February 16th, 2011 ~ Jessica Mifsud ~ 12 Comments
Releasing next month: Victor Mollo’s “The Hog Takes to Precision”, a collection of hard-to-find and never-before-published in book form Menagerie stories. We thought we’d share a selection from Bridge World editor Mark Horton’s introduction to the book. Each of the Menagerie’s characters has their own distinct personality and playing style. Which one are you most like?
“The Hog Takes to Precision” will be available in March in North America, and in April overseas. Residents of the United States may now pre-order a copy from Amazon.com. The PDF ebook is also now available from www.ebooksbridge.com!
The Bridge in the Menagerie series started with the book of the same name, first published in 1965. Most of the pieces had previously appeared in either Bridge Magazine or The Bridge World and that pattern was repeated in the works that followed. Mollo was recognized as ‘the most entertaining writer of the game’ in a poll among American players in the 1980s. Although duplicate bridge features from time to time, the books largely focus on entertaining events at a rubber bridge table in the Griffins Club. Many of the characters are nicknamed after the animals that they most resemble both physically and psychologically, and that caricature common archetypes of real-life bridge players.
Mollo often refers to the main characters by their initials. They include:
‘Please, please partner, let me play the hand. I assure you that it’s in your own interest.’
Much the best player and the biggest bully, aptly named the Hideous Hog. Regarded as a genius, he cannot understand why he is so grossly underrated. His greatest rival is:
‘The essence of bridge is to see through the backs of the cards.’
Themistocles Papadopoulos — Papa the Greek — who alone among the Griffins challenges the Hog’s supremacy. A fine technician, intuitive, so subtle is Papa that he can falsecard with a singleton. And he always knows what everyone will do — except that the Hog usually does something else.
‘Again everything has happened to me.’
Karapet Djoulikyan, the Free Armenian (Karapet the Unlucky), is without doubt the unluckiest mortal since Job. He has come to expect the worst and is rarely disappointed. Worse still, no Griffin these days will listen to his hard luck stories, and one or two have even had the temerity to tell him their own.
‘One gets used to abuse. It’s waiting for it that is so trying.’
The Rueful Rabbit is gentle, generous, always ready to help — more especially his opponents. The Rabbit used to think of himself as the second-worst player in the world. But that was before he met the Toucan. R.R. rarely knows what he is doing or why he is doing it, but hovering over him is the best Guardian Angel in the business, and every time R.R. does something outrageously idiotic the Angel waves a magic wand and the ugly duckling turns into a bird of paradise.
‘Perhaps I should have ruffed that heart with my king.’
Timothy the Toucan owes his nickname to a long red nose and a disconcerting habit of bouncing in his chair. Longing for affection, the Toucan tries to ingratiate himself with one and all by admitting every mistake before he makes it. Technically, he is in the same class as R.R. and W.W.
‘I had twenty I tell you, half the points in the pack.’
Walter the Walrus, a retired accountant since early youth, is an outstanding exponent of the Milton Work Count. Brought up on points and percentages, he espouses in bridge the philosophy of Molière’s doctors, firmly believing that it is more honorable to land in the wrong contract with adequate values than to reach the right one without them.
‘Respect for the Laws is the basis of civilized society.’
The Emeritus Professor of Bio-Sophistry, commonly known as the Secretary Bird, knows the laws backwards and would sooner invoke them against himself than not invoke them at all. Opponents dislike him. Partners fear him. Nobody loves him.
‘Do you mean that non-vulnerable you would have made fewer tricks?’
Colin the Corgi, a facetious young man from Oxbridge, bites and snaps and rarely troubles to hide his contempt for lesser players. Still lacking in experience, he has all the makings of a future master.
‘Thank you Professor, thank you very much.’
Charlie the Chimp is an inveterate chatterbox, interested in every deal except the one he is playing. He likes the inquest on every deal to continue through the next one. This greatly confuses the Rabbit, but then so does everything else.
‘Curious hand. Both sides can make Four Hearts.’
Oscar the Owl is the most respected figure at the Griffins. The Senior Kibitzer, he is a stern disciplinarian and demands the highest standards in manners and decorum. As Chairman of the Monster Points and Ethics Committees he insists that no partner, not even the Toucan, should be abused or vilified until the deal is over. He frowns on all sharp practice, even when there’s no other way to make or break a contract.
‘A technician is a man who knows exactly what to do the moment he has done something else.’
Peregrine the Penguin is Oscar’s opposite number at the Unicorn, where the Griffins play duplicate on Thursdays. Precise and somewhat pompous, the Penguin is a committee man, as well as an accomplished kibitzer, and helps to award Monster Points.
‘I must make a note of this, a group of men have actually let me have the last word.’
Molly the Mule was the first member of the stronger sex to be admitted to the Griffins. Radiating goodwill to all humankind except the male half, M.M. compensates for her rocky card play with her unshakeability in the post-mortem.
November 17th, 2010 ~ Jessica Mifsud ~ 2 Comments
Kismet Fung is a well-known member of the Edmonton bridge scene, and was also the winner of two silver medals at this year’s World Bridge Championships in Philadelphia. We were lucky enough to squeeze ourselves into Kismet’s busy schedule, and obtain this interview with the Silver Woman herself!
How long have you been playing bridge? What got you into the game in the first place?
“[Kismet] first played with friends in her university days, then joined the Edmonton Bridge Centre after completing her law degree.”
[Editor’s note: To answer this question, Kismet sent us an article from an issue of Edmonton’s “The National Magazine”, a periodical for the legal profession, where she was interviewed about her bridge-playing hobby. She also notes: “The article is now almost 10 years old, but I found it funny how some things are still the same.”]
How long have you been playing competitively?
My first win in the CWTC (Canadian Women’s Team Championships) was in 2002. I also attended the World Championships in 2003. In the last 3 years, I have missed one NABC, but I have played at the CWTC every year since 2005.
Congratulations on your two silver victories at this year’s World Championships! Would you like to tell us a little bit about that experience?
I have never played 15 solid days of bridge without a day off. I found it very grueling. Since I do not play bridge full-time, I found the actual play easier as the week went on because hand patterns and bidding systems became routine as I found my rhythm.
In the Mixed Pairs, we were 30th going into the last session, so a medal was considered remote. Eric Kokish, who saw us at the supper break, commented that we couldn’t have been doing very well because we were eating a full meal in between sessions (i.e. no nerves). It wasn’t until the second last round (and I suspected our game was a smoker) that the cameras were coming around so I knew we were in the hunt.
While there was some disappointment to not win when holding the lead going into the last round, a Silver Medal is a joyous thing, and I learned a lot about the intangibles at the bridge table from my partner Brian Glubok, who is a bridge pro.
The ladies pairs was exhausting… 7 ½ days of bridge. Fortunately there was no carry-over, so before the finals when we were leading going into the last session of the semis, we could take a little bit of a much-needed mental break… it really was about pacing ourselves.
It has only just recently sunk in that I have two world medals; when you are playing, it doesn’t register.
How did you meet your bridge partners, Susan and Brian? What do you think makes these “winning” partnerships for you?
Susan is my best friend. We played on the same team when we won in 2002. After some time off, we decided to try to play together. Our pact is to ensure that we are best friends after every tournament, regardless of the bridge result.
I met Brian at the NABC in Las Vegas when he was playing with Roy Welland. This year, both of my prospective Mixed pairs partners cancelled, so I begged Brian to play with me. He had offered to play with me “some time” and I found the right time to collect on it!
Mike Yuen has called you an “asset to the Edmonton Bridge scene”, and has mentioned your participation in their “Bridge Week” in 2002.Tell us a little bit about Bridge Week and what your role as “event chairperson” involved.
I was Chairperson of Bridge Week 2002 when it came to Edmonton. It was an exhausting week, but I had a lot of help. The City of Edmonton is known for its volunteerism, and the Edmonton Bridge crowd is especially renowned. There was plenty of fundraising done to be able to put on a spread for the participants, and I heard nothing but wonderful comments about Edmonton hospitality.
How do you manage to balance your clearly successful bridge life with a busy work schedule and family obligations?
Work has always been busy, but my kids are now in their 20s … neither live with me. Since I was a single mother with a full time job at one time trying to play bridge, life now is very easy… Work has been very supportive of bridge, allowing me time off with pay to attend World Championships. I also manage my holidays around bridge.
Do your children also play bridge?
Neither of my kids ever learned bridge. I thought school was more important.
What do you enjoy most about the game?
Since the [last interview], I realize that I still love bridge for the attention to mental detail, and the requirement to continuously solve different problems presented to you. I also love the competitive aspect of the game, and the comradery.
What’s next for you? Will you be aiming for gold at the next World Bridge Championships?
I haven’t made any plans for my bridge future. I am going to Orlando for the NABC, but after that will take some time off and see.
October 13th, 2010 ~ Jessica Mifsud ~ 1 Comment
Although the Rosenblum Cup has not quite drawn to a close, we’ve got news on the winner of another game, our very own Philly Contest. The results were really very surprisingly close. Really.
The teams to make the top eight of the Rosenblum Cup were: Zimmerman, Strul, Vito, Diamond, Robinson, Fleisher, Wolfson, and Nickell. The keen observer will notice that more than half of the players on these teams have registered as American, with the remaining few hailing from Italy, Norway, France, Bulgaria, and Israel.
One lone contestant picked Bulgaria, who did not make it past the top eight, and no one selected Israel, from where Ron Pachtman and Eldad Ginossar from team Wolfson hail.
While everyone who entered chose both the USA and Italy, only nine contest entrants managed to pick both Norway and France as well, earning them the most points. These prescient few are:
Wayne Burrows, Howard Chen, Ron Fertig, Peter Gill, Tom Gotard, Prahalad Rajkumar, Dave Smith, Kristian Stegenborg, and Mike Yuen.
If wishes were fishes and correct guesses were dollars, I’d take all the winners out for fish and chips. But since we only have one grand prize, we’ll be sticking to the contest rules and awarding the prize to Kristian Stegenborg, who submitted a winning entry first.
Congratulations to Kristian, and to all the entrants! Your prizes will be en route to you shortly!
October 12th, 2010 ~ Jessica Mifsud ~ 1 Comment
The city of Philadelphia is eagerly awaiting tomorrow, when the Rosenblum Cup Finals will be played out between Team Diamond and Team Wolfson. The bridge world is holding their collective breath… and so are the lucky contestants who entered our Philly Contest last week.
Just for having told us their top five picks for the cup, each entrant will be receiving a $10 gift certificate to eBooksBridge.com. The winner will get a $25 certificate, and a print copy of one of Master Point Press’ three IBPA-award nominated titles, Larry Cohen’s “My Favourite 52″, Mike Lawrence’s “The Complete Book on Overcalls”, or Clyde Love’s “Bridge Squeezes Complete”, which you ought to check out anyway. I mean, if the IBPA thinks they’re good…
Want to know how you’re doing in the contest? I’m gonna go crunch some numbers, and the current contest scores will be posted later tonight. Keep your fingers crossed!
March 23rd, 2010 ~ Jessica Mifsud ~ No Comments
I know they say that no news is good news, and while I can think of a lot of examples to the contrary, in this case that seems to be true. It’s the start of Week #8 for me, and things are chugging along nicely. In the last few weeks I’ve picked up a bunch of new skills, and now that Eric has left (*waves goodbye…belatedly*) to journey the seven seas, I’ve been handed a lot more responsibility around the office, which makes me feel pretty important!
We’ve been really busy around here, too! Among the several Secret Projects that I’m not allowed to mention (yet), there’s one big thing I can share. As you might know, we’re getting really excited about the ABTA Master Point Press Teacher of the Year Award! People from all over North America have been sending in nominations for their favorite bridge teachers, so now I’ve got two large boxes full of letters from students who love their teachers beside my desk. Nominations close next Thursday, but I’m warning you: send in any more letters and I’ll have enough to build a fort with.
Anyway, the fruits of all these labours have resulted in The ABTA MPP Teacher of the Year Award FACEBOOK PAGE, of which you can (and should) become a Fan. You will be keeping some fine company if you do. Sally and Luise and I are all fans, why aren’t you?
Most importantly, you should check out the photo album of Teacher Nominees. Some teachers, or their student sponsors, have sent us in some especially heartwarming pictures. And by heartwarming, I mean you have to see Charleston, SC’s Tina Radding, and her amazing teaching props. I won’t spoil it, you have to see it for yourself.
If your teacher isn’t a nominee, maybe you can weigh in on which photo is your favourite. In the office right now, there is some contention on this subject… but I know who Linda is backing….
With any luck, I’ll soon be able to tell you more about what sort of other Spring Hijinks MPP has in store… but for now, I’ve gotta get back to the grindstone!
February 2nd, 2010 ~ Jessica Mifsud ~ 3 Comments
Hello Bridge Ladies and Fellows, and other assorted Bridge-related people!
My name is Jessica, and as of today (roughly), I’m going to be MPP’s new Marketing and Various Small Tasks Intern! This is my first foray into the Real Publishing World, and I’m very excited to be starting that experience at Master Point.
Currently, I know three things about Bridge:
1) It’s kinda like Euchre’s Granddaddy, if your granddaddy had a handlebar moustache, a fine suit and hat, and ran rum during Prohibition but now lives in a nice big house where your grandma cooks dinner for the family on Sunday. What I’m saying is he’s older, wiser, and much savvier.
2) You can learn about Bridge over nachos at Sneaky Dee’s (as I attempted to), or from Linda and Barbara Seagram’s book Beginning Bridge (which I am going to start doing after I finish this post).
3) Bridge players are really cool people (on average).
While I’m still a newcomer to the world of Bridge, I would like to personally assure each and every one of you that I am no stranger to blogging, or thought-provoking bursts of stunning knowledge and insight. Hopefully, I will be able to bring some of those observations to my time here at MPP, and maybe provide some upsight, (or at the very least entertainment in my misinterpretations) as I begin navigating the world of Bridge.
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