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The House on Phantom Lane

Perhaps the midnight starting time should have been a warning, but you accepted the invitation to play in a home team game. The evening arrives, and despite severe lightning and torrential rain, you make the half-hour drive to 666 Phantom Lane. Oh, what a fool you were to agree to this!

Having no umbrella, you park as near as you can and dash to the front porch to ring the doorbell. A grotesque, deformed man ushers you in. Apparently mute, he hands you a table assignment and points to a sign that reads “Bridge Upstairs.” As you ascend the stairs, you look back to meet the frightening gaze of his one good eye.

When you reach the card room, you are pleased to see familiar faces. “Hey, Joe!” you shout, “Great to see you! Where’ve you been all these years?” Joe doesn’t notice you. Then you spot an old flame you lost contact with about 20 years ago. “Judy! Long time! You look as beautiful as the night we first, um, knew each other.” Strangely, Judy continues her conversation with someone else.

Suddenly, a voice bellows over a loudspeaker, “Game time! Find your places. This is a board-a-match Swiss — six teams, six rounds, six boards per round.” You sit South at Table 6. Joe (West) and Judy are your first opponents, and your partner is Fritz, the man you met at the door.

Predictably, Fritz becomes your worst nightmare, taking a phantom sacrifice on every board, except the one he passes you in a cue-bid. None of the contracts can be made. Your goal as South is to salvage whatever you can for a chance to win or tie the board. Choose your play from options A-F, which are rated on a 1-to-10 scale per my judgment.

Bidding is Standard American (or as noted) and Joe and Judy use standard leads and signals. For a reference see Standard American Bridge. Assume Joe and Judy are good players but not expert.

In October 2003 these problems were presented as a contest with 690 entrants from 103 locations. The contest is closed, but you can still quiz yourself and find out your score immediately. If you’re blessed, you might even win a valuable prize.*

*Prizes include a sterling silver cross and a signed copy of “Satanic Bridge Verses” by Salmon Trustme.
Winners must be at least 98 years old. Employees of PavCo Exorcism Clinic are ineligible.

Enjoy your game with Fritz. If you don’t like his bidding, tell him to go to Hell. But be careful… You might already be there!

Problem 1

Board-a-Match
E-W Vul
S 3
H J 10 9 3
D Q J 10 9 2
C 8 4 3
Joe
West
1 S
3 H
4 S
Fritz
North
Pass
4 D
5 D
Judy
East
2 C
Pass
Dbl
You
South
2 D
Pass
All Pass
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 2



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

At trick two West leads the D 6 (East follows). Your play?

A. Win D Q; duck a spade
B. Win D Q; lead H J
C. Win D Q; lead C 3
D. Win D K; S A; ruff a spade
E. Win D K; lead H 7
F. Win D K; lead C 2

Problem 2

Board-a-Match
None Vul
S 2
H K 9 8 7 5
D J 4 3
C Q J 4 3
Joe
West

Pass
Dbl
Fritz
North
Pass
2 D1
4 H
Judy
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
You
South
1 NT
2 H
Lead: D ATableEast plays D 6



4 H South
S A K Q 5
H A 10 4
D 9 8 5 2
C K 2

1. Jacoby

West wins D A-K-Q (East follows) then leads the S J to your ace. Your play?

A. Win S K-Q; ruff spade
B. Ruff spade; lead C Q
C. Ruff spade; lead C 3 to king
D. Win H K; H A
E. Win H K; lead H 5 and finesse 10
F. Lead the C 2

Problem 3

Board-a-Match
N-S Vul
S A 9 7
H 9 8 7 5
D J 2
C K 10 9 7
Joe
West

1 H
Pass
Fritz
North

Pass
Pass2
Judy
East
Pass
1 NT
Pass
You
South
Pass
2 H1
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 3



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

1. Michaels
2. Fritz no like Michaels

Joe grins as he leads the H K to your ace. Despite the horror, you might win the board! Your play?

A. Win S K; S A; lead H 9
B. Win S A; S K; lead D 5
C. Win S A; lead H 9
D. Lead D 5 to jack
E. Lead C 4 to king
F. Lead C 4 and finesse 10

Problem 4

Board-a-Match
Both Vul
S 9 7 6 5
H A 7 3 2
D A K 5 4
C 7
Joe
West

2 C
Pass
Fritz
North
1 D
2 S
3 S
Judy
East
Dbl
3 C
All Pass
You
South
1 S
Pass
Lead: C JTableEast wins C K



3 S South
S K Q J 8
H 8 6 4
D 9 6 3
C Q 6 4

East shifts to the S 2 and your king wins (West plays S 3). Your play?

A. Lead the S Q
B. Duck a heart
C. Win D A-K
D. Duck a diamond
E. Ruff a club; lead H 2
F. Ruff a club; win D A-K

Problem 5

Board-a-Match
None Vul
S 9 6 5 2
H 5 4
D 8 7 5 4 3
C 9 4
Joe
West

Dbl
4 H
Fritz
North

1 D
4 S1
Judy
East
Pass
1 H
All Pass
You
South
1 C
2 S
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 9



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

1. Fritz like Yarborough

West continues with the H A (East plays H 7). Your play?

A. Ruff; win S A-K; C A-K-Q
B. Ruff; win S A; C A-K-Q
C. Ruff; win S A; C A-K; lead C 2
D. Ruff; lead D 2
E. Ruff; win C A-K; lead C 2
F. Pitch a diamond

Problem 6

Board-a-Match
N-S Vul
S A 5 4 3
H J 10
D J
C K Q J 10 9 8
Joe
West

Pass
Pass
Fritz
North

1 S
5 C
Judy
East

4 H
All Pass
You
South
1 C
Dbl
Lead: H 2TableEast wins H Q



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

East next cashes the H K (West pitches S 8) then leads the S 9. Your play?

A. Win S A; C K-Q; D A-K
B. Win S A; C K-Q; D A; ruff heart
C. Win S A; C K-Q; run D J
D. Win S A; lead all trumps
E. Cover with S 10 and let West win jack
F. Duck (let East win S 9)

Note: When you draw trumps, West has two and East one.

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© 2003 Richard Pavlicek