Main   Challenge 7X81 by Richard Pavlicek  

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 surfaced in Paris, and it wasn’t seen again until 1923 in Athens, where an antiques dealer covered it in black enamel to disguise its worth.

Ten years later it was traced to the home of a Russian general in Istanbul, where it was stolen and shipped to San Francisco but never found. Detective Sam Spade came close — alas, the Bird 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 value) and it now sits proudly on my mantle. Priceless? Not really, as I’ve had it appraised for $28 million; and being a generous guy, I’m offering it on eBay for only $27 million (plus shipping/handling).

To celebrate my new-found wealth, you are invited 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 will be rated on a 1-to-10 scale, based on my judgment.

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 Investigations are ineligible.

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

Well, are you ready to go after the Black Bird? Or shall we just call a spade a spade. If you want a good score, what you’ll need is the stuff that dreams are made of! TopMain

Problem 1

IMPs E-W Vul

West

1 H
All Pass
North

Dbl
East

Pass
South
1 C
1 S

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

After winning the H A, how do you play?

  1. Lead the H 3
  2. Lead the D K
  3. Lead the D 5
  4. Win C A; lead H 5
  5. Win C A; lead D 3
  6. Finesse the C J
TopMain

Problem 2

IMPs None Vul

West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 H*
East
1 C
Pass
South
1 NT
2 S
*Jacoby transfer

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

After winning the H A, how do you play?

  1. Lead the S 2
  2. Win the H K
  3. Lead the D Q
  4. Lead the D 3
  5. Win the C A
  6. Lead the C 4
TopMain

Problem 3

IMPs None Vul

West

Pass
3 H
North

Pass
3 S
East
1 H
Dbl
All Pass
South
2 S
Pass

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

After ruffing the first trick, how do you play?

  1. Win S K; lead D 2
  2. Win S K; lead C 5
  3. Win C A; lead H 4
  4. Win C A; lead D 2
  5. Win C A; lead C 5
  6. Duck a club
TopMain

Problem 4

IMPs N-S Vul

West
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
3 S
East
2 D
Pass
South
2 S
4 S

4 S South
S Q J 8 6
H Q J 5
D Q 5
C J 6 4 2
Lead: D JTable
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 the queen, how do you play?

  1. Play D Q; win second diamond; lead D 7
  2. Play D Q; win second diamond; lead C A
  3. Play D Q; win second diamond; lead C 3
  4. Play D 5; win first diamond; lead D 2
  5. Play D 5; win first diamond; lead C A
  6. Play D 5; win first diamond; lead C 3
TopMain

Problem 5

IMPs None Vul

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

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

Your optimism toward slam came to a screeching halt just in time. How do you play?

  1. Win D A; S A; lead D J
  2. Win D A; S A; lead D 5
  3. Win D A; lead H 2
  4. Win D A; lead D J
  5. Win D A; lead D 5
  6. Duck the first trick
TopMain

Problem 6

IMPs Both Vul

West
2 H
Pass
Pass
North
Dbl
3 H
6 S
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
2 S
4 S

6 S South
S A 8 5 3
H A 5
D A K 3
C A K 7 3
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 8
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 nobody shows out of spades, how do you play?

  1. Win H A; S A; S K
  2. Win H A; S A; finesse S 10
  3. Win H A; finesse S 10
  4. Duck; win second heart; S A; S K
  5. Duck; win second heart; S A; finesse S 10
  6. Duck; win second heart; finesse S 10

To see how you did click

TopMain

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