When I read the other day that Harry Fishbein was retiring as the head of the Mayfair Bridge Club in New York City, I stopped for a moment to ask myself why, not consciously realizing that ever-youthful Harry, who has spiced so many tournaments with the flamboyant berets that have become his trademark and his ability to destroy the English language with each sentence, is now 68 years old.

Perhaps the reason for my confusion is that Harry was such a late starter in the world of tournament bridge. He was 36 before he moved into the echelon of top players and 38 before he scored a big win, the Vanderbilt Team championship of 1936. It was about this time that he earned a special reputation for being an inspired player, one of those position-takers with such remarkable table presence that he could make contrary decisions on consecutive hands and be right both times. This takes a certain amount of wizardry, and Harry Fishbein brings a wizard's talents with him when he plays. Consider this hand.

Both sides vulnerable North dealer

NORTH

[Queen of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

WEST

[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[4 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[Queen of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]

NORTH

1 [Diamond]
2 [Heart]
2 N.T.
5 [Spade]
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
DOUBLE

SOUTH
(Fishbein)

1 [Spade]
2 [Spade]
4 [Spade]
PASS

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: jack of hearts

A rebid of only three spades over North's two no trump would have been a sign-off, so Fishbein was correct when he jumped to the spade game. With good controls and high honors in spades, North's five-spade bid was not unreasonable. East, who had been considering the wisdom of doubling a four-spade contract, could not resist the temptation now—after all, this was a rubber-bridge game at the Mayfair and the stakes were more than mere master points. He expected that his trump holding alone would defeat the contract, and when he saw the spade queen in dummy he knew he had three trump tricks. As things turned out, his spades were too good.

A trump lead would have set the hand, but it would be hard to find fault with West's choice, the jack of hearts. Fishbein never even considered finessing the heart queen in order to get rid of his club loser. He knew that the trumps were stacked against him and a successful heart finesse was unlikely to improve his chances. Instead, he went up with dummy's ace of hearts and commenced reducing his own trump length by trumping a second heart lead. Three high diamonds had to go through, and he breathed a sigh of relief when they did. Next he ruffed another heart, cashed the king and ace of clubs and led dummy's last heart, ruffing while both opponents helplessly followed suit.

East was now reduced to the four powerful trumps from which he had expected so much, and they were enough to prove his downfall. When Fishbein led a third round of clubs, East had to trump his partner's trick. Worse than that, he had to lead from his ace-jack-10 of spades, obviously a hopeless position. If he cashes the spade ace, declarer wins the last two tricks with the king and queen. If, instead, he under-leads the spade ace, declarer wins his 10th trick with dummy's queen and leads from dummy through East's ace-10.

East's double was a bad one, for it was a tip-off that helped Fishbein time his play perfectly. Without it, the normal line of play would be to lead up to dummy's spade queen and hope to lose not more than two trump tricks. But I suspect that even the merest flicker on the part of East would have led Fishbein to the winning play. He has an uncanny way of finding it.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)