Main   Puzzle 7F75 by Richard Pavlicek  

What’s Trump?

Timothy Tenace arrived at the club early for his regular game with Grover. As soon as he walked through the door, he spotted his nemesis Professor Freebid holding court at a corner table.

“Come here, Timothy,” called the Professor. “You’re just the guy we’re looking for. We’ve been creating a bridge puzzle, and we need to test it on a pigeon, er, I mean, a reputable player.” The professor shoved a napkin with the diagram toward Timothy. “South leads, and he cannot win all the tricks.”

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

“What’s trump?” asked Timothy.

“That’s the problem!” answered the professor. “You must tell me. The only information you have is that South is on lead, and best defense will always win a trick. You must determine which suit, if any, is trumps.” TopMain


“Well, let’s see.” Timothy studied the napkin. “In notrump declarer has one spade, two hearts with a finesse, two diamonds with a finesse and two clubs. That makes seven, and it looks like a simple squeeze against West in the minors. Yes, eight tricks are easy in notrump.”

“Very good,” acknowledged the Professor.

“If spades are trumps, it plays just like notrump after drawing trumps, so we can rule that out,” added Timothy.

“Right again!” said the Professor. “Two down, three to go.”

“Hmm,” thought Timothy. “In each of the other suits it looks like the defenders can win a trump trick. Aha! I think I can develop a trump coup in diamonds, maybe in hearts, too. Therefore, the trump suit must be clubs. That’s it! Clubs are trumps.”

“Good try,” consoled the Professor, “but you’re overlooking something. In clubs, there is no ordinary trump coup against one opponent, but there’s a coup in tandem, known as a Devil’s Coup. Win two diamonds with a finesse, cash the S A, finesse in hearts, and lead the H K. What can West do? If he ruffs high, overruff with the queen, finesse the C 7, and ruff your last heart in dummy. If he ruffs with a spot, overruff cheaply and lead the D Q; East must ruff high to have any chance, so you overruff, then West’s jack is trapped. Finally, if West discards the D K, pitch the diamond from dummy and lead your last heart; again the defense is helpless to win a trick. Powerful clubbies there!”

“I see,” said Timothy. “So it’s down to hearts and diamonds. A trump coup looks easier in diamonds, so I’ll guess that hearts must be trump for the defense to prevail. Am I right?”

“No, but your close,” bemused the Professor. In hearts, you can easily win all the tricks; in fact, you don’t even need the diamond finesse. Win the D A, ruff a diamond, cross to the S A, finesse in hearts, and win two clubs ending in dummy. The answer, of course, is that diamonds are trumps.

“It may seem like a trump coup will work in diamonds,” continued the Professor, “but it runs aground because West can sacrifice his trump trick and leave you short of winners. For example, suppose you win the S A, finesse in hearts, and lead the H K; West simply ruffs (losing his trump trick) but you are left with a club loser no matter what you do.”

“Interesting,” replied Timothy. “I’ll remember this the next time I forget which suit is trumps. Wait a second! There’s something about this ending that seems fishy. Hmm… yes, indeed. You are nothing but a bunch of crooks!”

What caused Timothy to make such an accusation? TopMain

Solution II

Timothy noticed that the ending was impossible to reach in bridge without a revoke. In the ending no player is void in any suit, so everyone must have followed suit to the first five tricks. Since the diagram contains 10 clubs, there is no way the other three clubs could have been played, aside from a revoke. TopMain

© 1978 Richard Pavlicek