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 the ©8 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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About the author

Alan Caplan

Alan Caplan was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was an active member of Bnei Zion and, subsequently, Habonim following the merger of the two movements. The year after high school ...
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