Page 0040

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

younger generation.

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

The Cardturner



Louis Sachar

(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.

Lead: ´6.

´ 5 4

™ A

t A K

® Q J 10 9 8 7 3 2

´ A 10 8

™ K Q 2

t Q J 10 8 4 3

® 5

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.


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