Puzzle 8K47   Main


Blind Leading the Blind


  by Richard Pavlicek

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

[Thunderous 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-card suit. Despite North opening one diamond, West led a diamond, which was the only lead to beat me. What would you have led with the West hand?”

6 S South
Both Vul
S 4 2
H Q J 9
D A K 8 6 3
C K 10 6
West

Pass
Pass
NORTH
1 D
1 NT
Pass
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
6 S
S  ?
H  ?
D  ?
C  ?
TableS J 6 5
H 8 6 5 2
D Q 5 4
C 9 8 2
Lead: D 2 S  ?
H  ?
D  ?
C  ?

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

“Oh! … Never mind.”

Wait, Emily! We may be only 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. Further goals (tiebreakers for the July contest) are to give West the fewest HCP, and the best poker hand, in that order of priority.

Manuel Paulo Wins

In July 2011 this puzzle was presented as a contest, with 48 participants from 19 locations. Thanks to all 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-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 participant in 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.

Winner List
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

Puzzle 8K47   MainTop   Blind Leading the Blind

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, which is the best possible poker hand from the available cards. This construction by John Lusky (Oregon) was typical:

6 S South 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
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
W-L
W1
W2
W3
W4
L1
W5
W6
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



Lead: D 2
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 this ending:

S win all
Failure
S
H Q J
D 8
C K 10 6
Trick
8 S
Lead
S 10
2nd
H 7
3rd
?
4th W-L
S
H K 10 7
D
C Q J 7
Table S
H 8 6 5
D
C 9 8 2



South leads
S 10
H A 3
D
C A 5 4

To have any squeeze chance, the S 10 must be led immediately, but it squeezes dummy. Whichever suit (hearts or clubs) dummy lets go, East can protect to relieve the pressure on West. Note that if North were on lead in the ending, all the tricks could be won.

Pavel Striz: We have an endplay in three suits at the first trick, which would be the same in 6 NT. So my advice 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.

Blind spot in clubs

The main tiebreaker was to give West the fewest HCP, though 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 clubs that only two solvers unveiled. Bozidar Put (Croatia) lowered the bar to 7 HCP:

6 S South 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
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
W-L
W1
W2
W3
W4
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



Lead: D 2
S A K 9 8 7 3
H A 10 4
D J
C A J 3
Declarer fails

With no defensive club trick, West must have the S 10 to back up his queen — say good-bye to four sevens — so he can unblock at Trick 4. Then if declarer ducks a spade, East can win and return a heart to break up the red-suit squeeze.

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 club entry to dummy, West foils it by ducking the C J or popping the queen on a low club.

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 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 our winner, Manual Paulo (Portugal), who shows that West requires only the jack in clubs for a diamond to be the only killing lead:

6 S South 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
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
W-L
W1
W2
W3
W4
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



Lead: D 2
S A K 9 8 7 3
H A 10 4
D J
C A Q 4
Declarer fails

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 weaken West’s clubs further to give South C A-Q-J, six spades still cannot be made — alas, but no longer a valid solution, because a club lead also beats the slam.

Blindsided

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 takes exception to that! I think she was deflowered by a club jack, which has two eyes. Right, Emily?

“Richard! You dirty… Never mind.”

Puzzle 8K47   MainTop   Blind Leading the Blind

Acknowledgments to Gilda Radner with fond memories
© 2011 Richard Pavlicek