Analyses 7V56 MainChallenge


The Tell-Tale Hearts


Scores by Richard Pavlicek

“You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution —
with what foresight — with what dissimulation…” -Edgar A. Poe

Problem 123456Final Notes

These six play problems were published on the Internet in October 2001, and all bridge players were invited to submit their answers. On each problem you are declarer in a contract of four tell-tale hearts — Poe-tic for 4 H.

Walter Lee Wins!

This contest had 526 participants from 95 locations, and the average score was 41.77. Hail to the winner, Walter Lee (Hong Kong) who was the first of two with the leading score of 59. Walter has regularly scored high in my previous play contests, so the win comes as no surprise. Second place went to Olivier La Spada (Switzerland). Five players were just a point behind with 58: Gabriel Nita-Saguna (Willowdale, Ontario); Grant Peacock (Irvine, California); Craig Satersmoen (Huber Heights, Ohio); Rob Stevens (Santa Cruz, California); and Radu Mihai (Romania). Congratulations to all!

Unless otherwise noted, the bidding by both sides is Standard American, which includes strong notrumps (15-17), five-card majors and weak two-bids. The defenders use standard leads (king from ace-king, top of a sequence and fourth-best) and standard signals (attitude, count and suit preference). For more information about applicable bidding and carding agreements, see my summary of Standard American Bridge. Assume both opponents are experts.

Each problem offered six plausible lines of play. The merit of each is scored on a 1-to-10 scale, based on my judgment, so a perfect score would be 60. These problems were not easy, and the respondents did quite well overall.

Analyses 7V56 MainChallengeScoresTop The Tell-Tale Hearts

Problem 1

Matchpoints
E-W Vul
S K J 2
H A 9 7 6
D A J 10 5
C A Q
West

Pass
NORTH
1 D
4 H
East
Pass
All Pass
South
1 H
Lead: S 10TableEast plays S A



4 H South
S 5 4 3
H Q J 10 8 5
D Q 2
C J 4 2

You play the S J. East returns the S 8, which goes to the nine and king.

Your play?AwardVotesPercent
D. Lead the D J1015830
B. Win H A; lead the H 6916732
E. Lead the D 588917
A. Lead the S 257113
F. Win C A; lead the C Q4224
C. Win D A; lead the D 53194

Oh, how you’d love to be in your hand! Alas, you can’t get there so you must make the best of the situation. The spade plays indicate that West started with Q-10-9-x or Q-10-9-x-x. Where, oh where, are the missing kings?

First let’s consider Line A, giving up a spade to force West to give you a finessing opportunity in another suit. Not good. West will surely lead a club next (with or without the king), and if that finesse loses* you will be locked back in dummy needing a miracle. Further, Line A gives up any chance that West might have five spades and be kept off lead.

*Alternatively, you could win the C A and give up a club, which leaves you needing both red-suit finesses.

Leading trumps first (Line B) is better since you may drop a stiff H K, but if that fails to happen you’ll probably need both minor-suit finesses* to succeed. Again, the odds are well stacked against you. Note that the diamond finesse alone will not give you enough tricks since West would cover the D Q with K-x-x or K-x.

*Alternatively, you could play for a minor-suit squeeze, which requires the hand with longer diamonds to hold the C K; but this is effectively about the same chance as the two finesses.

If this were IMPs, the best play would be clear-cut. By forcing an entry to hand with the D Q (Line D), you can increase your chances to about even money. Consider this layout:

Matchpoints
E-W Vul
S K J 2
H A 9 7 6
D A J 10 5
C A Q
Trick
1 W
2 E
3 N
4 W
5 W
6 N
7 S
Lead
S 10
S 8
D J!
S Q
C 5
D 5
H Q
2nd
J
4
4
2
A!
7
3rd
A
9
2
6
3
Q
4th
3
K
K
5
2
3
S Q 10 9 7
H K 4
D K 8 6 3
C 10 8 5
Table S A 8 6
H 3 2
D 9 7 4
C K 9 7 6 3



4 H South
S 5 4 3
H Q J 10 8 5
D Q 2
C J 4 2

When you lead the D J, it does West no good to duck (you would then continue with the D A and a diamond ruff, making easily). So assume he wins, cashes his spade, and shifts to a club. Win the ace — no practice finesses, thank you — then cross to your hand with the D Q to run the H Q, etc. All you need is the heart finesse, barring fluke distributions such as a stiff diamond.* Note that Line B would fail.

*Another possible hang-up occurs if East has D K-x-x-x-x and ducks the D J. Then, when you try to reach your hand with a diamond ruff, West could overruff with the H K. You would still succeed if the club finesse works, but after this clever defense I wouldn’t like its chances.

Unfortunately, the scoring is matchpoints, so there is more to consider than making the contract. Overtricks and undertricks are significant. A superior analysis is to consider the number of tricks won by each line according to the location of the missing kings. This is shown in the following table, ignoring special circumstances (such as a stiff H K):

CaseWestABCDEF
1H K D K C K101010101010
2H K D K99910910
3H K C K991010109
4D K C K10109899
5H K88910109
6D K998889
7C K999888
8no kings888888
Total tricks won:727272727272

Note: Tricks for Line A assume you will finesse the C Q on a club return, then cash the H A. By different plays you can vary the number of tricks won in certain cases, but the total remains the same.

Incredible! The table shows that all lines produce the same number of tricks on typical layouts. Bridge is such an easy game; just toss your cards in the air and nothing matters. Seriously, of course, there are other factors. If you consider the chance of 5-2 spades with West unable to gain the lead, all lines except Line A get a bonus. If you consider the possibility of a stiff H K, Line B picks up about 1/8 of a trick in each case (actually 2/8 in Cases 5 and 8) increasing its total to about 73.25. Does this make Line B best? I don’t think so, because Line D makes the contract twice as often. The matchpoint difference between making and down one is almost always greater than between down one and down two.* Also supporting Line D is that West is a slight favorite to hold the H K, else he might have led a trump.

*Even if you assume a strong field where every pair will be in 4 H, your situation is already negative because (1) West found the best lead, and (2) some systems will allow North to become declarer with a transfer bid. Hence, going for the best chance to make the contract seems justified.

All considered, Line D deserves the top award. For second place it’s a close call: Line B averages more tricks; Line E makes the contract one time more often. I’m giving the edge to Line B because Line E also has some uncounted negative factors (singleton diamond, or D K-x with West). Further, if you’re priority is toward making the contract, you should have chosen Line D.

Among the also-rans, I gave the edge to Line A because it involves cashing the H A. Hence, similar to Line B, it gains 1/8 of a trick in every case due to the chances of a stiff H K. Whether this offsets the negative factor of conceding a trick that you might not lose (i.e., if spades are 5-2 and West can be kept off lead) is moot, but it’s not worth a protracted analysis to decide fourth place. Line C has more negative factors than Line F, so it gets the basement.

Comments for D. Lead the D J

Olivier La Spada: To find the D K onside won’t help because I will still need to finesse the clubs. Therefore, I prefer to give up a diamond by creating a sure entry in hand for the heart finesse.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: I just need the trump king to be in West’s hand, [so I will] create an entry to my hand in order to finesse. Even if West wins it and cashes his spade, I will be able to discard my club losers on the good diamonds after clearing out the trump suit. Playing a diamond to the queen will fail when West has both red kings without the C K. Playing the H A followed by a heart will be the right play if the H K is stiff, or if East has it and he either has no more spades, or none of the minor kings — which, to me, seems to be a smaller probability.

Grant Peacock: This line is about 50 percent, give or take. Any other needs two finesses.

Rob Stevens: It is overwhelmingly probable that the defense will be able to cash a spade trick when they gain the lead, either because they are 4-3 or because West will gain the lead when South loses a trick in setting up a hand entry. Therefore, the question is which finesse is the right one to take. And the clear answer to that seems to be hearts. Anything else requires more assumptions. … The defense can defeat Line E by ducking if diamonds are 5-2 with the king with West, but unless the H K is singleton (only a 12-percent chance) the contract was doomed anyway.

Radu Mihai: South probably regrets he doesn’t play Precision (North would have been declarer). Three suits have to be played from hand and I am in dummy. The best I can do is to renounce the diamond finesse, creating an entry to hand. If West wins the D K (or gains the lead via a spade lead from East) and offers the club finesse, put up the ace; come to hand and take the heart finesse (I need this to succeed) and then discard clubs on diamonds.

N. Scott Cardell: My plan is to depend on the heart finesse. … If the opponents duck the D J, I cash the D A, ruff a diamond and take the heart finesse. (If East ruffs the third round of diamonds high you discard your spade loser; if West overruffs, you will need to try the club finesse.) Aside from wild splits, you make whenever the H K is onside unless West overruffs and East has the C K. I also make on distributions where East has a doubleton spade and both red kings, while West has the C K. …

Daniel Korbel: This allows me to get to the D Q to take the trump finesse, making the contract about 50 percent. I’ll refuse the practice club finesse.

D.C. Lin: I plan to take a trump finesse, draw trumps, and pitch my clubs on dummy’s good diamonds. Well, if defenders insist to break my plan by ducking the D J, I can ruff the third round of diamonds and take the trump finesse. All other diamond plays (D A then D 5, or D 5 directly) have their flaws.

Rainer Herrmann: This requires little more than the trump finesse. All other plays require more to work.

Bill Powell: The slight chance of making more on Line B is outweighed by the likelihood of making less.

George Eckstein: The heart finesse will lead to success, but if spades are 5-2 (likely), H K D K in East and C K in West is also good.

Manuel Paulo: The jack’s gambit. It wins almost whenever the trump king is well placed, and in some other cases when East has a spade doubleton and the D K.

Gareth Birdsall: Leading the D J [builds] an entry to hand, and hopefully the heart finesse is right. Other lines seem to require at least two finesses to work.

Tonci Tomic: This way I only need the H K to be onside.

Andrew de Sosa: Something good must happen, and I need to get to hand to take advantage of it. Leading the D J forces an opponent either to forfeit a diamond trick or provide me an entry. If an opponent takes the D K and West gets on lead to push a club through, I must refuse the practice finesse, come to hand with the D Q, and bank it all on the trump finesse.

Bill Jacobs: As Zia would say, this is the sexy play. If one of your options is to lead an unsupported jack, then that’s my choice, without reference to the hand.

Rich Johnson: I need three tricks out of this suit, so I don’t have to rely on the club finesse. This looks like the safest way to force an entry to hand…

Sebastien Louveaux: Forcing an entry to try the heart finesse, which is the only one I need to make the contract. Two clubs will be discarded on the diamonds. Any other possibility lets the opponents block me in dummy.

Douglas Dunn: Sets up an entry to take heart finesse. If ducked, I’ll play D A and ruff a diamond, then the heart finesse.

Aurelio Gracia: Whether the D J stands or if not, I only depend on the heart finesse.

Francisco Plana: To open communication to my hand and create two discards…

Mark Rishavy: Taking the heart finesse can avoid a loser, but taking the diamond finesse won’t — even when successful the D Q will be covered so I can’t pitch two clubs and will need the club finesse. Therefore, I give up on the diamond finesse and lead the D J so that either D Q is an entry or they don’t get the D K at all.

Sid Ismail: The H K must be onside, and the clubs go on the diamonds.

William Claassen: Creating an entry to hand. I only need the heart finesse now, discarding clubs on diamonds later. Playing hearts to get to hand will require (if H K doesn’t drop) both minor finesses to be good.

Prakasam Narasimhan: For this to be successful only H K finesse should succeed. … The defense can afford to duck the D J only at the cost of a diamond trick. Any other play requires two kings with West, which has less percentage success.

Rick Kelly: Against good defenders, they will keep me in dummy so the D J will give me the entry for the heart hook…

George Klemic: [Leading a] black suit is clearly wrong, as if all goes well you can discard one or the other on diamonds. … It seems right to play LHO for the H K, so I’ll develop a plan to get to hand. Which diamond to lead? Leading D J looks right, as it will be very difficult to duck the D K. Leading low, you will have to put up the queen, and if that loses, I have no entry except via a ruff.

Christian Vennerod: The spade lead was unlucky and unlikely at other tables. West seems to be afraid that diamonds and hearts are running.

Arvind Ranasaria: Due to the lack of entries the best I can do is to try and safeguard the contract as long as heart finesse is on. It looks natural to play the D A and another, but then West wins, cashes a spade and pushes a club through, I am committed to a club finesse as well. The lead of the D J works like a charm, …establishing your D Q as an entry for the heart finesse.

Jim Fox: Allows me to at least make when the heart hook is on as long as diamonds aren’t 6-1.

Gerald Murphy: … If the D J gets ducked, I have no loser there; I simply play ace and a diamond and finesse hearts.

Pieter Geerkens: An elegant Mortimer’s Coup, but only 46 percent to succeed (0.92 for no short diamond x 0.50 for H K onside). But to paraphrase Churchill, all the others are worse. …

I know Merrimac and Morton, but who is Mortimer? A Canadian dude from the Great White North?

Robin Burns: I need to decide in which suit I can lose lose a trick most advantageously. If I lead the last spade, the defenders will choose the suit most advantageous to them. Simple game really! If a heart is given up, it does no good to get the diamond finesse right as you need two club discards. Nothing is gained by conceding a club. Therefore, setting up the D Q as an entry to take the heart finesse and creating two discards at the same time must be best.

Thijs Veugen: I can discard the clubs on the diamonds to avoid a club finesse. Playing D J gives an entry for the heart finesse.

Kent Feiler: This probably comes down to a heart finesse, but I might catch East with the D K and only two spades.

Sandy Barnes: I am betting on the H K with West. Seems about a 50-50 chance since a hold up by East is unlikely to help them.

Noer Imanzal Kartamadjana: With three kings missing, it’s best to assume West has the H K. …

Anthony Golding: This forces an entry to my hand, then I’ll play for the H K to be right. [If I cash the H A], absent a stiff H K I’ll have three quick losers and will need both minor-suit finesses.

Len Vishnevsky: The two best lines are B and D. If spades are 4-3, Line D is on the heart finesse; Line B is on a stiff H K or both minor finesses, so D is better by a lot. If spades are 5-2, Line B looks about 1 percent better, but, some of that comes from West holding S Q-10-9-x-x and three kings with no one-level, matchpoint overcall (albeit vulnerable). So Line D is the clear winner.

Beverly Terry: I’m pinning all hopes on the trump finesse working (I can reach my hand with the D Q, finesse trumps, and sluff two clubs on good diamonds).

Florin Constantin: At this point I have to give up a king… By playing the D J, I can reach my hand (the opponents have to take it) and then finesse in trumps.

Analyses 7V56 MainChallengeScoresTop The Tell-Tale Hearts

Problem 2

IMPs
N-S Vul
S J 9
H Q 10 9 6 3
D 8 6 5
C A 8 2
West

2 C
All Pass
NORTH
Pass
Dbl1
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
4 H
Lead: S 6TableEast covers S 9
with S 10



4 H South
S A K 5 3 2
H A J 5 2
D A J
C Q 5

1. negative (4+ hearts)

After winning the S A, what next?AwardVotesPercent
A. Lead the S K107815
E. Lead C Q (West covers) and duck812424
D. Lead the H 26285
F. Lead C 5 to ace; run the H 10510921
C. Win H A; lead the H 2416131
B. Lead the S 22265

It is easy to deduce what’s going on. West’s lead is surely a singleton and he’s a strong favorite to hold the H K, not just because of his bid but because leading a singleton in declarer’s first suit is a dubious strategy without trump control. If trumps are 2-2 this presents no problem, but West rates to have H K-x-x. So what can you do about it?

The straightforward play to clear trumps (Line C) will fail. West will win the H K and simply return a trump, leaving you a trick short. Another possibility is to try to slip a low heart through West (Line D) — if he ducks from H K-x-x, you are home. This is tempting and preferable to Line C, as West will surely fear a blank H A with East. Nonetheless, it is has no legitimate chance if West defends correctly.

Speaking of con jobs, what about Line B, leading a low spade? West may think you have S A-K-Q, so he might ruff. I suppose this could work, but I really think we are heading into a fantasy world. Hmm… Wouldn’t it be beautiful if you tried this and West followed to the second spade? Or maybe I’ve read too many “Spy vs. Spy” columns in Mad Magazine.

What about trying to ruff twice* in hand? If you could ruff dummy’s third club and diamond without allowing West to get a spade ruff, you have 10 tricks. Line E is a good start toward this objective (barring a stiff club with East), but after ruffing a club you will have to cash the D A and exit with the D J, and this only works if West has both diamond honors. The entry conditions do not allow you to lead diamonds from dummy to finesse the jack. Oh, so close.

*Several respondents referred to this as a “dummy reversal,” but I don’t think that’s appropriate. It’s a matter of semantics, but by my interpretation, the term describes the technique of ruffing in the longer trump hand, regardless of which hand is actually declarer. In this case you would be following the normal technique of ruffing in the shorter hand.

The solution hinges on realizing that, even if West gets his ruff, he will have difficulty leading. You will probably be able to endplay him later. Consider this likely layout:

IMPs
N-S Vul
S J 9
H Q 10 9 6 3
D 8 6 5
C A 8 2
Trick
1 W
2 S
3 W
4 W
5 S
6 S
7 N
8 S
9 N
Lead
S 6
S K!
D K
D 10
H A!
S 2
D 8
S 3
H Q!
2nd
9
H 4
5
6
8
C 3
Q
C 6
D 4
3rd
10
J
2
3
3
H 6
H 2
H 9
5
4th
A
Q
J!
A
7
4
7
7
K
S 6
H K 8 4
D K 10 7
C K J 10 7 6 3
Table S Q 10 8 7 4
H 7
D Q 9 4 3 2
C 9 4



4 H South
S A K 5 3 2
H A J 5 2
D A J
C Q 5

Suppose you lead the S K at trick two (Line A) — in your face, West! After ruffing, his only safe return is a diamond (East would indicate this with a high spade as suit preference) and West does best to lead the D K. Duck it! Win the next diamond, cash the H A, and lead a spade. If West ruffs he is endplayed (you will pitch dummy’s last diamond). Otherwise, ruff the spade, ruff a diamond, ruff a spade, then exit with a trump to endplay West in clubs.

Line A is not guaranteed to work. If West’s shape is 1=3=4=5, he can defeat you by leading a fourth diamond after he wins the H K (the ruff and sluff will not help you). The only legitimate way to succeed against this shape is Line E, which requires West to have both diamond honors. I can see three indications against this: (1) Holding S x H K-x-x D K-Q-x-x C K-J-10-x-x, most experts would prefer to double 1 S, (2) East might have raised to 3 C with three clubs, and (3) West might have led the D K. Hence, based on the chain of events so far, 1=3=3=6 is far more likely.

A few respondents said they preferred a different line that was not offered: Win the D A and lead the D J. While this is better than some that were listed, it fails whenever East can win the diamond. East does not give the spade ruff but returns a trump, then if you duck it, West wins and leads his last diamond. If you now draw a second trump and lead the S K, West of course will not ruff and endplay himself. You cannot come to 10 tricks legitimately.

Thanks to Dr. Andrzej Matuszewski of Poland, who sent me a deal that inspired this problem.

Comments for A. Lead the S K

Walter Lee: Lefty gets what lefty wishes. Be careful what you wish for!

Olivier La Spada: The lead is for sure a singleton, so West is marked with S x H K-x-x D K-Q-x C K-J-x-x-x-x. … West is forced to ruff the S K (best play), then he will lead the D K (ducked) and D Q. Then I play H A and a spade [with West later endplayed]. This line fails if West has four trumps.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: This seems nonintuitive but looks like the only solution when West started with a stiff spade and H K-x-x. To justify his bid, he should also have C K-J-x-x-x-x and at least one high card in diamonds. Trying to ruff the third club and the third diamond in hand will fail due to a lack of entries (if I try to use the trump suit, West will clear it out and remove my ruffs). Line A will succeed by eventually endplaying West to underlead his C K; I will lose only two trumps and a diamond. Line E will work only if West has both D K-Q.

Grant Peacock: I expect West to have S x H K-x-x D K-x-x C K-J-10-x-x-x.

Rob Stevens: The lead must surely be a singleton, and the only hand that makes any sense is for West to hold something like S x H K-x-x D K-x-x C K-J-x-x-x-x, or maybe D K-Q-x. On that assumption, [lead the] S K; West will ruff and lead the D K. Duck, win second diamond, [etc.; endplay described].

Radu Mihai: Looking at the lead, I can conclude that West has led a singleton, he has a trump stopper (and another trump to make a ruff), and he has no other attractive lead (as D K-Q) — probably something like S x H K-x-x D K-x-x C K-J-10-x-x-x. I don’t think he can have four diamonds (with S x H K-x-x D K-Q-x-x C K-J-10-x-x, he would have doubled 1 S and led the D K). … [Endplay described] …

N. Scott Cardell: Line A says “lead the S K” not “win the S K” (in other problems I had the option to “win” a side-suit card and choose my continuation). So, the S K will be ruffed, and it must be the right play in spite of this! Discretely removing tongue from cheek. Perhaps with something like S 6-4 H K-8 D Q-10-4 C K-J-9-6-4-3, the S 6 is the least bad opening lead (West leading from the S Q is too suicidal to be plausible), however, the smart money is on a singleton. …

John Reardon: I am convinced that West has something like S 6 H K-8-4 D K-9-4 C K-J-10-6-4-2, so the right play is to lead the S K. … Let him ruff the second spade, for you will succeed whatever he does next.

Rainer Herrmann: West should have most of the outstanding honors, [and] a singleton spade as seems likely now. If West ruffs and switches to a diamond honor, duck and eventually endplay West in trumps after eliminating diamonds.

Bill Powell: West is a nuisance when holding H K-x-x and a singleton spade. However, provided he has at most three diamonds, he can be endplayed in clubs (I’ll lose just two hearts and a diamond).

Marcus Chiloarnus: My friend Gilbert told me to trump the spades before the mice get them.

Franco Baseggio: If this wins, I’m home on a dummy reversal. If not, West will later be endplayed when 1=3=3=6.

Manuel Paulo: The king’s gambit. I can lose three tricks to West (a spade ruff, a diamond honor and the trump king), [then I will succeed] if West does not find a [fourth] heart or a [fourth] diamond to avoid the endplay.

Alex Perlin: Is West a real expert or just some kind of a bot? Is it really hard to foresee that you will be ruffing with your exit card?

Charles Blair: My attempt to throw West in is going to look very foolish if he overcalled on S x H x-x D K-Q-x-x C K-J-10-x-x-x.

Tonci Tomic: West has something like S x H K-x-x D K-x-x C K-J-x-x-x-x. [Endplay described.]

Neelotpal Sahai: Most of the points are marked with West so finesses are not going to work. A strip and endplay is the [best chance]. Entries to hand should be carefully preserved. Play the S K bravely. …

Bill Jacobs: This looks silly, as West will ruff, but my virtual table feel says West’s hand is approximately S 6 H K-x-x D K-x-x C K-J-10-x-x-x. He ruffs the spade (otherwise I crossruff) and must play a diamond. If he leads low to East’s honor, I win and play a diamond back; West leads a third diamond, I ruff and play ace and a trump, endplaying him. If he leads a diamond honor, I duck [etc., endplay described]. If West started with S x H x-x D K-Q-x-x C K-J-10-x-x-x, I will be a goose, but is that a spade lead into declarer’s opening-bid suit? Just cut and paste my analysis and put it at the top of the problem. There is no charge.

Thanks! Now I can save my Aussie bucks for something worthwhile, like barbecued kookaburra wings.

Rich Johnson: You are giving me a “raven” headache. Awesomely, this seems to be best. I don’t mind West ruffing! …

Herbert Wilton: Concede the ruff, since West will regret leading after he wins the H K later.

Steve White: I plan to force West to lead away from his C K, now or later.

Paul Hightower: Trying to endplay West. If he ruffs this, he’ll probably exit with a diamond [etc., endplay described]. West can defeat me if he has a fourth diamond, so I’m hoping he has S x H K-x-x D K-x-x C K-J-x-x-x-x.

Good bridge players must think alike. It’s amazing how many people came up with the exact hand (aside from spot cards) that I gave to West.

Gerald Murphy: If this gets ruffed, West is forced to lead a diamond. If it is an honor, duck; If small, win and lead a diamond. West is [eventually] endplayed.

Analyses 7V56 MainChallengeScoresTop The Tell-Tale Hearts

Problem 3

IMPs
None Vul
S J 7 4 3
H A 8 4
D K Q 8
C K J 8
West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
NORTH
1 C
1 NT
3 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
2 D1
4 H
Lead: D 10Table



4 H South
S K
H Q J 7 5 2
D A 9 6 5 3
C 5 2

1. new minor forcing

Your play?AwardVotesPercent
B. Win D K; H A; lead the H 41029155
A. Win D K; lead the S 3812424
C. Win D K; lead the H 47316
E. Win D A; run the H Q57214
F. Win D A; lead the C 5261
D. Win D K; lead the D Q120

This deal is from real life, and is one of the most painful in my bridge career. I must be a masochist even to bring it up, but there is also some consolation in discussing these things — am I a psychiatrist too? The deal is from the finals of the 1992 U.S. Team Trials.* It was the last board of a 128-board match, and I went down in a contract that was made at the other table. This cost 10 IMPs and flipped our 7-IMP lead into a 3-IMP loss. I can still feel the pain today, so imagine how it felt at the time.

*My partner was Bill Root, and our teammates were Edgar Kaplan, Norman Kay, Mike Passell and Brian Glubok. The opposing team consisted of Seymon Deutsch, Michael Rosenberg, Bob Hamman, Bobby Wolff, Jeff Meckstroth and Eric Rodwell. By winning, they became the U.S. representative to the 1992 World Team Olympiad in Salsomaggiore, Italy.

At my table, Bob Hamman led the D 10. Was this a doubleton or a singleton? I knew good and well that Hamman didn’t get his reputation leading doubletons, so my instincts feared a singleton. Hence, if I played trumps from the top, it is likely he would win the king from H K-x-x and get a ruff as well. Therefore, I led a spade (Line A), willing to concede one ruff; then if the black aces were split, I could pick up his remaining H K-x and succeed. I also thought that locating the S A early on would be an aid in the club guess. Sigh. This was the full deal:

IMPs
None Vul
S J 7 4 3
H A 8 4
D K Q 8
C K J 8
Trick
1 W
2 N
3 W
4 S
5 E
6 W
Lead
D 10
S 3?
D 7
H Q
D 4
H 10
2nd
K!
5
8
3
5
A
3rd
2
K
J
4
H 6
9
4th
3
A
A
K
Q
2
S A Q 9 2
H 10 6 3
D 10 7
C A 10 9 7
Table S 10 8 6 5
H K 9
D J 4 2
C Q 6 4 3



4 H South
S K
H Q J 7 5 2
D A 9 6 5 3
C 5 2

After my spade lead, Hamman was able to win the ace and lead a second diamond, thereby ensuring defeat with a ruff. Line A is definitely best against a singleton diamond, but in retrospect I weighted this too highly. With two unbid suits (diamonds were not actually shown) it would be quite normal to lead a doubleton in one of them. Hence, I should have maximized my chances against a doubleton diamond by drawing trumps quickly. Congrats to the respondents, whose majority were on target with Line B.

At the other table, Brian Glubok (my teammate) led a trump against 4 H. This presented no problem, as he had also made a takeout double for the black suits (North was obliged to open 1 D playing Precision), which marked the location of the C A. I wonder what would have happened if Glubok also led a diamond. Declarer would have even more reason to fear a singleton, and probably would have played as I did. But, we’ll never know.

At least there is some comfort in realizing I was destined to go down anyway. If I led trumps immediately, I would still have to guess clubs, and there seems to be no better clue than to play for split aces after Hamman turns up with the S A. Evidently, this board was won by the opening bid: 1 C silenced the opposition, while 1 D allowed West some activity. Many would argue that West should pass regardless, but Glubok’s aggressive style was successful far more often than not.

Comments for B. Win D K; H A; lead the H 4

Walter Lee: A shortness lead in an unbid suit does not imply a stiff. Line A looks attractive because it can survive a stiff diamond and H K-x-x with lefty, but there aren’t enough clues that point to that distribution.

Olivier La Spada: I have for sure a spade, a heart and a club loser. Take the lead in dummy (in order to catch an eventual J-x-x-x in East) and draw trumps in order to catch H K-x-x-x in East. Therefore, I will have to guess which lucky club to play in dummy. This line loses with singleton diamond, three trumps and one missing ace in West’s hand.

Rob Stevens: Diamonds were not bid naturally, so one cannot assume the D 10 is a singleton; in fact it 50 percent more likely to be a doubleton. To assume a singleton and lead a spade with the intention of taking a heart finesse requires West to hold one of the black aces and exactly H K-x-x, which seems like an extreme position since it jeopardizes the contract when diamonds are 3-2. I think the simple play is best. … If East has H K-x-x-x, it might be better to lead low first, but the chance of this is less than that of West holding two hearts and one diamond. Trying to cater to four hearts with West and a singleton nine or 10 with East is impractical — the defense will often prevail anyway by forcing South with spade leads.

Radu Mihai: Suppose West has something like S A-x-x-x H 10-x-x D 10-x C A-x-x-x (or Q-x-x-x). This is a normal distribution (the red suits 3-2, the clubs can be guessed and the lead seems normal). On Lines A, D and F West will make a diamond ruff; on Line E they’ll play spades all the time and I’ll lose finally control. Lines B and C both win. Line B is a little better: let’s say West has a singleton diamond and two or four hearts without the king. It’s true West can also have S A-x-x-x H K-x-x D 10 C Q-x-x-x-x, in which case line A is the winner. Who knows what distribution is more probable?

N. Scott Cardell: … Unless by a minor miracle I pick up trumps for no losers, I will need to take five diamonds, four trumps and a club. If I don’t play on trumps, I may lose a diamond ruff with diamonds 3-2. There is a good chance that the D 10 was a singleton, but diamonds is effectively an unbid suit [so a doubleton is more likely]. … Aside from [catching a stiff H K] I hope East wins [the second heart] with the king and either diamonds are 3-2 or East has 3+ hearts. If this happens, I will be able to locate the S A before deciding my club play.

Daniel Korbel: Looks like if nothing goes terribly wrong, I’m simply on a club guess. If the D 10 is singleton, I don’t think there’s much I can do if the cards lie badly.

D.C. Lin: If the lead is a singleton, I need to find a miraculous lie of the cards. To be realistic, I’d better place the lead from a doubleton and deal with the threat of a third-round ruff. …

Quentin Stephens: Get those trumps out.

Alex Perlin: OK, so I failed to drop the H K in Problem 1; but I am still trying.

Gareth Birdsall: My first reaction was Line B, so no doubt it’s wrong! It looks like I need trumps 3-2. Lines B, C and E all work if West began with two diamonds, but Line B also works when West has one diamond and two trumps.

Bill Jacobs: Drawing trumps is the best part of my game, and you should play to your strengths. No reason not to protect against a stiff king, or West with a doubleton heart and singleton diamond.

Rich Johnson: Uh-oh. An expert defender leading into my suit; do your experts always lead shortage? If I am put to a guess, I’ll play West for the C A, based on the lead.

Sebastien Louveaux: I must make four trumps, five diamonds and a club. Line B avoids the diamond ruff if they are 3-2, and may avoid a second heart loser if they are 4-1.

Nigel Guthrie: But if West drops an honor, I then lead the H 8. Even a cunning fox with a degree in Cunning from Cunning University may lose his brush if he does not run for cover with down-to-earth play.

Albert Sekac: Hoping to avoid a diamond ruff.

Gyorgy Ormay: Opponents are experts, so the small spade is a dream. The D K is required because of the probably singleton 10. To draw the trumps is the most important; I don’t believe West has H K-10-9-x.

Anil Upadhyay: There is an almost certain heart loser (barring 10-9 doubleton with East) and the risk of diamond ruff, so this is the best play.

George Klemic: This seems like a simple hand; there are two black losers, and you must lose a trump. So get the trumps out and hope that there aren’t any new losers!

Neil Morgenstern: Again a simple play seems the best chance to avoid a ruff.

Jim Fox: Simple approach. I hope to make four hearts, five diamonds and last trick either in spades, hearts or clubs depending on how the play develops.

Michael Clark: The lead indicates that the diamonds can be picked up, so start on trumps. Even if everything is wrong, you still have chances.

Bill Cubley: Lets try that old standby of drawing trumps. There is probably a trump loser anyway, missing K-10-9-6-3.

William Stevens: Hopefully, this may avoid a diamond ruff by the opponents.

Anthony Golding: There’s a strong risk of a diamond ruff, so I need to draw trumps. … If East has H K-x-x-x, I can pick up trumps, playing a club after winning an honor for my first reentry — naturally, I’m going to get clubs right!

Len Vishnevsky: I could stare at this looking for the trick, but it’s not some horror story with a trick ending, is it? Get the kids off the street. …

Leonard Helfgott: Since I don’t have the entries for a spade-ruffing dummy reversal, I’ll eventually need a club guess. May as well save the finesse position in diamonds (win king) and take the normal play in hearts for only one loser.

Analyses 7V56 MainChallengeScoresTop The Tell-Tale Hearts

Problem 4

Matchpoints
None Vul
S Q 10 6 3
H A K 7 6
D 6
C A 6 4 2
West

1 S
3 D
All Pass
North

Dbl
3 H
EAST
1 D
2 D
3 S
South
Pass
2 H
4 H
Lead: D 4TableEast wins D K



4 H South
S J 8
H 9 8 5 4 3 2
D Q
C K 8 5 3

East shifts to the H J to the queen, king. On the H A West discards the D 3.

Your play?AwardVotesPercent
E. Win H 9; lead S 8 to 1010265
A. Lead S 3 to the jack818736
C. Win H 9; lead the S J7438
F. Win H 9; lead S 8 and let it ride65911
B. Lead S 3 and finesse the eight520539
D. Win H 9; lead S 8 to queen261

The enemy bidding is quite revealing, both as to pattern and high-card locations. East’s delayed spade raise must show exactly three cards, so his shape should be 3=2=6=2. This is consistent with West’s lead of the D 4 (fourth best) and discard of the D 3. East is marked with the D A-K from the first trick, so the S A-K are almost surely divided — if they were together in either hand, the bidding would be implausible if not impossible.

Be thankful for no club lead, as the only real hope to win 10 tricks is to establish two spade winners to avoid a club loser. Several respondents questioned why East, presumed to be an expert, did not shift to a club at trick two. Certainly, this would have killed your chances, but in fairness it has a double-dummy tinge. If East had, say, C J-x, he would look pretty stupid leading a club if you had S x-x H Q-x-x-x-x D Q C Q-10-x-x-x. No, East could not have enough information to justify a club switch at trick two.

The S 8 and S 6 in this problem are red herrings; with the proper technique you can succeed if they were both deuces. The object is to develop a squeeze against West, who is marked with the club stopper as well as the long spade. This will not be an ordinary squeeze because accurate defense will lead clubs at every opportunity. Consider this typical layout:

Matchpoints
None Vul
S Q 10 6 3
H A K 7 6
D 6
C A 6 4 2
Trick
1 W
2 E
3 N
4 N
5 S
6 E
7 S
8 S
Lead
D 4
H J
H A
H 6!
S 8!
C J
H 8
H 5
2nd
6
2
10
D 2
4
K
D 7
D 8
3rd
K
Q
3
9
10
9
7
C 4
4th
Q
K
D 3
D 5
A
2
D 9
D 10
S K 7 5 4
H Q
D 8 7 5 4 3
C Q 10 9
Table S A 9 2
H J 10
D A K J 10 9 2
C J 7



4 H South
S J 8
H 9 8 5 4 3 2
D Q
C K 8 5 3

Suppose you lead a spade to the jack (Line A). West will win and lead the C 10 to your king. Now you are dead because you can’t give up a spade (a second club lead removes your only entry), and you can’t lead all your trumps because East will keep good diamonds with his S A.

The key is to lead the first spade from your hand to remove East’s entry, so cross to the H 9 and lead the S 8 (not the jack) to the 10 and ace (Line E). Win the club shift with your king and start leading trumps.

This will be the ending before your last trump is led:

H win 4 S Q 6 3
H
D
C A 6
Trick
9 S
Lead
H 4!
2nd
?
S K 7 4
H
D
C Q 10
Table S 9 2
H
D A J
C 7



South leads
S J
H 4
D
C 8 5 3

Note that West was obliged to pitch all his diamonds to retain stoppers in both black suits. Finally, on the last trump West is squashed. If he pitches a club, throw a spade from dummy, and all your clubs are good. If he pitches a spade, throw a club from dummy, and lead a spade; if West ducks the S J, you must overtake to establish the long spade, which explains why the similar Line D does not work.

It is apparent that Lines A, B, C and F all depend on the location of the S 9. Line B works when East has it, and Lines A, C and F work* when West has it. Since West is a favorite to hold any specific spade spot (3:2 odds), Line B is clearly inferior.

*It may seem that the location of the S 7 is also relevant, but as several respondents noted, this doesn’t matter. For example, with Line A, when the S J loses to West and a club is returned, the best play is to cash both clubs before running the S 8. This way, if West covers the S 8, East will be endplayed when he wins his honor. The same situation develops in Line C. In Line F there is no such endplay, but when West covers the S 8, the play transposes into Line E, though it is doubtful if those choosing Line F would follow up correctly.

Comments for E. Win H 9; lead S 8 to 10

Walter Lee: Either East has misdefended (where is the club switch?), or West responded with a dog and East has S A-K-x. The “Dog Days of Summer” are over, so I’ll take my chances with the former.

Olivier La Spada: The shape of West’s hand is 4=1=5=3, and the problem here is to know if he has a spade honor or not. Let’s assume he does. The key play is to force East to take his spade trick by playing the S 8 to the 10. East returns a club, won in hand, then West will be squeezed by playing all the trumps but one. At this point West must keep all his black cards, and the last trump will squeeze him. [Ending described.] Unfortunately, if East has both spade honors the play should have been a low spade from dummy at the fourth trick.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: In order for the strip squeeze to succeed, I need to keep the S Q in dummy to overtake the jack (and play another spade) in case West keeps two clubs and a doubleton spade honor and does not win the S J. [Ending described.] I need to adopt this line as the communication for a simple squeeze will be broken by repeated club leads if I play spades twice. If East started with one club only, I could also choose Line A; however, Line E covers both presumed distributions: 3=2=6=2 and 3=2=7=1.

Grant Peacock: I’m surprised your pickle-jar expert defender didn’t attack clubs.

Craig Satersmoen: Looks from the auction that West is 4=1=5=3, so he’s gonna be squeezed in the blacks…

Rainer Herrmann: The black-suit squeeze without the count seems obvious. However, do not block the spades in case West ducks [my S J] later.

Bill Powell: West appears to be 4=1=5=3 with a spade honor. If I knock out East’s spade honor first and retain a club entry and [potential] spade entry to the board, West will be squeezed in clubs and spades.

Franco Baseggio: The auction and play suggest West is 4=1=5=3. After this, win the C K and run trumps until West pitches a black card. Either the clubs will be good, or you can establish two spades: S J to S Q [if West ducks].

Manuel Paulo: West should have 4=1=5=3 distribution. The position of the S 9 is irrelevant, as West will be squeezed in the black suits, with or without the count. (My expert opponents fixed themselves when neither West nor East led a club.)

Charles Blair: The squeeze hand (without the count) of the month.

Gareth Birdsall: The auction is very revealing. It looks as though West is 4=1=5=3. I can squeeze West if he has a spade honor as long as I lose the first spade to East. Win the club return in hand and run trumps… [Ending described.]

Douglas Dunn: East does best to win and play a club. Win the C K and run hearts. West is marked with 3+ clubs on bidding and is likely 4=1=5=3 shape on the play so far. [Ending described.] Interestingly, [in the ending] if West ducks [my S J, I must] overtake with the S Q and play another spade. So Line D fails on this defense.

Michael Palitsch: I would like to squeeze West in the black suits, but there is a severe entry problem. Only the lead of the S 8 to the 10 removes East’s spade honor and sets the position for the squeeze.

Michael Clark: This wins out over Line D because it maintains a [potential] entry to the North hand to help in the final endplay. It also has advantages over other lines because it can cope with S K-9-x on your right.

Dafydd Jones: Sets up the positional squeeze. I need East to win the first spade to do this.

Analyses 7V56 MainChallengeScoresTop The Tell-Tale Hearts

Problem 5

IMPs
E-W Vul
S A Q J
H A Q 2
D A Q 10 7 6
C 8 3
West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
NORTH
1 D
2 S
3 H
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
3 C
4 H
Lead: H 3TableEast plays H 5



4 H South
S 2
H K J 10 9
D 5 3
C A 7 6 5 4 2

Your play?AwardVotesPercent
B. Win H A; C A; give up a club1011822
F. Win H J; duck a club98115
A. Win H A; duck a club711522
D. Win H J; lead diamond to queen55110
E. Win H J; lead diamond to 1039518
C. Win H J; lead spade to jack26613

You may not approve of the bidding, but the contract is sound, although 3 NT is perhaps a little better. The trump lead seems to have started the defense on the right track, as it prevents you from developing a high crossruff to ensure six trump tricks.

Your best chance is to establish the club suit, which requires only a normal 3-2 club break and trumps no worse than 4-2. Therefore, Lines C, D and E must be inferior since they stray from the main objective. Note that if you take a losing finesse in diamonds or spades, a second trump lead ruins your communication to establish clubs.

Line F looks like a strong start. Assuming opponents lead a second trump you will win the ace in dummy and lead a club to your ace. If clubs are 3-2 (and hearts not 5-1), you are now home: Lead a third club but do not ruff it, pitching a diamond. Regardless of the return, you can overtake the H Q to draw trumps and enjoy your three remaining clubs. The main danger of Line F is the possibility of a singleton club with West. Consider this ominous layout:

IMPs
E-W Vul
S A Q J
H A Q 2
D A Q 10 7 6
C 8 3
Trick
1 W
2 N
3 S
4 E
5 S
6 E
7 N
8 N
9 N
10 S
11 S
Lead
H 3
C 3
C 2
H 6
D 3!
C K
D A
D Q
D 6
H K
S 2
2nd
A!
9
S 4
J
4
4
2
S 3
S 5
7
10
3rd
5
A!
8
4
10
S 6
5
C 5
H 10
S J
Q
4th
9
Q
10
2
K
H Q
8
9
J
S 7
8
S K 10 6 4
H 8 7 4 3
D J 9 8 4
C Q
Table S 9 8 7 5 3
H 6 5
D K 2
C K J 10 9



4 H South
S 2
H K J 10 9
D 5 3
C A 7 6 5 4 2

It would not be pretty to have West ruff your C A and smugly lead a third trump. A possible workaround is to duck two clubs, but this would also fail against the 4-1 break shown — in fact, it might even fail with clubs 3-2 if West wins the second club and leads a third club (with East having four trumps).

Line B is a better approach. On the surface this appears to lack any elegance, but in reality it neatly combines your chances of establishing first clubs and then diamonds. Win the H A, grab your C A, and give up a club — just like a beginner might play it. Presumably, East will lead a second trump, won by your jack. If clubs had split 3-2, you would simple concede a club as described in Line F, but you now know that clubs lay foul. Time to switch horses: Lead a diamond to the 10* and king, then regardless of the return, you can succeed with the S K onside. Yes, East might have beaten you in the above layout by ducking the first diamond lead, but at least you had life after club death.

*It would also be reasonable to finesse the D Q, and if it wins, try to make two spades without losing the lead (finesse or ruffing finesse) and crossruff, although this fails in the layout shown. The best continuation is moot, but the point worth stressing is that you have the opportunity to try something.

Of the inferior Lines C, D and E, I scored Line D best because, if the finesse of the D Q wins, you can scamper home on a dummy reversal barring fluke distributions: C AD A; diamond ruff; spade finesse (say it loses and the heart return is won in dummy); cash both spades; diamond ruff. Conversely, if you finesse the D 10 and it forces the king, or if you finesse the S Q successfully, you still have significant hurdles to overcome.

Comments for B. Win H A; C A; give up a club

Walter Lee: So many queens — I think I’ll use none of them.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: The simplest way to get 10 tricks will be to take four clubs, four hearts and two aces. Assuming trumps split no worse than 4-2, I need to check clubs first. If I duck a club and they split 4-1, I may lose the club trick (my ace getting ruffed by West) and also an entry that may be vital to change gears and play on diamonds, finessing twice. If clubs split 3-2, I have two entries to my hand: one to concede another club, and the other to clear out trumps and cash my good clubs.

Grant Peacock: If clubs don’t behave I can try diamonds.

Craig Satersmoen: If clubs are 3-2, it’s pretty much a claim by giving up a club (not ruffing) and still having an entry back to hand. If clubs are 4-1, I can still work on diamonds and spades for 10 tricks.

Rob Stevens: The most straightforward chance is to play for clubs 3-2. Ducking a club looks normal but is unnecessary and risks losing the C A when clubs go 4-1. Assuming the defense plays a second round of hearts, I will not ruff the third club but simply concede it, retaining North’s heart to reenter my hand. If clubs go 4-1, I will need the finesse of the D Q and, short of entries to hand, probably the ruffing spade finesse.

Radu Mihai: I intend to make four clubs, four trumps and two aces. If West wins the club and plays a diamond or a spade, take the finesse; win East’s return, come to hand [if necessary] and play clubs again, discarding from dummy. Then win any return, draw trumps and enjoy the rest of clubs. If the clubs are 4-1, there is still time to play on diamonds and spades…

Daniel Korbel: If clubs break, there’s a neat safety play: Win the next trump in hand and lead another club, throwing a diamond away. This guards against any 4-2 heart break. If clubs don’t break, you have discovered it early enough that you can hope for a miracle in diamonds.

D.C. Lin: This works when clubs break 3-2 and trumps break no worse than 4-2. (Do not ruff the third club in dummy.) If the second round of clubs reveals a 4-1 break, I can fall back on other lines such as two finesses and a crossruff.

John Reardon: If clubs break 3-2 and hearts 3-3 (or 4-2 either way), I will certainly succeed (I won’t ruff the third round of clubs because I need the trump entry to South). If clubs are 4-1, I still have excellent chances.

Bill Powell: When clubs are 3-2 and hearts 4-2, I can make one spade, four hearts, one diamond and four clubs (no ruffs). Line A is similar but Line B gives the option of changing tack when clubs are 4-1.

George Eckstein: … This insures the contract with clubs 3-2 (and hearts no worse than 4-2) and leaves about a 25-percent chance if clubs are 4-1. Obviously, I will not ruff the third club if they are 3-2.

Charles Blair: I misanalyzed a hand similar to this one on rec.games.bridge about six weeks ago.

And I misguessed a queen about six years ago. Anything else you’d like to add to our discussion?

Gareth Birdsall: Lines which involve losing club tricks are good as long as you remember not to ruff the third round. Line B might even succeed against some 4-1 club breaks since the ace isn’t ruffed and you find out early.

Tonci Tomic: If hearts are 4-2 and clubs 3-2, I’m home. I will give up two clubs and diamond. If clubs are 4-1, I still have some chances.

Andrew de Sosa: This wins whenever clubs are 3-2 and hearts 4-2, and gives chances to try other options when clubs are 4-1. Assuming clubs are 3-2 and the opponents continue trumps, I will win in hand and lead a third club discarding a diamond. (I need the third trump in dummy to return to hand to complete drawing trumps when they are 4-2.)

Sebastien Louveaux: If clubs are 3-2, it is easy to give up a second club (without ruffing it) to keep a link to my hand. If clubs are 4-1 and they play a trump (best defense), I will have to make two spades, two diamonds and a club ruff. I will need the D K onside, and will take the spade finesse into the hand that is [likely to be shorter] in trumps.

Nigel Guthrie: If hearts are no worse than 4-2 and clubs are 3-2, then give up two clubs. If clubs are 4-1, think again.

David Grainger: If they return another trump, I will win in hand and lead a third club, pitching from dummy to leave the trump as a hand entry to run the clubs — making on 4-2 trumps and 3-2 clubs. If clubs don’t break, I have to give up on them and take some finesses…

Neil Morgenstern: If clubs are 3-2 and they lead another trump, I can win in hand and give up another club (not ruff it). Then I’m safe against any attack assuming hearts are 4-2. If clubs are 4-1, I have chances to bring in diamonds. If I started by ducking the first club and suffer a club ruff of my ace, it’s not easy to recover. Ducking the first two rounds [of clubs] doesn’t seem like a solution either.

Arvind Ranasaria: Main chance is clubs 3-2 and hearts 4-2. I intend to give up the third round of clubs (not ruff in dummy) to preserve trump communication. Line B is better than Line A or F as it leaves us with enough time to [try other] plays in case clubs are 4-1.

Pieter Geerkens: If clubs are 3-2 and hearts no worse than 4-2, I am home (57.5 percent). If clubs don’t split and a heart is returned, I win in hand to lead a diamond to the queen. …

Analyses 7V56 MainChallengeScoresTop The Tell-Tale Hearts

Problem 6

IMPs
Both Vul
S Q 4
H K 10 9 8 7
D K 4
C 9 7 4 3
West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

2 D1
2 NT
East

Pass
Pass
SOUTH
1 NT
2 H
4 H
Lead: S JTableEast wins S A
capturing S Q



4 H South
S K 5 2
H Q J 3
D A J 10 9 5
C A J

1. Jacoby transfer

At trick two East leads the S 6 to your king; West plays S 3.

Your play?AwardVotesPercent
A. Ruff spade; D K-A; ruff diamond109117
F. Lead the C J714427
B. Ruff spade; lead club to jack6489
E. Win D K-A; ruff diamond57614
C. Lead trumps twice48015
D. Lead trumps once; D K-A; ruff diamond38717

Should you try to crossruff? Establish diamonds? Or something in between? The sturdy diamond spots suggest leading trumps, but that’s a dubious plan; whoever wins the H A will surely shift to clubs, then you will need diamonds to establish with one ruff, else take a diamond finesse with your contract on the line. Note that if you ever ruff a club in hand, you cannot enjoy a long diamond for lack of an entry.

Line F looks tempting. By conceding a club, you may be able to ruff two clubs in hand to cinch 10 tricks. Alas, no. The opponents need only to play two rounds of trumps, then you will be left with the same task of establishing diamonds with one ruff. Retaining the C A is not much help, since its usefulness as a late entry precludes ruffing a club.

The only line that will succeed against all normal breaks is Line A, which is essentially the start of a dummy reversal — or maybe this should be called a “declarer reversal” since we are already backwards because of the transfer bid. Consider this layout:

IMPs
Both Vul
S Q 4
H K 10 9 8 7
D K 4
C 9 7 4 3
Trick
1 W
2 E
3 S
4 N
5 N
6 S
7 N
8 S
Lead
S J
S 6
S 5!
D K
D 4
D J
C 3
D 10
2nd
Q
K
9
2
6
C 5
2
C 10
3rd
A
3
H 7
5
A
H 8
A
H K
4th
2
4
7
3
7
8
6
Q
S J 10 9 3
H 6 4 2
D 7 3
C K 10 6 5
Table S A 8 7 6
H A 5
D Q 8 6 2
C Q 8 2



4 H South
S K 5 2
H Q J 3
D A J 10 9 5
C A J

After ruffing a spade at trick three, you continue with three rounds of diamonds, ruffing again. Next win the C A and ruff another diamond with the H K (not crucial) to reach the following ending:

H win 3 S
H 10 9
D
C 9 7 4
Trick
9 N
10 W
Lead
C 4
H 2
2nd
8
9
3rd
J
A
4th
K
3
S 10
H 6 4 2
D
C K
Table S 8
H A 5
D
C Q 8



North leads
S
H Q J 3
D 9
C J

Now simply exit with a club. If West leads a trump to the ace and a trump is returned, you will draw the last trump and enjoy your good diamond. Otherwise, you have a crossruff. West might have discarded differently as you ruffed diamonds, but nothing would matter. As long as trumps are 3-2 and diamonds no worse than 4-2, you can’t be touched.

If the D Q fell on the third round (diamonds 3-3), it would be better to lead a club to the jack next, instead of the ace. This allows you to succeed against some 4-1 trumps breaks — for example, if West is 3=4=3=3, he must play ace and another heart to stop a crossruff, then you can win in hand and lead a good diamond, etc. If the D Q fell doubleton, you would do similarly (i.e., lead the C J from your hand) and be able to succeed against most 4-1 trump breaks.

Of the remaining lines, there is not a great deal of difference. The waiting moves (Lines B and F) are clearly better because you will discover how trumps break before you commit yourself in diamonds — plus, there’s always the chance opponents do not (or cannot) play two rounds of trumps, which gives you an easy crossruff. Among Lines C, D and E, I could see a slight disadvantage in leading one round of trumps, so if you do that you might as well lead two rounds — at least then you can pick up any 4-1 trump break and succeed when diamonds run.

Several respondents questioned the play of the S Q from dummy at trick one. If you play low instead, East is obliged to duck; then you can try to take advantage with three rounds of diamonds, pitching the spade if the D Q doesn’t show. Alas, there is no safety in this: If either opponent ruffs the third diamond with a doubleton trump, you will fail. (To see this, swap the H 2 and C 2 in the example deal.) In contrast, playing the S Q gives you a strong position — East cannot afford to clear trumps,* lest you have an easy claim. Also, note that a club shift does the defense no good either — you would duck, then after the forced ace and a trump, you can establish the long diamond, ruff a club in the process, and still have that precious S K as a final entry.

*An interesting lead by East is a low trump at trick two. While this reeks of being double-dummy, it does give the defense a tempo advantage to counter declarer’s moves. Well, except for one move: the diamond finesse (which might be indicated through East after such a defense). It certainly provides food for thought. Hmm… Could there be a defensive problem brewing here?

Comments for A. Ruff spade; D K-A; ruff diamond

Walter Lee: I can’t concentrate when dummy has more trumps than I do. Let me fix that before I decide what to do.

Olivier La Spada: This wins if hearts are 3-2. After the diamond ruff I play a club to the ace and ruff another diamond. [Ending described.] By leading a club [at the end], no return prevents me from winning 10 tricks.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: This is the only line for the dummy reversal to succeed. I need this if diamonds are 4-2, as the opponents will not allow me to ruff two clubs in my hand; surely enough they will play two rounds of hearts. This will fail if trumps are 4-1 and diamonds 3-3, but it will win on the most probable layout (hearts 3-2 and diamonds 4-2 or 3-3). Line F presents different options and may succeed with trumps 4-1, but after two rounds of trumps are played a choice must be made: Play for a 3-3 diamond split, or for a squeeze in the minors with the additional chance of a diamond finesse against East? I still think Line A is better (which would also succeed if trumps are 4-1 and the D Q drops under the ace, because then I could switch to playing the club jack).

Craig Satersmoen: Leading a spade early eliminates entry problems in the end position if diamonds are 4-2.

Rob Stevens: A cow flew by when I first analyzed this hand! One of my threats has to be to establish the diamond suit, even when they are 4-2 without the queen falling. Then I have nine tricks: three diamonds, C A, S K, and four hearts in the North hand. If I could ruff a club in hand, that would provide the 10th, but I can’t do this and enjoy the fifth diamond. So, I must play along reverse-dummy lines and threaten to score five trump tricks by way of three ruffs in North and two in hand. In order to get the timing right, I must ruff a spade now. [Sequence and ending described.]

Radu Mihai: Try a dummy reversal: Ruff a spade and two diamonds in dummy, then exit with a club… [Ending described.] If trumps are 3-2 and diamonds no worse than 4-2, I make it. It doesn’t matter if somebody overruffs with the H A.

N. Scott Cardell: I want to make against all normal splits… and the only solution is Line A… If the D Q has not dropped, I continue with a club to the ace and another diamond ruff; finally, giving up a club. [Ending described.] If trumps are 4-1, I must hope for a singleton H A [unless] the D Q fell singleton or doubleton [in which case I could change course] and pick up some additional 4-1 trump breaks. …

D.C. Lin: After ruffing the diamond, I give up the C J. If the defenders play ace and another trump to [stop a crossruff], I am well placed to ruff a fourth diamond, [return to the] C A, draw trumps, and cash the fifth diamond.

John Reardon: I would rather use my entry to trump the spade now and then set up the diamonds before I lose the lead. A couple of rounds of trumps early on may prove awkward.

Marcus Chiloarnus: I asked Lambert about this one but he just told me to wear a monocle. I asked him why and he said it would not help with the bridge, but it would make me look more learned.

Alex Perlin: What a misery! After opening a strong notrump I barely have enough entries to my hand to ruff everything I want to ruff. Of course, I’m not about to waste one of the entries. If the D Q appears on the second round of diamonds, I lead the C J.

Sebastien Louveaux: I will follow with a club to the jack. If they do not play ace and another heart, I will be able to crossruff. If they do so, I can take in hand, ruff a diamond (they will then be established) and come back with the C A to draw the last trump and make the last diamond. The S K was a crucial entry to my hand to complete the dummy reversal.

Craig Zastera: Then (assuming the D Q hasn’t dropped), I lead a club to the jack. [Similar description as above.]

Anil Upadhyay: Thereafter duck a club. If they play H A and another, ruff another diamond if necessary, enter with C A, etc. If they play anything else, crossruff.

A number of respondents mentioned this alternate follow-up (ducking the first club lead), but I don’t think it offers any advantage when diamonds are 4-2 with the queen still out. It certainly adds a risk: The opponent short in diamonds will be able to pitch two clubs before you win the C A, which spells disaster if an opponent has 5=3=2=3 shape (or possibly 4=4=2=3 where a blank H A allows you to succeed otherwise).

Dafydd Jones: Dummy reversal.

David Stern: If I play trumps immediately, they will switch to clubs, leaving me with potentially four losers (especially if trumps break badly). With such good trumps I can try to ruff one spade and two or even three diamonds…

Final Notes

Comments are selected from those above average (top 272), and on each problem only those supporting the winning play (except Problem 1). While this might be considered biased, I feel it’s the best way to ensure solid content and avoid potential embarrassment by publishing comments that are off base. On this basis, I included over 75 percent of the eligible comments. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

Use of a comment does not necessarily mean I agree with it, but generally they are all worthy. Comments are quoted exactly except for corrections in spelling and grammar. Where I have included only part of a comment, an ellipsis (…) indicates where text was cut. Text in [brackets] was supplied by me to summarize a cut portion or fix an omission. Comments are listed in order of respondents’ rank, which is my only basis for sequencing. I am confident that my lengthy study of these problems, assisted by comments received, has determined the best solutions in theory. Even so, oversights are possible, and feedback is always welcome. E-mail Richard

Thanks to all who responded, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site.
I’ll leave you with these Poe-tic remarks:

Charles Blair: I think Poe compared whist favorably to chess in “The Purloined Letter.”

Bill Cubley: I guess the 1987 Baltimore Summer Nationals. If I’m right, will you appear on the parade ground wearing only cross belts with your rifle? That’s what got Poe dismissed from West Point. Seems he didn’t feel he needed the rest of his uniform to comply with the order.

Anthony Golding: These problems drove me raven mad!

Analyses 7V56 MainChallengeScoresTop The Tell-Tale Hearts

Credits to Edgar Allan Poe (pictured) 1809-49 and his short story The Tell-Tale Heart
© 2001 Richard Pavlicek