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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 comes and you make the drive to 666 Phantom Lane in spite of a severe lightning storm and torrential rain. 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 seem to 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 just 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. Even more painful, you have to play all the hopeless contracts.

None of the contracts can be made, but your goal as South is to salvage what you can for a chance to win or tie the board. Choose your play from options A-F. Each option will be rated on a 1-to-10 scale based on my judgment.

Bidding is standard (or as noted) and Joe and Judy use standard leads and signals. For a reference, see my outline of Standard American Bridge. Assume Joe and Judy are strong players but not experts.
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 108 years of age. Employees of PavCo School of Exorcism 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.

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Problem 1

Board-a-Match E-W Vul

West
1 S
3 H
4 S
North
Pass
4 D
5 D
East
2 C
Pass
Dbl
South
2 D
Pass
All Pass

5 D× South
S 3
H J 10 9 3
D Q J 10 9 2
C 8 4 3
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 2
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?

  1. Win D Q; duck a spade
  2. Win D Q; lead H J
  3. Win D Q; lead C 3
  4. Win D K; S A; ruff a spade
  5. Win D K; lead H 7
  6. Win D K; lead C 2
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Problem 2

Board-a-Match None Vul

West

Pass
Dbl
North
Pass
2 D*
4 H
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
1 NT
2 H
*Jacoby

4 H South
S 2
H K 9 8 7 5
D J 4 3
C Q J 4 3
Lead: D ATableEast plays D 6
S A K Q 5
H A 10 4
D 9 8 5 2
C K 2

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

  1. Win S K-Q; ruff spade
  2. Ruff spade; lead C Q
  3. Ruff spade; lead C 3 to king
  4. Win H K; H A
  5. Win H K; lead H 5 and finesse 10
  6. Lead the C 2
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Problem 3

Board-a-Match N-S Vul

West

1 H
Pass
North

Pass
Pass²
East
Pass
1 NT
Pass
South
Pass
2 H¹
1. Michaels
2. Fritz no like Michaels

2 H South
S A 9 7
H 9 8 7 5
D J 2
C K 10 9 7
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 3
S K 10 8 6 4
H A
D Q 10 8 6 5
C 4 3

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

  1. Win S K; S A; lead H 9
  2. Win S A; S K; lead D 5
  3. Win S A; lead H 9
  4. Lead D 5 to jack
  5. Lead C 4 to king
  6. Lead C 4 and finesse 10
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Problem 4

Board-a-Match Both Vul

West

2 C
Pass
North
1 D
2 S
3 S
East
Dbl
3 C
All Pass
South
1 S
Pass

3 S South
S 9 7 6 5
H A 7 3 2
D A K 5 4
C 7
Lead: C JTableEast plays C K
S K Q J 8
H 8 6 4
D 9 6 3
C Q 6 4

At trick two East leads the S 2 and your king wins (West plays S 3). Your play?

  1. Lead the S Q
  2. Duck a heart
  3. Win D A-K
  4. Duck a diamond
  5. Ruff a club; lead H 2
  6. Ruff a club; win D A-K
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Problem 5

Board-a-Match None Vul

West

Dbl
4 H
North

1 D
4 S*
East
Pass
1 H
All Pass
South
1 C
2 S
*Fritz like Yarborough

4 S South
S 9 6 5 2
H 5 4
D 8 7 5 4 3
C 9 4
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 9
S A K 8 4
H 3
D Q 6 2
C A K Q 6 2

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

  1. Ruff; win S A-K; C A-K-Q
  2. Ruff; win S A; C A-K-Q
  3. Ruff; win S A; C A-K; lead C 2
  4. Ruff; lead D 2
  5. Ruff; win C A-K; lead C 2
  6. Pitch a diamond
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Problem 6

Board-a-Match N-S Vul

West

Pass
Pass
North

1 S
5 C
East

4 H
All Pass
South
1 C
Dbl

5 C South
S A 5 4 3
H J 10
D J
C K Q J 10 9 8
Lead: H 2TableEast plays H Q
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. West has two trumps. Your play?

  1. Win S A; C K-Q; D A-K
  2. Win S A; C K-Q; D A; ruff heart
  3. Win S A; C K-Q; run D J
  4. Win S A; lead all trumps
  5. Cover with S 10 and let West win jack
  6. Duck (let East win S 9)
To see how you did click

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© 2003 Richard Pavlicek