Barnet Shenkin

The Jerusalem Post by Matthew Granovetter prev/next

He reads the table

Dlr: West
Vul: Both
N ♠10 2
♥J 9 5
♦A Q 9 8 7 4 3
W ♠9 4 3
♥A 10 7 6
♣Q J 8 6 3
 E ♠J 8 7 6 5
♥K 8 2
♦K 6 5 2
 S ♠A K Q
♥Q 4 3
♣A 10 7 5 4 2
Barnet Maggie 
PassPass 1♠ 2♣
Pass 2♦Pass2NT
Double(All pass)  

ONE of the top European bridge players for many years, Barnet Shenkin of Glasgow, is in town this week.

He has a talent few top experts can match: He reads the table.

During a London tournament, Shenkin led from his queen-doubleton against my three no- trump contract. I misguessed the lie of the cards, playing low from king-10-third in dummy and winning with the ace in my hand. Later Shenkin led the suit again and my finesse of dummy's 10 lost to his partner's jack, and the contract was defeated.

On another occasion, during a Hague tournament, I decided to make a psychic opening bid against him. With zero highcards, I opened the bidding one spade. My partner responded two diamonds, and when I passed this forcing bid, Shenkin's partner balanced with a takeout double. Shenkin had no problem reading the situation and jumped briskly to game in spades, which he promptly played to perfection, earning a great score.

Shenkin's most recent triumph comes from the premier team event in Scotland, the Scottish Cup. His regular partner was not able to play, so Shenkin persuaded his wife, Maggie, to join him.

With veteran teammates Victor Goldberg and John Matheson, they successfully defended the trophy they had won the previous year. In the final match against a strong team of younger players, Maggie Shenkin saved the day.

On the deal shown in the diagram, Shenkin sat West and passed in first position. His wife opened one spade in third seat on a marginal hand and South over-called two clubs. Shenkin then made a clever pass, waiting in the bushes with his strong club position and heart ace.

North bid two diamonds and South now tried two notrump. Again Shenkin passed, playing a dangerous waiting game. But when North raised to three no-trump. Shenkin came out from hiding with a penalty double.

The opening lead was a spade. Declarer won and saw that he needed a couple of small miracles to make the hand. He led a low club and his wife won and continued spades. Declarer now tried another low club. He was hoping the clubs would divide 3-3 and the diamond finesse would work. This would provide him with four club tricks, three spades and two diamonds, just enough for his ambitious contract.

But it was not to be. Shenkin won the second round of clubs and persevered with a third round of spades. This was the end of the line for declarer, who ended with only five tricks, down four, minus 1,100 points.

At the other table, Shenkin's teammates stopped safely in the simple contract of two diamonds on the North-South cards, so Shenkin's team won a big swing and went on to victory.

Afterwards, Maggie Shenkin was congratulated on her one-spade opening bid, which had thrown a monkey wrench into the way of North-South's bidding.