Famous Deal

Audrey Grant’s Interactive Daily Bridge Column

This deal comes from New York City’s Mayfair Club in 1960.

Sitting South on this deal was Harry Fishbein, the colorful manager of the Mayfair Club

With both sides vulnerable, Fishbein held:
♠ A K J   —   A K Q 10   ♣ K Q J 10 9 8

West North East South
2♣(1)
Pass 2(2) Pass 3♣(3)
Pass 3(4) Pass 4(5)
Pass 4(6) Pass 6♣(7)
Pass 7♣(8) All Pass(9)
  1. There are 23 high-card points plus two length points for the good six-card club suit. That’s too much to open with a non-forcing bid at the one level. This hand is certainly strong enough for a strong artificial 2♣ opening.
  2. Showing at least 8 HCP and five or more hearts. This positive response committed the partnership to game (at least).
  3. Showing the club suit.
  4. Showing six or more hearts.
  5. Showing another suit. Fishbein’s heart void was not a good value, but perhaps partner could support diamonds.
  6. Denies support for clubs and diamonds.
  7. Fishbein could have bid a forcing 4♠ to see what partner would do next. But with no fit for partner’s heart suit and holding a solid club suit, missing only the ♣A, Fishbein decided that with partner showing positive values there was a good chance he could dispose of his diamond and spade losers. So he jumped to slam in clubs.
  8. An unexpected raise.
  9. No reason to do anything else.


West led the K, and dummy’s hand was:

Dlr:
South
Vul
Both
North
♠ 9 7 5
A 9 7 6 5 2
8 4 3
♣ A
South
♠ A K J
A K Q 10
♣ K Q J 10 9 8

Partner had 8 HCP and only one club for support. At least it is the ♣A.

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Planning the play


Fishbein needed to make a plan to take 13 tricks.

The first step was to count the potential losers. The club suit had no potential losers, one potential diamond loser (J), one potential spade loser (♠Q) and no potential heart losers as Fishbein is void in hearts.

Fishbein needed to eliminate both losers to make his contract.

If East held the ♠Q, a finesse could eliminate the spade loser. It’s better odds than playing the ♠A and ♠K hoping the ♠Q would fall.

The guideline is eight ever, nine never: with eight or fewer combined cards, finesse; with nine or more, play the AK.

Or Fishbein could simply discard the spade loser on the A.

In diamonds, the odds favored playing the AKQ, hoping for the drop. He could finesse East for the J, but the odds were lower.

Or again, Fishbein could simply discard the diamond loser on the A.

Unfortunately, he could only discard one loser on the A.

Because the odds of the J failing under the AKQ are over 60% and the odds of the spade finesse are only 50%, it seemed best to discard the spade loser on the A.

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ACTUAL PLAY AND FULL DEAL
West led the K.

Fishbein made a key play at trick one. He played a low heart from dummy and ruffed the first trick.

Now he made two more key plays. Before drawing any trump, he played the ♠A. There was a slight risk that spades were split 7-0 and his ace would get ruffed, but Fishbein was willing to take the chance. Both defenders followed low. Next he played the ♠K! Again, he was willing to take a risk on a bad spade break. He was rewarded when the ♠Q fell from East’s hand.

He then led a club to dummy’s ♣A, both defenders following low.

Because the ♠Q had already fallen, he played the A and discarded the 10. Both defenders followed with low hearts.

He crossed to his hand with the A, both defenders following low.

He played the ♣K, getting the news about the 5-1 trump break when West showed out. Fortunately, there was no problem as he had already eliminated his losers. He continued with three more rounds of trump and claimed.

If the ♠Q had not fallen under the ♠AK, Fishbein planned to discard the ♠J on the A and rely on the J falling under the AKQ.

The moral of this deal is: If you can take a chance to delay playing a suit to learn more about the distribution then postpone the crucial decision.

The full deal:

Dlr:
South
Vul:
Both
North
♠ 9 7 5
A 9 7 6 5 2
8 4 3
♣ A
West
♠ 10 6 4 3 2
Q 10
J 9 6 5
♣ 3
East
♠ Q 8
J 8 4 3
7 2
♣ 7 6 5 4 2
South
♠ A K J
A K Q 10
♣ K Q J 10 9 8

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Audrey Grant is a noted bridge author and teacher. She is a member of the ACBL and Canadian Hall of Fame.