Tom Beukema Points the Way to Better Bridge
At 9:30 every Tuesday morning since mid-May, anywhere from 6 to 15 bridge players have taken their places in the Petoskey Duplicate Bridge Club library for a half hour to learn how to make their game better.
They've studied hand evaluation and opening leads, constructive and competitive bidding. Last week they finished a second session on slam bidding.
Leading the weekly class is Tom Beukema, a long-time player and frequent volunteer for a variety of club activities. Other members have given the free classes in the past, most recently Lynne Parker, who stopped when she moved to Alabama in the spring.
Tom has adopted a very systematic approach, focusing on what the students say they would like to learn next. Interestingly, he says, they have wanted to talk about ethics in duplicate play along with
more predictable interest in preemptive bids and defensive signals.
Tom has been an avid and very successful bridge player from early on. "I learned the mechanics of bridge kibitzing my mother and her friends on rainy days, when I couldn't play tennis!"
His first bridge book was a 20-page summary written by Charles Goren that he studied on a train trip to the Rose Bowl in the 60's. His mother then gave him "Five Weeks to Winning Bridge", which he recalls as a great primer that got him so interested in the game that his grades suffered that semester.
So if you are interested in learning the Law of Total Tricks or the Rule of 11 or other useful ways to step your game up, plan on dropping in Tuesday mornings, just like the other smart players who are Tom's devoted regulars.
Tom Beukema's List of Worthwhile Bridge Books
Several of you have expressed an interest in a reading list. Outstanding! The best way to improve your game consists of reading and studying writings that focus on 1 or more aspects of the most challenging - and best! - of all card games.
There are thousands of bridge books, most of them doubtlessly worthwhile. I've read perhaps 200 of them over 40 yrs. In preparation for our classes, I've re-read at least parts of many of them. Unless they're out of print (doubtful), all the suggested titles should be available through Baron Barclay Bridge Supplies or The Bridge World, a great monthly magazine – although more oriented towards experienced players.
By the way, are you studying the articles for newer, intermediate, & even more advanced players each month in ACBL's Bridge Bulletin? If not, please start! Also, most months there are reviews of recently published books & software, well worth reading.
The following list I selected with 2 factors in mind: (1) they cover the subject very well & (2) they're generally oriented towards less experienced players. As I rarely buy bridge books any more, most of these are older, but definitely worth reading. Of course, some newer books will surely cover the subjects at least as well.
ACBL, The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge: This costs a pretty penny, but it includes great short entries (a couple of paragraphs up to several pages) re any bridge subject you can think of, and then some. The longest entry, “Suit Combinations”, alone makes this a book worth having. I have the 4th edition; the latest is the 7th or 8th.
Bidding and Play Combined
Sheinwold, Alfred, 5 Weeks to Winning Bridge: I cut my eye teeth on this one. It came out some 60 yrs ago, still considered a classic.
Rubens, Jeff, The Secrets of Winning Bridge: Another oldie but goody. It covers bidding more than play & includes some important info re hand evaluation.
Hayden (now Truscott), Dorothy, Bid Better, Play Better: An insightful, entertaining book which explains some expert practices in an understandable manner. Unfortunately, I no longer have this book.
Kelsey, Hugh, How To Improve Your Bridge: Originally titled Improve Your Bridge, this consists of several chapters each focused on common types of errors (e.g, bidding on misfits, over-finessing). Warning: Kelsey uses a free-wheeling, 4-card major British system “ACOL”, but that's not really an issue.
Reese, Terence, & Roger Trezel, The Mistakes You Make at Bridge: Also ACOL-oriented, similar to the Kelsey book, albeit covered in a different way. One or the other should be in your bridge library.
Klinger, Ron, 100 Winning Bridge Tips: A great book for the bathroom. I guarantee that you'll learn something from at least 85 of the tips, if not all 100.
Bidding (not books re systems, because little re conventions)
Lawrence, Mike, The Complete Book of Hand Evaluation: Although not truly “complete”, this is 1 book I strongly urge you to buy, borrow, or steal.
Lawrence, Mike, Judgment at Bridge: I no longer have this book, either; but I recall how much I learned. It might include a section on play &/or defense.
Reese, Terence, Develop Your Bidding Judgment: Again dated & ACOL-oriented, this book closely covers some 75 bidding decisions with broadly applicable implications.
Morehead, Albert, Morehead on Bidding: Another classic that 1st came out some 60 years ago. It covers bidding theory (don't worry, not that hard to follow) better than any other book i've read, in large part because that was Morehead's intent.
Bergen, Marty, Points, Shmoints: I borrowed this book but never bought it. It covers some important aspects of hand evaluation (among other topics). It's relatively recent, published (I think) some 10-15 yrs ago. There's also More Points, Shmoints.
Lawrence, Mike, The Complete Book on Overcalls: This work really covers the subject; but Lawrence's approach, although reflecting the consensus of expert practice, might not appeal to you.
Lawrence, Mike, The Complete Book on Balancing: A must for anyone who's uncertain re the subtleties of balancing, which reflects expert practices. Quick example: in pass-out seat 1NT shows 10+-14 HCP. Of course, your partnership might choose a different range, but Lawrence's range is what any fairly good player would expect.
Lawrence, Mike, The Complete Book on Takeout Doubles: This expands on an important subject typically given short shrift in most bidding books.
Ewen, Robert, Doubles for Takeout, Penalties, & Profit: A great book on an important subject. I know some more recent books cover the same subject, probably just as well.
Cohen, Larry, To Bid or Not To Bid: This is, I think, the 1st effort to explain the “'Law' of Total Tricks”. The most important parts detail adjustments to “total trick” count, which we'll cover in the near future. In the last chapter he concedes, c\ examples, that the “Law” isn't infallible.
Klinger, Ron, & Andrew Kambites, Understanding Slam Bidding: Easily the best book i've read re this important subject, c\ an emphasis on evaluating slam prospects. It has a chapter on key-card Blackwood.
Kearse, Amalya, Bridge Conventions Complete: Another borrowed book (here in this room, by the way), it explains all the prevailing conventions – as of then - quite thoroughly. There are some more recent books of a similar nature.
Declarer (or Dummy) Play
Root, William, How To Play a Bridge Hand: An award-winning primer for newer & less experienced plays, strongly recommended. Each chapter covers a particular aspect.
Stewart, Frank, Winning Bridge for the Advancing Player: A bit less comprehensive & more challenging than Root's book, but c\ more emphasis on thinking processes.
Kantar, Eddie, Test Your Bridge Play (vols 1 & 2): I only have vol 2 but assume they're similar. If you get this book, study each deal 1 @ at time. The 1st time through you'll be doing well to find the winning line 50% of the time. 6 months later, perhaps during a blizzard, do them again. You're capable of scoring 90% the 2nd time.
Kantar, Eddie, Take All Your Chances at Bridge (vols 1 & 2): Similar to Test Your Bridge Play, but with several more challenging deals & an emphasis on evaluating different ways to play the dummy to maximize your chances of success. By the way, all of Kantar's books are filled c\ wit & light-heartedness, making them a joy to read.
Lawrence, Mike, How to Read Your Opponent's Cards: This book focuses on working out the opponent's distribution & placing key cards based on the bidding & play.
Reese, Terence, & Roger Trezel, Those Extra Chances at Bridge: This very short book - relatively speaking - & the 1 that follows, are 2 of a series that focus on specific aspects of dummy play (& sometimes defense). Both the listed titles cover key aspects of declarer play which reflect the need to plan the play as far ahead as possible.
Reese, Terence, & Roger Trezel, When To Duck, When To Win at Bridge: This book explains how ducking/winning decisions address both keeping a given opponent off (or on) lead & maintaining declarer-dummy transportation.
Reese, Terence, Play Bridge with Reese: This “over-the-shoulder” approach to almost card-by-card play of some 75 deals dramatizes how experts – or any player who understands the principles & applies them c\ focus – formulates & carries out a plan.
Lawrence, Mike, How to Play Card Combinations: Somewhat similar to Reese's book, this one looks @ several card combinations (e.g, A-x opposite Q-x, or K-10-x opposite x-x-x) & @ how 1 should play them in the context of the entire deal.
Root, William, How to Defend a Bridge Hand: An award-winning primer for newer & less experienced players, strongly recommended. Each chapter covers a particular aspect. Where have you read that before – recently!?
Stewart, Frank, Winning Defense for the Advancing Player: A bit less comprehensive & more challenging than Root's book, but c\ more emphasis on thinking processes. Again, sound familiar? In this case, however, each chapter also covers a particular aspect.
Kantar, Eddie, Complete Defensive Bridge Play: Another outstanding book for less experienced players. However, there's a lot of skipping back & forth several pp between quizzes & answers; & the font & format render it physically harder to read.
Ewen, Robert, Opening Leads: This is 1 of 2 outstanding books on the subject.
Lawrence, Mike, Opening Leads: This is the other. Again, more recent books on the subject have been published, but I haven't read them.
Lawrence, Mike, Dynamic Defense: Another excellent “over-the-shoulder” book.
Kantar, Eddie, Kantar for the Defense (vols 1 & 2): Similar to Test Your Bridge Play (previous page). Both series feature interim questions to consider before you get to the critical choice, a very desirable approach.
Kelsey, Hugh, Killing Defense at Bridge (also More Killing Defense). Especially the 1st book was an instant classic when it 1st appeared; but both are more oriented towards fairly advanced players.
Declarer Play & Defense (combined)
Mollo, Victor, and Nico Gardener, Card Play Technique: This book combines most of the key ideas found in those in the previous 2 sections (above), but it looks at each aspect from a declarer's, then a defender's, perspective. In some editions you have to go to the back of the book to find the answers to the quizzes in each chapter, a hassle.
Klinger, Ron, Playing to Win at Bridge: Not as well organized as the Mollo/Gardener book, but more directed at less experienced players – at least to start. The first section has less challenging deals, & they get progressively more difficult in the later sections.
Karpin, Fred, Winning Play at Contract Bridge: Strategy at Trick 1: This book focuses on play to the 1st trick from each player's perspective, c\ an emphasis on consideration of trick 1 play in the context of the entire deal. He can get pretty wordy.
Miles, Marshall, All 52 Cards: Although oriented towards relatively advanced players, this book is considered a classic in learning how to draw inferences from both bidding and play. It's here in this room.
Reese, Terence, Master Play (British title The Expert Game): Also oriented towards more experienced players, this book contains important material re handling certain common situations, for example effective use of trumps by both declarer & defenders. The chapter “Discovery, Assumption, & Concealment” should be a must read.
Lawrence, Mike, Falsecards: Lawrence introduces his book with the warning “DON'T BOTHER WITH THEM” (emphasis his), which particularly applies to deceptive play by defenders (who can fool each other as well as, or instead of, declarer). He then explores situations when falsecards, some mandatory, are more likely to benefit the defenders, starting c\ opening leads. Part 2 looks @ deceptive play be declarer.
Reluctantly I offer the following. I honestly believe that you shouldn't get into them until you've read, understood, & mostly absorbed at least 1 book in each of the above sections. Of course, many of those books include references to matchpoint play.
Kaplan, Edgar, Duplicate Bridge: How to Play, How to Win: Another early favorite which I no longer have, including a section on team events.
Miles, Marshall, How To Win at Duplicate Bridge: This classic delves into the subject more thoroughly than does Kaplan.
Kay, Norman, Sidney Silodor, & Fred Karpin, The Complete Book of Duplicate Bridge: It certainly is, but it's wordy & hard to read & contains (in my opinion) too many deals played by experts that don't always apply to the point being made.
Kelsey, Hugh, Match Point Bridge: Like most of Kelsey's books – How To Improve Your Bridge (p.1, above) is an exception – this one is more oriented towards better players. However, it has an important focus on “par” (the expected score if everyone played perfectly) & the need to consider par on each deal. It also looks closely at how certain events (e.g, an unusually good or bad lead) should impact subsequent decisions.