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Scotland's Senior Moment Book review

#1 User is offline   paulg 

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Posted 2014-August-01, 10:23

Scotland's Senior Moment by Harry Smith (harsmith) and Alex Adamson (rednaxela)

Published by Master Point Press (http://masterpointpr...rod=593&cat=142)

This book is from the perspective of Harry Smith, the non-playing captain of the Scotland Seniors team, and covers their trip to the World Team Championships in Bali during October 2013. It was the first time that a Scottish team had qualified for these championships so, with no experience to build on, everything was really down to Harry to organise. The book starts with his preparations, including the importance of BBO for the team, and the problems with turning up halfway around the world to play cards, is followed by a look back at the bronze medal performance that qualified them for the event.

When play starts the book moves along at a great pace. There are a lot of deals as every match is covered, mainly showing where the Scots won and lost points although with little detailed analysis. The format of the book and the sheer number of hands means that the deal and associated auctions are often on different pages, which is frustrating but inevitable. It also means that the book is only for bridge players, although beginners will cope with all the hands.

The authors happily show the good and the bad during the round-robin stages, but understandably gloss over the details of some tired play at the end of the event. As always, whether it is high-level international play or your local club game, the book highlights how bridge is a game of mistakes and brilliances are few and far between. And the stronger bridge players will discern that solid play is the key to beating the weaker teams, but aggression is needed when you play the best.

This was the first time that Harry had been an international non-playing captain and you get a real sense of his approach - meticulous preparation, team consultation, perhaps an over-reliance on the nebulous 'butler', daily targets, and a need to watch every board. Then, at the end of every day, his desire to communicate back to the Scottish public who had provided significant funding for the trip. This was all done with complete integrity and, some might say, a degree of naivety but it certainly worked well with this team and makes for an interesting read.

Knowing Harry, and all the Scottish players, well, I can say that this book is an honest retrospective of the event. Harry always wears his heart on his sleeve and his deep soul-searching to find the best line ups and doing the best for his team comes across naturally - a tribute perhaps to his co-writer, Alex Adamson. What the book does not really translate is Harry's unwavering, and at times unrestrained, enthusiasm and ebullience that was a major component in the team's initial success in the European Championships and subsequent efforts in Bali.

Any book where you do not finish with the gold medal is not going to end well, especially when the team finished with such an anti-climatic performance. But in the end the strengths of the book are the insights into Harry's captaincy and the sheer number of hands covered, together with the sense of a journey that the team made from no-hopers to expectant world-beaters. Even though they did not quite make it, it was still some performance.

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I don't work for BBO and any advice is based on my BBO experience over the decades

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