Harry Fishbein, the dean of the May fair Bridge Club on West 57th Street in New York City, is as colorful as any of his hundred and one different berets and as unorthodox as his custom of wearing one whenever he plays in a tournament. Fishy—nobody at the May-fair would call him anything else—always has a hand and a story. Recently I congratulated him on his 65th birthday and asked him how he had celebrated. "Family affair," he replied. "No bridge." Then, as if to erase the thought of a party without bridge, he said, "But let me tell you about a hand I had the other day when my partner could have saved me from the soup. Instead, he turned cannibal and lit the fire under the pot himself." Then Fishy laid out the hand below.
South's bidding is open to some question. It would be more orthodox to respond two diamonds and continue two spades over a two-heart rebid by North. But South foresaw that this would put him into the position of bidding three no trump automatically if partner should bid two no trump. So South elected to try to handle the auction in a fashion that would leave the final decision to his partner. While technically South's two no trump might have been passed, most players dislike to hang one short of game, and North took the aggressive course.
Fishbein won the opening lead with the ace of clubs and re-turned the 10 to South's queen and West's king. West then cashed the jack of clubs and continued with the 7, his highest remaining club. This indicated that his reentry was in spades rather than diamonds. Fishbein had discarded one spade on the third club and dutifully saved a spade, discarding a diamond on the fourth club. Unfortunately, this discard gave declarer his ninth trick—five diamonds and three hearts in addition to the 8 of clubs.
"But suppose I knew that South held five diamonds," said Fishy. "The only card I could safely discard would be my last spade. Then all declarer has to do is read the situation correctly when West shows out on the second round of diamonds. He cashes his four good diamonds, throws me in with the fifth and I have to give him his ninth trick by leading away from my jack of hearts.
"To get me out of this, all partner had to do was duck the queen of clubs, giving declarer the club trick he has to win later anyway. Or, he could still have saved me by winning the king of clubs and leading back the 7, keeping his jack of clubs until later. The 7 would again be a suit-preference signal clearly telling me his reentry was in spades, and it was unlikely that the squeeze could strangle me with only three rounds of clubs led. Instead, he made me a victim of a cannibal coup."
There is a general lesson to be learned here. Whether you are defender or declarer, if you must give up a trick to the opposition, it usually pays to give it up as early as possible.