Sunday, April 13, 2014

Right through the pack

Over Spring break, we made a family trip to the Pacific Northwest.  We spent one rainy afternoon in Portland immersed in Powell's World of Books, the largest used book store in the world or something close to it.  It's a Portland institution.

We went into the store as a family of four, but in a couple of minutes, we had all dispersed.  The wife went to the pottery section.  The daughter took down every knitting book in the store looking for cool animal-pattern hats.  The son made a beeline to origami books.  And me?  I went looking to see what books they had on card games.

For the most part, the used bridge book selection was terrible -- their buyer must not play bridge.  There were really dated books on Kaplan-Sheinwold and the like.  Among the dated books was a paperback with a publication date of 1947 with an introduction by Ely Culbertson. The bidding on a deal I saw had the dealer opening 1S holding 4 spades and 5 (much better) hearts. I was replacing the book on the shelf when the blurb on the front cover caught my attention.

"Rated one of the top three bridge books in a 1984 ACBL survey!", the book proclaimed. A 1947 book that people remembered 37 years later?  That piqued my curiosity and I started to read the first chapter. It seemed very weird, and definitely not likely to be rated best of anything. So, I flipped over to a middle chapter and started reading the chapter.  And was immediately hooked.

It is an awesome, awesome book.  The bridge deals are amazing and the writing crystal clear. They are mostly run-of-the-mill hands, but the depth is incredible.  Darvas and de Hart manage to capture the ineluctable beauty of card play, The stories are cute and the illustrations charming. How could I have not heard of Right Through The Pack before?  Forget Victor Mollo who gets repetitive after a couple of stories.  Robert Darvas never bores you.  Every story is different.

This was by far the most entertaining bridge book I have ever read.  If you have not read Robert Darvas' classic, run thee off to a bookstore and get thyself a copy.

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