Main     Puzzle 7F76 by Richard Pavlicek    

Slam Conscious

After the annual Club Championship, the contending players gathered around the scoring table. Professor Freebid carefully checked one of the travelers, exhibiting notable displeasure at some of the poor results. Before he could copy his score, Timothy Tenace came running over.

“Hey, Professor,” Timothy shouted exuberantly. “What did you do on Board 3?”

You’re the one that’s so excited,” answered the Professor. “What did you do?”

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

“I got to 3 NT, like most pairs, and my foolish opponent led a low spade. I guessed to play low from dummy and took the king with the ace. I then led a low diamond, and West won the king and returned the S J to dummy’s queen. I now had 11 top tricks, and when I ran the red suits, West could not hold on to four clubs so I made the rest.”

“Very nice,” complimented the Professor. “I’m sure you got well above average for it.”

“Above average? Are you kidding? It should be a top since nobody’s going to lead a spade from J-10-x-x after dummy has shown the suit. Also, with 31 HCP we did well to stop in game since no slam can be made, assuming good defense.”

“I beg to differ,” said the Professor. “My partner put me in slam, and there was no defense to beat it.”

What slam did the Professor bid and make?

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Solution

On first inspection it appears any slam is doomed, but there is one and only one slam that can be made against any defense. The Professor was South on this auction:

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

3 H
4 C
5 NT
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 NT
3 S
4 H
6 S

Three hearts was a Jacoby transfer, and 4 C showed a second suit. The Professor temporized with 4 H, then 5 NT said “pick a slam.” Looking at aces and spaces, the Professor opted for 6 S, hoping that the ruffing ability might be the key. And so it was.

Even 6 S appears doomed, but the Professor used keen deduction in the play. West led the H 8 (apparently from a short holding) to the 10 and ace, then a heart was ruffed in dummy. When a low spade was led, the appearance of the eight was ominous. A falsecard seemed unlikely, so the Professor took it at face value: If East held J-8 or 10-8, the contract was impossible; the only real hope was K-8, in which case it was necessary to finesse the nine, losing to West.

West exited safely with a spade, and the fall of the king confirmed the hoped-for layout. Next came the H K, pitching a diamond, then the H Q. If West ruffed, dummy would overruff and draw the last trump; then declarer could succeed by crossing to the D A and leading the last heart to squeeze West (or by taking the club finesse). After some thought, West pitched a diamond, baring his king, and declarer also threw a diamond from dummy. This left the following ending:

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

The Professor considered his next move carefully. Why didn’t West discard a club? The logical answer was because he held the C J, so the Professor cashed the C A and boldly finessed the C 10. When this held, he cashed the C K. Next he crossed to the D A and led the good heart to cinch the slam. If West failed to ruff, the Professor would simply discard the good club for a trump coup.

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© 1980 Richard Pavlicek