The literature of every sport is replete with examples of "cute" tricks by which winners achieve a victory. But for every player whose will to win okays a "stop-at-nothing-you-can-get-away-with" policy, there are dozens who scorn victory unless it comes with honor.
In bridge it is not exceptional for nice guys to finish first. It is nevertheless pleasant to report that two of these "nice guys" won the Masters' Men's Pair title in the huge Summer National championship in Chicago last month. They are my good friends and frequent partners, Harry Fishbein, captain of the team that won the Vanderbilt last year, and John Gerber, the Texan whose four-club ace-showing convention is perhaps more often used by expert players than the more widely popular Blackwood Convention.
Harry can always be counted on for a story-book hand. This one, contributed with the apology, "It's an oldie," well illustrates the fact that age does not deprive a classic of any of its luster.
The Manhattan maestro gave it everything he had during the bidding. After his modest one-diamond opening, he made a jump shift rebid of three clubs. North then showed that his free bid in spades included good support for diamonds. Although South's cue bid then impaired the value of North's king of hearts, he had sufficient values to justify showing his king of clubs. Fishbein's leap to seven exemplifies a kind of daring which is not foreign to his nature. Perhaps his two little spades should have been a sobering influence. But we would then have had to look elsewhere for the basis of today's text.
If West had led the ace of hearts, declarer would have had an easy time. Dummy's heart king would provide the needed parking place for South's small spade, and South's losing club would be ruffed in dummy. The 9 of spades lead made matters much more difficult; but it, too, helped to guide declarer to the winning play.
Normally, Fishbein's hope would be to find West with the queen and jack of spades as well as the ace of hearts, and to squeeze him out of his possessions. But, since the 9 of spades lead marked East with the spade honors, Fishbein projected his squeeze in that direction. By "reversing dummy"—making the dummy the long trump hand—he was able to discard his losing spade on dummy's long trump and cash 12 tricks without trumping a club.
He won the spade opening with dummy's ace and trumped a heart with the 9 of diamonds. A low diamond to dummy's 8 enabled South to ruff another heart with an honor. Declarer went back to dummy's queen of diamonds to play North's king of hearts and ruff it. He then cashed his high diamond and high spade.
Declarer's remaining cards were the spade 3 and his four clubs. Dummy held two clubs, the 6 of diamonds and the 10-8 of spades. East held four clubs and the queen of spades, and was ripe for the pressure play. South led a club to dummy's king and cashed North's remaining trump. East had to hold the queen of spades to cover dummy's 10-spot, so was compelled to yield a club. Fishbein discarded his last spade and won the three remaining tricks with the ace, queen and 5 of clubs, to make his daring grand slam.
Note that, by shortening his own trump suit, declarer was able to "trump" a loser in a suit which wasn't actually short in either hand. Theoretically, declarer could gain the same trick by trumping a losing club-but in fact that would have made it impossible for South to win 13 tricks.