Analyses 7V80 MainChallenge

Keep the Ship Afloat

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

These six play problems were published on the Internet in April 2002, and all bridge players were invited to submit their answers. As declarer on each problem, all you had to do was choose your line of play from the choices offered.

Problem 123456Final Notes

Grant Peacock Wins!

This contest had 687 entrants from 101 locations, and the average score was 37.71. Congratulations to Grant Peacock (Irvine, California) who was alone at the top with a score of 59. No less than seven players were right behind with 58: John Reardon (London, England); Gabriel Nita-Saguna (Willowdale, Ontario); Marcus Chiloarnus (United Kingdom); Rob Stevens (Santa Cruz, California); Charles Blair (Urbana, Illinois); Brian Lee (Cambridge, Massachusetts); and Alex Perlin (Russia).

Besides the fine showing this month, Gabriel Nita-Saguna is also the new overall leader, narrowly edging out Rob Stevens by my tiebreaking formula. Also noteworthy is that Gabriel is (and has been for a quite a while) the only person in the Top 10 in both the play contests and bidding polls.

Another curiosity is a family affair: Rainer Herrmann is 10th in the play contests, and his wife Zuzana is 10th in the bidding polls. Neat; let her bid ‘em and him play ‘em.

Every month it seems I’m updating my country list, as a new participant emerges from a country in which I didn’t realize bridge was played. Perhaps one day it may happen that all countries play bridge — at least that would be welcome news over sad events of the times. This month was no exception, so join me to welcome Glyn Puddefoot of Botswana. Hmm… Botswana. Do I rank him with the humans or the bots?

Each problem offered six plausible lines of play. The merit of each is scored on a 1-to-10 scale based on my judgment, which is also aided by some of the comments I receive. These problems were not easy (and one was deliberately tricky), which surely accounts for the lower scores this month.

Assume all players are experts. Bidding is standard (except as noted) and your opponents use standard leads and signals. For a reference see Standard American Bridge.

Analyses 7V80 MainChallengeScoresTop Keep the Ship Afloat

Problem 1

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


1 D
3 NT

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

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

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

B. Win first spade; lead C 3 to jack10507
D. Win second spade; lead C 3 to jack810716
F. Win third spade; lead C 3 to jack624836
A. Win first spade; lead D 3 to queen4112
C. Win second spade; lead D 3 to queen3609
E. Win third spade; lead D 3 to queen221131

Most of the respondents followed general principles, holding up the S A until the third round. Having done this, Line F is better than Line E because it succeeds whenever spades are 4-4 or when the C A is with the shorter spades (barring some bad club breaks); this parlay is clearly better than relying on a finesse in diamonds.

General principles can lead you astray. The only advantage in holding up the S A is if West has five or six spades and East has the C A; but is this really possible? Hardly. First, if West held S K-Q-J-x-x or better at favorable vulnerability, would he pass over 1 C? Not the opponents I play against. Second, is there anyone who would signal with the 10 from 10-9-x or 10-x? (This is an attitude signal by standard methods.) Therefore, it is virtually impossible for the holdup play to gain, and there are common layouts where it will cost, like this:

IMPsS 6 5TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH K J 81 WS K5102?
D A Q J 10 42 WS Q63A
C Q J 43 SC 37Q2
S K Q JTableS 10 9 8 7 34 NC J1059
H 9 6 5 3 2H 10 7 45 NC 4A6S J!
D 9 7 6D K 26 ES 94H 2D 4
C 9 7C A 10 27 ES 8D 3H 3D 10
S A 4 28 ES 7D 5D 6D J
H A QDeclarer fails
D 8 5 3
3 NT SouthC K 8 6 5 3

If you hold up the S A until the third round, you are history, as it unleashes the spade suit for East. If you win the first or second spade and lead clubs immediately, spades are blocked. But wait! Winning the second round is no good either: East can hold up the C A, then West can jettison the S J on the third club. This defense should be obvious, too, for an expert pair. Also note that switching to diamonds after winning two clubs does not help; East can still cash the C A for West to pitch the S J.

The best play is to win the first spade and lead clubs (Line B).

This was one of the easier problems to score, as leading clubs is always better than leading diamonds, and the longer you hold up the S A the worse your chances become.

Comments for B. Win first spade; lead C 3 to jack

Grant Peacock: Preventing any unblock if East has five spades and C A-x-x.

John Reardon: This hand reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” West most probably won’t have more than four spades to the K-Q-J or he would have bid. The danger seems to be when he has led from just three spades and has a hand like S K-Q-J H x-x-x-x-x D x-x-x-x C 9. If I duck even one round of spades, East can duck the first club and West will unblock the S J on the second round so that East can cash his spades.

John’s example is curious indeed, as I believe declarer is sunk (except by dropping the stiff D K) if he leads a second club. East can duck again, allowing West to dump both of his spades.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: It is unlikely that West started with five spades; he would have overcalled with K-Q-J-x-x or better. If spades are 4-4, it does not matter how many times I duck. The problem is when West started with three spades, K-Q-J. If I duck once and play on clubs, and if I win the first two club tricks, how am I going to continue? Because now, if East has the C A, West has a spectacular discard, unblocking the spades.

Rob Stevens: Twenty-five years ago this would have been a tougher decision. Now, everybody (except me) bids with five spades to the K-Q-J regardless, so I should assume spades are 4-4 or that West has K-Q-J tight. Therefore, the diamond finesse is out, and I should hope for clubs 3-2 or a singleton [honor] with West. I must also make it difficult for the defense to unblock spades, so I win the first trick…

Charles Blair: I will look foolish (once again) if West has five spades, but sound overcallers are an endangered species.

Alex Perlin: People stretch to overcall 2 S over 1 C at favorable vulnerability to exclude two levels of bidding. So West won’t have S K-Q-J-x-x unless I am playing against vegetables — always a distinct possibility.

Rainer Herrmann: Keep the spades blocked. …

Gareth Birdsall: West must have led from either K-Q-J, K-Q-J-x, or K-Q-J-x-x (the last being unlikely since he would probably overcall, especially if he has the D K or C A). If I don’t hold up, it is better to win the first round to guard against West unblocking with S K-Q-J and two clubs. …

Radu Mihai: Looking at the cards played on the first trick, it’s clear West has S K-Q-J. I don’t think West would have passed over 1 C having five or more spades at this vulnerability, so spades are 4-4, or 5-3 and blocked. …

Arvind Srinivasan: Ducking the first spade may result in West pitching his third honor on the C A and unblocking the suit.

Craig Satersmoen: Looks like West has three spade honors but didn’t overcall nonvulnerable; hence spades are either 4-4 or blocked. Holding up on the spade might lead to West pitching the blocking spade on the C A.

Frances Hinden: I don’t believe West has S K-Q-J-x-x with no 1 S or 2 S overcall. My understanding of the S 10 is that East can’t have the jack… so I take the first spade to stop East ducking two clubs allowing West to discard the blocking spade honor. …

Imre Csiszar: West would have overcalled with six spades, or five and the C A. Line F wins if West has five spades, but then East would be unlikely to play the 10. …

Kent Feiler: The only hands of note seem to be (1) West holding S K-Q-J-x-x-(x) and no C A, or (2) S K-Q-J tight. Since (1) looks like a 1 S overcall, I’ll deal with (2). It’s important to win the first spade to prevent the opponents from getting cute and pitching the S J under East’s C A on the third round.

Phil Clayton: This wins when spades are 4-4 or blocked. There is no point in holding up, as the defense may unblock their spades on the third round of clubs. I may look foolish if West has led spades from an entryless hand; but why is East encouraging?

Bill Jacobs: If you trust the bidding and carding, West has either S K-Q-J or K-Q-J-x. Take the first spade to avoid a jettison later.

Richard Stein: Aww. Are the spades all bwocked up for the poor widdle opponents?

Oh, my. Now we have our own resident Barbara Wawa. “There’s always something!” -Gilda Radner

Pratap Nair: Spades could be K-Q-J with a five-carder on the right. …

Richard Higgins: Not sure who is long in spades, but West didn’t overcall 1 S or 2 S; so it seems no good to duck.

Raimon Tatxe: … East’s positive signal can only be from 10-9-x-x or 10-9-x-x-x. In both cases it seems good to take the first spade and play clubs. …

Luc Segers: East doesn’t have the S J, so West appears to have K-Q-J. He probably doesn’t have five spades since he did not overcall; either spades are 4-4 or 3-5 and blocking. …

Analyses 7V80 MainChallengeScoresTop Keep the Ship Afloat

Problem 2

E-W Vul
S K 10 9 2
H Q 6 3 2

All Pass
1 D
3 H
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.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
C. Win H K; lead spade to king1023835
B. Lead the S 10914121
E. Win H Q; H K; lead spade to king811517
A. Lead the S K7213
D. Win H K; lead spade to 10411116
F. Win H Q; H K; lead spade to 102619

At first glance this seems like an easy contract (assuming normal breaks), but a closer look reveals the communication problem. You need a second club ruff; and if you go after it immediately, you will be stranded in dummy, unable to draw the outstanding trump. Therefore, the crucial decision is whether you should waste one of the entries to your hand to lead a spade to the king (clearly better than finessing the 10 since you can’t lead spades twice from hand) or resign yourself to two spades losers and lead spades from dummy to build communication.

When I created this problem, my intended solution was Line B (Line A being a close second) as it succeeds against all normal breaks, while other lines require the S A to be onside. For example:

IMPsS K 10 9 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W VulH Q 6 3 21 WC QKA2
D A K Q J2 EC 6?38H 2
C K3 NS 10?74Q
S Q 8 6 3TableS A J 74 WD 3A25
H J 9 8H 10 75 NS 2J53
D 10 6 3D 9 4 26 ED 476K
C Q J 8C A 10 7 6 57 NH Q748
S 5 48 NH 310A9
H A K 5 49 SC 4JH 65
D 8 7 510 NS 9AH 56
4 H SouthC 9 4 3 211 SH K
Declarer succeeds

After ruffing the club at trick two, simply give up a spade. If the opponents lead a third club, you can draw trumps and claim. Otherwise, you will concede a second spade to develop an entry to your hand so you can ruff another club and draw trumps. If instead, you wasted a heart entry to lead the spade, East can always defeat you. (Even the double-dummy play of finessing the S 10 is not good enough, as a third club leaves you in a hopeless predicament.)

Alas, this is not so clear-cut. As a number of astute solvers commented, East’s club return at trick two is a factor that should not be ignored. Would an expert East make this play holding the S A? Probably not. Note that in the above layout if East simply returns a red suit (I prefer a diamond because of its scare power) you would be obliged to find the S A onside to succeed.*

*It may seem that you are now able to take two spade finesses, but that’s an illusion. If your first spade lead is to the 10 and jack, East will return a club to force dummy; then you can’t afford a trump to hand for another spade lead. It is true that you can succeed at double-dummy by ruffing out the S A, but hopefully you won’t admit to playing for that.

If the S A is onside, as inferred from the club return, you can succeed against some bad breaks. For example:

IMPsS K 10 9 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W VulH Q 6 3 21 WC QKA2
D A K Q J2 EC 638H 2
C K3 NH 37A10
S A J 6 3TableS Q 8 74 SS 43K7
H 10H J 9 8 75 NS 2856
D 10 6 3D 9 4 26 EH J4C 7Q
C Q J 10 8 7C A 6 57 ND A253
S 5 48 ND K476
H A K 5 49 NS 9QH 5J
D 8 7 510 SC 410H 65
4 H SouthC 9 4 3 211 ND Q9810
Declarer succeeds

Leading spades from dummy obviously loses outright; but the defense is helpless if you cross to the H K, lead a spade to the king, and give up a spade. This layout also shows the advantage of Line C over Line E. If you were to cash two trumps, East could win the second spade and lead a third trump to beat you (also note that reverting to diamonds can’t overcome this).

Several respondents mentioned the danger of a 6-2 club break, e.g., West having S A-x H J-9-x D x-x C Q-J-10-8-7-5, where the failure to draw a second round of trumps allows East to overruff the third club. Certainly true, but in that event you are destined to fail anyway. (Versus Line E, East wins the S A and returns a club, locking you in dummy; then you must lose two more tricks.)

Next comes the scoring issue. The choice between Lines B and C is debatable, because it’s difficult to quantify an inference versus the probability of bad breaks. Therefore, I’ll go with the majority. Line C gets the top spot, with Line B a close second. Third goes to Line E, similar to Line C but clearly inferior; and fourth to Line A, similar to Line B but inferior.*

*Leading the S K first gives the opponents greater flexibility; i.e., either may be able to win the second round. Leading the S 10 first then the S K later allows only one defender to win the second round, which may be beneficial on dangerous layouts.

Comments for C. Win H K; lead spade to king

Anthony Golding: I’m not overburdened with tricks, so I can’t afford to throw away a possible spade trick, nor would I like a club return if a finesse of the S 10 loses.

Tonci Tomic: The club return is a strong indication that clubs are 6-2. Anyway, I don’t want to go down if the S A is onside. The contract can [also] be made with the S A offside if East is 3=3=4=3 (or 4=3=4=2 with S A-Q-J-x).

Walter Lee: Line B is attractive a priori, but East is not supposed to defend this way staring at the S A. I hope East has S Q-x-x H J-10-9-8 D x-x-x C A-6-5, but I’ll accept S Q-x H J-10-9-8 D x-x-x-x C A-6-5.

Gareth Birdsall: It’s [probably] necessary for the S A to be onside to make the contract; however, I can succeed if trumps are 4-1 and the defender with long trumps has 3+ diamonds… If the S K holds, I lead another spade.

Stefano Biciocchi: It seems to be no advantage not to try for the S A in West. Leading a spade from dummy to gain communication needs hearts and spades to break favorably. Leading a spade to the 10 is not good for lack of an entry. Cashing two top hearts is of no utility and may preclude a club ruff.

Neil Morgenstern: I can’t see how it gains to lead to the S 10 — it’s going to lose to the jack or queen most of the time, and if East leads back a diamond, what then? At least if the S K holds, I’m probably home.

Sergey Kustarov: [By leading a second club] East showed one of three cases: (1) West has the S A, (2) hearts are 4-1 or (3) East has only two clubs. In any other case it’s right to return a heart. Line C can win if hearts are 4-1 (if long heart hand has 3+ diamonds). …

Nigel Guthrie: If trumps are 3-2 and West has S A, I do not want to hear partner’s comments if I adopt another line.

Douglas Dunn: Expert defense? If East has the S A, he’s just let the contract make; so West should have it. I can still make if trumps are 4-1 as long as three diamonds can be cashed.

Leonard Helfgott: If this loses I’m probably down, but leading spades from the table to get a spade ruff requires somewhat more than just 3-2 trumps. If the S A is onside, I have some chances even if trumps are 4-1.

Carlos Dabezies: … [I cannot afford] to finesse the S 10, as a diamond will come back, stranding me in dummy. If East has the S A, I must then hope he started with four diamonds and three hearts.

Phil Clayton: I don’t have time to double hook in spades. [East’s] club return strongly suggests 5-3 [or 6-2] clubs, which [may] leave me open to a trump promotion…

Leigh Gold: [There are] not enough entries to take a repeating spade finesse.

Michael Kaplan: … East [probably] has C A-10-9-6 or A-6-5 using [standard leads], and his choice to force a club ruff makes 4-1 trumps likely. West must have the S A, and I [expect] to lose one club, one heart and one spade.

Gerald Murphy: Play for split aces and trumps to be 3-2. If that is the case, I can come to 10 tricks via one spade, four hearts, four diamonds plus one ruff.

Geoff Croes: If the S K loses to the ace, I may still be able to ruff a club with the dummy’s low heart.

Neelotpal Sahai: Leading spades directly will lose if I am unable to ruff another club (doesn’t East’s club return ring a bell?). Yes, he probably has a doubleton (or at most three). If I take out two rounds of trumps, then I have to depend completely on the spade finesse. …

Rahul Chandra: I can only draw one round of trumps first in case they win and lead trumps. …

Greg Udvari: I need another heart in dummy to ruff a further club attack. I must play the S K as I do not have the entries to mess around with the 10.

Geoffrey Toon: Assuming the most likely 3-2 trump break, I will make four hearts, a club ruff, and four diamonds. I need one more but do not have the necessary communication to get another club ruff; so I’ll just play for the S A to be well placed.

Howard Abrams: … [Drawing two trumps] before leading the spade [makes it easier for] the defenders to draw dummy’s last trump… Also, Line C seems preferable to Line D; even though Line D is more likely to create a spade trick (West is 76 percent a priori to hold either or both of the S Q-J), it almost guarantees the defenders will take two spade tricks and be able to force me to ruff a club with the H Q, thereby [promoting] a trump trick in addition to two spades and a club.

Daniel Testa: I may need another club ruff, so draw only one round of trumps. I lead a spade to the king since leading to the 10 will give me two spade losers (unless West has Q-J) which means going down whenever trumps are 4-1.

Ron Landgraff: … I really would like to ruff another club, but then I think a diamond goes away. The club return is suspicious (maybe East has C A-x or S A-x-x), but I don’t think the odds are any better than West having the S A.

Comments for B. Lead the S 10

Grant Peacock: It would be great fun to win trick two with S K, but saving the king for later could pay off if spades are 5-2 with the ace on the short side.

Rainer Herrmann: Establishing communication outside of trumps. Line B may survive a doubleton S A.

Radu Mihai: With trumps 4-1, I need a miracle, so the problem is to do the best assuming they are 3-2. If I win one or two trumps finishing in hand and lead spades, the danger is to lose two spade tricks. In this case it will be impossible to communicate with my hand and keep a low heart in dummy to guard against a club lead. … It’s better to play a spade immediately from dummy to prepare communication. Assuming spades are 4-3 (62 percent), I’ll be able to ruff another club then to come to hand to finish trumps. Leading the S 10 is better than the king because A-x in a hand is more likely than Q-J doubleton.

Steven Whitaker: Leaving open the option of the 10th trick (three trumps, four diamonds, two clubs ruffs) being either the S K or the fourth heart. Drawing any trumps means I can’t disentangle my entries in time.

Arvind Srinivasan: This gains [over Line A] in ace-doubleton cases, where the defense can organize a trump promotion if I play the S K first.

N. Scott Cardell: Given a 3-2 trump break, I have nine tricks and the 10th will have to be a club ruff or a spade. Trying to finesse twice in spades requires more hand entries then I have, so I must either lead to the S K or [pursue] a club ruff. If I cross to the H K and lead a spade to the king, ace; East returns a trump, and it is too late to try for a club ruff [barring a miracle]. … Trying to ruff a club [seems] better; if trumps are 3-2, I will normally [succeed] unless East has a doubleton club or West has 2-2 in the majors. …

Frances Hinden: Planning eventually to ruff a spade to hand to draw the last trump. Playing the S K on the next round gives opponents less control over who wins the spades (relevant if diamonds are 5-1).

Barry Rigal: If a defender wins cheaply and leads hearts, I win the queen and duck a spade. I win the next heart in hand, ruff a club, ruff a spade back to hand and draw the last trump…

Bernard Danloy: I will need a spade ruff to reenter my hand, and I have to prepare it quickly, but an overruff could be fatal. So I must preserve S K, which solves the problem when West has A-x in spades.

Bill Shutts: Coming to hand and leading a spade to the king wins against a few 4-1 trump breaks, but it loses against most normal (gentle) breaking hands when the finesse loses. Leading a spade [from dummy] wins when breaks are all normal. Leading the S K might win when they misjudge and duck. (John Hubbell used to make plays like this against me when I was young. He would tell me the best way to dispose of losers was to lead them early.) … Saving the S K for the second round, [however, is technically superior].

Walt Schafer: … Leading a spade from dummy just needs 3-2 trumps (four trumps, two clubs ruffs and four diamonds). The S 10 is the right card to lead now; I’ll lead the king on the next round when it may help most to restrict defensive options.

Sebastien Louveaux: Start to open communication to my hand in order to ruff a second club in dummy. [Assuming normal breaks in the other suits] this fails only if East has five spades to the ace (along with the C A), which seems unlikely without a 1 S overcall.

Frans Buijsen: I’ll have to give up [two spades] to gain entry to hand anyway, and doing it now creates some slight extra chances in spades. …

Matej Accetto: This line seems to guarantee success with no disastrous breaks. Trumps have to split 3-2, spades 4-3 (likely with no bidding from the opponents), diamonds no worse than 4-2 (if the defense leads diamonds) and [clubs no worse than 5-3]. … The S 10 is better [than the king] because [for one reason] East may fear I hold the S Q and rise with the ace…

Richard Higgins: I hope this puts pressure on East. [I need to] set up a spade entry to my hand.

Olivier La Spada: With the idea of losing two spades and one club. I need to create an entry to my hand in order to ruff one more club and get back to draw trumps.

Herbert Wilton: The S K is a mirage; just play to ruff a second club. Leading the S 10 is better than the king because there might be a doubleton ace in the layout.

Etienne Klis: I lead spades to open a ruff in hand for communication to draw trumps. The S 10 is better, so I can lead the S K next; then the defenders will not have a choice as to which hand wins the second spade.

Manuel Paulo: Lines A and B are winning lines almost whenever trumps break 3-2. I choose Line B (though less spectacular than Line A) because it may happen that I need an avoidance play, which will be possible by keeping the S K.

Arindam Ray: This is the convenient way of gathering another club ruff and keeping control. [I will need] to get back to my hand with a spade ruff to draw trumps.

Analyses 7V80 MainChallengeScoresTop Keep the Ship Afloat

Problem 3

None Vul
S 6 4 3
H A 7 6 4
C Q J 5 4

All Pass
1 C
1 NT
3 S
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

B. Win H A; D A-K; lead the C Q1014221
F. Win H K; lead club to queen815122
A. Win H A; D A-K; duck a trump626639
C. Win H A; lead the C 45365
E. Win H K; H A; ruff a heart4345
D. Win H K; duck a trump3588

Having overbid to a thin game, you are going to need some luck. You certainly need trumps 3-2, and probably diamonds 3-3; but you may be able to succeed against 4-2 diamonds if West has the doubleton along with three trumps. This is the case that requires careful timing.

Before ruffing a diamond, it is essential to lead clubs to break the enemy communication. Else, West can ruff the third diamond in front of dummy, then put his partner on lead with a club for another diamond ruff. Below is the typical layout to consider:

MatchpointsS 6 4 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None VulH A 7 6 41 WH QA!23
D A K2 ND A325
C Q J 5 43 ND K84J
S K J 9TableS Q 104 NC Q!26K
H Q J 10 8H 9 5 25 WC 3410S 2
D J 5D Q 9 8 36 SD 6!S 9H 49
C K 9 7 3C A 10 8 27 WC 758S 7
S A 8 7 5 28 SS A!J310
H K 39 SS 5K4Q
D 10 7 6 4 2Declarer succeeds
4 S SouthC 6

The instinctive play is to win the H K and lead a club toward dummy. Besides gaining control in clubs, this also has a chance of establishing a club trick (e.g., if West has A-x-x or K-x-x). Nonetheless, an extra club trick will be meaningless if you can’t achieve your main objective of establishing diamonds. In fact, winning the H K at trick one is an unrecoverable start; the loss of the entry will force you to lose trump control or suffer a trump promotion.

The proper play is Line B: Win the H A, cash the top diamonds, and lead the C Q (any club is OK, but no other choice was offered). Suppose West wins and returns a club, forcing you to ruff; then lead a third diamond. If West ruffs and taps you again, you can clear trumps (ace and another) leaving the defense without recourse. Note that a fourth club lead doesn’t matter because you still have the precious H K as a final entry. If West discards on the third diamond, simply ruff in dummy, return to the S A and lead a fourth diamond.

The play of ducking a trump (Lines A and D) is a common technique with the actual trump holding, but here it gives up on the important chance of ruffing (or threatening to ruff) two diamonds in dummy. Note that the defense needs only to lead a second trump to foil you; or alternatively, after Line A, East could give West two diamond ruffs.

Comments for B. Win H A; D A-K; lead the C Q

John Reardon: Usually I need spades 3-2 and diamonds 3-3, but if West has something like S Q-10-9 H Q-J-10-8 D 9-5 C A-9-7-3, correct play will still succeed.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: [Most lines] will succeed when diamonds are 3-3. I think Line B is best, as it will also succeed when West has exactly two diamonds and three trumps. I must play a club after cashing D A-K in order to break communication between defenders and avoid two potential diamond ruffs by West.

Marcus Chiloarnus: This seems the best way to reduce North’s hand to rubbish, then it will match this contract.

Rob Stevens: To come to 10 tricks I need to score a long diamond without allowing the defense to win three trump tricks. Trumps must be 3-2, and if diamonds are 3-3 there is no problem. When diamonds are 4-2, West must hold the doubleton and three trumps, and if he ruffs ahead of dummy I must make sure he cannot reach East for a fourth diamond lead. …

Charles Blair: Trying to cater to West having two diamonds and three spades.

Brian Lee: Hoping for diamonds 3-3, or West having a doubleton diamond and three spades.

Alex Perlin: You are just like my partner. He always wants me to shut up and select the best play. Of course, I do neither.

Rainer Herrmann: Cut communication, and this may even survive a few 4-2 breaks in diamonds.

Tonci Tomic: … [This will produce] 10 tricks if diamonds are 3-3, or if West have two diamonds and three spades.

Walter Lee: It is best that I not make this contract; otherwise I’ll never play in a part score again.

Gareth Birdsall: I need trumps 3-2. I will make if diamonds are 3-3; or if West has three spades and two diamonds, as long as I unblock diamonds (so I don’t lose control) and lead a club as a scissors coup (else West can ruff the third diamond and lead a club to East for another diamond ruff).

Steven Whitaker: Why is this matchpoints? You’ll get a near top if you make it and a bottom if you go down, so you play it the same as IMPs, don’t you?

No, I’m hoping to win 12 tricks. First the C Q holds, then an opponent revokes… easy slam.

Craig Satersmoen: I only need spades breaking and diamonds 3-3, or West to hold three spades and two diamonds. I have to play the club to avoid West getting a second diamond ruff.

N. Scott Cardell: … This may look like a crossruff hand, but the poor trump spots and side-suit distribution make that plan very unlikely to succeed. I have a reasonably good chance to set up diamonds… and with correct play I stand to succeed when West has three trumps and two diamonds, as well as when diamonds break 3-3. …

Stefano Biciocchi: Of course spades must be 3-2; and if diamonds are 3-3, no problem. It seems that cutting communications can win against three spades and two diamonds in West (preventing two ruffs).

Sergey Kustarov: This succeeds if diamonds are 3-3, or if West has three trumps and two diamonds. In the latter case I must guard against two diamond ruffs, so I have to break communication. …

Nigel Guthrie: I hope to ruff diamonds in dummy, and this may survive some 4-2 diamond breaks.

Bill Powell: So my communication can floe when West has two diamonds and three spades.

Kent Feiler: As well as a 3-3 diamond break, I’m going to try to make it when West has two diamonds and three spades. I have to lead clubs to prevent him from getting two ruffs.

Franco Baseggio: I’m not too worried about undertricks, so I’ll bank on 3-2 trumps and either 3-3 diamonds or West having three trumps and two diamonds. The club lead cuts communications. …

Douglas Dunn: To make the contract, diamonds will have to be 3-3, or 2-4 with West having three trumps.

Barry Rigal: My plan is to ruff the club return and try to ruff a diamond. I’ll need diamonds 3-3, or West to be short and have three trumps.

Bernard Danloy: … West didn’t find the killing trump lead. If he has three trumps and two diamonds, I can’t let him ruff twice, so it is vital to cut the opponents’ communication.

Carlos Dabezies: There aren’t 10 tricks without setting up the diamonds and limiting trump losers to two. I want the H K as an entry to ruff a diamond, and I must keep trumps in dummy in case West has two diamonds and three trumps.

Walt Schafer: The main chance is 3-3 diamonds and 3-2 trumps. The only extra chance I see is West having [three spades and two diamonds] where I can play diamonds through him effectively. … If I don’t play a round of clubs, West can ruff the third diamond and cross to partner in clubs for a fourth diamond lead. …

Richard Stein: Ooh, I need quite a lot of luck, don’t I? Well, the nice thing about play problems is I’ll get all the miracles I need.

Matej Accetto: It seems that even with a perfect layout of clubs and hearts, ruffing those suits won’t get me more than nine tricks. So, I have to develop the diamonds without losing a trick or by exchanging a diamond loser for a trump loser. If diamonds are 3-3, no problem. I can also make if East has D Q-J doubleton, or if West has any two diamonds, provided the hand with two diamonds also has three trumps. In that case I want to sever communications to prevent two diamond ruffs… hence the importance of playing clubs early. …

Len Vishnevsky: I need either three spades, two hearts and five diamonds (with a ruff and a 3-3 break), or I need to elope with all four baby trumps in my hand and still ruff a diamond. So, I play to set up diamonds. …

Etienne Klis: Of course I need trumps to be 3-2, but 3-3 diamonds is not absolutely necessary.

Manuel Paulo: While I am trying to set up the diamond suit, I should cut the defense’s communications. Line B is the only winning line against West’s 3=3=2=5 and 3=4=2=4 distributions.

Analyses 7V80 MainChallengeScoresTop Keep the Ship Afloat

Problem 4

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

3 C
All Pass


5 C
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

You ruff the first trick and lead a diamond to the queen, both following.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
A. Win S K; S A10599
C. Ruff club; win S K; lead spade to nine818627
E. Ruff club; lead spade to seven710615
F. Ruff club; win D J; lead spade to nine610515
D. Ruff club; lead spade to jack411517
B. Ruff club; win S K; S A211617

General principles suggest ruffing the last club as routine elimination; but as you might expect in a play contest, general principles tend to be unreliable. Your chances are excellent after any of the finessing moves (Lines C-F), but no matter how you play spades, there is always a lie of the cards that will defeat you. Line B is clearly the weakest attempt, as it fails against the common holding of S Q-10-x-x East.

Several respondents suggested an unlisted line that in practice would be superior to any of Lines B-F: Ruff the club, cross in trumps, and lead a heart to the 10. If it loses, West must return a heart; play low from dummy, win the ace and exit with a heart. This only fails if West has both heart honors and elects to return a heart (highly unlikely in practice) and East has both S Q-10. I wish I had thought to list it.

Congratulations to those who found the only 100-percent line. I was brief to describe Line A so as not to reveal its essence. The next move is to cross in trumps and lead the last club pitching your spade. A number of respondents noted that Line A won the spades in the “wrong order” (thus requiring an extra trump lead), which is true*, but this flip-flop was part of my deception. Either way is 100 percent, but the listed way was more likely to make Richard Nixon proud.

*Thanks to Tom Peters for pointing out that cashing the S A first is indeed the superior play for an overtrick.

IMPsS K J 7 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH J 3 21 WC A65D 4
D Q J 10 22 SD 59Q3
C 7 63 NS K542
S Q 10 6 2TableS 8 54 NS 38A6
H Q 7H K 9 8 6 55 SD 6!C 8JC 2
D 9D 36 NC 7KS 9!9
C A Q J 10 9 8C K 5 4 3 2Declarer succeeds
S A 9 4
H A 10 4
D A K 8 7 6 5 4
5 D SouthC

With Line A there are no guesses. If West wins the club, he is endplayed: Either spade lead will establish a trick in dummy, and breaking hearts obviously loses. If East wins the club, he can lead a heart, which you will duck to West for the same endplay. Note that if East held S Q-10-x-x, he also could not lead a spade (on the S 10 you would just pitch a heart and claim), so he must lead a heart to West for a similar endplay.

Note the pitfall of Line C. If you win the S K and inesse the nine, West wins and has an easy exit in spades. You can still succeed, but you have to guess right; there is no lock, even on the bridge certainty that West has at most two hearts. Note that you lack the communication to ruff the fourth spade and lead the H J from dummy and (when covered) lead a heart toward the 10. If instead, you lead a low heart toward the jack, West will duck and you’ll need mirrors to drop his queen later.

Comments for A. Win S K; S A

John Reardon: This hand is a certainty, but you have disguised the correct line by cashing the spade honors in reverse order and not mentioning the key play. … [Assuming the S Q-10 are still out] I cross to dummy in trumps and discard the S 9 on the losing club. Whoever wins the club is fixed. If East leads a low heart, I duck it and West is endplayed. If East leads a low spade, I discard a heart…

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Isn’t this line a 100-percent safety play? I’ll follow with a diamond to jack and play the remaining club discarding the small spade from my hand. Regardless of who wins the trick, the defense must open up the heart suit, promote another spade trick, or give me a ruff and discard.

Rob Stevens: This is a 100-percent solution, which our quiz master has cunningly disguised… reenter dummy in trumps and lead the club, throwing the last spade.

Charles Blair: “Claim the contract and put your cards on the table before you make a mistake.” -Terence Reese

Brian Lee: Planning on crossing to dummy and leading the club, pitching a spade.

Anthony Golding: … It looks as though there’s a sure-trick line… you sneaky devil, which you’ve hidden by the order of the spade tricks in Line A. I can cross to D J and pitch my last spade on C 7, then they must give me an extra trick no matter how the major cards lie…

Walter Lee: It is bad style to waste a trump for no good reason. Happily that doesn’t leave me with many choices.

Radu Mihai: [Continue with] a diamond to dummy, and lead the last club to discard the S 9. No matter who wins and how they play after, I’ll get an 11th trick. What can be better than 100 percent?

Erkki Malkamaki: It’s 100 percent. If the S Q or 10 drops, I have 11 tricks. Otherwise, I discard S 9 on last club, and whoever wins must give me an extra spade trick, a heart trick or a ruff and discard.

Frances Hinden: This is 100 percent. I expect to lose a club trick.

Imre Csiszar: This is a tricky problem, since the sure-trick play (S A, S K, then a club discarding a spade) is not listed. Still, [Line A] is equally good.

Nigel Guthrie: The sure-trick play is to [cross to dummy with a diamond and] discard the S 9 on the C 7.

Franco Baseggio: Very sneaky. [Cross to dummy] and throw a spade on the club. East can avoid immediate death by leading a heart, but then West has no winning option. This is 100 percent.

Douglas Dunn: Return to dummy with a trump and make the nice loser-on-loser play (lead the club and pitch a spade).

Bill Shutts: This is a trick question, right? Anyway, it is an old, old theme. So play S A-K and, if nothing good happens, lead a club discarding a spade and claim 11 sure tricks. However, it does not cost on this layout to lead an extra round of trumps if you cash spades in this seemingly backward order.

For an “old theme” it appears to have worked pretty well! Note that 91 percent of the vote was rather evenly dispersed among the inferior options.

Brad Bart: I’d really prefer to win the S A first, then the king, [but either way], a club off dummy pitching my spade away forces an endplay in three suits.

Leonard Helfgott: I believe that cashing the S A-K in either order followed by pitching the S 9 (if the queen or 10 doesn’t drop) on the C 7 is a 100-percent play for contract. If East wins and returns a heart, I duck and endplay West; while the return of the S 10 allows a heart discard… I don’t see how I can lose more than two tricks with this play, and it offers a slight chance of an overtrick.

Phil Clayton: And then pitch a spade on the club. Easiest of the set. I’ve never seen a sure-trick line in your quizzes, and this may be the first.

It’s for the movie rights. Sure-trick lines add charisma, and I’ll soon be talking big bucks with James Cameron.

Richard Stein: To be followed up by crossing to the D J and leading that last club, discarding a spade. Owwhh, that’s gonna hurt.

Noyan Ekici: … [Then] cross to dummy with a trump and a club, discarding a spade.

Len Vishnevsky: … Tricky, since I’d play S A, S K… but the contract is cold [either] way.

Analyses 7V80 MainChallengeScoresTop Keep the Ship Afloat

Problem 5

N-S Vul
S 10 3 2
H A 6 3
D Q 7 3
C J 6 4 3
1 D
2 C
4 S
All Pass
1 H
2 D
5 D
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
C K Q 2

You ruff the first trick and cash the S A; West plays the S 5 and East the S 9.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
E. Lead the H 210396
A. Win S K; lead the H 287511
F. Lead the C K7578
B. Win S K; lead the C K627340
D. Win S 10; lead C 3 to king519729
C. Win S 10; lead the H 33467

The bidding may not be to your liking, but it actually occurred in a local club game. As West, my final double was probably wrong, but it was impulsive based on my table feel that South was overbidding. OK, so our game was sagging and we needed some tops. Fortunately, declarer did not find the winning line, else I might be too aggravated to look at this deal again.

From declarer’s standpoint it is obvious that West has the bulk of the missing high cards; certainly the D A and C A, and probably the H K as well. The most obvious chance for an 11th trick is a squeeze against West in the minors, but the timing is wrong; not only do you have to force out the C A, but you must lose another trick. Further, the entry condition in clubs is controlled by West, who can foil you simply by ducking the C K; then if you continue with the queen, he can wipe out your entry.

This problem is deeper than most people realized. In order to succeed, you must pose a dual threat to the opponents. In other words, you need something up your sleeve besides the potential squeeze. This is realized in the form of several elimination and throw-in possibilities. Consider this likely layout:

MatchpointsS 10 3 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH A 6 31 WD K34S 4
D Q 7 32 SS A529
C J 6 4 33 SH 2!9A!5
S 7 5TableS 94 NC 3!5KA
H K 9H Q J 8 7 55 WC 1047Q
D A K J 5 2D 10 9 8 6 46 SS K73D 6
C A 10 9 8C 7 57 SC 28JH 7
S A K Q J 8 6 48 NC 6D 8S 69
H 10 4 29 SH 4K38
DWest is endplayed
5 S× SouthC K Q 2

After ruffing the first trick and cashing one trump, you must not attack clubs nor draw a second trump. The key is to lead a heart early through West (Line E), forcing him to commit (unblock or not). This leads to two main variations:

If West plays the H K, you will duck. Assuming a heart return (as good as any), win the ace and lead a club to the king, which West must duck to avoid the impending squeeze. Now you switch horses: Lead a low club to the jack, forcing West to duck again; ruff a diamond; cross to the S 10 and ruff the last diamond. Finally, exit with a heart to endplay East. Note the importance of not drawing a second trump early, as the extra dummy entry was needed to strip the diamonds after West ducks the club.

If West plays low on the first heart, you will win the ace* and lead a club to the king. If West wins the C A and cashes the H K, he corrects the timing for the squeeze. If he wins the C A and leads a black suit, you will win the S K and eliminate clubs with a ruff; then West can be thrown in with the H K, forcing a diamond lead to establish the D Q. If West ducks the C K, the endplay takes a different form: Draw the last trump and exit with a heart, forcing West to lead clubs back to you, else establish the D Q.

*The danger in ducking is that East may win and find the killing return of a diamond, forcing you to ruff. Then West can banish the diamond threat entirely when he wins the C A.

With three different throw-in possibilities and one squeeze, I guess this could be called a quadruple threat. Neat! Or maybe a quintuple threat if you include West’s stupid double.

Comments for E. Lead the H 2

Grant Peacock: Good defenders will prevent the simple squeeze whenever they can. For example, if I try Line C, East will play a high enough heart to win and continue diamonds; then West leads a third diamond when in with C A, and I have no diamond threat. In order to give myself a legitimate chance, I’m going to play West for two spades, H K, and C A. Assuming best play by everyone: I lead the H 2 and West pops with the king; I duck and he exits with a heart; I win in dummy and lead a club to the king, ducked; now I lead the C 2 to the jack; diamond ruff; spade to the 10; ruff the last diamond and endplay East with a heart. [Other variations described.] All this maneuvering could result in minus 500 when clubs are 5-1… but it’s worth the risk because 2=2=5=4 is West’s most likely shape, the nine from 9-7 in trumps is an unlikely play, and minus 200 will be below average [for sure].

John Reardon: If West has something like S 7-5 H Q-J D A-K-10-6-2 C A-10-8-5, I must duck a heart to him immediately, and East won’t be able to overtake and lead another diamond. A heart is returned (best) and I play a club to the king. If West wins he will be squeezed in the minors, so he must duck. Now I lead the C 2 and again West must duck… [Endplay described.]

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: The most difficult problem of the set! It seems East is 5-5 (or 6-5) in the red suits to justify [the sacrifice bid]. Also, West’s double suggests he is holding, besides D A-K and C A, a high card in hearts. If he has the H Q and they defend accurately, I won’t be able to make this contract. However, if West has the H K (doubleton or stiff), I will be able to set up either a simple squeeze in the minors against West, or an elimination and throw-in against either opponent, depending on their defense.

Rob Stevens: … I would like to squeeze West in diamonds and clubs, but leading the C K prematurely will allow West to destroy the communications. So a heart must be [led] immediately. Next when I lead to the C K, West may duck (planning to win the C Q and playing a third club as before), so I lead a low club to the jack instead; ruff a diamond; spade to dummy’s 10; ruff the last diamond, and exit with a heart, endplaying East. I cannot afford to draw a second trump immediately… [else] I will not have enough entries to ruff out the diamonds while keeping a third trump in the dummy. …

Charles Blair: If West has S x-x H K-x D A-K-x-x-x C A-x-x-x, play may continue: H K ducked; heart to ace; club to king (ducked); club to jack; diamond ruff; spade (finally) to dummy; diamond ruff; heart.

Brian Lee: I’ll assume East has a stiff spade. In this case, the only way this line loses is if East [wins the heart] and returns a diamond. I hope East will think I have S A-K-Q-J-x-x-x-x H x-x-x D C A-x.

Alex Perlin: West’s double is fully justified by my bidding on Problem 3. If he accidentally turns up with S x-x H K-x D A-K-J-x-x C A-x-x-x, he will live to regret his call.

N. Scott Cardell: At first glance this contract looks hopeless, but both the bidding and play suggest that West might be 2=2=5=4 and that West has the D A and C A. … [I plan to] duck a heart to West, then: (1) If West returns a heart, win the ace and lead a club to the king, or (2) if West returns a trump win in hand and lead the C K. (On a low club return, win in hand and cash a high spade to match the second case.) West must duck the C K or I have him caught in a simple squeeze, so continue with the C 2… [Endplay described.]

Weidong Yang: Think about the auction. I play West for H K-x.

Stephen Turner: Setting up for the squeeze [against] West…

Rosalind Hengeveld: … Please don’t tell me that expert defenders never fail to go up with H K-x. Okay, go ahead and tell me to avoid triple negatives. :)

Bjorn Frimodig: Hoping that West will play small from K-x.

Larry Gifford: Start by ducking a heart. I hope ultimately to endplay East.

Analyses 7V80 MainChallengeScoresTop Keep the Ship Afloat

Problem 6

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


1 H
6 NT

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

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

C. Win H A; lead C 3 to nine107210
B. Win H A; lead C J and let it ride77911
F. Win H K; lead C 4 to jack635452
E. Win H K; D K; D Q510415
D. Win H K; D K; D A4457
A. Win H A-Q-J-10; D K; D Q1335

Your chances are certainly excellent. Any occurrence of a 3-2 diamond break, establishing a club trick with one loser, or a winning spade finesse will secure the contract. Most respondents chose Line F, which is indeed the best way to play clubs for an extra trick (about 78 percent). The trouble is that it may allow East to gain the lead, then a spade shift will have a sinister effect.

Besides the aforementioned chances, there are various squeeze possibilities, and therein lies the solution. Only Line C is foolproof, as it guarantees success (suit establishment or squeeze) no matter how the opponents’ cards are placed. Consider this layout:

IMPsS A 4 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH A Q J 101 WH 9A!3K
D A 5 4 22 NC 3!69!10
C J 33 WC 2JQA
S Q 7 6 3TableS 10 9 84 SD K826
H 9 8 7 2H 6 5 4 35 SD QH 249
D 8D J 10 9 66 SC K5D 5!H 4
C 10 8 5 2C Q 67 SD 3H 7A10
S K J 58 NH Q5C 48
H K9 NH J6S 5S 3
D K Q 7 3continued below…
6 NT SouthC A K 9 7 4

After winning the H A and finessing the C 9, losing to West, suppose he returns a club (as good as anything). Next you will cash the D K-Q to discover which opponent has the diamond stopper (East). Then cash the remaining top club, and when West follows you know that only West can guard clubs (else they are 3-3) so discard a diamond from dummy. (If West showed out of clubs, you would discard a spade from dummy and have a straight simple squeeze against East.) Now cross to the D A and lead hearts to reach this ending:

NT win allS A 4 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 1010 NH 10S 8D 7?
DWest is squeezed
S Q 7 6TableS 10 9 8
C 8C
D 7
North leadsC 7

The last heart inflicts a double squeeze. East much pitch a spade to keep the D J, so you let go the D 7; then West is squeezed in the black suits. There is no guess involved with your pair of sevens, because you know which opponent protects each minor suit. Note that the S J is immaterial in the ending, however, it did serve an important purpose. An early spade lead by East would destroy the entry condition necessary for the squeeze, which is why the club trick had to be lost to West.

Line B is flawed because East will cover the C J, forcing you to win (else suffer a spade shift); now you can’t return to dummy for a second club lead without damaging a critical entry. (This flaw does not exist in Line C because, if the C 10 appears from East, you have a lock.)

Suppose diamonds were stopped by West instead:

IMPsS A 4 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH A Q J 101 WH 9A!3K
D A 5 4 22 NC 3!59!10
C J 33 WH 2Q4C 4
S Q 7 6TableS 10 9 8 34 NC JQA2
H 9 8 7 2H 6 5 4 35 SD K6210
D J 9 8 6D 106 SD Q84H 5
C 10 2C Q 8 6 57 SC KH 7D 56
S K J 58 SD 39AS 3
H K9 NH J6S 58
D K Q 7 310 NH 10S 8C 7?
6 NT SouthC A K 9 7 4West is squeezed

When West wins the C 10, he’d probably return a safe heart (nothing matters) as you pitch a club. Next win the C A and D K-Q to discover West stops diamonds, then the C K. When West shows out, discard a diamond* for the same double squeeze but with the minor stoppers switched. If West followed to the third club, you would discard a spade — either clubs split or West will be simple-squeezed.

*Optionally, you could discard a spade and use the D 5 as the threat against West and your own third spade as the common threat. This option does not exist when the minor stoppers are reversed (my first example) because doing so would place both of your singly guarded threats in front of their stoppers. A requirement of any double squeeze is to have at least one of your three threats behind each opponent.

This layout also shows why cashing two diamonds early is wrong. When you duck a club, West will return a third diamond to kill your entry in that suit, and along with it, your guarantee. You can still survive at double-dummy, but you must guess which squeeze to play for.

The recommended play also has a chance for an overtrick (C Q-10 onside), though admittedly not as good as the matchpoint play to test diamonds first, then if they break, take the 50-50 spade finesse. Of course, no competent player in the world would suggest that at IMPs. Imagine blowing 17 IMPs then explaining your superior play for an overtrick to your teammates; or should I say, ex-teammates.

Comments for C. Win H A; lead C 3 to nine

Grant Peacock: Two 100-percent contracts this month? Maybe we don’t bid enough.

John Reardon: Another deceptive hand because I must play clubs in an inferior manner to ensure the contract. … If West wins C 9 with the 10, he can return a heart (best) and I throw the C 4. Then I cash D K-Q and claim if they are 3-2, else I cash C A-K and… [all squeeze variations described].

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Another 100-percent safety play! If diamonds are 3-2 or clubs 3-3, any line will succeed. If the same defender has length in both minors, a simple squeeze is [exists]. The most [awkward] situation arises when West has the S Q, diamond shortness, and C 10-8-x-x. In this case only a certain type of double squeeze will succeed, which requires communication to both hands using the spade suit. So the main idea is not to lose a trick to East, as a spade return can damage this squeeze.

Rob Stevens: Another sure-trick problem. I should rectify the count by ducking a club; then cash D K-Q and two top clubs. Provided no spades have yet been played, I can always arrive at a simple or double squeeze. The club must be lost to West (who cannot lead a spade); if East were to lead a spade, I wouldn’t know whether to win in hand or in dummy.

Charles Blair: In a similar situation, Terence Reese put his cards back in the board, saying “You don’t really want me to play this, do you?” The important thing is to cash D K-Q before the third round of clubs. If the minors are controlled by different opponents, [I will have] a double squeeze. “A for Avoidance” -George Coffin (Mr. Coffin would also have liked Problem 4).

True. The two writers also have a new book out: “Reese from the Coffin.” (Ooh, that’s bad.)

Brian Lee: Setting up a squeeze. I need to duck a trick without letting East lead spades. If East inserts the C Q or 10, I’ll [have a sure] 12th trick in clubs.

Rainer Herrmann: This seems to guarantee the contract. [Once I] find out who stops clubs [and diamonds] without letting East gain the lead, I will know which squeeze (simple or double) to play for.

Anthony Golding: This wins straightaway if East has the C 10, and there should be a simple or double squeeze [otherwise].

Walter Lee: A safety finesse to guard against miscounting tricks. If the club finesse wins, I’ll take the spade finesse. If that also wins, I’ll pray for clubs 3-3. If all that happens I ought to be able to take 12 tricks.

Gareth Birdsall: …The 100-percent squeeze recipe: Step 1: Duck a club to possibly establish a 12th trick, and also rectify the count. Step 2: Test diamonds by playing K-Q. Step 3: Test clubs with A-K, discarding a spade from dummy unless East has long diamonds and West follows to the third club [then discard a diamond]. Step 4: If the same opponent has length in both minors… a simple squeeze; if different opponents guard the minors… a double squeeze. [The latter shows] why I need to lose the club trick to West so he cannot attack the double spade entry. Step five: Write down minus 1 IMP when diamonds are 3-2 and the spade finesse works and throw the remainder of the match, trying to calculate if your counterpart’s line was inferior by more than 1 percent.

Radu Mihai: If West wins the C 10 and leads a heart (for example), discard a club then win the D K-Q. If West has the diamonds, win the C A-K with a spade discard and finish with a simple squeeze in the minors against West (S A, hearts, S K) or with a double squeeze (D A, hearts). If East has the diamonds, win the C A-K and discard a spade if West shows out and finish with a simple squeeze (S A, hearts, S K) or a diamond if West follows and finish with a double squeeze (D A, hearts). Another 100-percent line.

Erkki Malkamaki: [Not the best play] for an isolated club suit, but a spade lead from East would kill some of the double squeezes.

Steven Whitaker: I can actually claim six at trick one, but the explanation would take longer than the play. [Description of all squeeze variations.]

Craig Satersmoen: So many possibilities; makes my head swim. Can’t afford a spade shift by East though.

N. Scott Cardell: This is 100 percent. Assume West wins the C 10 and makes the best return of a heart, and I discard a club. Then cash the D K-Q to see who holds four… then cash the C A-K… If the same hand has long clubs and diamonds, discard a spade; cross to the S A; cash the remaining hearts discarding a spade and a diamond; then cross to the S K squeezing the opponent with the minors. In the more likely event the minors are held in opposite hands, discard a diamond on the second high club and cross to the D A to [finish the hearts] for a double squeeze. [Ending described.]

Note that the descriptions by Mihai and Cardell are both correct despite the conflicting choice of discards in one situation. Each has simply chosen a different path in the optional case.

Frances Hinden: This guarantees the contract. I need to lose a trick to West to preserve the spade holding for a later double squeeze.

Neil Morgenstern: [Description of squeeze variations.] If East guards diamonds and West clubs, I cross to dummy’s diamond and play hearts… [for the double squeeze] then I can win the last trick with dummy’s small spade — make it the two to be flashy. …

Nigel Guthrie: If I don’t mind wasting a lot of time in explaining a sure-trick play, I could claim. [I will] win any return and cash D K-Q then C A-K to decide which simple or double squeeze to play for.

Bill Powell: Then D K-Q, followed by two more clubs — discarding a diamond unless both minors are in the same hand [then a spade].

Kent Feiler: Wow, nice hand! I think this is 100-percent cold because I can always figure out which squeeze to run. I take D K-Q first to see who has the stopper, then C A-K. Both [stoppers] in the same hand leaves a simple squeeze; [if they are split], a double squeeze.

*Nothing slips by Kent. We were Army buddies in West Germany (1965-66). Kent was already a good bridge player (100 masterpoints to my zero) and he taught me a lot about the game, especially squeeze plays. In reciprocation I taught him to be a pool player (part of my misspent youth).

Franco Baseggio: Another 100-percent line, aiming for an automatic minor-suit squeeze (if someone has four of each minor) or a double squeeze using dummy’s long spade if the minor-suit lengths are in opposite hands. A club to the nine is the only way to rectify the count because a spade through by East might wreck the entries for a double squeeze. [Play sequence described.]

Douglas Dunn: A double squeeze should be on as long as East is not able to lead spades. After cashing D K-Q and C A-K…, if one defender guards both minors, [I have] an automatic simple squeeze. The defenders can’t sink this contract!

Bernard Danloy: The most beautiful problem of this contest and a true splendor for squeeze lovers. The line is 100 percent. I just need to localize the long clubs and long diamonds (if any). If one opponent has both, he is squeezed at trick 12 if I have D A-x opposite D x C x with the lead in South. Otherwise, a double squeeze… The [main concern] is in the timing (check diamonds before clubs) and communication. …

Bill Shutts: This is a pretty construction. I can claim on the finesse of the C 9. If West wins the C 10, he cannot attack spades to break up a potential double squeeze. Assume West returns a heart; win in dummy throwing a club and cash the D K-Q; no matter who shows out, cash the C A-K. Since West must play before dummy, there is no ambiguity, and I will always know whether to prepare for a simple or double squeeze.

Sebastien Louveaux: Ducking a trick to West (who cannot remove a spade entry) to rectify the count. Then, set up a squeeze depending on who guards which suit (the contract is 100-percent safe). Actually, after taking the lead back, I need to test diamonds first to know what to discard on the third club.

Bruce Scott: I choose to play for the squeeze. I can find out who has the minor-suit guards. If they lie in one hand, then a simple squeeze will do. If they are split, I can use spades as the common threat in a double squeeze. I cannot lead toward the C J because East might return a spade, which mucks up the double squeeze. I cannot run the C J because [if covered] I don’t have the spare entries to cross again and lead toward the nine. …

Tim Bolshaw: If West wins the C 10, I will next cash D K-Q followed by C A-K, then: (1) If West has diamonds, discard a spade; if West hold clubs, minor-suit squeeze; if East, no one can guard spades. (2) If East has diamonds and West discards on the third club, discard a spade; minor-suit squeeze. (3) If East has diamonds and West follows to the third club, discard a diamond; then reduce to S A-4-2 H 10 opposite S K-J D 7 C 7 for a double squeeze.

Anne Bell: If either opponent has both minors, he can be squeezed. If each opponent has a minor, it will take a double squeeze (with spades the common suit). To allow for both possibilities, North must keep an entry in diamonds and both hands need a spade entry. Therefore, East must not be allowed to lead spades when I rectify the count. Only Line C covers all these possibilities. …

Robert Larsson: 100 percent. Win any return (if a heart pitch a club) and win D K-Q. If diamonds don’t break, win C A-K. If clubs don’t break either, set up the necessary simple or double squeeze.

Chuck Arthur: Of course diamonds aren’t breaking or you wouldn’t be giving this as a problem. [There seem to be] three squeeze possibilities: simple minor against West, same against East, or a double squeeze with the S 4 in dummy as the common threat. … The vigorish is to make the play that lets me know which squeeze to operate.

Olivier La Spada: There are several possible squeezes, but for the double squeeze I have to keep spades [untouched] until I know who has what. So, I have to force West to win the trick to rectify the count, and the only 100-percent way is Line C. …

Final Notes

Thanks to all who responded, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site.

Comments are selected from those above average, and on each problem only those supporting the winning play (except Problem 2). 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 flawed. On this basis, I included about 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, but oversights are possible. Feedback is always welcome.

Guess what, folks? This captain is outta here! No way am I going down with the ship!
I’ll leave you in the hands of our bumbling crew:

Anthony Golding: I assume you’ll be ranking women and children first.

Jim Brennan: I gave my seat on the lifeboat to a dude in drag; life ain’t fair.

Rainer Herrmann: A distant relative of mine was immediately upgraded to first class when the water started to come in. Does this count?

Richard Stein: Just when I thought we had finally moved past Titanic and Celine Dion’s song, they strike once more.

Bill Cubley: Let’s hope I don’t go down faster than the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. It just vanished from radar, much as my choices sometimes do in these contests. At least I hope to maintain my lead as the best scoring graduate of Cody High School in Detroit (apologies to Douglas Ogozaly who’s in second place).

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek