Puzzle 8K41   Main


Wrong-Sided Notrump


  by Richard Pavlicek

Timothy Tenace was visibly agitated as he walked into the Puzzlers Anonymous meeting. “I know we’re here to be cured,” he announced to the packed room, “but I have one last puzzle for you!

“Last night on Board 7, Grover used that fourth-suit crapola to make me play 3 NT, and I couldn’t make it with the defense I got. Just as I suspected, the computer-generated hand record showed 3 NT was makable by North only. Funny thing, the East-West hands were as flat as a pancake — not even a doubleton — and the hand record showed at least one other makable game.”

Timothy then wrote on the chalkboard:

3 NT South
Both Vul
S A 10 4
H A J 8 7 6 5
D K 10
C 8 3
 
West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Grover
North

1 H
2 S
3 NT
 
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
Timothy
SOUTH
1 D
2 C
2 NT
Pass
S  ?
H  ?
D  ?
C  ?
TableS  ?
H  ?
D  ?
C  ?
S J 8 6
H 3
D A Q 8 6 4
C A Q 6 5

Thanks for dropping by the meeting! Solve Timothy’s puzzle and you may be cured too:

Assign the missing cards to East-West to create a deal that fits the dialogue.

Multiple solutions exist. Further goals (tiebreakers for the June contest) are (1) nearest-to-equal East-West rank sums, and (2) fewest makable games for North-South, in that order of priority.

Tim Broeken Wins Again

In June 2011 this puzzle was presented as a contest, with 57 entries from 22 locations. Thanks to all who participated, and congratulations to the 16 who constructed a layout where 3 NT makes by North but not by South. All but three equalized the West and East rank sums, so the significant tiebreaker was the fewest makable games for North-South. (Remaining ties are resolved by date-time of entry.) Only three found the optimal solution to limit North-South to three games.

Another record broeken, as Tim Broeken wins for the second month in a row, and for the third time in this contest series. Hmm… Timothy Tenace, Timothy Broeken… I think I see it all now. Or maybe his secret to success is living in the lowlands — I said to the levee — so I now have a plan to cure the nether regions of puzzle mania. I won’t reveal the details, but it has to do with sea kelp. Man the dikes!

Winner List
RankNameLocationW-E SumsGames
1Tim BroekenNetherlands100-1003
2Pavel StrizCzech Republic100-1003
3Jonathan MestelEngland100-1003
4Bozidar PutCroatia100-1004
5Manuel PauloPortugal100-1005
6Charles BlairIllinois100-1005
7Simon CreaseyEngland100-1005
8John ReardonEngland100-1006
9Dean PokornyCroatia100-1006
10Jim MundayCalifornia100-1006
11Edouard BonnetFrance100-1007
12Brian WeikleMinnesota100-1007
13David BrooksAustralia100-1007
14Jonathan FergusonTexas99-1017
15Richard SteinCalifornia89-1116
16Cenk TuncokMassachusetts87-1136

Puzzle 8K41   MainTop   Wrong-Sided Notrump

Solution

Superficially it would seem that 3 NT is better played by South to shield the C A-Q from the opening lead. (The C K must be offside, else there are nine top tricks given the 3-3 diamond split.) But Timothy says otherwise; and who are we to argue with such a handsome nerd? If only North can make 3 NT, what condition would be favorable to North but unfavorable to South? Ah! Both spade honors East, as 12 of the 16 successful solvers prescribed. This construction by John Reardon (England) was typical:

3 NT South S A 10 6
H A J 8 7 6 5
D K 2
C 8 4
Trick
1 W
2 E
3 E
Lead
S 3
C J
H 2
2nd
6
5
4
3rd
Q
3
K
4th
5
4
A
W-L
L1
L2
W1
S 9 7 4 3
H K 10 9
D 9 7 6
C K 7 3
Table S K Q 2
H Q 3 2
D J 8 5
C J 10 9 2



Lead: S 3
S J 8 5
H 4
D A Q 10 4 3
C A Q 6 5
Declarer fails

To defeat 3 NT by South, a triple attack is required: West must lead a spade (ducked); East must shift to a high club (shrewdly ducked) and then a low heart is led to the king. Note that if East leads a second club, declarer can duck again (or ace then low) to establish the queen. With this three-prong attack, declarer cannot develop a ninth trick without the defense winning five.

If North is declarer, a spade cannot be led (easy ninth trick). If East starts the C J, declarer ducks to leave the defense stymied; a heart shift now nets the defense only four tricks as declarer sets up the C Q. East does best to start a diamond to attack declarer’s entries; but the D 10 is won in South, and a heart is led to the jack and queen; East cannot continue diamonds (hearts set up) so shifts to the C J (ducked); then any lead allows declarer to develop a ninth trick.

Hyper-Moysian fit, anyone? A game in spades must always make on this puzzle regardless of the honor distribution, declarer and opening lead, given that both West and East are 4-3-3-3. Declarer has six top tricks (one spade, one heart, three diamonds, one club) and can ruff twice in each hand for 10. Note that North’s second club is discarded on the third diamond to prepare a crossruff of clubs and hearts.

Tim Broeken: So if you don’t like partner bidding the fourth suit to let you play 3 NT, just raise the fourth suit to game!

Charles Blair: Hurray for 3-3 fits! Is Timothy’s partner Grover Grosvenor?

How about other games? Four hearts by North makes; C J lead (best) is won by the ace, and a heart is led to the jack and queen; C 10 ducked; S K to the ace; H A; diamond to 10; club ruff; D K to ace; then D Q and C Q allow declarer to pitch both spade losers as only West can ruff with the high trump. Five diamonds by North or South also makes, since the defense cannot dislodge North’s S A (any spade lead is ducked) so hearts are easily established with two ruffs.

Six makable games so far

Altogether, the above solution allows six makable games: 3 NT North, 4 H North, 4 S North and South, 5 D North and South. Manuel Paulo (Portugal) improved on this by moving the D J to West to eliminate the heart game, which also required a subtle shift of the C 7 to let 3 NT by North make, as shown below:

3 NT North S A 10 6
H A J 8 7 6 5
D K 2
C 8 4
Trick
1 E
2 N
3 S
4 S
5 S
Lead
D 8
D 2
D Q
D 10
D 4
2nd
3
5
J
S 3
S 4
3rd
7
A
H 5
H 6
C 4
4th
K
9
6
C 7
H 2
W-L
W1
W2
W3
W4
W5
S 9 7 4 3
H K 10 9
D J 9 7
C K 3 2
Table S K Q 2
H Q 3 2
D 8 6 5
C J 10 9 7



Lead: D 8
S J 8 5
H 4
D A Q 10 4 3
C A Q 6 5

After a diamond lead, declarer cannot win the D 10 (as on the previous deal) but must run diamonds to reach:

NT win 4 North
Success
S A 10 6
H A J 8 7
D
C 8
Trick
6 S
7 N
8 E
9 W
10 E
11 S
Lead
H 4
H 7
C J
S 9
C 10
C 6
2nd
9
Q
Q
6
A
3
3rd
A!
C 5
K
Q
2
H J
4th
3
10
8
5
H 8
9
W-L
W1
L1
L2
L3
W2
L4
S 9 7
H K 10 9
D
C K 3 2
Table S K Q 2
H Q 3
D
C J 10 9



South leads
S J 8 5
H 4
D
C A Q 6 5
East is endplayed

A heart is led to the ace (East cannot gain by unblocking) then a heart goes to the queen. The C J shift is covered by the queen and king; then West cannot cash the H K but must shift to a spade, ducked to the queen. East’s only safe exit is a club, but ace and a club endplays him in spades. If West held the C 7, East could escape the endplay by unblocking in clubs.

If North plays 4 H, the mislocated D J prevents the entry-gaining finesse of the D 10 previously described, leaving no successful route to 10 tricks. Trust me, or you’ll soon be joining the ranks of Timothy with the prognosis incurable.

Diamonds are not forever

So far we’ve determined that 4 S by North or South must be makable (with E-W both 4-3-3-3) as must 3 NT by North per the puzzle requirements. Manuel’s solution neatly defeats 4 H; but what about those pesky diamond games? The only way to defeat 5 D is for the spade honors to be split and for West to play his honor at Trick 1. While costing a spade trick, this kills an entry to North, preventing declarer from using the long hearts, after which two clubs may eventually be lost.

Alas, split spade honors wreaks havoc with the puzzle’s basic requirement. West would have no attack suit against 3 NT, so it seems incredulous that South must fail while North succeeds — but that’s the stuff puzzles are made of. Only three solvers found the delicate layout where all games fail, except 3 NT by North and the untouchable 4 S by North or South. Below is the solution from Tim Broeken (Netherlands) with the play shown for North declaring 3 NT.

3 NT North S A 10 6
H A J 8 7 6 5
D K 2
C 8 4
Trick
1 E
2 E
3 E
4 S
5 N
6 S
7 S
8 S
Lead
C J
C 10
C 3
D 3
D 2
D Q
D 10
D 4
2nd
5
6
A
5
9
7
H 2
H 9
3rd
2
7
9
K
A
H 6
H 7
S 6
4th
4
8
H 5
8
6
J
S 2
S 3
W-L
L1
L2
W1
W2
W3
W4
W5
W6
S Q 9 7
H Q 9 2
D 7 6 5
C K 9 7 2
Table S K 4 3 2
H K 10 3
D J 9 8
C J 10 3



Lead: C J
S J 8 5
H 4
D A Q 10 4 3
C A Q 6 5

Declarer must duck two club leads, then run diamonds. Note that West cannot pitch a spade (else a spade can be established) so must come down to a blank H Q. East must keep three hearts (else a heart can be established) so must come down to a doubleton spade. Declarer next wins both major aces and exits with a spade. If East wins the S K, he is endplayed and must give North the last trick with the H J. If East unblocks the S K to avoid the endplay, West must give South the last trick with the S J.

So if North can make 3 NT after a vicious club attack, why can’t South with C A-Q protected? Curiously, more vicious than a club attack by East is a heart attack by West — better known as “the big one” to Lou Costello. West leads the H 2, which East wins as cheaply as possible (assuming declarer ducks) and shifts to a club honor. Whether declarer wins the C A or holds up, he cannot establish hearts without losing five tricks (note the defenders control who wins their second heart trick). If declarer tries to exert pressure by running diamonds, the lack of communication in hearts proves fatal.

Pavel Striz: An interesting and funny deal! In addition to honors, S 9-7 uniquely protect spades, H 9-10 protect hearts, and C J-10-3 (or J-10-2) helps a lot… The only other makable game is 4 S from both sides — no wonder Timothy was so agitated!

The winning solution found by the top three solvers is unique. Strategically, S K-Q, H 3-2, C 3-2 and every diamond card can be swapped, but the highest cards must go to East to equalize rank sums. If East is given H K-10-9, the status of 3 NT is unchanged; but 4 H by South, however unlikely, is now makable — exactly how is left to anyone whose puzzle mania is out of control.

Still Not Cured

Jonathan Mestel: I’ve looked at game from both sides now, in red suits too; and still, somehow, it’s only the cards’ illusions that I recall. I really don’t know bridge at all.

On that note I declare this P.A. meeting adjourned. Good night, Timothy!

Puzzle 8K41   MainTop   Wrong-Sided Notrump

© 2011 Richard Pavlicek