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Keep the Ship Afloat

Much of the battle in the card play as declarer is to keep your ship afloat. Defenders are like icebergs lurking in the night; if you don’t stay alert, they’ll rock your keel and deep-six the contract. One can only wonder that if contract bridge had been invented 90 years ago, history might have been rewritten on that fateful night in April. Are you ready to play bridge? Or shall we just save time and man the lifeboats?

In April of 2002 these problems were presented as a contest, which had 687 entrants from 101 locations. The contest is now closed, but you can still challenge yourself and find your score immediately.

As South on each of the six problems, choose your play from options A-F. Each option is rated on a 1-to-10 scale per my judgment.

Bidding is Standard American, and your opponents use standard leads and signals. For a reference see Standard American Bridge. Assume all players are experts.

So take over the helm for some rough waters ahead. If you make it back to port, you’re a hero. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Full steam ahead, and you might win a valuable prize.*

*Prizes include a completely restored 23-foot propeller blade and a barnacled keg of 96-year-old Champagne.
Winners must be at least 18 years of age and descendant of RMS Titanic passenger (First Class only).
Employees of PavCo Maritime Salvage are ineligible.

Problem 1

IMPs
N-S Vul
S 6 5
H K J 8
D A Q J 10 4
C Q J 4
West

Pass
Pass
North

1 D
3 NT
East

Pass
All Pass
South
1 C
1 NT
Lead: S KTableEast plays S 10



3 NT South
S A 4 2
H A Q
D 8 5 3
C K 8 6 5 3

A. Win first spade; lead D 3 to queen
B. Win first spade; lead C 3 to jack
C. Win second spade; lead D 3 to queen
D. Win second spade; lead C 3 to jack
E. Win third spade; lead D 3 to queen
F. Win third spade; lead C 3 to jack

Note: If you duck the first trick, West leads the S Q and East plays the S 3.

Problem 2

IMPs
E-W Vul
S K 10 9 2
H Q 6 3 2
D A K Q J
C K
West

Pass
All Pass
North
1 D
3 H
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
4 H
Lead: C QTableEast wins C A



4 H South
S 5 4
H A K 5 4
D 8 7 5
C 9 4 3 2

East returns the C 6, you play low, West the C 8, and you ruff in dummy. What next?

A. Lead the S K
B. Lead the S 10
C. Win H K; lead spade to king
D. Win H K; lead spade to 10
E. Win H Q; H K; lead spade to king
F. Win H Q; H K; lead spade to 10

Problem 3

Matchpoints
None Vul
S 6 4 3
H A 7 6 4
D A K
C Q J 5 4
West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 C
1 NT
3 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
2 D
4 S
Lead: H QTableEast plays H 2



4 S South
S A 8 7 5 2
H K 3
D 10 7 6 4 2
C 6

OK, so you bid a lot. Now shut up and select your play:

A. Win H A; D A-K; duck a trump
B. Win H A; D A-K; lead the C Q
C. Win H A; lead the C 4
D. Win H K; duck a trump
E. Win H K; H A; ruff a heart
F. Win H K; lead club to queen

Problem 4

IMPs
Both Vul
S K J 7 3
H J 3 2
D Q J 10 2
C 7 6
West

3 C
All Pass
North

Dbl
East

5 C
South
1 D
5 D
Lead: C ATableEast plays C 5



5 D South
S A 9 4
H A 10 4
D A K 8 7 6 5 4
C

You ruff and lead a diamond to the queen, both following. What next?

A. Win S K; S A
B. Ruff club; win S K; S A
C. Ruff club; win S K; lead spade to nine
D. Ruff club; lead spade to jack
E. Ruff club; lead spade to seven
F. Ruff club; win D J; lead spade to nine

Problem 5

Matchpoints
N-S Vul
S 10 3 2
H A 6 3
D Q 7 3
C J 6 4 3
West
1 D
2 C
Pass
Dbl
North
Pass
Pass
4 S
All Pass
East
1 H
2 D
5 D
South
Dbl
3 S
5 S
Lead: D KTableEast plays D 4



5 S× South
S A K Q J 8 6 4
H 10 4 2
D
C K Q 2

You ruff and cash the S A; West plays the S 5 and East the S 9. What next?

A. Win S K; lead the H 2
B. Win S K; lead the C K
C. Win S 10; lead the H 3
D. Win S 10; lead C 3 to king
E. Lead the H 2
F. Lead the C K

Problem 6

IMPs
Both Vul
S A 4 2
H A Q J 10
D A 5 4 2
C J 3
West

Pass
Pass
North

1 H
6 NT
East

Pass
All Pass
South
1 C
2 NT
Lead: H 9TableEast plays H 3



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

A. Win H A-Q-J-10; D K; D Q
B. Win H A; lead C J and let it ride
C. Win H A; lead C 3 to nine
D. Win H K; D K; D A
E. Win H K; D K; D Q
F. Win H K; lead C 4 to jack

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek