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The Falcon Is Found!

Sculpted by crusaders in 16th century Malta, the solid-gold jewel-encrusted statuette was stolen by pirates and lost for hundreds of years. In the mid-1800s it resurfaced in Paris, and it wasn’t seen again until 1923 in Athens, where an antiques dealer covered it in black enamel to disguise its precious value.

Ten years later it was traced to the Istanbul home of a Russian general, then it was stolen and shipped to San Francisco but never found. Detective Sam Spade came close — alas, the Bird he found was a fake, and his partner was killed as a consequence.

Finally, in June of 2004 we can put an end to this mystery. Last week I acquired the Falcon from a Gypsy (who had no idea of its worth) and it now sits proudly on my mantle. Priceless? Not really, as I’ve appraised it at $28 million; and being a generous guy, I am offering it on eBay for only $27 million (plus shipping and handling).

To celebrate my new-found wealth, I invite you to try this declarer-play challenge. In honor of Sam Spade, each contract is of course in spades, progressing from 1 S to 6 S. As South, choose your play from the choices listed. Each option is rated on a 1-to-10 scale per my judgment.

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

In June of 2004 these problems were presented as a contest with 891 entrants from 117 locations. The contest is closed, but you can still quiz yourself and find your score immediately. If you’re lucky, you might even win a valuable prize.*

*Prizes include four Falcon replicas (porcelain with faux jewels) and a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live with David Spade.
Winners must be at least 18 years of age and spayed or neutered. Employees of Spade and PavCo are ineligible.

Are you ready for the Black Bird? Or shall we just call a spade a spade? To get a good score, you’ll need the stuff that dreams are made of!

Problem 1

IMPs
E-W Vul
S K J 10
H 9 5 2
D 9 7 4 3
C A J 4
West

1 H
All Pass
North

Dbl
East

Pass
South
1 C
1 S
Lead: H QTableEast plays H K



1 S South
S A Q 8 7
H A 6 4 3
D K 5
C 9 6 2

After winning the H A, what next?

A. Lead the H 3
B. Lead the D K
C. Lead the D 5
D. Win C A; lead H 5
E. Win C A; lead D 3
F. Finesse the C J

Problem 2

IMPs
None Vul
S Q J 10 9 6
H 5 2
D 10 7 6
C 9 6 2
West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 H1
East
1 C
Pass
South
1 NT
2 S
Lead: H QTableEast plays H 3



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

1. Jacoby transfer

After winning the H A, what next?

A. Lead the S 2
B. Win the H K
C. Lead the D Q
D. Lead the D 3
E. Win the C A
F. Lead the C 4

Problem 3

IMPs
None Vul
S A K
H 10 6 5 4 3
D J 8 4 2
C A 5
West

Pass
3 H
North

Pass
3 S
East
1 H
Dbl
All Pass
South
2 S
Pass
Lead: H 2TableEast plays H A



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

After ruffing the first trick, what next?

A. Win S K; lead D 2
B. Win S K; lead C 5
C. Win C A; lead H 4
D. Win C A; lead D 2
E. Win C A; lead C 5
F. Duck a club

Problem 4

IMPs
N-S Vul
S Q J 8 6
H Q J 5
D Q 5
C J 6 4 2
West
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
3 S
East
2 D
Pass
South
2 S
4 S
Lead: D JTable



4 S South
S A 10 9 7 2
H A 7 4
D K 7 2
C A 3

Assuming East plays the D A only on North’s queen, how do you play?

A. Play D Q; win second diamond; lead D 7
B. Play D Q; win second diamond; lead C A
C. Play D Q; win second diamond; lead C 3
D. Play D 5; win first diamond; lead D 2
E. Play D 5; win first diamond; lead C A
F. Play D 5; win first diamond; lead C 3

Problem 5

IMPs
None Vul
S A
H J 3 2
D A J 8 7 6 5
C A 5 3
West
1 D
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
4 D
5 C
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
3 S
4 H
5 S
Lead: D KTableEast plays D 4



5 S South
S Q J 10 9 7 5 3
H A K
D 2
C Q 8 4

A. Win D A; S A; lead D J
B. Win D A; S A; lead D 5
C. Win D A; lead H 2
D. Win D A; lead D J
E. Win D A; lead D 5
F. Duck the first trick

Problem 6

IMPs
Both Vul
S A 8 5 3
H A 5
D A K 3
C A K 7 3
West
2 H
Pass
Pass
North
Dbl
3 H
6 S
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
2 S
4 S
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 8



6 S South
S K J 10 6 4
H 9 3 2
D 8 6 5 4
C 6

Assuming the S Q does not appear and no one shows out of spades, how do you play?

A. Win H A; S A; S K
B. Win H A; S A; finesse S 10
C. Win H A; finesse S 10
D. Duck; win second heart; S A; S K
E. Duck; win second heart; S A; finesse S 10
F. Duck; win second heart; finesse S 10

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Credits to Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) and The Maltese Falcon
Photo is Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade in the 1941 movie classic
© 2004 Richard Pavlicek