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They say ‘never judge a book by its cover’. Certainly not this one, where the cover illustration depicts a gormless looking individual down a mineshaft, reverentially doffing his cap to a weird 3NT sign painted on a lump of rock, with an air of what Reese used to call ‘foolish expectancy’.
And just to reassure the reader that the subject will be treated in depth, there is an adjacent picture of a diver with a torch that doesn’t work, flailing around trying to illuminate a couple of brilliantly shining light bulbs. I must say the symbolism escapes me, but if both characters feel the need to go down in order to pay homage to the 3NT contract, let’s hope they don’t therefore do likewise when they declare it!
The book is divided into two sections, each differing from the other in just about every respect. The first half deals with specialized bidding methods employed to help you reach the optimum 3NT. The second with play and defence in this contract. The main differences are: target audience, stylistic approach, and clarity, of which the first is the most significant. As for entertainment value, the writing is certainly not dull, and has a few nice light touches, but the emphasis is on hard work and heavy instruction.
The first half: bidding: will be of value to a very limited readership, namely top Club/ tournament partnerships who can agonise jointly over it for many hours, and agree which of the numerous methods, treatments, conventions and weird gadgets to adopt. Studying the text solo is pointless, except perhaps to satisfy curiosity.
The style is quite attractive – a dialogue between teacher and student. This has become a fairly popular method of instruction and is some small aid to clarity in what is otherwise a difficult and in principle confusing subject. Want to know the difference between a ‘one tell full stopper non game forcing ask’ and a ‘two tell half stopper game forcing cue’? I thought not.
On to the second section. What a relief! This is an excellent, well thought out, crystal clear exposition, which, if mastered by its target audience of ‘average to good’ Club players, will transform their understanding of this immensely important aspect of the game. Think how often 3NT appears on your card. Leave out beginners/improvers obviously. Below average Club players have more basic matters to attend to. Top Club/ tournament players might enjoy treating the text as one extended quiz, working out the plays before reading the analysis. They should score 80%+.
Apparently the author is a gifted concert pianist in addition to his bridge talents. No doubt his musical repertoire encompasses both Stockhausen and Bach.