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The Reviews Are In - Battling the Best

The critics agree: Battling the Best by Sartaj Hans is a hit.  Now available in paperback and ebook formats from Bridge Winners Press, be sure to get your copy today!

From the May 2017 ACBL Bulletin: (reprinted with permission)

“Battling the Best” is a slow-motion roller-coaster ride through the 2014 Reisinger Board-a-Match Teams with Sartaj Hans. And what an enriching ride it is!

This is a book for experts about high-level play. A world-class player himself, Hans won a silver medal in the World Transnational Teams in 2011, and has represented Australia many times over in international competition.

Hans and his Reisinger teammates – Peter Gill, Bart Bramley and Lew Stansby, and Norwegian Juniors Kristian Ellingsen and Tor Eivind Grude – face the world’s top teams and earn a highly respectable fifth-place finish in the event Hans considers the hardest in bridge. In addition to deals from the three-day contest, Hans offers anecdotes and brings in hands from earlier contests that show how he and Gill grew their partnership leading up to the event.

“Battling the Best” isn’t loaded up with tales of technical brilliance. Rather, the author’s goal is to “illustrate many day-to-day dull hands – hands that may not be spectacular but capture the competitive struggle.” Deals are presented, pausing at various decision points along the way, but there’s nothing dull about it.

Sometimes Hans goes right, sometimes not. But stop to take in strategy, develop counter-strategy and consider the psychology of the play right down to the delicacy of a discard or the ruse behind a signal and suddenly! there’s no such thing as an ordinary hand. “There is abundant beauty in actual play that cannot be captured in a textbook,” Hans says. “My primary goal is to illustrate these spheres.” He succeeds.

Hans chronicles his personal growth as a player and spends some time discussing the psychology of the game – the player’s own insecurities, as well as his relationship with his partner, teammates and opponents. Without dwelling on it, he also offers informed observations on the state of the high-level game and the impact of the collusive cheating cases that have come to light.

Hans is a welcome new voice to bridge literature. The book is compelling, clearly written and thoughtfully edited: If a discussion of a deal jumps to the next page, the diagram is reproduced so that the reader doesn’t have to flip back and forth between pages. Here’s wishing him success soon in a major event so that, if he hasn’t already gotten started, he’ll find inspiration for his next work.


From the August 2017 edition of The Bridge World: (reprinted with permission)

The Reisinger board-a-match teams is widely considered to be the most challenging American bridge event. Australian expert Sartaj Hans captures its intensity in “Battling the Best” (Bridge Winners Press; 209 pages; list price $18,95 paperback), which narrates his 2014 experience competing against the star-studded field. Intermediate and advanced readers will benefit from following the thought processes of elite players who fight for every trick of each deal. Rather than a gallery of extraordinary situations, this collection features deals that might superficially be considered routine—that is, until the author reveals deeper levels of thinking that make interesting possibilities come live. Where Hans faltered at the table, he suggests how he might have improved his performance, citing the motto, “When you see a good move, look for a better one.”

What makes this book stand out is the author’s thorough treatment of psychological intangibles: (a) choosing a partner and teammates; (b) recovering from an inexplicable error; (c) maintaining composure and concentration through a series of poor results; (d) drawing inferences when an expert opponent pauses as declarer or defender; (e) inducing errors while maintaining sound technique; and (f) asking oneself the right questions, such as, “Why did my expert opponent allow me to get a complete count on this deal?” The unusual material makes the book exceptional, especially since it is woven into an engaging narrative with instructive deals. I also found useful suggestions of how to compete against some popular methods (such as an amorphous one-diamond opening and multi-way two-diamond opening) and tactical considerations about managing aggressive competitive auctions.

The 2014 Reisinger featured several pairs subsequently convicted of cheating. The author opines on those scandals and speculates on how those pairs’ results might have influenced the outcome of the event.

Richard Margolis

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