Analyses 7X96 MainChallenge

The Modern Hexathlon

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

These six play problems were published on the Internet in August 2004 as a contest open to all bridge players. As declarer, all you had to do was choose your line of play from the choices offered.

Congratulations to United States athletes for their impressive win in Athens! First in gold, first in total medals — all this despite losing to Spain in the Hexathlon. No problem! This will never happen again because Spain is a small country; we can send in our troops and seize control long before the next Olympics. The good news is that we didn’t lose to Russia or China.

Problem 123456Final Notes

It’s always sad to see the Olympics end, if only because I might not see Bob Costas for another two years. My only gripe is that most of our TV coverage was delayed and packaged — out of commercial necessity, I suppose; but only live sporting events pique my interest. No doubt, that’s why many missed the Hexathlon completely. It also strikes me as slimy how some of our news programs withhold results of the day’s events to attract more viewers in prime time. Oh well, it looks like I’ll have to wait until 2010 (Vancouver) for live coverage — else move to Torino or Beijing.

Gonzalo Goded Wins!

This contest had 871 entrants from 121 locations, and the average score was 37.88. Congratulations to Gonzalo Goded (Spain) who was first of two to submit perfect scores. Well, I guess it’s no surprise that “God” would get these right. Also scoring 60 was John Lusky (Portland, Oregon). Close behind was Imre Csiszar (Hungary) with the only 59 score. No fewer than nine players scored 58, most of whom are regular stars here, so I’ll save some keystrokes.

In the overall standings, Leif-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe) took over the top spot with a 59.25 average, followed closely by John Lusky (US) with 59.00. Next with 58.50 are Ding-Hwa Hsieh (US), Lajos Linczmayer (Hungary) and Zahary Zahariev (Bulgaria). Alone in sixth place with 58.00 is Imre Csiszar (Hungary).

I received a complaint this month that my photo of the woman diver was distasteful. Oh, come on! The only adjective that ever occurred to me was “beautiful.” Maybe without the swimsuit, I could understand this person’s point (nah, still beautiful). Stay tuned. If there are further developments, I’ll keep you abreast — or a thigh, or whatever.

Some of the problems this month were especially tough, particularly in my department, with several photo finishes for the top award. What, me worry? If I gauged wrong, I’ll just blame it on some Olympic gymnastic judge. Curiously, the average score was exactly the same as last contest — oops, make that 1/100 of a point lower due to another phony entry detected and removed.*

*Entries are accepted only from real persons using real names. Each month I remove about 10-15 entries that I judge to be bogus. In borderline cases, I reply to that person, then remove the entry only if unanswered or not validated to my satisfaction. Despite my efforts, there are enough jerks on the Internet to make it impossible to police entries perfectly.

This contest completes a fourth year of these events, and I thank all who have participated, especially the regulars, many of whom have been most helpful with their comments. Altogether (polls and contests combined) there have been 34,621 entries from 5,030 different persons from 89 countries. A new country was added this month: Welcome to Saleh Al Aggad of Saudi Arabia (SA).

Bidding is standard (except as noted) and your opponents use standard leads and signals.
For a reference see Standard American Bridge. Assume all players are experts.

Each problem offered six plausible lines of play (A-F). The merit of each is scored on a 1-to-10 scale based on my judgment, which is also aided by some of the comments received.

Analyses 7X96 MainChallengeScoresTop The Modern Hexathlon

1 Javelin Throw

N-S Vul
S 9 8
H 10 9 8 5 2
D A Q 9
C 7 5 3


3 D1
3 NT
All Pass
2 NT
3 H
Lead: C QTableEast plays C 6

3 NT South
S A J 10 2
D K J 10
C A K 4 2
1. Javelin transfer

B. Win first club; lead H J1014717
A. Win first club; H A; lead H J917120
E. Win second club; lead H J69110
D. Win second club; H A; lead H J525730
F. Win second club; D Q; run S 9411313
C. Win first club; D Q; run S 939211

Your confidence mounts as you await your turn in the first event. Early competitors are unimpressive, even falling short of the javelin marks you set in high school. You expect to be off to an early lead — which brings us to the C Q. Do you win it or duck it?

There seems to be no advantage in ducking, so suppose you win the first trick. The heart suit clearly offers a better chance than spades, as dummy’s two diamond entries provide the means to establish two heart tricks for your contract. The only danger seems to be if West has both heart honors and a five-card club suit. Maybe not. Consider this layout:

IMPsS 9 8TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH 10 9 8 5 21 WC Q36A
D A Q 92 SH A?326
C 7 5 33 SH J7!54
S K Q 5TableS 7 6 4 34 SD 103Q4
H K Q 7 3H 6 45 NS 932Q
D 3 2D 8 7 6 5 46 WC 1059K
C Q J 10 8C 9 67 SD J2A5
S A J 10 28 NS 84JK
H A JDeclarer fails
D K J 10
3 NT SouthC A K 4 2

After winning the C A, you simply cash the H A and give up a heart to West. What’s the problem? Not so fast! West, an Olympic athlete himself, can see that you are destined to develop hearts with routine defense; so he will duck the H J. You now have eight tricks but lack the entries to establish hearts, so you must revert to spades — down one when both finesses lose.*

*Yes, you could succeed at double-dummy by endplaying West, but Olympic officials would disqualify you for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The problem was in your release. You have to let go of the javelin (the H J) a bit sooner — like at trick two (Line B). If West wins, you still have entries to establish hearts (a diamond return is won in hand). If West ducks, you can revert to spades not caring about the spade lie since West can’t win enough tricks to set you. Note that if West continues clubs (after winning the S Q), he gets no heart trick; or if he returns a heart to your blank ace, he gets no club trick.

Line B is not foolproof. If West has both heart honors (not doubleton) and five clubs, you will fail; but so will any attempt to set up hearts. It is true that Line A will gain an overtrick in the rare case of a blank heart honor, but this pales in comparison to the 12-IMP loss in the diagram. Further, Line B also has a chance for an overtrick in a subtle way: Suppose West wins the first heart and leads the C J; you can safely duck, then if clubs are 3-3 you can’t be stopped from winning 10 tricks; whereas with Line A, a spade shift after the second club holds you to nine (probably). This leaves little doubt that Line B is best.

It might also be argued that Line B could fail against a normal heart lie (split honors) if both opponents duck the H J; then you would assume a layout like the diagram and revert to spades, failing when West has both spade honors and five clubs. Ouch! Nonetheless, I seem to be drifting into the Outer Limits, as I doubt this would happen before the 2104 Olympics.

While I’m in Fantasyland, I should point out that Line A would also lose to the same gambit (both defenders duck with honor-third), since you would give up on hearts and use dummy’s entries for spade finesses. Evidently, the only theoretical advantage for Line A is when hearts are 4-2 (split honors) so it is impossible for both opponents to duck.

Meanwhile, back to Earth. Assuming your plan is to establish hearts, ducking the first club is inferior, as it allows the defense to establish five tricks in some common layouts. For example, if West has S Q-x-x H K-x-x D x-x-x C Q-J-10-8, East will take the first heart and shift to a spade (he has no more clubs) and you’re whipsawed. If you hop with the S A, you will lose two spades, two hearts and a club. If you duck, you will lose one spade, two hearts and two clubs.

Attacking spades is a far worse proposition, needing both spade honors or honor-third (or shorter) onside; but curiously, if you take this route it is better to duck the first club. Give West S K-Q-x H x-x D x-x-x-x-x C Q-J-10, and you will see the tempo lost by leading a diamond at trick two. Therefore, Line F edges out Line C in the javelin catching department.

Comments for B. Win first club; lead H J

Gonzalo Goded: If the javelin holds at trick two, I can develop my other major-suit javelin as a ninth trick.

John Lusky: If the H J loses, I will keep playing on hearts. If the H J wins, I will cross to dummy in diamonds and run the S 9. Ducking at trick one risks a spade shift if East wins the first heart, then a shift back to clubs. Playing the H A and jack leaves me uncertain what to do if they both win; and if I switch to spades, I may end up losing to S K-Q-x H K-x-x D x-x-x C Q-J-10-8.

John Reardon: If West has something like S K-Q-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-9, he will probably duck the H J. I can then switch to spades for my ninth trick.

Lajos Linczmayer: Hearts offer a better chance than spades. Ducking does not help but can be fatal (e.g., if West has S K-x-x H Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-9-8). If I conceal the H A, West may duck with S Q-x H K-Q-x-x-x D x C Q-J-10-9-8, and East probably will not duck with S x-x-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x-x-x-x C x.

Frances Hinden: If opponents duck, I play on spades. No point ducking the first club, as they might find the diamond switch.

Can’t get rid of Frances! Just when it seems we’ll miss the brunt of the hurricane, she shows up here.

Bill Jacobs: I take the club to avoid an untimely spade switch later, e.g., if East has S Q-x-x-x H K-x-x D x-x-x-x C x-x and wins the H K to play a spade through — now I must duck, and West can revert to clubs. If I play the H A then jack, West might just have started with S K-Q-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-x; then a duck will beat me, single-dummy. Do anything else, and the javelin veers into the crowd and spiflicates a spectator.

Tim DeLaney: If opponents win the first heart, I can always get nine tricks unless West has five clubs and H K-Q-x. Suppose West has S K-Q-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-x. If I play H A, H J, he will duck and the suit is dead; when I play spades, he will lead a club and have more than enough tricks to beat 3 NT. West can duck the H J at trick two, of course, but now all I need is a spade trick, and he can only get two clubs and two spades. Neat, but suppose East ducks holding something like S x-x-x-x H K-Q-x D x-x-x-x-x C x? I will go down, when all I have to do is continue with the H A. Fortunately, East cannot possibly know this defense would be successful; so he would surely win the H Q to lead a spade…

Rob Stevens: Ducking the club is an error, as East may win the first heart and lead a spade, which I will have to duck; then West can revert to clubs, setting up five tricks for the defense.

Jonathan Mestel: I’m OK unless West has five clubs and H K-Q (or S K-Q if opponents duck the H J).

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: I can’t afford to duck a club, as I may go down by losing two hearts and three tricks in the black suits. This leaves me better placed than Line A, as I can switch to spades if opponents duck the H J (when either of them holds H K-Q-x-x) without being exposed to two immediate heart losers.

Joon Pahk: If this loses, I’ll set up hearts for my ninth trick. If opponents duck, I’ll attack spades. Ducking the first trick can’t help… Playing the H A early leaves me vulnerable to a duck from H K-Q-x-x (or both defenders from honor-third); then I need to go after spades and could easily lose five fast tricks.

Jim Munday: This will succeed as long as West does not hold both K-Q in a major with five clubs. If the opponents take the first heart, I have the entries to establish the suit. If they duck, I revert to spades for my ninth trick. I must win the first club, lest they shift to diamonds…

Bruce Neill: I can’t afford to duck the first club if West has, e.g., S Q-x-x H K-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-9-8.

Leif-Erik Stabell: This is safe with clubs 4-2, and chances are [excellent] with clubs 5-1. [This or] Line A could fail spectacularly with hearts 3-3 if both defenders duck (e.g., West has S K-Q-x H Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-9-8).

Nigel Guthrie: If I misguess the distribution after leading the H A first, I could go down when clubs are 3-3.

Richard Ramey: If this holds, I will cross to dummy in diamonds and switch to spades.

Marjan Praljak: If opponents win the H J, I have enough entries to dummy to develop hearts and score one spade, three hearts, three diamonds and two clubs. If the H J holds, I lead a diamond to the queen and switch to spades… Ducking the first club could give enough tempo for the defense to develop five tricks before I develop nine.

Nick Krnjevic: If I play H A and H J, opponents can simply duck; then I will go down if both spades are offside, since opponents can score two spades, two clubs and one or two hearts. If I lead the H J first, opponents have to duck; then I can work on the spade suit for a second winner.

Anthony Golding: … I lead the H J first so that if opponents duck, I can switch to spades without having set up two heart tricks for them. If clubs are 5-1, I need East to have one of the heart honors — and one of the spade honors [if the H J wins].

Dale Freeman: Ducking the first club is clearly wrong as then opponents can create five tricks easier. Hearts is the suit to attack, and I hope they will take the H J. Why the jack first? Tactically, it is better and leaves more flexibility if ducked, one remote case being where West has H K-Q-x-x (or longer) with S K-Q.

Jeff Miller: Plan is to take nine tricks via one spade, three hearts, three diamonds and two clubs. Assuming the H J is won by the king or queen…I will go down only if one hand has five clubs and both heart honors. If the H J holds…I switch to spades… The main traps are (1) to duck the first club, because a diamond shift enables the defense to foil my [lead of the H J first]… and (2) to lead the H A first, because a defender with H K-Q-x-x may duck…

Jordi Sabate: If I lead H A and H J, opponents can duck; then I have to decide if hearts are 3-3, or to play on spades (then I may lose five tricks if West has both spade honors). If I lead the H J first and they duck, I can then lead spades twice from dummy. I only lose the contract if clubs are 5-1 and both heart honors (not doubleton) are in West (or both spade honors if the H J wins).

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: If opponents take the H J and continue clubs, I can unblock the H A and have entries to develop hearts. I’m only down if West started with five clubs and H K-Q-x-(x). … If they duck the H J, I cross to dummy and take the double spade finesse.

Julian Wightwick: I plan to set up two more heart tricks by force. I can’t afford to duck a club, because then East could win the first heart, switch to a spade, and I could no longer afford to rise with the S A. West might duck the H J holding S K-Q-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-x, in which case [retaining the H A] gives me time to set up a spade trick.

Barry Goren: Ducking the club will not allow me to win the S A if East wins the first heart and leads a spade.

Sebastien Louveaux: The best chance seems to be that West doesn’t have five clubs and both heart honors. If opponents duck the H J, I will need one spade trick… If I cash the H A first, they could make [five tricks]. If I duck the club, West could lead a diamond…

Frans Buijsen: If this is ducked, I change tack and attack spades. …

Perry Groot: Give East an ordinary hand like S K-x-x-x H K-x-x D x-x-x-x-x C x, and options C, D, E, and F lead to defeat. Therefore, the choice is between A and B. Line B gives me more control and makes it harder for the opponents either to hold up, or to take the trick when they should.

Franco Baseggio: I win the first club so I can afford to fly with the S A if East wins a heart and leads a spade through. If opponents capture the H J, I can set up hearts — the only danger is an opponent holding five clubs and both heart honors protected. … The cost of leading the H J first (instead of line A) is the loss of an overtrick against a stiff honor. The benefit is that it may be harder for a double duck, tricking you into defeat when West has something like S K-Q-x H K-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-x-x. Also, East might not work out to duck with H K-Q-x-x.

N. Scott Cardell: This guarantees the contract whenever clubs break no worse than 4-2. … If the H J is ducked, all I need is one more spade trick; so D 10 to the D A, and run the S 9. … If the S 9 loses to an honor in West, and his club return reveals a 5-1 break, I will play the S A followed by the jack as a safety play against S K-Q doubleton with West.

Madhukar Bapu: The airborne javelin will [fly long] with this play, which wins by miles.

Gyorgy Ormay: … If I duck the first trick, a later spade switch [by East] is dangerous. Keeping control with the H A is important. If the H J wins, I’ll switch to spades for my ninth trick.

Rolf Mattsson: If opponents win this, I can unblock the H A and enter dummy twice in diamonds to establish hearts. If East wins the first heart and shifts to a spade, I rise with the ace to avoid West winning and shifting back to clubs. If the H J is ducked, I take two spade finesses; I am then home unless West has S K-Q and five clubs.

Ed Barnes: If this holds, I play on spades. If not, I’m only in trouble if someone has five clubs and H K-Q.

Rainer Herrmann: This loses only if West has five clubs and both heart honors (or both spade honors if East-West are capable of letting the H J hold).

Dale Rudrum: This wins with clubs C 4-2 or 3-3, or with the heart honors split (or with the short clubs). If East wins the second trick and returns a spade, I obviously play the ace. Therefore, I cannot duck the first trick. If both opponents duck the H J, I can switch to the double spade finesse. Cashing the H A first could lead to one down with clubs split friendly.

Kjetil Hildal: If the H J is ducked, I abandon hearts and set up spades, using diamond entries to finesse for a possible overtrick. If the H J is captured, I have sufficient entries to set up hearts. It is essential to win the first club [and retain the H A] in case West has something like S K-Q-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-x

Mauri Saastamoinen: … Playing spades instead of hearts requires West to have something like S Q-x-x-x H K-Q-x D x C Q-J-10-9-8 (or nothing in spades) so playing hearts first should give me the best chance. Leading the H J is better than cashing the H A first because East might duck with H K-x-x or Q-x-x.

Yi Zhong: By leading the H J first, I may avoid losing five tricks [if opponents duck].

Steve White: If East wins the first heart and can play a second club, that suit is no danger. If I duck the first trick…, I am in danger of losing one club plus two in each major (or two hearts, one spade and two clubs if I duck a spade from East).

Jess Stuart: Clubs are a threat only if West has five, so ducking the first club isn’t necessary. … Playing the H A first might drop a singleton honor [for an overtrick]; but playing the H J first works better when [either] opponent ducks, as I then can go after spades for my ninth trick.

Anil Upadhyay: Leading the H J without cashing the ace is superior if West has S K-Q-x H K-Q-x-x D x-x C Q-J-10-9. … I do not see any gain in ducking the club — nothing can be done if West has five clubs and all the entries — and giving an unnecessary tempo may lose a trick.

Stephen Fischer: Ducking the club risks East winning a heart and leading a spade, allowing the opponents to make five tricks. … If East wins the H J, I can safely take the S A or C A and set up two heart winners. If both opponents duck the H J, I will play on spades for an [extra] trick.

Analyses 7X96 MainChallengeScoresTop The Modern Hexathlon

2 Backstroke

Both Vul
H A Q 10 5
D A 6 4 2
C J 7 3

2 C
All Pass

3 C
4 S
1 C
1 S
3 S
3 S1
Lead: D QTableEast plays D 5

3 S South
S A 10 9 7 5 4
H 4 3
D K 8
C 5 4 2
1. backstroke (why go down in four?)

Is your play as clever as your bidding?

D. Win D K; D A; run S Q1018021
E. Win D K; D A; ruff a diamond911914
A. Win D A; run S Q640346
F. Win D K; lead a club5425
B. Win D K; finesse H Q3647
C. Win D K; finesse H 102637

After a hot afternoon in the field, it’s great to hit the pool. The backstroke is your weakest event, so you’ll be satisfied to finish anywhere in the middle. On your mark! Get set! Splash! You swim the heat of your life, placing sixth. The bad news: You made an illegal turn going into the final lap. The good news: Your lane judge didn’t notice, else you’d be disqualified from the Hexathlon. Making this lowly contract should be a breeze in comparison, as nobody noticed your insufficient bid either. Whew!

East is marked with most of the high cards, so the spade finesse is likely to work. Suppose you win the first trick in dummy and run the S Q (Line A). All would be fine with a normal trump break, but a layout like the following is quite likely on the bidding:

IMPsS Q JTrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH A Q 10 51 WD QA?58
D A 6 4 22 NS Q342
C J 7 33 NS J65D 3
S 2TableS K 8 6 3Declarer fails
H J 6 2H K 9 8 7
D Q J 10 7 3D 9 5
C Q 9 8 6C A K 10
S A 10 9 7 5 4
H 4 3
D K 8
3 S SouthC 5 4 2

After winning two spade finesses, the 4-1 trump break leaves you without recourse. With the heart finesse surely doomed, your only glimmer of hope is to score all your trumps, either by ruffing or by an endplay. Alas, entries do not permit it.

The problem was a false start. Winning the D A was an impulsive play to place the lead in dummy for the spade finesse, ostensibly to guard against a singleton diamond in East; but effectively, it only restricted your communication. East cannot have a singleton diamond as he is marked with three clubs (West must have four for his raise) and at most 4-4 in the majors. Instead you should win the D K first, then the D A, followed by the successful spade finesses (Line D). Next ruff a diamond to reach this position:

S win 4STrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A Q 10 51 SH 32A!8
D 62 ND 6H 9S 9J
C J 7 3Declarer succeeds
STableS K 8
H J 6 2H K 9 8
C Q 9 8 6C A K 10
S A 10 9
H 4 3
South leadsC 5 4 2

Now you’re home, as long as you refuse the heart finesse. The straightforward continuation is to win the H A, ruff dummy’s last diamond and exit with either plain suit. Eventually, you must win the S A-10 over East’s king.

Line E (D K, D A, diamond ruff) is equally good. When creating this problem, I thought Line D had the edge for an overtrick since you will discover the spade layout immediately; then if spades are 3-2, you can safely try the heart finesse. Alas, a closer look shows that Line E fares just as well, assuming you lead a club next. The heart finesse can only be working if East has C A-K-Q, in which case West can’t gain the lead to force you to commit; i.e., East would just win the club, optionally cash his clubs* and exit with a spade, leaving essentially the same position. As usual, the voting decides dead heats, so Line D gets the gold.

*A few who chose Line E suggested that if East cashed C A-K-Q and led a spade, they would hop ace because if the spade finesse were working, so is the heart finesse, since East cannot have 15 HCP; hence Line E has a slight edge in dropping a stiff king. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Besides squandering a likely overtrick, I would wonder why East advertised his club holding. Then I’d realize I would open 1 C with S K-x-x-x H K-x-x-x D x-x C A-K-Q, as it’s an ugly 1 NT vulnerable (minus 300 would be no surprise). I wonder how many agree.

Another suggestion was that if East followed to three diamonds, he could not have four spades because he is marked with four hearts from West’s failure to make a negative double. Hence, the heart finesse could be taken with safety immediately. I don’t buy this either. Would you make a negative double with S x H 9-x-x-x D Q-J-10-x C Q-10-9-x? I think it just begs for trouble, while 2 C is sensible.

Other options suffer greatly by giving up the likely trump-reduction and endplay. Lines A and F have some recovery chances, e.g., if East has C A-K-Q, West cannot gain the lead to push a heart through, so you’re OK. Differences between them are negligible, so the bronze goes to Line A per the voting. Lines B and C are worst, as there’s no recovery if the heart finesse loses and East has S K-x-x-x.

Comments for D. Win D K; D A; run S Q

Gonzalo Goded: No need to capture the S K; I’ll just ensure that I make six trump tricks if East has S K-x-x-x.

John Lusky: This allows me to shorten my trumps if necessary to pick up S K-x-x-x with East, and also avoids losing to a West hand like S 8-x-x-x H x-x-x D Q-J-10 C A-x-x.

John’s example, however unlikely, does show an advantage of Line D over Line E. If we can just find one expert who would bid 2 C, we got ourselves a clear winner. -RP

John Reardon: East may have S K-x-x-x H K-x-x D x-x-x C A-K-x, in which case I will have to reduce my trump length after the second spade finesse reveals the position.

Lajos Linczmayer: This play helps if East has four spades, e.g., S K-x-x-x H K-J-x D x-x-x C A-Q-x.

Bill Jacobs: Then the S J (West discards); diamond ruff; H A; diamond ruff, and claim two spades at the end. I’m guessing East has S K-x-x-x H K-J-x-x D x-x C K-Q-x. If this isn’t the layout, I accuse you of taking human growth hormones to stack the cards.

Tim DeLaney: Winning the spade finesse is a must… if it falls in three rounds, I can try the heart finesse for an overtrick. If East has S K-x-x-x, I ruff a diamond, win the H A, ruff another diamond, and exit with any loser…

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: The main idea is to cope with S K-x-x-x in East’s hand and reduce my trumps twice before giving away my losers. Line E will also succeed…

Joon Pahk: East seems to have only three clubs… so he is quite likely to have four spades… I can take two spade hooks, ruff a diamond, cross to dummy with the H A, ruff another diamond, then exit with a loser to score my S A-10.

Jim Munday: On the face of it, I need one of two major-suit finesses to work; however, a 4-1 spade split could prove embarrassing if I did not win two diamond tricks [early]. If the spade finesse works, I will repeat it; then if spades are 4-1, I can ruff a diamond, with the H A, ruff another diamond, and exit…

Dean Pokorny: When East holds four trumps (e.g., S K-x-x-x H K-J-x-x D x-x C K-Q-x), 3 S can be made only by a trump-reduction play. Line E seems equally good.

Bruce Neill: I will make by trump reduction if West has, e.g., S x H x-x-x D Q-J-x-x-x C K-J-x-x.

Leif-Erik Stabell: East is probably 4=4=2=3 with the S K and will be caught in a trump endplay. Line E is probably just as good… If East has S K-x-x H J-x-x-x D x-x-x C A-K-Q, can I cancel the backstroke?

Len Vishnevsky: East has three clubs, so his shape must be 4=4=2=3, 4=3=3=3 or 3=4=3=3; hence I might need a trump endplay…

Manuel Paulo: I assume that East holds the major-suit kings, so trumps must break 1-4 to have a problem. … I next lead the S J (in case trumps break well) and after West’s discard, I ruff a diamond…

Marjan Praljak: [Assuming the S Q wins] I continue with the S J and ruff a diamond. If trumps were 3-2, I draw the last trump. Otherwise, a heart to the ace, ruff the last diamond, and exit with a heart and wait to score my S A-10. …

Nick Krnjevic: Given the lead, West [probably] has the C A, so East has the rest of the deck for his opening (S K-x-x-x H K-J-x-x D x-x C K-Q-x). In this case I need to reduce my trump length to coup East. Although Lines D and E appear to be the same, there is a small possibility that West has S 8-x-x-x H x-x-x D Q-J-x C A-10-9, in which case Line E will fail…

Anthony Golding: It seems from the bidding that East has only three clubs, hence a good chance of four spades. I plan to run the S Q-J; ruff a diamond; H A; ruff a diamond, then cut loose to take the S A-10 in due course.

Dale Freeman: The most probable East hand is 4=4=2=3 with both major kings, so I must use dummy’s entries to finesse spades and reduce my trumps… Line E is also possible, but this is better because, if West remotely has the S K, he might exit passively with a diamond or spade; then I will endplay East. West did pass 3 S twice, so maybe he is in a passive mood!

Jeff Miller: Anyone capable of this inspired bidding should have no problem taking nine tricks via six spades, D A-K and the H A. … East should have the S K; but if it is fourth, I must shorten my trumps to pick it up. [Play explained]. The trap is to be greedy and try the heart finesse — a big mistake if it loses, as the defense will cash three clubs and exit with a heart…

Jordi Sabate: I need the S K in East…in which case the only problem is to find East with four trumps; then I must ruff twice before I exit with a club, waiting with S A-10 for my last two tricks. Both lines D and E are good, but I think it is better to start leading trumps first.

Ulrich Nell: East may have 4=4=2=3 shape, in which case two successful spade finesses are not enough. Then I ruff a diamond, play a heart to the ace, ruff another diamond and exit. When the cows come home, the fat lady will sing.

Maybe, but I wonder about the wisdom of using cow and fat lady in the same sentence.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: If East started with S K-x-x-x H K-x-x-x D x-x C A-K-x, I can ruff two diamonds (crossing to the H A) and exit, then I must get my last two trumps in the end.

Julian Wightwick: West probably has C A-x-x-x to raise and not lead them; so East has both major-suit kings, and he will often have four trumps. After S Q-J hold, I can elope with diamond ruffs and eventually score all six trump tricks.

Frans Buijsen: To guard against S K-x-x-x with East. After S Q-J, I ruff a diamond and give up a club, waiting for the throw-in to materialize. I don’t see an option where I can cash some of my spades twice — if they’re small ones, maybe the opponents won’t notice that either. :)

Perry Groot: This guards against a 1-4 spade division. After two spades, I ruff a diamond, cross to the H A, and ruff another diamond; now exit with a club or a heart and wait for two more spade tricks. Except for Line E, other options lose against a 1-4 division; however, Line E also loses when East is 1=4=4=4, as West will then score the S 8.

Richard Stein: On the bidding, it is impossible for East to hold a stiff diamond (he would have a five-card major). This is the best way to pick up S K-x-x-x. I will next run the S J, ruff a diamond, win the H A, ruff a diamond, and get out with a round suit…

Carsten Kofoed: East must have the S K, and West probably has 1=3=5=4 shape. Isn’t this just a 100-meter backstroke?

N. Scott Cardell: As West needs four clubs for his 2 C bid, East must be 4=3=3=3, 3=4=3=3 or 4=4=2=3; and East needs at least one of the major-suit kings for his opening bid. Furthermore, West probably has a high club honor for his 2 C bid, and his failure to lead a club suggests that as well. Thus, it is quite likely that East has S K-x-x-x. [Play sequence described]. …

Douglas Dunn: This will make even if East has S K-x-x-x by ruffing diamonds twice in hand — making six trump tricks.

Gyorgy Ormay: East may have 4=4=2=3 shape, so I need two diamond ruffs before the opponents cash their clubs. The heart finesse won’t be successful, so I shall catch the wall of the pool on my back(stroke).

Marvin French: Setting the table for a possible trump endplay later, should East hold four spades.

Rolf Mattsson: Since West did not lead clubs, he probably has the C A. East is then sure to have both major-suit kings, so the only problem is East having four spades. I next run the S J and ruff a diamond. If East has four trumps, I enter dummy with the H A to ruff another diamond, then exit in hearts or clubs. I will then get six trumps, D A-K and H A to justify my bidding.

Don Hinchey: Reductio ad trumpum.

Julian Pottage: The material layout is when East has four spades, and this seems fractionally better than Line E…

Roger Morton: … I might need to reduce my trumps with a diamond ruff when the second spade holds and West shows out. East is more likely to be 4=3=2=4 than 4=4=1=4.

Arvind Ranasaria: The non-club lead makes West [likely] to hold the C A, so East has [both major-suit kings]. The contract looks cold unless East has S K-x-x-x, in which case I must …make two ruffs in hand. After S Q-J, I will ruff a diamond, cross to dummy with the H A, ruff the last diamond, and exit in clubs; then I must score my S A-10

Thijs Veugen: When East has S K-x-x-x, I have to shorten my trumps.

Rainer Herrmann: Better not to try the heart finesse, in case East holds S K-x-x-x.

Arthur Hoffman: West’s failure to lead a club probably marks him with the ace, so East must have the S K to justify his opening… The danger is that East has four spades… If West shows out on the second spade, I will ruff a diamond, and forsake the heart finesse to ruff another diamond. Then I will exit with a club or heart and wait to win the last two tricks.

Jack Rhatigan: Maximizing my spade tricks in case the suit breaks 4-1.

Kjetil Hildal: The danger here is 4-1 spades, and the H K offside. Assuming West shows out on the second spade, I ruff a diamond, lead a heart to the ace, ruff diamond, and exit with a club. Line E also will succeed…

Mauri Saastamoinen: After that smooth stroke, I only need the S K onside… If spades are 4-1, my plan is to ruff diamonds twice, and not finesse in hearts.

Shyam Sashital: If the spade finesse wins, the heart finesse is no longer needed; however, spades may be 4-1. Winning two diamonds early is necessary to start shortening my trumps.

Alon Amsel: Taking care of four spades in East. Next I will run another spade, trump a diamond, cross to the H A, trump the last diamond, and exit with a heart for an endplay.

Kees van Schenk Brill: I love the last bid. Our auctions become much more efficient if we drop the requirement to bid ‘em up.

Steve White: I need to be ready to ruff a diamond if the S Q-J hold and East has four.

Brad Theurer: The critical case is East having S K-x-x-x, so I must unblock diamonds to prepare for a trump reduction. After the S Q-J hold, ruff a diamond, heart to the ace (can’t risk a finesse since I need to retain an exit card), ruff the last diamond and exit…

Stephen Fischer: The only problem comes when East has four trumps and the H K, so my plan is to shorten my trump length. If S Q-J both win, I ruff a diamond and play a club. If West wins and leads a heart, I win the ace; ruff another diamond, then exit with a heart or club and wait to win the S A-10.

Analyses 7X96 MainChallengeScoresTop The Modern Hexathlon

3 Long Jump

N-S Vul
S K 6 4 2
D K 7 3
C A 6 5 4 3 2

1 C
6 H1
Lead: C QTable

6 H South
S A 9 7 5
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D Q 4
1. well short of the record but a good first attempt

E. Ruff first trick; draw trumps; lead D Q1012715
A. Win C A (pitch spade); lead D 398510
F. Ruff first trick; draw trumps; lead D 4855864
B. Win C A (pitch spade); ruff a club5597
C. Win C A (pitch diamond); lead D 32293
D. Win C A (pitch diamond); ruff a club1131

Note: Trumps split 3-3.

The next day you are back on the field in an event you can be proud of. Four years ago in Sydney you took the bronze in the long jump, so a good effort here could move you back on top. Your first attempt is only mediocre, landing in 6 H (you were hoping for seven, maybe even spades or notrump), and West quickly leads the C Q* to stop any further advance. Oh well; you might as well make the contract.

*Several people noted that I did not state East’s club play at trick one, which may have been significant. I chose not to because four of the six options involved winning the C A, which would occur before East’s play. In a situation depending on an unknown factor, you should assume the ordinary (i.e., East follows with a nondescript club). If something unusual happened, such as the C K dropping, I would have to tell you.

Eleven tricks are easy after forcing out the D A, but partner’s lousy opening leaves much work for 12. One possibility is to lure an opponent to take the D A on air, allowing you to win an extra diamond trick. You then notice a track attendant raking the landing area with a garden fork. What’s this? Aha! Morton’s fork. Consider this layout:

IMPsS K 6 4 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH1 WC Q28H 8
D K 7 32 SH A2C 34
C A 6 5 4 3 23 SH K3S 25
S J 8TableS Q 10 34 SH Q6C 47
H 6 3 2H 7 5 45 SD 4?
D A 10 6 5D J 9 8 2Declarer succeeds
C Q J 10 9C K 8 7
S A 9 7 5
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D Q 4
6 H SouthC

The key play is to postpone your discard on the C A, so ruff the first trick and draw trumps (optional) being careful not to pitch a diamond from dummy. Next lead a low diamond (Line F), and West is iodized (that’s the Morton’s salt variation). If he hops with the D A, you get two discards. If he ducks, your diamond loser goes away on the C A, then you can establish your fourth spade.

All well and good, but there’s something about this play that feels wrong: You needed West to have the D A. Wouldn’t an expert usually lead the ace in an unbid suit if he had it? Yes, and especially on a crazy auction like yours. Imagine how stupid West would look if dummy had the C K instead of the D K, giving away a contract that was down off the top.

So what about a Morton’s fork against East? Alas, it can’t be done for lack of entries; if you ruff the first club to postpone your pitch, you can’t lead a diamond from dummy and return to dummy. Nonetheless, a squeeze will save the day when East has the spade stopper. Consider this layout:

IMPsS K 6 4 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH1 WC QA7S 5
D K 7 32 ND 32Q6
C A 6 5 4 3 23 SH A2C 24
S J 8TableS Q 10 34 SH K3C 35
H 6 3 2H 7 5 45 SH Q6C 47
D 10 8 6 5D A J 9 26 SH JC 10C 5C K
C Q J 10 9C K 8 77 SH 10D 5S 2D 9
S A 9 7 58 SH 9D 8S 4C 8
H A K Q J 10 9 8continued below…
D Q 4
6 H SouthC

Win the C A, pitching a spade, and lead a low diamond (Line A) which East must duck. After winning the D Q, lead all but one trump to reach this ending:

H win 4S K 6TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H9 SH 8D 8C 6?
D K 7Declarer succeeds
C 6
S J 8TableS Q 10 3
D 10 8D A J
S A 9 7
H 8
D 4
South leadsC

The count is not rectified for a standard squeeze, but it doesn’t matter; the delayed-duck version works just as well. Just lead your last trump, pitching a club from dummy, and East has no defense. If he pitches a spade, your third spade is good. If he pitches a diamond, you will duck a diamond to his blank ace.

Another strong option is Line E, which essentially requires one defender to have three or more spades and four or more clubs, as in this layout:

IMPsS K 6 4 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH1 WC Q27H 8
D K 7 32 SH A2C 34
C A 6 5 4 3 23 SH K3C 45
S Q J 8TableS 10 34 SH Q6S 27
H 6 3 2H 7 5 45 SD Q53A
D J 10 5D A 9 8 6 2Declarer succeeds
C Q J 10 9C K 8 7
S A 9 7 5
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D Q 4
6 H SouthC

After ruffing the club and drawing trumps (pitching two clubs and a spade) you lead the D Q, which East must win. Regardless of the return, the extra entry to dummy allows a second club ruff to isolate the club threat; then West is squeezed in the black suits.* The squeeze would work just as well if East held the third spade and fourth club.

*If East returns a black suit, there is also the possibility of playing for a double squeeze with diamonds as the common suit. This should be rejected, of course, because East could kill the double squeeze with a diamond return.

So which line is best? Exact percentages are of little use since a key factor (location of D A) is subjective, so ballpark numbers will do. Line E is easy to assess at 39 percent (either defender with 3+ spades and 4+ clubs) — perhaps a little less if you consider that a defender may cause complications when spades are 4-1 by ducking the D Q. Line F basically needs 3-2 spades (68 percent) and West to have the D A. Line A requires East to have three spades* (34 percent) and the D A.

*Line A also works when East has four spades (or even all five unless he hops with the D A to give West a spade ruff), but you must guess which distribution to play for; that is, you can cater to only one case with best defense, so you should play East for three spades, being most likely.

I’ve looked at this problem repeatedly from several angles, and the same message keeps coming through: Line E is tough to beat. Even if you assume the D A equally likely in either hand, Line F is only 34 percent (68 x 50); and if you assume East must have it, Line A tops out at 34 percent. Actually, I’d guess the D A to be 70 percent with East, so Line F becomes 20 percent (68 x 30) and Line A, 24 percent (34 x 70). Even though Lines A and F both have some extra chances when the D A is wrong (remote squeezes), this could never close the gap; so Line E gets the gold.

The closest call of all was between Lines A and F. I’d like to go with the majority (Line F) but my gut feeling is that 70 percent for the D A in East may be low, if anything. Therefore, Line A gets the silver, and Line F the bronze. Line A also has better recovery chances, as this layout illustrates:

IMPsS K 6 4 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH1 WC QA7S 5
D K 7 32 ND 310QA
C A 6 5 4 3 2Declarer can succeed
S Q 10TableS J 8 3
H 6 3 2H 7 5 4
D A J 6 5D 10 9 8 2
C Q J 10 9C K 8 7
S A 9 7 5
H A K Q J 10 9 8
D Q 4
6 H SouthC

After winning the C A to pitch a spade, you lead a diamond to the queen, ace. Are you down? Not necessarily! Regardless of the return, you can succeed on a double guard squeeze. You’ll have to work it out on your own, as I’m late for the 400-meter freestyle.

Among the also-rans, Line B has some merit but loses to many layouts where Line E or Line A works because East can choose to win or duck the D Q as appropriate. Lines C and D (pitching a diamond on the C A) are almost nullo with correct defense.

Comments for E. Ruff first trick; draw trumps; lead D Q

Gonzalo Goded: Those evil expert opponents can’t be good enough to duck the D Q smoothly, at least not always. The D 4 [may be] just a bit better theoretically, but in practice the squeeze is going to succeed against 4-1 spades.

John Lusky: This forces opponents to take the D A right away, then chances are [fair] for a black-suit squeeze… An alternative is a Morton’s fork coup against West (Line F) if he has the D A; but I think West would be likely to lead the D A if he had it — obviously right if the minor-suit kings were switched on this layout.

Imre Csiszar: In the abstract, Line F might be best; but on this bidding West probably lead the D A if he held it. Hence, I believe it is better to play for a club-spade squeeze, hoping the same opponent has four or more clubs and three or more spades.

Frances Hinden: Most Wests would lead the D A if they had it, so I’ll play for a squeeze instead.

Jonathan Mestel: I dithered a lot between this and Line F. This works if the same hand holds clubs and spades, or if West has clubs and S Q-J, Q-10 or J-10 (30 percent of the doubletons).* The Morton’s fork works if West has the D A, and spades are 3-2 (or if East has the D A, he’ll probably return a diamond and some squeezes still work). Points to consider: (1) Would West have led the D A on this auction? (2) Would East have overcalled 1 D with 2=3=5=3 and the D A and C K? Hard to say, but I’ll go for the double guard squeeze.

*Jonathan brings out a valid extra, though it doesn’t add much to the overcall chances. The reason is that with best defense you cannot play for either squeeze but must decide which. For example, if West pitches the S 10 and then follows with the queen, do you finesse (playing for the DGS) or go up ace (playing for the black-suit squeeze)? A priori, chances are virtually identical (restricted choice considered). West’s opening-lead decision, however, would be evidence to finesse. -RP

Dean Pokorny: Playing for an automatic spade-club squeeze seems better than playing for spades 3-2 and the D A in West.

Bruce Neill: If the D Q wins, will I know who has the D A? I think so. (If not, maybe Line F is best, which makes whenever West has the D A and spades are 3-2…) This makes via a squeeze whenever West has the D A, and the long clubs are with the long spades (about 22 percent) and whenever East has the D A, spades are 3-2, and the long clubs are with the three spades (about 14 percent) — about 36 percent total, plus any extras when East should duck the D K but doesn’t, or West should win but doesn’t.

Marjan Praljak: Basically, I hope the opponent with more clubs also has more spades (39.56 percent). If opponents overtake my D Q, I have enough entries to ruff another club and perform a black-suit squeeze. If the D Q holds, I pitch the D 4 on the C A, and play for spades 3-2. If I play the D 4 instead (Line F) I need West to have the D A and spades 3-2 (33.91 percent).

Gareth Birdsall: It looks tempting to try the Morton’s fork, but if East has the D A and returns a spade, the contract is [probably] dead. At least this way I isolate the club menace for a possible squeeze.

Ulrich Nell: Provided spades break, opponents are forced to take the first diamond, creating an entry in dummy to allow a second club ruff. Now [either opponent] can be squeezed in the black suits if he holds a majority in both. …

Frans Buijsen: Playing to set up a spade-club squeeze against whoever is long in both.

Madhukar Bapu: The long-jump bid of 6 H should have seen the D A hit the track. This not having occurred, I will spurn the Morton’s Fork and play for a [black-suit] squeeze. …

Gyorgy Ormay: How to discard two spades? The best chance is that West [or East] holds black suits… If the D Q loses, I will have two entries to dummy, [one to ruff a club] and another for the squeeze. If the D Q wins, there will be no diamond loser, and [I need spades 3-2].

Rainer Herrmann: This [probably] requires spades to break, and one defender to be longer in both black suits — a squeeze if the D Q is taken by the ace [else pitch the diamond and set up spades]. Line F also needs spades to break, and for and West to have the D A. A priori Line F may be a bit more likely, but an expert West would lead the D A in a substantial number of cases after this bidding. Therefore, West holding the D A is much less than an even chance, making this play more likely to succeed.

Jack Rhatigan: … This allows me to reach dummy with the D K and isolate the club threat to one opponent for a squeeze — maybe.

Shyam Sashital: If the D Q is ducked, I am home [if spades break 3-2]. Else I will need [either opponent] to hold 3+ spades and 4+ clubs for a simple squeeze. This line also allows for situations in which West holds S Q-J, Q-10 or J-10 doubleton; he will have to hold both his spades, resulting in a [double guard squeeze].

Ross Lam: Trying to create an extra entry to dummy, while saving my discard until later.

Paulino Correa: If the defense refuses this trick, I’ll cross to dummy via the S K, discard the D 4 on the C A, and play for a 3-2 spade split. If they take the D A and return a diamond, I’ll win in dummy, cash the C A (discarding a spade), ruff a club, then run my remaining trumps for a black-suit squeeze… If the defense leads a spade (after winning the D A), won in dummy, the situation will be similar, except the squeeze card will be the D K. …

Janet Dugle: Hopefully, these are the same opponents as on Problem 2, so they will duck the diamond and let me lose just one spade.

Analyses 7X96 MainChallengeScoresTop The Modern Hexathlon

4 Freestyle

None Vul
S K 10 7 5
H 10 9 7 6
D J 4 2
C A 2

3 H

All Pass
1 H
4 H
2 C1
4 S2
Lead: D KTableEast plays D 9

4 S× South
S J 9 8 6 3
D 8 7
C K 8 7 6 5 4
1. freestyle (Michaels is for wimps)
2. hey, it’s my turn again

West next leads the H 3 to East’s ace.

D. Ruff; win C A-K; ruff club; lead S 1010789
F. Pitch your last diamond829434
C. Ruff; win C A-K; ruff club; lead S K6475
A. Ruff; run the S 9525129
B. Ruff; lead spade to king4556
E. Ruff; win C A-K; ruff club; ruff heart314617

Note: If you lead clubs, West has C Q-3.

You didn’t come to the Olympics to pass, and using a crutch like Michaels lacks any flair. Therefore, in a freestyle event you decide to carry the torch on your own. Bang! The starting gun sends you off to a fast first lap with 2 C; then after a perfect flip turn, you start your next lap with 4 S. Oops. West’s double slows you down a bit, but you’re determined to stroke it out to the finish.

Nice dummy, partner! After the Olympics, you may want to take North on tour if he can table hands like this with regularity. Meanwhile, what do you know about the enemy hands? West’s 3 H (in competition) was a limit raise, and his double suggested defensive values, likely with three spades.* You can’t be sure about the spade-honor location, but West’s known diamond strength and his decision to double make S Q-x-x much more likely than A-x-x.

*West might double 4 S with only two spades if he had club length; but you will discover this is not the case if you properly lead clubs early. Further, West could hardly have all four spades, as that would give him too many points for a limit raise.

With your hand subject to an immediate tap (even if you postpone it with a diamond discard), it seems premature to lead trumps — especially at the table where you wouldn’t be told about the 3-2 club break.* Even if you lost a club ruff, the end result would be better than if you drew trumps. Consider the layout that follows.

*When I give you advance information, such as the exact club break, it is only to clarify what happens if you pursue a particular line. You should not assume this information before you would discover it in actual play.

IMPsS K 10 7 5TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None VulH 10 9 7 61 WD K297
D J 4 22 WH 46AS 3
C A 23 SC 43A9
S Q 4 2TableS A4 NC 210KQ
H K 8 4H A Q J 5 3 25 SC 5H 8S 5J
D K Q 10 5 3D A 9 6continued below…
C Q 3C J 10 9
S J 9 8 6 3
D 8 7
4 S× SouthC K 8 7 6 5 4

After the D K lead and a heart shift, suppose you take the straightforward path and ruff. Next you lead three rounds of clubs, ruffing in dummy as West pitches a heart to reach this position:

S win 6S K 10 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 10 9 76 NH 7?2S 6K
D J 47 SS 927A
C8 EH QS 8S Q9
S Q 4 2TableS A9 WD 54A8
H KH Q J 5 3 210 EH JS JD 310
D Q 10 5 3D A 611 SC 8S 4S 10H 3
CCDeclarer fails
S J 9 8 6
D 8
North leadsC 8 7 6

Your Olympic moment has arrived. Suppose you ruff a heart and run the S 9 to the ace. Curtains! In fact, you’ll be down two when West overruffs the heart return and taps out your last trump with diamond leads (or a diamond and another heart). You could limit the damage to down one by leading clubs (after ruffing the heart), but you can’t shut out the S Q.

The solution is obvious looking at all four hands; and it should be indicated at the table, too, if you back your judgment. From the diagram, lead the S 10 (or the S 7) to East’s blank ace; now when you’re forced you’ll have the same length as West. Finally, lead the S J (assuming you unblocked the 10*); then if West ducks, just lead clubs until he ruffs.

*Unblocking wasn’t necessary, as club leads accomplish the same thing.

Only Line D allows you to bring in the club suit and keep trump control. If you lead a spade early (Line A), continued taps are untenable; in fact, you’ll need a pretty fancy dolphin kick to avoid down two.

It is also worth noting that if spades were 2-2, East might have opened 1 NT (e.g., S A-x H A-Q-J-x-x D A-9-x C J-10-9) and West would be unlikely to double 4 S with only 2-2 in the black suits and four hearts — strong evidence to support Line D. Further, even when Line D fails (East has S A-x or a blank queen) you’ll be down only one, which is not so bad with 4 H cold.

What about pitching a diamond (Line F) at trick two? Doesn’t this allow the same successful technique as Line D? No, there’s a flaw. East will continue hearts; then when you ruff the third club, West can pitch his last heart. Now, a low spade off dummy won’t help, as West can overruff the heart return. Despite this flaw, Line F gets the silver, as breaking the enemy communication may save a trick when clubs are breaking badly; plus it’s possible East may do the wrong thing or reveal information.

The bronze goes to Line C, which makes when East has a blank S Q — certainly possible, as West is only worth a limit raise with S A-x-x H J-x-x D K-Q-10-x-x C Q-x (he might not even have the H J); and even when Line C fails, the result is only down one (assuming you judge whether spades are 3-1 or 2-2). Line A may seem better, as it makes when East has S A-x; but most of those layouts are implausible. Further, Line A does poorly when clubs don’t break, and could lead to down three or four.

Even last place was tough to call on this stickler. Line B has a chance to make but a heavy downside on more common layouts. Line E has almost no chance to make but offers better damage control. Being the Olympics, I guess I should favor the bold attempt to make. Sorry, Line E, you’re history.

Comments for D. Ruff; win C A-K; ruff club; lead S 10

Gonzalo Goded: … West is marked with D K-Q [or A-K] and [probably] a heart honor, which makes him more likely to have the S Q than the S A — so I try to win the gold medal.

John Lusky: I think it is necessary to lead clubs first, since if they split badly the hand may fall apart if I lead trumps. Also, playing clubs may give me valuable information to decide how to play trumps. After finding West with C Q-x, playing East for the S A seems right. I can pick up S Q-x-x with West by leading the S 10 off dummy, then later playing clubs from hand through West. Pitching a diamond at trick two will allow the defense to organize a trick for West’s S Q if he started with 3=3=5=2 distribution.

Imre Csiszar: After West’s nonforcing 3 H, East [rates] to hold the S A. … This makes if East’s S A is singleton and gives a good result against East’s making 4 H on [most other layouts].

John Reardon: This play caters for West holding S Q-x-x H Q-x-x D K-Q-x-x-x C Q-x, or S Q-x-x H Q-x-x-x D K-Q-x-x C Q-x, which seem quite likely hands. The danger with Line F is that I may be overruffed in hearts later if West is 3=3=5=2.

Lajos Linczmayer: East must have the S A. If West has e.g., S Q-x-x H Q-x-x D K-Q-10-x-x C Q-x, only this play works.

Bill Jacobs: To try to get my name in the papers ahead of the Olympic news. I will ruff the red exit, and lead the S J, skewering West. If East doesn’t have S A H A-Q-J-x-x D A-x-x-x C J-10-9, then it’s back to the urine samples for you.

Thanks, but I’ll take a rain check on that (maybe a poor choice of words there).

Charles Blair: West’s bidding, opening lead and discovered club holding lead me to believe he has…S Q-x-x. If West is 3=3=5=2, discarding a diamond on a heart…will cost. It seems Fritz still doesn’t like Michaels.

Tim DeLaney: East didn’t cue-bid 3 S, so West rates to have an ace. With S A-x-x H x-x-x-x D K-Q-10-x C Q-x, West would pass 4 H because most of his cards are working on offense (East is marked with length in diamonds). A West hand that fits the auction well is S Q-x-x H x-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C Q-x, in which case Line D [or F] will get home. Line F [is inferior] as it loses to a trump promotion if West has only three hearts.

Rob Stevens: This hand can’t be made if West has S A-Q-x; and if West has three spades as is probable, the tap on South will mean that the club suit must be used to snuff out West’s trumps. It’s a guess about the spade honors, but West seems most likely to hold S Q-x-x H K-x-x-x D K-Q-x-x C Q-x.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Even down two would be a good result, as opponents can easily make 4 H (maybe five), but I can make this if I guess the spade position… East’s shape rates to be 1=5=4=3, and [the bidding and lead] prompt me to play West for S Q-x-x rather than A-x-x.

Joon Pahk: This wins whenever West has S Q-x-x, quite likely based on the bidding and early play. An immediate trump finesse leaves me short of entries to hand if East forces me. Also, if the hearts are 3-6, I can’t afford to pitch a diamond as East might play another heart; then West can unload his last heart on the third round of clubs and be able to overruff when East gets in with the S A.

Jim Munday: If I’m to make this, I need 2-2 spades, or 3-1 spades with East holding a stiff honor. I can’t pick up S A-Q-x in West and set up and enjoy the clubs. With 3 H being limit in competition, I’m inclined to place West with S Q-x-x, so I will make the somewhat strange-looking play of setting up clubs and ducking a spade. If this comes off, I just play clubs through West…

Dean Pokorny: This will gain When West is 3=4=4=2 or 3=3=5=2 [with S Q-x-x]. Line E is inferior because the contract is doomed when West…discards precisely. Line A wins with 2=4=5=2 in West, but often goes two down if West has S Q-x-x. Line F loses when West is 3=3=5=2 (he can discard the last heart on the third club).

Bruce Neill: Bidding looks like West has S Q-x-x H K-x-x-x D K-Q-x-x C Q-x (or 3-5 in red suits). I need to play clubs before spades to keep control. Discarding a diamond on the first heart will be bad if West has only three hearts.

Nigel Guthrie: Playing West for S Q-x-x H K-x-x D K-Q-x-x-x C Q-x.

Anthony Golding: Playing East for the stiff S A (West might well have doubled on S Q-x-x given that North hadn’t yet preferred spades). I plan to run clubs through West to pick up the S Q; but I need to set them up before touching trumps, else I’m an entry short.

Zoran Bohacek: Playing for the S A singleton on my right.

David Grainger: Seems like East has a singleton spade, likely the ace, and this is the only line to cater to that holding. If West has S A-Q-x, it cannot be picked up to make 4 S anyway.

Thijs Veugen: This wins when East has S A singleton. In all other cases, the damage will be small since 4 H makes. West is likely to hold two or three spades.

Bill Powell: I seem to get in a mess unless East has the singleton ace of trumps.

Adrian Petculescu: Crazy bidding, but a splendid contract, as 4 H is sure to make… From the bidding and play, East is [likely] to have the S A. This makes when the S A is singleton (more probable) and goes one down (also a good result) when spades are 2-2.

Gerald Murphy: The danger here is the loss of timing. [After establishing clubs] I lead a low spade in case East started with a singleton ace; then I will use clubs to force West’s trumps…

Ronald Michaels: For his limit raise, West has the D K (plus D A and/or D Q), probably a heart honor, and the C Q discovered when I set up clubs. Hence, the S A [rates] to be with East. If spades are 2-2 (S Q-x West) I can [lead trumps] with no problem; but if 3-1 (S Q-x-x West) I’ll run out of entries to my hand…if I lead trumps immediately. … I’ll go for the glory and lead away from the S K.

Theo Chin: West probably has D K-Q and a heart honor, so East rates to have the S A. Since there are entry problems after establishing the club suit, I’ll play East for a singleton ace.

Analyses 7X96 MainChallengeScoresTop The Modern Hexathlon

5 High Dive

None Vul
S 7 3
H A Q 7 4
D A 7 4
C 6 5 4 2
1 H
2 S
4 S
All Pass
1 S
3 S
5 C1
Lead: S KTableEast plays S A

5 C× South
H 10 3 2
D J 10 2
C A K 10 9 8 7
1. reverse somersault with a half twist

At trick two East leads the H 6 (West plays H 8) to the queen.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
F. Win four trumps1010913
B. Ruff S 7; win two trumps; lead D J721324
E. Win two trumps; lead D J6748
A. Ruff S 7; win two trumps; duck a heart431136
D. Win two trumps; duck a heart310011
C. Ruff S 7; win four trumps2647

Note: West has a blank C Q.

Most players would announce their club suit early (2 C or 3 C), but this would score poorly in Athens. Olympic judges consider “degree of difficulty,” for which five-level dives are rated high (albeit below the extremely difficult 6 C and 7 C variations). The good news is that you don’t have to make these bids. Just jump out in style, enter the water cleanly, and you’re a cinch to be in the medal round.

Another nice thing about laying low for a few rounds is that you find out more about the enemy hands. I can picture Al Roth coaxing his opponents, “Bid away so I’ll know how to play this thing!” The auction should give a complete count after drawing trumps, and the nuance of the game try and acceptance shows the D K-Q must be split; i.e., East would bid 4 S with S A-x-x-x-x-x H x D K-Q-x-x C J-x, or pass 2 S with D x-x-x-x. Now that you know this, what can you do about it? Consider this layout:

IMPsS 7 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None VulH A Q 7 41 WS K3AJ
D A 7 42 EH 628Q
C 6 5 4 23 NS 7?2C 74
S K Q 6 4TableS A 10 9 8 5 24 SC AQ23
H K J 9 8 5H 65 SC KH 54J
D K 9 5D Q 8 6 3continued below…
C QC J 3
H 10 3 2
D J 10 2
5 C× SouthC A K 10 9 8 7

The defense is sharp, as East overtakes the S K to return his singleton heart. You have nine sure tricks, assuming a 2-1 trump break, and your goal is to win 10. (If you think you can makeC, please apply for my 12-step drug treatment program.) It seems right to eliminate spades to enable chances for a ruff and discard, so you ruff the S 7 and draw trumps to reach this position:

C win 6STrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A 7 46 SH 394S 3
D A 7 47 WH KAS 810
C 6 58 NH 7S 9C 8J
S Q 6TableS 10 9 8 39 SD J54Q
H K J 9H10 ED 310KA
D K 9 5D Q 8 6 3Declarer fails
H 10 3
D J 10 2
South leadsC 10 9 8

What next? If you duck a heart, West will just return a heart. If you run the D J to East, he will return a diamond to break up an endplay against West; and you can’t squeeze West with the count not rectified (no delayed-duck version works here). If you could lead from dummy, a low diamond would do the job — East must duck, then he can later be endplayed with the third diamond. Alas, you can’t reach dummy without fatally leading a red suit. (Now you see why I gave you all the high club spots. It certainly wasn’t for “artistic merit,” as your dive would have been prettier on C A-K-x-x-x-x.)

So far, your dive has all the grace of a cannonball, so let’s try again. Perfect technique is required to win a medal, and the first key move is not to ruff the S 7. Just draw trumps, and lead a few extras to reach this position:

C win 5S 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A 7 47 SC 8S QH 4D 3
D A 7 48 SH 39AS 8
C9 NS 79H 10!H J
S QTableS 10 9 8continued below…
H K J 9H
D K 9 5D Q 8 6 3
H 10 3
D J 10 2
South leadsC 8 7

On the next club, West is obliged to pitch his last spade; you pitch a heart from dummy, and East lets go a diamond. Next cross to the H A, which forces East to pitch a spade (if he comes down to D Q-x instead, you will lead a low diamond from dummy). Next lead the S 7 and pitch a heart to put East on lead in this ending:

C win 3STrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 710 ES 10C 7D 5H 7
D A 7 411 SD J?
CDeclarer succeeds
STableS 10
D K 9 5D Q 8 6
D J 10 2
East leadsC 7

East cannot break diamonds, so he must lead his last spade, which you ruff, and West is squeezed. He must pitch a diamond; so you pitch the heart from dummy and lead the D J to win a second diamond at the end. Whew! It took an effort of Olympic proportion, but you pulled it off, as the row of judges all hold up a cardboard with “10.” What a dive!

Of the remaining options, none is even close. Lines B and E are essentially equal and offer a slim chance: You can succeed if East has both D 9-8 by later leading the D 10 (forcing a cover) then endplaying East with the third diamond. Lines A, C and D are also equal — alas, and worth about as much as a Greek drachma today, as I don’t think they work against any layout (assuming 4-3 diamonds with split honors); but this was a difficult problem, so I was generous with the 4-3-2 awards. As usual, equal lines are ranked by the voting.

Comments for F. Win four trumps

Gonzalo Goded: A big effort for a small difference, but there’s often a small difference between medals.

John Lusky: Various lines work if West has D K-x-x or Q-x-x with neither the nine or the eight, but only this works if West has S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-x D K-9-x C Q (D K-Q and D 9-8 being equivalent). West is forced to pitch down to S Q H K-J-9 D K-9-x, then the fifth trump forces him to pitch the S Q. Now I cross to the H A and play dummy’s last spade, pitching my last heart. Then I ruff East’s spade, which squeezes a diamond out of West. (If East had kept more spades, I would lead a low diamond from dummy instead of the spade.)

Imre Csiszar: Actually, five trumps will be won, forcing West down to three hearts and three diamonds, and East down to three spades and three diamonds. Now a heart to the ace and concede a spade to East. When I ruff East’s next spade, West has to discard a diamond; then the D J

John Reardon: West may have S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-5 D K-9-x C Q, in which case it could take five rounds of trumps to finish him off.

Lajos Linczmayer: I expect West to have S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-5 D Q-9-x C Q. On the fifth trump, I pitch a heart from dummy; then I cross to the H A (East must keep three diamonds) and exit with a spade to East (pitching a heart).

Frances Hinden: I think West has S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-x-x D K-9-x C Q, and this leads to a very pretty end position — I may lose a spade trick.

Bill Jacobs: Keeping dummy’s spade as transportation [to East] for a red-suit squeeze [against West]. Greg Louganis couldn’t do it better.

Ah, yes. Those were the days… but try not to hit the board with your head on the way down.

Tim DeLaney: West has S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-x D K-8-x C Q, or similar. After winning four trumps, I lead one more, pitching a heart from dummy; both opponents must keep three diamonds. Now I win the H A and throw East in with a spade, pitching a heart from hand. I ruff his forced spade return, and West is squeezed in the red suits. A suicide squeeze without the count?

Rob Stevens: An incredible hand. Both defenders are rendered nearly paralyzed, each having to cling to three diamonds. Then I can use the precious spade loser to throw a heart; then East must lead his last spade, ruffed, and squeezing West.

Jonathan Mestel: At a later time, I may throw a heart on the S 7.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: This line should have read, “Win five trumps.” I will discard a heart on the fifth club, [etc.]

No freebies. I started to list it as, “Win three trumps,” but that looked fishy (thus an obvious guess).

Joon Pahk: I can’t pick up an extra diamond trick by myself…since West is marked with 4=5=3=1 shape; but neither defender can afford to pitch down to a doubleton diamond honor, and only West can guard hearts. Five rounds of trumps should reduce West to 0=3=3=0; now I play a heart to the ace and duck a spade to East, who must return another spade (else I get two diamond tricks), squeezing his partner. Cool play, and it’s practically double-dummy from the bidding. It’s just too bad I’m at the five level!

Dean Pokorny: On the fifth round of trumps, West discards his last spade, and dummy discards a heart; [then cross to the H A]. If East comes down to D K-x (or Q-x), I lead a low diamond from the table, playing West for 4=5=3=1. If East [has kept three diamonds], I lead the S 7 and throw the last heart from hand. After ruffing the spade return, West is squeezed — he must pitch a diamond, letting me make two diamond tricks by leading the D J

David Wiltshire: Then cash a fifth trump, pitching a heart; now a heart to dummy, and a spade, pitching a heart. Then ruff the next spade, and West gets squeezed in the reds.

Bruce Neill: Five trumps squeeze West down to three hearts and three diamonds. Then a heart to the ace squeezes East down to two spades and three diamonds. Now, exit with a spade.

Leif-Erik Stabell: The fifth trump forces West to come down to 3-3 in the red suits, then a heart to the ace forces East to come down to two spades and three diamonds. Giving up a spade now brings home the bacon if the diamond honors are divided.

Len Vishnevsky: West surely has something like S K-Q-x-x H K-J-x-x-x D Q-9-x C Q. Only Line F makes, [eventually] squeezing West…

Nigel Guthrie: In Pavlicek problems, if mindlessly running the trump suit is an option, it is likely to earn top marks. Hugh Kelsey would approve. :)

Manuel Paulo: Considering West’s likely hand, S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-5 D K-x-x C Q, I will win five trumps, squeezing West…

Richard Ramey: The fifth club will squeeze West out of his last spade, then a heart to the ace forces a spade discard from East. Now exit with the S 7, pitching a heart; then ruff the next spade, squeezing West.

Marjan Praljak: From the bidding and the first few tricks, I see that West’s distribution is 4=5=3=1; and giving him S K-Q H K-J C Q, I see that the diamond honors are almost certainly split. … On the fifth trump, West must part with his last spade (otherwise, I can establish a heart or diamond); then I enter dummy with the H A, and throw in East with a spade, pitching my last heart. By this time, East has one spade and three diamonds left (if less than three diamonds, I would have led a low diamond from dummy) and he must lead his spade, which I ruff, squeezing West… The only pity…is that I cannot win the last trick with the D 7 to earn a beer.

Nick Krnjevic: Tough problem. Paradoxically, the instinctive play of ruffing dummy’s spade is wrong; I need to preserve that card in order to eventually lose it to East to rectify the count for a squeeze against West. The auction strongly indicates West is 4=5=3=1 (East is 6=1=4=2) and the early play marks West with S K-Q-x-x, H K-J-9-8-x and a stiff C Q. The diamond honors should be split since either player would have bid more at his second turn holding both honors. [Play sequence described].

Anthony Golding: When I play the fifth trump, West must release his last spade to come down to 3-3 in the reds (else I can establish my 10th trick in whichever suit he abandons) so I pitch a heart from dummy and cross to the H A. East has to keep three diamonds so comes down to two spades. Now I lead dummy’s spade to East, pitching a heart. East cannot open diamonds so he plays his last spade, which I ruff, squeezing West…

Gareth Birdsall: Something good normally happens.

Jordi Sabate: After the bidding, lead and known bare C Q, I play West to have S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-5 D K-9-x C Q, and East to have S A-x-x-x-x-x H 6 D Q-8-x-x C J-x (D K-Q may be switched). I have to rectify the count for a squeeze throw-in, and I cannot do that in hearts or diamonds (opponents can kill the threats) so I must lose the S 7 to East, after five trumps [and the H A].

Albert Ohana: I lead all but one trump forcing West to discard all his spades; then [cross to the H A] and lead the spade to East… On the next spade, ruffed, West will be forced down to honor-doubleton in diamonds.

Perry Groot: … West has 4=5=3=1 distribution, and the diamond honors should be split. After running four trumps, West will have S K H K-J-9 D K-x-x (else I can establish a heart or diamond), then one more trump forces him to abandon spades. Now cross to the H A and throw East in with a spade (pitching a heart). East was forced to keep three diamonds so has only one spade left, which he leads, and I ruff, thereby squeezing West in hearts and diamonds.

Richard Stein: I’ll need an eventual red-suit squeeze on West to get a 10th trick. I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but ducking an early red-suit trick doesn’t seem to work — I lose an entry too soon.

Franco Baseggio: … I expect to lose two spades and a diamond. On the fifth club, West must come down to 0=3=3=0… so I pitch a heart, then win the H A, which forces East down to at most two spades. Then lead the S 7, pitching a heart; East is in and must lead his last spade, which I ruff. This squeezes West, who must finally part with a diamond as I pitch dummy’s last heart. East is diamond-tight, so the D J brings in a second diamond trick whether covered or not.

N. Scott Cardell: With S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-5 D K-Q-x C Q, West would bid more than 2 S at his second turn; and with 7=1=3=2 shape, East would bid 4 S over 2 S. So I figure West for S K-Q-x-x H K-J-9-8-5 D K-9-x C Q. [Play sequence described]. A very unusual double strip squeeze. …

Neelotpal Sahai: … I play five trumps, not four as mentioned in the options* …

*To clarify a semantics issue, especially for those not native to English: When I write, “Win four trumps,” it specifies the next four tricks only. Then you can do what you want, so it doesn’t preclude winning five (or more) trumps.

Toby Kenney: Then cash a fifth trump, pitching a heart if West keeps three; cross to the H A, and lead the S 7 to pitch my last heart.

Rolf Mattsson: The diamond honors are most likely split on the bidding. Five rounds of trumps squeezes West out of all his spades, then dummy is then entered with the H A. Both opponents must have three diamonds left (else I can get two diamond tricks). The S 7 is now led to East, as I throw the losing heart. As a diamond return solves the suit, East must lead his last spade, which I ruff, and West must come down to two diamonds to keep the H K (dummy throws the heart). The D J now gets two diamond tricks without letting West in.

Ed Barnes: Then another trump. Eventually, West (4=5=3=1) will be down to only red suits; then I [cross to the H A] give East the lead with a spade, pitching my last heart.

Julian Pottage: The top diamonds are probably split, so I need a complex squeeze.

Brian Zietman: Looks like these clubs are going to be very painful for the defense.

Amiram Millet: If East holds S A-8-x-x-x-x H 6 D Q-9-x-x C J-x, I must lead five rounds of trumps.

Analyses 7X96 MainChallengeScoresTop The Modern Hexathlon

6 Marathon

Both Vul
S K Q 9 3
H 10 4 3
D A K 6 2
C 6 2

1 D
2 S
3 D
3 S
4 D
4 S
5 D
5 S
6 C
6 H
1 H
1 S
3 C
3 H
4 C
4 H
5 C
5 H
5 NT
6 D
6 S
Lead: H JTableEast plays H 7

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

No play could ever justify this bidding, but they all get a score:

A. Win H A; S A10486
E. Win H A; D A-K; ruff a diamond98710
C. Win H A; S K; D A; ruff a diamond717220
B. Win H A; S K; S A615217
D. Win H A; S K; C A-K5546
F. Duck the first trick335841

Prospects look bleak, but it’s a long race. After the bidding, it’s amazing you have any strength left, so perhaps you should just claim down one. Then you could submit the auction to the judges and try to claim victory on style points. After all, only North could keep pace; West didn’t make it off the starting block, and East passed out at the first turn.

What to do? Looking closer into the problem, you can see a light at the end of the tunnel (this marathon has an underground leg). West is marked with a singleton heart, so you might be able to endplay him for a ruff and discard. Consider this layout:

IMPsS K Q 9 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH 10 4 31 WH J37A
D A K 6 22 SS 65K2
C 6 23 NS 34AJ
S J 5TableS 4 24 SD 35A4
H JH K Q 9 7 65 ND K8H 27
D J 10 9 7 5D Q 8 46 ND 2QS 79
C 10 7 5 4 3C Q J 87 SC A328
S A 10 8 7 68 SC K46J
H A 8 5 29 SC 95S QQ
D 3continued below…
6 S SouthC A K 9

After winning the H A, you can draw trumps, win D A-K (pitching a heart), ruff a diamond, and eliminate clubs with a ruff to reach this ending with North on lead:

S win 3S 9TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 10 410 ND 6H 6H 5!9
D 611 WD 10S 9H 9H 8
CDeclarer succeeds
HH K Q 9 6
D 10 9D
C 10 7C
S 10 8
H 8 5
North leadsC

Finally, lead the last diamond and pitch a heart to put West on lead as you cross the finish line. For this play to work, you needed spades 2-2 and West to have at least five diamonds or D Q-J-10-9 — certainly a reasonable chance. Alas, this doesn’t feel like your Olympic moment, as you notice that five of the six options (all but Line F) can achieve the same goal. There must be more to this problem.

And there is. Another possibility is to endplay West with the third club after ruffing out diamonds, but this relies on an unlikely 6-2 club break and can’t be combined with the above chance. The only time you could legitimately benefit would be if clubs were 7-1, i.e., East shows out. Then you could stuff West with a club, not needing to ruff the last diamond with West being 2=1=3=7.

A more realistic alternative is to play to squeeze East when he holds C Q-J-10, as in this layout:

IMPsS K Q 9 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH 10 4 31 WH J372
D A K 6 22 WC 3210A
C 6 23 SD 35A4
S J 5 4TableS 24 ND 2QS 67
H JH K Q 9 7 65 SS 74K2
D J 10 9 7 5D Q 8 46 ND 68S 109
C 7 5 4 3C Q J 10 87 SS A53H 6
S A 10 8 7 68 SC K468
H A 8 5 29 SS 8JQH 9
D 310 NS 9C JH 5D 10
6 S SouthC A K 9continued below…

Suppose you duck the first trick to rectify the count, and West shifts to a club (nothing matters). Win the D A, ruff a diamond, cross to the S K, ruff a diamond, win the S A, another club (optional) and run trumps to reach this ending with North on lead:

S win allSTrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 10 411 ND K?
D KEast is squeezed
C 7 5C Q
H A 8
North leadsC 9

Finally, lead the D K to trip East and watch him stumble, as you whisk by at the finish line.

The object is to find a play that combines the chances of the squeeze and endplay. At first this seems impossible because the squeeze involves a holdup to rectify the count, but then you realize that the squeeze will work just as well as a delayed-duck type after winning the H A.* This eliminates Line F, as the holdup kills all endplay chances.

*Your last four cards will be H 8-5 C K-9, while East has H K-Q C Q-J. Dummy’s last winner forces East to pitch a heart, then you pitch a club and concede a heart. It is also worth noting that, if a holdup play were essential, an expert East could overtake the H J to prevent it (threatening a ruff). Curiously, a holdup might still work, as East doesn’t know you have four hearts. [End marathon, begin spy-vs-spy]

Lines B, C and D (winning the S K at trick two) are flawed in regard to the squeeze, as you need the extra entry to dummy to avoid a blind guess in spades. This puts Lines A and E in the gold-medal round… and the winner is Line A. The main advantage is when East has S H K-Q-9-7-6 D Q-x-x-x-x C Q-J-10; Line A flows smoothly, but Line E fails with West poised to overruff the fourth diamond. Line E also fails whenever East has a singleton diamond. For the record, after cashing the S A, Line A continues D A, diamond ruff, S K; then if spades are 2-2, go for the endplay; otherwise, ruff a diamond and go for the squeeze.*

*Actually, Line A is not the best play (only the best listed play). It can be improved by transposing the order to D A, diamond ruff, S A. In listing the options, I thought these were equivalent but overlooked a slight edge for the latter. See comments by Imre Csiszar and Lajos Linczmayer.

Of the also-rans, Line F is worst as it banks everything on East holding C Q-J-10 (necessary for the squeeze). Lines B, C and D all allow the more likely endplay, and differences among them are negligible — or at least hardly worth protracted study, so the bronze medal was determined by the voting.

Comments for A. Win H A; S A

Gonzalo Goded: In the marathon you need to take a look at the opponents’ movements before making a decision, since you can’t win alone.

John Lusky: There are two possible winning lines: a strip squeeze in hearts and clubs if East has C Q-J-10, or an elimination and endplay of West if trumps are 2-2 and West must win the fourth diamond. This allows me to combine those chances by going for the elimination if trumps are 2-2, or shifting to the strip squeeze if not.

Imre Csiszar: If trumps split, West can be endplayed in diamonds or clubs, according to whether East has three diamonds or more (perhaps the signals will tell me which is the case). If West has three or four trumps, the only chance is a heart-club squeeze, which needs East to hold C Q-J-10, and I must ruff two diamonds and still have a trump entry to dummy. Of the choices, this (followed by D A, diamond ruff) keeps most chances, though it runs the risk that East is 2=5=1=5 and can ruff with the S J. An immediate D A, diamond ruff would protect against that, but it was not among the choices.

John Reardon: A partial elimination and throw-in looks best. If West is 2=1=5=5, I can win the heart, draw trumps and play D A-K and ruff, followed by C A-K and ruff. Next lead the last diamond and throw away a heart; West can win but will have to give a ruff and discard. However, I can also succeed when spades are 3-1 and East has C Q-J-10 if I am careful to preserve dummy’s entries.

Lajos Linczmayer: There are two chances. If only East controls clubs, e.g., SH K-Q-9-7-6 D Q-J-x-x C Q-J-10-x, a dummy reversal and squeeze wins. If trumps are 2-2, and West has more than four diamonds, a diamond endplay works. As East may have a singleton diamond, I would prefer to cash the D A and ruff a diamond after winning the H A. If East shows out on the second diamond, I cash the S A, playing East for S J-x H K-Q-9-7-6 D x C Q-J-x-x-x, which is more likely than S J-x-x H K-Q-9-7-6 D x C Q-J-10-x.

Frances Hinden: I haven’t decided if I’m going to play a dummy reversal and squeeze East (trumps 3-1), or endplay West with the fourth diamond (trumps 2-2), but this is the best start either way.

Bill Jacobs: It’s all too easy if West is 2=1=5=5 or 2=1=6=4 (I endplay him with the last diamond), which rules out Line F. Line E won’t work if West is 2=1=7=3. …

Charles Blair: If West has three or four spades, I am hoping East has C Q-J-10. I am continuing with D A, diamond ruff, spade to dummy. If spades are 2-2, I cash the D K and C A-K; then I can throw West in with a diamond if East has 2=5=2=4 or 2=5=3=3 (some overcall!). If East is 2=5=5=1, I will find out in time to throw West in with a club.

Tim DeLaney: There are two possibilities: Squeeze West in hearts and clubs after ruffing two diamonds in a dummy reversal, or throw East in after stripping out the minors (I will have to choose the right suit, but that shouldn’t be difficult). If trumps are 2-2, the throw-in is better. Only Line A keeps both possibilities intact until I discover the trump split. Line E almost works, but fails when East has a stiff diamond.

Rob Stevens: The best chance is an endplay against West when spades are 2-2; but the contract can also be made with a delayed-duck squeeze when trumps are 3-1 (or even 4-0) if East holds C Q-J-10. If trumps go 4-0, I will have to ruff both of dummy’s diamonds, so Line E is a mistake, risking a premature overruff when East is 0=5=5=3.

Jonathan Mestel: The main chance is 2-2 spades and an endplay against West with the fourth diamond; but there is a faint chance of a heart-club squeeze if East holds, e.g., S H K-Q-x-x-x D Q-x-x-x C Q-J-10-x.

Leif-Erik Stabell: The main plan is to find spades 2-2 with West having the diamond length. I am also OK if East has the sole club stopper (even if trumps are 4-0), e.g., S H K-Q-9-7-6 D Q-x-x-x-x C Q-J-10, or similar; now, taking two diamond ruffs in hand, drawing trumps and cashing the last diamond honor squeezes East without the count.

Len Vishnevsky: Is East a wimp? …Or are his bids as bad as ours? I can try to squeeze East if he has C Q-J-10, or throw in West if he has 5+ diamonds (or D Q-J-10-9, or if he doesn’t unblock) or 6+ clubs (or C Q-J-10), and exactly two spades. … Line F gives up the throw-ins; B kills entries for a club throw-in; C and D give up the round-suit squeeze; and E loses to a non-wimpy East hand of S x-x H K-Q-9-7-6 D x C Q-J-10-x-x.

Manuel Paulo: I intend to make the slam via an elimination play, or a squeeze against East… There is no point in ducking the first trick (if Line F were good, East would have overtaken with the H Q). I assume that East has five hearts. If he has four spades, there is no winning line, so it looks right to cash the S A. Line A is wrong if East has S J-x-x H K-Q-9-7-6 D x C Q-J-10-x (or D x-x C Q-J-10); but in any other case where there’s a winning line, Line A is one of them.

Nick Krnjevic: I have several options. If trumps are 2-2, I can effect an elimination, and throw in West (2=1=5=5) with the fourth diamond for a ruff and sluff. If trumps are 3-1 or 4-0, I need to effect a dummy reversal, and play East for C Q-J-10, [allowing] a delayed-duck squeeze… Lines B and C fail when trumps are 3-1 or 4-0, since I lack the communication to get back to dummy after the dummy reversal. Line D fails, since cashing clubs cuts my communication to hand for the squeeze. Although Line E works on nearly as many hands as Line A, it is inferior since I go down when East has a stiff diamond…

Dale Freeman: If West has four or more diamonds, and spades are 2-2, I can strip the hand and endplay West with the fourth diamond. Also, if East has C Q-J-10 or six clubs, I can squeeze East [on most shapes] by ruffing two diamonds. To incorporate both, I would have played D A and ruffed a diamond immediately, then S A, but that was not one of the choices. …

Ulrich Nell: Cool bidding, but what does it mean? I proceed with D A, diamond ruff, and a trump to the king. If trumps break 2-2, I shall play to [endplay] West… If West has three spades, I shall desperately hope East started with C Q-J-10; then ruff out diamonds and attempt to squeeze East in hearts and clubs…

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: My best chance is to find trumps 2-2 and West with five diamonds — ruff a diamond, draw trumps, eliminate clubs, and throw West in with a diamond to give a give a ruff and discard. [Another chance] is East with C Q-J-10 (or six clubs), in which case I will ruff two diamonds while drawing trumps — ruff a diamond, S K, ruff a diamond, finish trumps, then the D K will squeeze East without the count. …

Julian Wightwick: My main chance is that trumps are 2-2 and West has the long diamonds, in which case I ruff out clubs and throw West in with the last diamond for a ruff and discard. If trumps don’t break, I shall reverse the dummy and hope that East has C Q-J-10, so he is squeezed without the count. All of dummy’s entries are needed for the squeeze line, so I start trumps with the ace; then D A, diamond ruff, S K [to discover the trump break]. … This beats Line E when East has [a singleton diamond], but I’d prefer to play D A and ruff a diamond before the S A in case East is 2=5=1=2 with S J-x.

Perry Groot: There are two cases to play for: (1) a throw-in [against West] and (2) a heart-club squeeze on East. Case 1 seems better but needs trumps 2-2; if it doesn’t work, I should be able to fall back on Case 2, which needs C Q-J-10 or any six clubs in East. Line F is worst, as it loses Case 1, and for Case 2 the duck is unnecessary. Lines B, C and D lose with four spades in West; Line A loses when East has S J-x-x and short diamonds (two or less); Line E loses when West has three diamonds and I need to fall back on Case 2. …

N. Scott Cardell: This combines my two chances: a throw-in against West when trumps are 2-2, and a squeeze against East when trumps are 3-1 or 4-0. Perhaps D A, diamond ruff (before the S A) would be better in case East is 2=5=1=5 with S J-x. (Is this East a “Michaels is for wimps” bidder as on Problem 4?) Line E is clearly worse, as you can’t afford to have the D K ruffed with any trump. Next comes D A, diamond ruff, and a trump to dummy (finessing the S 9 if East showed out on the first round). If trumps are 2-2, I cash the D K; C A-K; ruff a club, and try to throw West in with the last diamond, succeeding when East is 2=5=3=3 or 2=5=2=4. If trumps are 3-1 (or 4-0 with West) I ruff the low diamond, lead my last trump to dummy, and lead dummy’s last trump and D K, hopefully squeezing East in hearts and clubs. In this delayed-duck squeeze, there is no need to rectify the count…

Ron Landgraff: Not much chance. [Best] seems to be an endplay against West (singleton heart, five diamonds, etc.).

Alon Amsel: I’ll try a dummy reversal (trump two diamonds in hand) followed by a delayed-duck squeeze against East, hopefully holding C Q-J-10. This takes care of spades 4-0 in West as well.

Michael Palitsch: If spades are 2-2, I eliminate clubs and try a throw-in against West with the fourth diamond. If spades are 3-1 or 4-0 (not 0-4), I hope East has C Q-J-10 so I can squeeze him in the round suits.

Final Notes

I hope you enjoyed the contest, as well as the 2004 Olympics. Thanks to all who entered, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site.

Comments are selected only from those above average (top 410) and only in support of the winning play. While this might be considered biased, I feel it’s the best way to ensure solid content and to avoid potential embarrassment by publishing comments that are off base. On this basis, I included over 75 percent of the eligible comments. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

Use of a comment does not necessarily mean I agree with it, but generally they are all worthy. Comments are quoted exactly except for corrections in spelling and grammar. Where I have included only part of a comment, an ellipsis (…) indicates where text was cut. Text [in brackets] was supplied by me to summarize a cut portion or fix an omission. Comments are listed in order of respondents’ rank, which is my only basis for sequencing. I am confident that my lengthy study of these problems, combined with the input of comments, has determined the best solutions in theory, but oversights are possible. Feedback is always welcome.

“Olympic Games are for the world and all nations must be admitted…” -Pierre de Coubertin

“…with the exception of Spain after beating us in the Hexathlon.” -Pee Air de Pavlicek

Time to go… but nowhere to go! Raining hard, and we’re in the direct path of Hurricane Frances.
I have to bolt down the awnings to prepare for impact, so these dudes can finish it off:

Kees van Schenk Brill: Well, they say that participating is more important than winning.

Madhukar Bapu: To me, it would appear much easier to win the gold in high diving — combining six somersaults and half twists — than to get these problems right at the table.

John R. Mayne: If I get the gold medal, it’ll be clear I didn’t deserve it — but I’m still not giving it back!

Bill Powell: And not a mad Irish priest in sight!

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© 2004 Richard Pavlicek