Main     Puzzle 8K47 by Richard Pavlicek    

Blind Leading the Blind

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the PavCo Sanatorium. Our guest speaker tonight will be Miss Emily Litella… [applause]

“Thank you, Richard, and good evening, peoples. First I’d like to show you this board from last night. Holding the South hand, I bid the slam in my six-bagger. Despite North opening one diamond, West led a diamond, which was the only lead to set me. What would you have led with the West hand?”

Gilda Radner as Emily Litella
6 S S 4 2
H Q J 9
D A K 8 6 3
C K 10 6
Both Vul

West

Pass
All Pass


North
1 D
1 NT


East
Pass
Pass


South
1 S
6 S



 
Table S J 6 5
H 8 6 5 2
D Q 5 4
C 9 8 2



 

Uhh… Emily? There is no West hand… or South for that matter.

“Oh! … Never mind.”

Wait, Emily! We may only be temporarily blinded. If we discern the discernible, the hands may appear.

Construct the West and South hands to complete the deal based on the story. Multiple solutions exist. Additional goals are to achieve (1) the fewest HCP West and (2) the best poker hand West.

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Manuel Paulo Wins

In June-July 2011 this puzzle was presented as a contest, with 48 participants from 19 locations. Thanks to those who entered, and congratulations to the 14 who constructed a layout where only a diamond lead will defeat the slam in spades. Ties are broken by the fewest HCP West, the best poker hand West, and lastly by date and time of entry.

Special kudos to Manuel Paulo, who was the only solver to produce the optimal solution of 6 HCP for West. Manuel is a veteran contributor to these puzzles and contests, having previously won “What’s on South?” this past February, and “Do You Hear What I Hear?” back in 2001. Only a point behind in second place, Bozidar Put stands alone with his 7 HCP solution.

RankNameLocationHCPPoker
1Manuel PauloPortugal6777TT
2Bozidar PutCroatia7777QQ
3John ReardonEngland87777K
4Jonathan FergusonTexas87777K
5Dean PokornyCroatia87777K
6Tim BroekenNetherlands87777K
7Edouard BonnetFrance87777K
8John LuskyOregon87777K
9Pavel StrizCzech Republic87777K
10David BrooksAustralia87777K
11Jonathan MestelEngland87777K
12Dan DangBritish Columbia87777K
13Jim MundayCalifornia8777QQ
14Jacco HopNetherlands97777K

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Solution

Strange that only a diamond lead will beat 6 S, as the lead appears harmless to declarer, if not helpful toward establishing dummy’s suit; but that’s what Emily says. Therefore, the lead of any other suit must cost something. A doubleton trump lead would only cost if West held an honor (K-x or Q-x); a heart lead would cost if West held the king; and a club lead would cost from Q-J-x, Q-J-x-x or Q-J-x-x-x.

Twelve of the 14 solvers (places 3-14) produced a layout based on the above mentioned holdings, and all but one of them capitalized on the opportunity to give West four sevens — the best possible poker hand from the available cards. A typical construction:

6 S S 4 2
H Q J 9
D A K 8 6 3
C K 10 6
Trick
1. W
2. N
3. N
4. S
5. S
6. W
7. S
W 6 L 1
Lead
D 2
D K
D 3
S A
S 8
D 10
S K
2nd
A
5
Q
7
Q
6
H 4
3rd
4
C 3
S 3
2
4
H 2
H 9
4th
J
7
9
5
6
S 9
J
S Q 7
H K 10 7 4
D 10 9 7 2
C Q J 7
Table S J 6 5
H 8 6 5 2
D Q 5 4
C 9 8 2
John Lusky
Oregon

S A K 10 9 8 3
H A 3
D J
C A 5 4 3

John Lusky: An original heart lead results in a minor-suit squeeze; a spade lead blows a trump trick; and a club lead gives up two tricks right away. But on a diamond lead, East’s H 8 and C 9 save the day for the defense.

To expand on the play after a diamond lead, D A-K and a ruff are followed by ace and a low spade to West, who is obliged to set up the long diamond. The last trump is drawn to reach the ending at right, which is a dead end for declarer. The S 10 must be led before the last diamond, and whichever suit dummy shortens East can guard to relieve the pressure on West. Note that if North were on lead in the ending, all the tricks could be won. South
leads
S
H Q J
D 8
C K 10 6
S
H K 10 7
D
C Q J 7
Table S
H 8 6 5
D
C 9 8 2
S 10
H A 3
D
C A 5 4

Pavel Striz: We have an endplay in three suits at the first trick, which would be the same in 6 NT. So my help to Miss Emily is to play the Moysian fit in six clubs, a suit never mentioned. Spades are developed with a ruff… and a trump trick is the only loser. Still, be careful, peoples, as there are several potential pitfalls in the play.

The main tiebreaker was to give West the fewest possible HCP, although it seems impossible to go below the 8 HCP of the first example. If West does not have at least the S Q, H K and C Q-J, how could each of those leads help declarer? In spades or hearts, I believe any lesser holding is indeed impossible; but there’s a mystique in the club suit that only two solvers unveiled. Dropping the bar to 7 HCP:

Gilda Radner as Emily Litella
6 S S 4 2
H Q J 9
D A K 8 6 3
C K 10 6
Trick
1. W
2. N
3. N
4. S
W 4 L 0
Lead
D 2
D K
D 3
S A
2nd
A
5
Q
Q
3rd
4
H 4
S 3
2
4th
J
7
9
5
S Q 10
H K 7 3
D 10 9 7 2
C Q 7 5 4
Table S J 6 5
H 8 6 5 2
D Q 5 4
C 9 8 2
Bozidar Put
Croatia

S A K 9 8 7 3
H A 10 4
D J
C A J 3

Having no defensive club trick makes the winning defense tougher. West must also have the S 10 to back up his queen — say good-bye to four sevens — so he can unblock at Trick 4. If declarer next ducks a spade, East can win and return a heart to break up the red-suit squeeze against West. Declarer fails.

Suppose declarer tries a different tack, winning the D A and leading a spade to the nine at Trick 2. West then exits safely with a spade to leave declarer without recourse. Also note that in any variation, if declarer tries to create an extra entry by leading low to the C 10, West can insert the queen to foil it.

If West leads a spade or club originally, declarer wins the S A and C A (in the order West dictates) and crosses to dummy in diamonds. A spade to the nine then endplays West: A diamond return allows the diamond threat to be isolated, so West can be squeezed in the red suits. A club return gives dummy an extra entry in clubs to effect the same squeeze. A heart return (or an original heart lead) is of course a surrender, handing over the 12th trick immediately.

Jack be nimble

Extracting the last drop out of West’s point count was the winning solver, who shows that West requires only the jack in clubs for a diamond to be the only killing lead:

6 S S 4 2
H Q J 9
D A K 8 6 3
C K 10 6
Trick
1. W
2. N
3. N
4. S
W 4 L 0
Lead
D 2
D K
D 3
S A
2nd
A
5
Q
Q
3rd
4
H 4
S 3
2
4th
J
7
9
5
S Q 10
H K 7 3
D 10 9 7 2
C J 7 5 3
Table S J 6 5
H 8 6 5 2
D Q 5 4
C 9 8 2
Manuel Paulo
Portugal

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

Manuel Paulo: If West leads a heart the play is trivial. With a black suit lead, declarer can win with her ace, cash the other ace and the diamond tops, and lose a trump trick to West who is endplayed: A heart lead is immediately fatal; a minor suit lead allows declarer to squeeze West in the red suits. The diamond lead troubles declarer’s timing: If she tries to lose a trump to West on the first round, West leads the other trump; on the second round, West having unblocked the queen, East can win the jack and lead [a heart].

If you try to go a step further and remove the C J from West (giving South A-Q-J) the solution is no longer valid, because a club lead would also defeat the slam.

Jacco Hop: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

Jonathan Mestel: In the valley of the blind, the one-eyed jack is king.

Miss Litella may take exception to that, as I think she was deflowered by the club jack, which has two eyes. Right, Emily?

“Richard! … Never mind.”

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Acknowledgments to Gilda Radner, with fond remembrance.
© 2011 Richard Pavlicek