Lively and approachable field guide to the daunting challenges of contract bridge.
Joining the ranks of the country’s 25 million bridge players, magazine writer McPherson begins his education in a small classroom of 12 eccentric neophytes led by Manhattan Bridge Club co-owner and self-proclaimed “teacher to the stars” Jeff Bayone. Soon after, the author is quizzing lifetime professional Michael Polowan on his success secrets. As McPherson’s own game steadily improves, so does his luck in acquiring a compatible (and enduring) gaming partner, 83-year-old Tina. Over the course of 16 months, the author learns the “tricks” of the game, including the private language of codes and signals shared between partners. He soon becomes a member of the American Contract Bridge League, chasing tournaments from Kansas City to London. (Wryly detailed accounts of his travels mostly compensate for the hokey human-interest pieces and lackluster play-by-plays.) McPherson interviews a 19-year-old bridge champion and partners with a 93-year-old grandmother. He also spotlights bridge-playing celebrities: Warren Buffett, Wilt Chamberlain, Omar Sharif and Bill Gates are among those known to get in on the action both online and at live tables. Alternating extensive gaming history with oddball personality profiles, McPherson’s text underscores the major and minor intricacies of a game known for its “mentally-taxing” complications. His presentation, by contrast, is accessible, chatty and unintimidating.
A unique primer for hardcore enthusiasts.