written to entertain readers for The Bridge World (a magazine definitely aimed at experts). Human Bridge Errors is aimed at intermediates.
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25. Board Game: Bridge [Average Rating:7.45 Overall Rank:715]
Board Game: Mental Blocks
Brian Bankler
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Gaining the Mental Edge at Bridge by Kim Frazer

Kim Frazer is an international player who was also an olympic-level shooter (for Australia). This book isn't really about bridge so much as about applying sports psychology to games (although the game is -- of course -- bridge). She talks about match preparation, addressing mental errors, nutrition, etc.

I decided to attempt to apply some of these techniques to videogames! (and bridge).

Who should read this? -- If this sounds interesting ...
 
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