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End Play - Bridge

Bridge-Commons

The last two months has seen the passing of Gert Guttman and Bill Shutts, great brothers-in-law and friends whom I will sorely miss. Gert was well-known to many readers and a touching tribute to him is featured in this edition of ESRA Magazine. Bill was not, but amongst many other things, he was my personal bridge guru and so I would like to dedicate this article to his memory and the many great hands we played together.

Few things at the bridge table give as much satisfaction as bringing home a contract or making the extra trick through the execution of an end-play. In the broadest terms, an end-play involves declarer engineering a situation where, on conceding a trick to an opponent – throwing him in, so to speak - the said opponent has no option other than to give declarer a means of making a trick or tricks he or she would not normally have been able to make.

Bill was a master of the art of end-plays and squeezes. Shortly before he passed away, I had the vicarious satisfaction of watching him making short work of a Club game contact in an on-line pairs tournament. In suit contracts, end-plays most commonly involve the elimination of cards in two of the side suits from both declarer's own hand and dummy so that on being thrown in, the opponent either has to give declarer a free finesse in the third suit or concede a "ruff and sluff" allowing declarer to trump the card led in in one hand and discard a loser from the other. Setting up such a position is often easier said than done. Not so with Bill.

He was the dealer, sitting in the South seat, non-vulnerable against vulnerable opponents:

North
♠ 1 0 6
A Q 2
 7 6 2
♣ 7 6 5 4 3

West
♠ A Q 4 2
 1 0 9 6
 K J 1 0 9 5
♣ 1 0

East
♠ K J 9 7 5 3
 J 7 5 4 3
 3
♣ Q

South
♠ 8
 K 8
 A Q 8 4
♣ A K J 9 8 2

The bidding was aggressive and quick: 1Cl-Double-3Cl-4Sp-5Cl-Pass-Pass-Pass. At unfavorable vulnerability, the opponents wisely chose not to compete over 5Cl.

West led the ♠ A and switched to a heart which Bill won in hand with the K. He then played the ♣ A, felling the opponents' trumps, and now made the seemingly innocuous, but vital, play of the ♣2 to dummy's ♣7. This allowed him entry to dummy to lead dummy's remaining spade and ruff it in his hand, thereby eliminating the spade suit. Child's play for Bill, though not necessarily for the rest of us. He next played his 8 to dummy's Q and cashed the A eliminating that suit too and, importantly, leaving him in dummy to lead the 2 towards his hand:

North
♠ -
 -
 7 6 2
♣ 6 5 4

West
♠ Q 4
 -
 K J 1 0 9
♣ -

East
♠ K J 9
 J 7
 3
♣ -

South
♠ -
 -
 A Q 8
♣ K J 8

The rest of the hand was obvious now that he had done the proper groundwork. When East played the 3, he played the 8, throwing West in. West was end-played. He could either lead a diamond into Bill's AQ allowing him to make two diamond tricks or play a spade. West chose the latter. Bill discarded a diamond loser from dummy and ruffed in his hand. The A followed by the ruff of the Q in dummy brought home the contract.

Another all-time favorite from Bill's repertoire: This time Bill, again in the South seat, was declarer in 3NT, which West, feeling pretty certain of being able to make at least 5 tricks, inadvisably doubled:

North
♠ A 9 6 2
 8 2
 7 2
♣ J 6 5 4 3

West
♠ K J 1 0 7 5
 A K 6
 K 9 5
♣ 1 0 2

East
♠ 4 3
 Q 5 4 3
 J 1 0 6 5 3
♣ 9 8

South
♠ Q 8
 J 1 0 9 7
 A Q 8
♣ A K Q 7

West led the ♠J which Bill won in hand with the ♠Q. He then played 5 rounds of clubs, discarding the 8 from his hand on dummy's last club. East in the meantime discarded a spade and two diamonds, and West, not unreasonably, a spade, a diamond and a heart, leaving the following 7-card position:

North
♠ A 9 6
 8 2
 7 2
♣ -

West
♠ K 1 0 7
 A K
 K 9
♣ -

East
♠ -
 Q 5 4 3
 J 1 0 6
♣ -

South
♠ Q 8
 J 1 0 9 7
 A Q
♣ -

He next played the8 from dummy round to West's K. West played the ♠ K which Bill won in dummy with the ♠ A. Another heart threw West in again with the A. West could now cash the ♠ 10 and ♠ 7 for his third trick and forth tricks but was now forced to lead away from his K, giving Bill two diamond tricks and the contract.

Rest in peace, Bill. May all your heavenly finesses go right.

 

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Wednesday, 04 August 2021

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