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Broadway Billy

 

by John Carruthers, Toronto

 

 

 

 

 

 
Billy Eisenberg The Dallas Aces Billy Eisenberg
 

Billy Eisenberg was one of he best bridge players in the world during the 1970s and 80s. He was recruited by Bobby Wolff for Ira Corn’s  Dallas Aces, and won two Bermuda Bowls with the Aces, partnering Bobby Goldman. With his youthful good looks, engaging and garrulous personality, and love of the high life, he was a big hit with the ladies, earning himself the nickname “Broadway Billy”.

 

Billy soon tired of life in Dallas – it was very stifling and much too conservative for the born-and-bred New York liberal. He left the Aces after a few years and returned to New York. Always a brilliant games player, Billy won the World Championship of Backgammon in 1975. He also won three more Bermuda Bowls, still in the 1970s, with three different partners – Fred Hamilton, Eddie Kantar, and Bobby Goldman. That made five Bermuda Bowls and a Backgammon World Championship in ten years.

 

Billy came close to winning a sixth bridge world championship this past fall in Beijing, at the first World Mind Sports Games. He was a member of the USA team which lost the Seniors final to Japan 202-200. Billy characterized that defeat, in a bridge career of five decades, as “the worst loss of my life.”

 

Part of the reason for that comment was Billy’s  own performance toward the end of the match and the criticism he incurred on the following three deals (especially on BBO where the commentators can see all four hands). One of Billy’s positive qualities is his ability to take criticism a lot better than most bridge players. And he’s very hard on himself.

 

Here are the three deals in question. See if you agree with the criticism. (The match was 96 boards in length.)

 

Board 80. Dealer West. EW Vul.

 

 J 7 6 4 2

  K 10

  A 8 2

  Q J 2

 
K Q 5 3
8 6

Q 6 3 
8 7 4 3

10 9 8
Q 7 5 3 2
10 5
K 10 9
  A
A J 9 4
K J 9 7 4
A 6 5

 

West

North

East

South

Yamada 

Lev

Ohno

Eisenberg

Pass Pass Pass 1
Pass 1 Pass 2
Pass 3 Pass 3
Pass 4 Pass 5
Pass 6 End  

                              

The final contract is against the odds, but it certainly has a play. The best line of play, however, is difficult to assess. Eisenberg made a good shot at it by winning the Rusinow queen of spades lead with his bare ace and playing a low heart to the king. Next came the jack of clubs, covered by the king and ace, and a low trump now went to the ace. The heart ten was led from dummy and overtaken in hand with the jack, which held.

 

Declarer was now in a good position. He planned to discard the losing club on the ace of hearts, then play a club to the queen, ruff a spade back to hand, ruff the club loser, ruff another spade. If the queen of hearts had not fallen on the third round, he planned to ruff the jack in dummy.

 

However, when Yamada ruffed the ace of hearts with the queen of diamonds and returned another trump, this reasonable plan was spoiled and declarer had to concede one down.

 

West

North

East

South

Granovetter

Abe

Ekeblad

Ino

Pass 1 Pass 2
Pass 2NT Pass 3
Pass 3 Pass 3
Pass 4 Pass 6
End      

 

 

Winning the spade king lead in hand, Ino played a heart to the king and then the queen of clubs, not covered this time. The tempo was now better for Ino than it had been for Eisenberg – he was still in the dummy. Thus he played the heart ten to the ace and followed with a third heart.. West discarded a club. Ruffing small on the table, Ino ruffed a spade, cashed the club ace and played his last heart, the jack. Again West discarded a club. Ruffing this with with the eight, a third spade was played and ruffed in hand and then declarer played the diamond nine to the ace.

 

Another spade was played now, which East ruffed with the ten, over-ruffed with the jack and West had to follow with the queen. The king of trumps was declarer’s twelfth trick. The defense collected trick thirteen with both the trump queen and the club king.

 

Let’s go back to Granovetter’s discard of two clubs on the third and fourth hearts. It may appear dangerous to discard a spade, but does not dummy’s lack of entries and your three trumps indicate spade discards? Had Granovetter discarded one club and then a spade, the slam could not have been made. In any case it  was 14 IMPs to Japan and the commentators thought that Ino had outplayed Eisenberg.

 

Perhaps neither declarer found the best line. What about winning the spade ace and playing a heart to the king, then running the heart ten? If it wins, you are still in the dummy to take the club finesse without using the trump ace as an entry as Billy had to when the club honour was covered.

 

In any case, the Japanese had recovered from a deficit of 43 IMPs at the half way stage of the finals to lead by 21 IMPs with 16 boards to play.

 

The USA was able to erase that deficit in the final stanza, and were leading by 10 IMPs with two boards to go.

 

Board 95. Dealer South. NS Vul.

 

 J 10 8 6 4

  J 9 4 3

  6

  Q J 5

 
9 7
A K 8 6

7 5
K 9 7 3 2    

A Q 3 2
Q 10 5
K Q 4
A 10 4
  K 5
7 2
A J 10 9 8 3 2
8 6

                               

West

North

East

South

Granovetter

Yamada

Ekeblad

Ohno

      3
Pass Pass 3NT End

 

Yamada led a diamond and Granovetter was able to lose a club to North, ensuring his contract, plus 400.

 

West

North

East

South

Abe

Lev

 Ino

Eisenberg

      Pass
Pass Pass 1NT 3
Double End    

 

Here, Eisenberg believed he had too good a hand to preempt, but could not resist temptation later. “I’ve never done that before in my life,” he confessed. When West doubled to show cards, East passed – after all, he had no guarantee of game. The damage was minus 800 and 9 IMPs to Japan, now behind by a single IMP.

 

Board 96. Dealer West. EW Vul.

 

 9 2

  4

  A K J 9 8 2

  8 7 3 2

 
K 7
K 10 8 5 3

7 6 4
Q 10 5    

Q 10 6 4
A J 9 7 6
10
9 6 4
  A J 8 5 3
Q 2
Q 5 3
A K J

                               

West

North

East

South

Granovetter

Yamada

Ekeblad

Ohno

Pass 3 Pass 3
Pass 4 End  

 

There are three possible calls over partner’s three diamonds: pass, three spades and three no trump. At this vulnerability, pass might be the most prudent course of action. Nevertheless, Ohno tried three spades, putting her partner into an awkward spot.

 

Granovetter led a club against the very thin game and Ohno won and tried the heart queen. Ekeblad won the ace and was very leery of leading away from that spade holding, so continued clubs. South was able to ruff her losing heart in the dummy and subsequently lost three trump tricks for minus 50.

 

West

North

East

South

Abe

Lev

 Ino

Eisenberg

Pass 3 Pass 3
Pass 4 Pass 4
End      

 

The first two tricks at Eisenberg’s table were exactly the same. But here, Ino, East did find the trump switch. Eisenberg had two plausible lines of play available:

(1.) Win the spade ace, ruff a heart and try to hold the trump losers to two. Declarer could do that if trumps were 3-3 or in certain 4-2 situations;

(2.) Duck the spade and hope East had the ten – if East did have the spade ten and West won the king or queen and continued spades, the losing heart still might go on the long club in dummy if spades were 4-2 and clubs were 3-3. And spades could be 3-3, anyway, allowing all the outstanding trumps to be drawn without further loss.

 

To his everlasting regret, Bill chose line (1.), winning the spade ace, ruffing the heart loser in dummy, coming to hand in clubs and leading a trump. West won the king and persisted in hearts, declarer ruffing. Now reduced to the same trump length as East, South could play a trump, making his contract when they were 3-3 and West had false-carded with the king on the previous round. Or he could simply play winners and allow the defense to score both its trumps separately. He played trumps and the defense took both trumps and then had two heart winners. Down three, minus 150, 3 IMPs to Japan, leaving the final score Japan 202, USA 200.

 

Well, what do you think, did Billy blow it?