Main     Puzzle 7F28 by Richard Pavlicek    

The Oblivious Shift Principle

Despite all hands being flat as a pancake, this deal contains some intriguing play and defense possibilities. Three notrump is the obvious contract with 26 HCP, but it’s far from obvious how to make it — or even if it can be made — considering that all finesses are destined to lose.

Problem
3 NT S 10 3 2
H A Q 10
D K 10 2
C J 10 9 8
None Vul

West

Pass


North

3 NT


East

All Pass


South
1 NT
S A 9 5
H 9 8 7 6
D 9 8 7
C 7 6 5
Table S J 7 6
H K J 5
D A J 4 3
C 4 3 2
Lead: H 9 S K Q 8 4
H 4 3 2
D Q 6 5
C A K Q

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and place your bets. With best play all-around, can declarer win nine tricks? Or can the defense prevail?

Are you a player or a defender?

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Solution

Assume the heart lead is ducked to the jack, and East shifts safely to a club. Declarer unblocks the top clubs and makes the key play of a low diamond to the king. East cannot benefit by ducking, so he takes the lead with the D A.

Solution
3 NT S 10 3 2
H A Q 10
D K 10 2
C J 10 9 8
Trick
1. W
2. E
3. S
4. S
5. S
W 3 L 2
Lead
H 9
C 4
C K
C Q
D 5
2nd
10
A
6
7
7
3rd
J
5
9
10
K
4th
2
8
2
3
A
S A 9 5
H 9 8 7 6
D 9 8 7
C 7 6 5
Table S J 7 6
H K J 5
D A J 4 3
C 4 3 2
S K Q 8 4
H 4 3 2
D Q 6 5
C A K Q

What now, Dear East? A spade return gives up the contract immediately (South ducks to set up three spades). A heart return is won cheaply, then the C J and top heart force the defenders down to three spades and two diamonds each, after which D Q and a diamond will endplay East to lead spades. A diamond return is equally helpful to declarer. East
leads
S 10 3 2
H A Q
D 10 2
C J
S A 9 5
H 8 7 6
D 9 8
C
Table S J 7 6
H K 5
D J 4 3
C
S K Q 8 4
H 4 3
D Q 6
C

So 3 NT can be made, right? Wrong. If East makes the oblivious shift to a low diamond at Trick 2, declarer is gifted a trick immediately, but the defense can prevent further gain. If declarer wins the D 10, unblocks clubs and leads a diamond, East ducks the D Q (or captures the D K and returns the suit) leaving declarer without recourse. A variety of other endings can ensue, but the defense can always prevail.

There could a useful tip here: If an endplay is inevitable, it is often better to give up the trick sooner than later.

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© 1995 Richard Pavlicek