ace of spades is the only entry to your long
diamonds, and it looks like the spade lead
has scuppered you. Can you crack the
problem? Don't worry if you can't, I'll give
you the solution later.
So what's this got to do with The
Cardturner? Well, Louis Sachar was already
a best-selling author specialising in the
youth market. His book Holes had sold
millions of copies, won literary prizes and
was even given the full Hollywood treat ment
in a film starring Sigourney Weaver
and Jon Voight. Just one problem - he was
also a keen bridge player and wanted to
write a book to help popularise
bridge with young people (see his
interview in English Bridge, Feb ruary
2009, page 5).
His publisher, editor and agent were all
aghast. But Sachar was not to be put off.
He came up with a clever plot designed to
grab the attention of his target audience -
near-obligatory teenage angst and romance,
a dash of conspiracy theory, all spiced up
with some supernatural hokum. And in
the process he explained what bridge was
all about, hoping to plant that crucial first
seed of interest that might take root and −
who knows − even blossom into a world
champion of the future.
The teenage hero Alton Richards is
volunteered by his parents to act as
'cardturner' to his elderly and wealthy uncle
Lester Trapp, a top duplicate bridge player
who has recently lost his sight. Alton's job is
to recite Trapp's hand to him away from the
table, and then simply do as he's told - lay
down the bids and play the cards as
instructed. Despite himself, Alton becomes
impressed with his uncle's feat of memory
and more to the point, starts getting
interested in the game of bridge itself.
For me, the book is a genuinely good
read - it's not only called The Cardturner,
it's also a real page-turner. But perhaps as
interesting as the plot itself is the hidden
message of the book to the teenage reader.
Bridge is exciting, bridge is fun. Forget
video games, play a real game instead, one
where you play the game, not one where
'the game plays you', as Trapp scathingly
com ments. Like it or not, the future of the
game is down to this message getting
across to a significant number of the
Do 'cardturners' exist, and is Lester's feat
of memory a realistic possibility? I should
think so. After all, the world chess grand master
Miguel Najdorf once played fortyfive
simultaneous blindfold games against
strong opposition, and won pretty much
the lot. But to be honest, who cares. The
Cardturner is a work of fiction. All I can
say to Louis Sachar is, to paraphrase
Trapp's own hard-earned words of praise
at the bridge table, 'nicely done'!
What I especially like about the book is
that it doesn't talk down to the audience.
In a book aimed at teenagers who have
never played bridge, it covers squeezes,
endplays, transfer bids, unblocking . . . you
name it. And all this in a book that's likely
to be read from cover to cover in a few
days by complete newcomers to the game.
Oh yes, I nearly forgot . . . the solution to
that puzzle. The answer is buy the book,
and you'll find it there. Even better, buy
several copies and give them away as
presents to your teenage relatives and their
friends. We can each play a small part in
ensuring the game's future.
And finally, without looking back, see if
you can reconstruct the two hands at the
beginning of the article. You'll probably
realise that you have memorised those
hands without consciously trying − the
human brain is an amazing thing. r
August 2014 English Bridge
by Dave Simmons
Bridge in Literature
(photo ® Perry Hagopian)
TWO things got me interested in bridge as
a teenager. One was the bridge scene
in Ian Fleming's Moonraker (see
English Bridge, June 2014, page
35) and the other was the
mechanics of declarer play as
described in various bridge books and
newspaper columns of the time.
For me, the knack of seeing how to make
a contract with a cross-ruff, a throw in or a
dummy reversal had much the same appeal
as solving any puzzle, such as the chess
problems that competed for space with
bridge on the games pages of most quality
newspapers. The challenge was similar, an
exercise in pure brain-power and problemsolving.
And the tiresome complication of
bidding in bridge was conveniently ignored,
as it is now in minibridge.
A third influence could well have been
reading The Cardturner*, if only it had
been published in 1965 rather than 2010.
But before I describe the book by Louis
Sachar, you might like to spend a few
minutes on this fascinating bridge problem
that I came across a little while ago:
Contract: 3NT by South.
´ 5 4
t A K
® Q J 10 9 8 7 3 2
´ A 10 8
™ K Q 2
t Q J 10 8 4 3
At first glance, there's no problem, ten
tricks off the top. Then you realise that the
* © Louis Sachar, 2010, The Cardturner, by permission
of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.