The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Recent Readings

I’ve gotten a lot of game-related books, so I figured I’d mention them.

Bridge

I have most of Mike Lawrence’s “Complete Book of X,” but didn’t have Overcalls. This was just reprinted last year, and updated, so that made it a no-brainer. Lawrence is a bridge instructor whose writings work well across a wide range of skill levels. (Meaning, I thought I understood the books when I read them 20 years ago, and I still get something out of them now). Interestingly, the modern methods section (new for this edition) seems reasonable, for the most part non-conventional, and I don’t think I’ve run into a single pair playing it. None of Lawrence’s books are for casual players, although there are a few ideas you can implement even with no partnership agreements (in particular, identifying death traps). It helps to have just re-read Hand Evaluation recently, since he spreads a lot of those ideas in his other books, but it’s good to have them called out.

For the technical play side, I just picked up Kelsey on Squeeze Play, a four-volume collection of work. As readers know, I’ve been stubbornly trying to find these at the table, and going through volume 1 (Simple Squeezes), I easily solve these … not at the table. To be fair, I did find a squeeze for a second overtrick while playing online this week. (If we had bid the slam, the squeeze would have made it). However, a simple finesse would have worked, too. (I think the squeeze was the superior play, in that it catered to the Queen being offside or doubleton, but I was mainly just playing for the squeeze). These aren’t as hard as they sound (or as exotic as Jeff’s articles), but again, probably not for any but the serious player.

Go — I picked up a dozen or so books at a charity auction. Unlike Bridge, I harbor no illusions that I’ll ever be good, but I played semi-seriously for a few years back in the 90s, and I’ve read a lot of go. But that mainly reminds me of Jamie Lee Curtis’s line to Kevin Kline in Fish Called Wanda. I now have a complete collection of  the “Learn to Play Go” series. If you already know how to play, you can easily skip the first few volumes (although I haven’t read IV and V). But it’s a good library book if you are interested. The Intermediate Power Builder series is based on a Chinese TV series for amatuers. (I have 200 channels of TV, and I can’t think of a single instructional show for any game … not even poker! Amazing. If someone put Caro’s Book of Tells on the discovery channel, I think you’d get reasonable ratings. And how much would it cost to produce these? Hell, the ACBL (or AGA, or USCF) could probably sponsor a TV show. I wonder if there are bridge lectures on youtube? (Well, I found a few videos, not sure if there are any lessons, but I did see several “Duplicate Bridge” items).

Anyway, the Intermediate Power Builder series makes me think I understand basic positional play, as long as I’m holding the book. Honestly, Go’s contradiction for me is that the positional play is so damn unintuitive. (The tactical play is complex, as well, but that’s no more intriguing than Chess). I went to a lecture at the Pittsburgh Go Club (on CMU’s campus) where they were going over a master game. After some move, one other amatuer asked the lecturer (around 2 dan, IIRC), “Well, why not one space over?” He hemmed and hawed, and asked a grad student (later described as “Possibly a professional player in a few years, but he promised his family he’d get his PhD first”). The grad student walked up and said “Because of this variation” and slapped down ~12 moves on the board. I’ve still never met someone who could routinely explain Go positional balance to a non-master. But if you want to pretend to know this stuff, this is a reasonable series.

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Written by taogaming

February 6, 2010 at 11:36 am

Posted in Bridge, Misc

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. For some reason, Kelsey’s books on squeezes never worked for me; I much prefer Bird’s Bridge Squeezes for Everyone. Of course, I like Bird’s Bridge books in general, and his Bridge fiction in particular…

    Joe Huber

    February 7, 2010 at 10:27 pm


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