Main     Puzzle 7F20 by Richard Pavlicek    

Phantom Sacrifice

With only East-West vulnerable, North took the liberty to make a Michaels cue-bid (showing both major suits). This inspired South to jump directly to 4 H, as even if it failed, it would surely be a great sacrifice at favorable vulnerability.

E-W Vul
S A 6 5 4 3
H J 9 5 4 3
D 3 2
C 2
Table
S Q 10 7 2
H K 8 7 2
D 5 4
C 5 4 3

West
1 C
Dbl
North
2 C
All Pass
East
2 D
South
4 H

Alas. The postmortem revealed that East-West could not make any game and there were no void suits. What are the exact East-West hands?

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Solution

The only possible East-West layout that satisfies the conditions is shown in the diagram. Note that 5 C is defeated with a trump lead; 5 D is defeated with the H K lead; and 3 NT is defeated with the S A lead (South must unblock the S 7).

S A 6 5 4 3
H J 9 5 4 3
D 3 2
C 2
S K
H A 10 6
D A
C K Q J 10 9 8 7 6
TableS J 9 8
H Q
D K Q J 10 9 8 7 6
C A
S Q 10 7 2
H K 8 7 2
D 5 4
C 5 4 3

As evidence that this is the only layout, consider that that East-West must hold at least 11 top tricks (five in each minor plus the H A) so some kind of blocked position is required to defeat five of a minor. If West, instead, had S K H A-10-6 D A-K C Q-J-10-9-8-7-6, it would be easy to make 5 C (ruff a heart).

The spades must be divided exactly as shown to allow N-S to run that suit in notrump. Any other layout would give E-W a stopper.

If the hearts were divided in any other way, 5 C could be made — either by a simple heart finesse; or if East has the H A, a side entry to the East hand would give the defenders an impossible task.

[Corrected 9-30-99. In the original puzzle I did not specify “no void suits” and Scott Cardell noted there were alternate solutions based on East having all nine diamonds. Thanks, Scott, for the eagle eye.]

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© 1994 Richard Pavlicek