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The Game Is Afoot

Tension filled the musty room as Professor Moriarty threw six decks of playing cards onto the large wooden table. “Sit!” he demanded. “I’m in a sporting mood. We’ll play six hands of bridge, and if you go plus on every one, I’ll set you both free.”

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson had been investigating the disappearance of the Crown Emerald from Windsor Castle, and were seized by Moriarty’s henchmen. They were now being held captive in the basement of the archvillain’s home. “And if we don’t?” Holmes inquired.

“That’s easy, Mr. Holmes. You and your bumbling doctor friend will be my guests for lunch. I’ve installed a brand new piranha tank, and the August heat is making the little buggers voracious. Anyone for bridge?”

“Hardly seems fair,” Watson grumbled. “I’ve only played bridge a few times. Can’t we make it gin rummy?”

“Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot,” instructed Holmes, then he whispered in his friend’s ear, “Just bid only minor suits, or double with a good hand. Try to make yourself dummy — that shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Then, let’s begin.” Moriarty grinned. “The cards are already shuffled, and I’ll deal to save time. Colonel Moran? I know you’re not a bridge player, but be my partner and just pass. Holmes? You sit on my right.” As fate (or the Professor’s evil design) would have it, Holmes became declarer on each deal.

In August 2003 these six problems were presented as a contest, which had 838 entrants from 114 locations. The contest is now closed, but you can still challenge yourself and find your score immediately. As South on each problem, simply choose your play from options A-F. Each option is rated on a 1-to-10 scale per my judgment.

Bidding and carding by West (Moriarty) is standard, and assume expert skill. For a reference see Standard American Bridge. Do not draw any inferences from East (Moran) who always passes and knows little about card play except to follow suit.

So match your play with Sherlock Holmes. The only prize this month will be staying out of the piranha tank. Remember: Scoring is plus-or-fishfood, so don’t worry about overtricks!

Problem 1

Plus-or-Fishfood
N-S Vul
S 10 7 5 3
H K Q 9 8
D K Q J 10
C 4
Moriarty
West
1 C
Pass
Watson
North
1 D
Pass
Moran
East
Pass
Pass
Holmes
South
1 NT
Lead: C KTableEast plays C 2



1 NT South
S J 4 2
H 10 3
D A 6 4 3
C A J 10 8

A. Win C A; lead H 10 to king
B. Win C A; run the H 10
C. Win C A; D K (both follow); D Q-J
D. Win C A; D K (both follow); all diamonds
E. Win C A; lead the C J
F. Duck the first trick

Problem 2

Plus-or-Fishfood
N-S Vul
S A 4 2
H A Q 6
D A 5 4 2
C K 4 2
Moriarty
West
1 D
Pass
Watson
North
Dbl
Pass
Moran
East
Pass
Pass
Holmes
South
2 C
Lead: S QTable



2 C South
S K 7 6
H 8
D 9 7 6 3
C Q 10 9 7 5

A. Win S A; H A
B. Win S A; lead C 2 to queen
C. Win S A; lead C 2 and finesse 10
D. Win S K; S A
E. Win S K; finesse H Q
F. Win S K; lead C 5 to king

Problem 3

Plus-or-Fishfood
N-S Vul
S A Q 6
H K Q 10 2
D Q J 3
C A J 4
Moriarty
West
1 S
3 D
Watson
North
Dbl
3 H
Moran
East
Pass
All Pass
Holmes
South
2 H
Lead: C KTableEast plays C 3



3 H South
S 8 7 4
H 9 6 4 3
D 10 5
C Q 10 8 2

After winning the C A, what next?

A. Lead the H K
B. Lead the H 10
C. Lead the H 2
D. Lead the D Q
E. Lead C J to queen
F. Lead C 4 to 10

Problem 4

Plus-or-Fishfood
N-S Vul
S J 8 3
H K
D A 6 5 2
C K Q 10 8 7
Moriarty
West
2 S1
Pass
Watson
North
3 C
Pass
Moran
East
Pass
Pass
Holmes
South
3 NT
Lead: S 10Table



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

1. weak; undisciplined

East plays the S Q if you play dummy’s jack; else the S 4. Your play?

A. Play S J; win first round
B. Play S J; win second round
C. Play S 3; win first round; win H K
D. Play S 3; win first round; lead C 2
E. Play S 3; win second round; win H K
F. Play S 3; win second round; lead C 2

Problem 5

Plus-or-Fishfood
N-S Vul
S A K Q J 10 9
H 10 5 3 2
D 5
C K Q
Moriarty
West
1 H
3 H
Watson
North
2 H1
3 S
Moran
East
Pass
All Pass
Holmes
South
2 S
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 6



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

1. Watson make-me-dummy transfer

West next leads the C J (won by the king) as East plays the C 3. What now?

A. Draw trumps; lead H 3
B. Draw trumps; lead D 5
C. Draw trumps; win C Q; lead H 3
D. Draw trumps; win C Q; lead D 5
E. Lead the H 3
F. Lead the D 5

Problem 6

Plus-or-Fishfood
N-S Vul
S 7 5 2
H J 10 4
D K Q
C K 10 5 4 3
Moriarty
West
1 H
2 H
3 H
Watson
North
Pass
Pass
4 D
Moran
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
Holmes
South
2 D
3 D
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 2



4 D South
S J 4 3
H A
D A J 10 8 7 6
C A 9 2

You cash D K-Q on which West (void) pitches two hearts. What next?

A. Lead S 2 to jack
B. Lead S 2 and duck it
C. Lead H J (East plays H 5) and pitch a spade
D. Ruff heart; draw trumps
E. Lead C 3 to ace; draw trumps
F. Lead C 3 and finesse nine

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Credits to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) creator of Sherlock Holmes
Photo is Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson
© 2003 Richard Pavlicek