Main   Puzzle 7F42 by Richard Pavlicek  

Only Game In Town

After failing in his 5 D contract, South berated his partner, “You are a cue-biddin’ fool. Why didn’t you just bid 3 NT? Or at least mention your five-card spade suit so I could pass and get a plus score.”

“My hand was too strong,” North retaliated. “There was nothing wrong with the final contract except for the horrendous trump break. On a good day, even 6 D would roll on these cards.”

“Yea, sure; like I’m thinking about a slam here. All I wanted was to get to a makable game. Is that too much to ask?”

“If you were clairvoyant you would pass 3 C doubled, which we could defeat four tricks. Once you bid we were doomed. It looks like there is no game to be made our way.”

Wrong! What is the only makable game contract for North-South?

5 D South

N-S Vul
S A K 6 5 4
D A 8 6
C A 8 6
S Q J 10 7
H 4 3 2
D Q J 10 9 7
C 10
TableS 9 8 3
H J 10 9 8
C K Q J 9 4 2
Lead: D QS 2
H Q 7 6 5
D K 5 4 3 2
C 7 5 3


All Pass

4 C
5 C
3 C
3 D
4 H
5 D


The most likely game appears to be 3 NT in that there are eight top tricks. After the obvious club lead, declarer’s best hope is to establish the long spade without letting East gain the lead. In order to do this it is necessary to lead the first spade from South, which means using the D K entry. Alas, West can then knock out the D A and establish his diamonds first. Any squeeze attempt will also fail with the cramped communication. In short, 3 NT cannot be made.

What about 4 S? With the 4-3 break there are nine easy tricks after clearing trumps. Unfortunately, there is no 10th in sight. Scratch this one.

Aha! Did I hear someone mention 4 H? That’s a clever devious answer to a bridge puzzle. But sorry, not this puzzle.

The correct answer was staring you in the face. Despite the 5-0 trump break, 5 D is makable after any lead. Assuming the actual D Q lead, the key play is to win the ace. The basic plan is to remove all of West’s side-suit cards ending in the South hand (the exact order is not critical). Win the H A-K and the S A-K (throwing a club), ruff a spade, cross to the C A, ruff another spade, and cash the H Q (throwing a club) to reach the ending in the diagram:

S 6
D 8 6
C 8
D J 10 9 7
H 7
D K 5
C 7

When South leads the H 7, West must ruff high and a club is thrown from North. West returns a high diamond, taken by the king, then the C 7 is led to promote the D 8 en passant. West is completely helpless.

Remember this deal the next time you shun that five-of-a-minor contract. There is more to this game than we sometimes realize.

Historical note: I composed this deal circa 1971 for the ACBL Bulletin, at which time I stated that 5 D was to be played by North (to prevent a trump lead). The late, brilliant Oswald Jacoby pointed out that it was makable by South as well — and I have no doubt he would have done just that at the table. TopMain

© 1996 Richard Pavlicek