Barnet Shenkin

The Sunday Telegraph by Tony Forrester prev/next

When I was just a lad, the up-and-coming pair were Scotland's Michael Rosenberg and Barnet Shenkin. Unfortunately for us, Rosenberg went to the States in his mid-twenties and a couple of years ago, Shenkin followed.

Our bridge playing cupboard is not well stocked at this level, and it will be hard to replace them. A bit like Manchester United losing Beckham and Keane.

For proof of Shenkin's skill, just look how he danced around this deal, when the distribution gods had set a minefield for him.

Dlr: North
Vul: All
N ♠J 9 8 5
♥K J 5
♦7 5 2
♣Q 7 6
W ♠10 7 3 2
♦K Q 10 4 3
♣10 8 4 2
 E ♠A
♥Q 10 9 8 3
♦J 9 6
♣K 9 5 3
 S ♠K Q 6 4
♥A 7 6 4 2
♦A 8
♣A J
-PassPass 1♥
Pass 2♥(1)Pass 2♠
Pass 3♠Pass 4♠

(1) Playing five cards majors, 2♥ is preferred to 1♠

The American five-card major influence was evident in the auction. In England, we would bid 1♠ over 1♥ with the North cards, get raised to 3♠ and go on to game (just). Over there, 2♥ is almost mandatory with three card support. If partner has a good hand,heintroduces spades. No matter, 4♠ it was.

The only piece of assistance Shenkin would receive was East holding ♣K, and yet that is all he needed. West led ♦K, taken by the ace (wrongly in fact).

The ♠K went to the ace, East persisting with diamonds until South ruffed the third round.

He got the bad news when East showed out on the second round of tramps, but undaunted he continued with a low heart towards dummy. West did not want to waste one of his trumps at this stage, so he pitched a club.

After declarer recovered from the shock of West's void heart, he won ♥K, played a club to ♣J and cashed ♣A. Then a spade to ♠9 brought us to this position:

N ♠J
♥J 5
W ♠10
♦Q 10
 E ♠-
♥Q 10
♣K 9
 S ♠-
♥A 7 6 4

When Sbenkin called for ♠J, East started wriggling. What should he let go? If ♥10, then South had the remaining tricks in hearts, so ♣9 it was. Declarer had the answer. He played ♣Q from dummy. East won his king, but was forced to lead away from ♥Q 10 at the end.

Nicely handled, and yet…

Quick Quiz

Why was it an error for South to win the first trick? A more alert East could have punished him. After winning ♠A, he returns a heart for West to raft. A low diamond now allows East to regain the lead with ♦J and give his partner a vital second ruff.

Had declarer ducked ♦K, he would have denied East his diamond entry.