Main     Puzzle 8K71 by Richard Pavlicek    

Right-Sided Spades

Skillful players are aware that some contracts must be right-sided to win the most tricks. Witness the deal below. If North declares spades, East will lead the H Q and subsequently the D Q to hold declarer to eight tricks. But if South is declarer, 11 tricks are cold after any lead.

S by North or
S by South
S A K 8 7 6 5
H 8 7 3
D 8 7 3
C Q
S J 10 9
H A 6 4
D A 10 9 5
C 4 3 2
Table S 2
H Q J 10 9 5
D Q J 6
C 8 7 6 5
S Q 4 3
H K 2
D K 4 2
C A K J 10 9

Therefore, declaring spades from the right side yields a gain of three tricks. Besides being a testament to Jacoby transfer bids, this brings to mind the following puzzle:

What is the greatest possible trick gain from a right-sided suit contract?

Construct a deal where South wins at least four more tricks than North in spades — the more the better. (Winnable tricks are determined at double-dummy.) A secondary goal is to use the fewest N-S HCP.

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Leigh Matheson Wins!

In October-November 2011 this puzzle was presented as a contest, with 59 participants from 23 locations. Congratulations to the 26 who submitted valid solutions, ranked by greatest gain with ties broken by fewest HCP, lowest card sum, and lastly by date/time of entry.

A new continent is heard from! While wondering whether Europe would return to form after a loss to North America, instead I will tie me kangaroo down. Hail to Leigh Matheson, whose elegant construction appears to be the optimal solution.

RankNameLocationGainHCPSum
1Leigh MathesonAustralia910153
2John BurvilleBermuda913172
3Jeffrey TsangOntario914185
4Dan DangBritish Columbia916176
5Wei Seng TanSingapore917174
6James LawrenceEngland917180
7Ray LiuOntario80132
8David ZaiNew York80132
9Pavel StrizCzech Republic80132
10Hendrik NigulEstonia80132
11Tim BroekenNetherlands84132
12John R. MayneCalifornia85141
13Vedat YetenerTurkey825194
14David GraingerOregon710157
15Richard SteinCalifornia727228
16Charles BlairIllinois729231
17Eddy ChoiHong Kong65159
18Paul GilbertEngland617179
19Jacco HopNetherlands621200
20Manuel PauloPortugal626188
21Tony NorrisMassachusetts50129
22Antony LeeCalifornia516188
23Jim MundayMississippi527188
24Barry RigalNew York422178
25Bozidar PutCroatia424188
26Kevin LaneCalifornia425205

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Solution

Exploring the darker side of bridge has led to curious discoveries, and this month’s adventure is no exception. One might expect only moderate gains from a right-sided suit contract, like the introductory example of three tricks, since trump winners cannot be denied. A closer look, however, shows a possible gain of nine tricks.

Right-sided gains at notrump can reach 13, because the lack of a trump suit means no predestined winners. For example, if North-South have 13 winners in three suits and a double void in clubs, there is quite a difference whether a defender with 13 clubs is on lead.

Deal constructions that swing nine tricks were based on three general themes. First let’s look at an entry with the West hand loaded for bear. Oddly enough it came from the Far East (go figure).

S by South S 8 7 6 5
H 2
D 6 5 4
C A K Q J 6
Trick
1. W
2. S
3. N
4. W
5. S
W 3 L 2
Lead
H A
C 2
D 4
H K
S 4
2nd
2
H 6
7
D 5
Q
3rd
3
A
10
4
5
4th
S 2
7
S 10
S 3
9
S A K Q 10
H A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6
D
C
Table S 9
H 5 4 3
D K J 9 8 7
C 10 9 8 7
Wei Seng Tan
Singapore

S J 4 3 2
H
D A Q 10 3 2
C 5 4 3 2

With South declarer, West cannot draw trumps, so his best attack is a heart, ruffed in hand. Declarer then leads minor suits, finessing as necessary in diamonds, to maintain control and limit West to four trump tricks. If West ruffs and leads another heart as shown, declarer can simplify the play by ruffing in hand and leading a trump. Nine tricks.

With North declarer, zero tricks. The S 9 lead gives West a claimer.

A similar deal (but with the heart void in North) was sent by:

James Lawrence: If your example is a testament to Jacoby transfers, is this a testament to 7-level takeout doubles? If West is the dealer, the ideal auction is: 7 H Dbl P 7 S, which is a good sacrifice by South at any vulnerability.

Testament? West has the nuts, so maybe a testicle to fine bidding.

Defense to global warming

Wei Seng’s layout utilized 17 HCP. To lower this we move from the Far East to the Great White North; colder climates allow fewer points (but better beer). A different kind of 9-trick swing, with just 14 HCP:

S by North S A K J 8
H 2
D 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
C
Trick
1. E
2. W
3. N
4. E
5. N
6. E
7. N
8. E
W 4 L 4
Lead
H J
S 10
D 10
S 5
D 9
S 6
D 8
S 7
2nd
Q
J
J
3
Q
H 4
K
H 6
3rd
S 9
4
2
Q
H 3
C 7
H 5
C 9
4th
2
2
C 5
K
C 6
8
C 8
A
S Q 10 9
H
D
C A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5
Table S 7 6 5 4
H K J
D A K Q J
C 4 3 2
Jeffrey Tsang
Ontario

S 3 2
H A Q 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
D 2
C

With North declarer, a heart lead is devastating. West ruffs, and the defense simply leads trumps at every opportunity to hold declarer to his natural trump tricks. (East must be careful not to lead a club to tap North, since declarer can refuse to ruff until the third round, then East must surrender a heart to South at the end.) Four tricks.

With South declarer, viva la difference. South ruffs the club lead and trumps are drawn with a finesse, then a heart finesse gives South the rest. Thirteen tricks.

Jeffrey Tsang: South also makes seven hearts, but there is a reason to bid 7 S: West himself has a good sacrifice in 7 S, down only five! With North on lead, a diamond goes to East and a heart is led, scissoring South. So North tries spades; but West leads clubs when he gets in, forcing North to ruff and lose trump control… then N-S get only three trumps and two hearts.

Good observation, and almost textbook for Canadian Canape. West or South bids his second longest suit first; then whenever he bids his 10-bagger, partner puts him back in spades.

Five solvers achieved the absolute minimum of zero HCP, but the gain then is limited to eight tricks. The classic construction is a 4-4 fit that scores a complete crossruff without a trump lead.

I can name that tune in 10 notes

Well, almost. My construction of a 9-trick swing was similar to the next deal but slightly bloated with 12 notes, er HCP. This gem from down under may be the ultimate solution, with only 10 HCP:

S by South S 5 4 3 2
H 4 3 2
D A 6 5 4 3 2
C
Trick
1. W
2. N
3. S
4. N
5. S
6. N
7. S
8. S
W 8 L 0
Lead
C A
H 2
C 3
H 3
D 7
H 4
H A
H 5
2nd
S 2
6
8
7
9
9
D 10
C J
3rd
5
8
S 3
10
A
Q
D 2
S 4
4th
2
C 7
6
C 9
8
C 10
J
K
S
H
D K Q J 10 9
C A K Q J 10 9 8 7
Table S A K Q J 9
H K J 9 7 6
D 8
C 6 5
Leigh Matheson
Australia

S 10 8 7 6
H A Q 10 8 5
D 7
C 4 3 2

With South declarer, assume West leads a club, ruffed in dummy. Declarer then finesses hearts three times, using a second club ruff and the D A as entries. (An original diamond lead just reorders the use of entries.) Next the top heart is cashed, and a heart is ruffed in dummy as East helplessly follows suit.

East is now trump-tight in the ending shown at right. A diamond lead inflicts the final blow to East, as the S 10 is promoted. Nine tricks.

With North declarer, the defense runs the table; East draws trumps, and West scores each of his clubs. Zero tricks.
North
leads
S 5
H
D 6 5 4 3
C
S
H
D K Q J
C K Q
Table S A K Q J 9
H
D
C
S 10 8 7 6
H
D
C 4

Auf Wiedersehen

This edition completes the current puzzle series. Thanks to all who played along, and I hope you had as much fun as I did. If you learned anything useful, I apologize — accidents happen as I occasionally go through stages of temporary sanity. Next year I’ll probably come up with another participation scheme, so stay tuned. Happy holidays to all, and best wishes for 2012!

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© 2011 Richard Pavlicek