Puzzle 8K93   Main

# Ever More

by Richard Pavlicek

With spades trump and South declarer, consider the following position with West on lead. Despite a variety of opportunities, with three missing kings offside declarer can win only four tricks. You can trust me on this, as I have shown it to the members of my psycho ward, and they all agree: With best defense declarer’s maximum is four. Quoth the ravin’ lunatics: Never more.

 win Max A J 2 4 3 A 3 2 K Trick1 W2 E3 E Lead J 10! J! 2ndK4 3rdA9! 4thQ2 W-LL1L2 — K 10 9 7 K J 9 6 J K 4 J 8 10 8 7 A 4 West leads Q 3 A Q 2 Q 5 4 Q

After the obvious club lead, East must shift to the 10, and if declarer smartly ducks as shown, West must play the nine to avoid being endplayed later; then East must abandon diamonds and shift to a heart. This defense frustrates declarer, who can win only his two natural trump tricks and two side aces. Never more.

Your job is to make the ‘N’ disappear… Ever more.

Rearrange the North-South cards so declarer can win more tricks.

The main goal is to win the most tricks, which must be winnable against any lead and any defense. A further goal is to divide the North-South HCP and spot-card (2,3,4,5) totals as evenly as possible. Try it yourself before reading the winning solutions below.

## Grant Peacock Wins

In February 2015 this puzzle was presented as a contest, inviting anyone who wished to submit a solution. Forty-three brave souls were ravin’ mad enough to give it a try, of which the 16 listed below constructed a layout to win all nine tricks against any lead and any defense. Well done, and thanks to all who participated.

Congratulations to Grant Peacock, Maryland, who was the first of eight solvers to submit the ideal solution, not only to win nine tricks but to divide the HCP and spot cards evenly. How fitting! Being a Baltimore Ravens fan makes his win Poe-litically correct. Grant is a longtime contributor, also winning my Keep the Ship Afloat play contest (April 2002) with a whopping 687 participants.

Winner List
RankNameLocationTricksHCPSpots
1Grant PeacockMaryland912-1214-14
2Tim BroekenNetherlands912-1214-14
3Tom SlaterEngland912-1214-14
4Leigh MathesonAustralia912-1214-14
5Jean-Christophe ClementFrance912-1214-14
6Jamie PearsonOntario912-1214-14
7Nicholas GreerEngland912-1214-14
8Dan GheorghiuBritish Columbia912-1214-14
9Jon GreimanIllinois913-1112-16
10Charles BlairIllinois913-1112-16
11Jim MundayMississippi913-1112-16
12Peter BoydMaryland915-914-14
13Gareth BirdsallEngland915-914-14
14Paul BlumeFlorida917-710-18
15Michal StefanowEngland917-76-22
16Dan BakerTexas918-69-19

 Puzzle 8K93   Main Top   Ever More

## Solution

As the 16 correct solvers showed, it is possible to win all nine tricks with a favorable layout of the North-South cards. Obviously this must include a club void, and the A behind the king. A straightforward solution is to give North the A-Q in both red suits, as shown below.

 win allSuccess 3 A Q 4 A Q 5 K Q Trick1 W2 N3 S4 N Lead 6 K 2 3 2ndQA74 3rd7 2QQ 4th2J8 9 W-LW1W2W3W4 — K 10 9 7 K J 9 6 J K 4 J 8 10 8 7 A 4 West leads A Q J 2 3 2 4 3 2 —

After ruffing out the A, draw trumps and claim. Unfortunately this comes no where near an even HCP split (17-7). One improvement (15-9) is to give South the Q, which loses the finessable trick but gains it back when West is eventually squeezed in the red suits.

### Merci beau trump coup

Before showing the optimal solution, let’s look at this one submitted by three solvers (places 9-11). Splitting the HCP 13-11 is only one off the mark, and the play has a neat denouement.

 win allSuccess 3 Q 4 3 2 A Q K Q Trick1 W2 N3 S4 S5 N6 N7 S Lead 6 K A 3 Q 3 5 2ndQA794JJ 3rd7 22A 4 J 3 4th2J88 91010 W-LW1W2W3W4W5W6W7 — K 10 9 7 K J 9 6 J K 4 J 8 10 8 7 A 4 West leads A Q J 2 A 5 4 3 2 — Win the rest

No defense matters, so suppose West leads a diamond to attack dummy’s entries. Win cheaply, ruff out the A, unblock the A, cross in diamonds, discard a diamond on the good club, ruff a heart, and ruff your last diamond in dummy. The last two tricks then have South poised with A-Q over East’s K-4 for a trump coup.

### The perfect split

Eight solvers found the ideal solution, which is unique for distributional pattern and HCP placement. Spot cards allow some slight variations: The  2 and 3 can be swapped if compensated by swapping the 2 and 3, or the 4 and 5. The layout also requires two distinct play techniques, depending on whether West leads a club or a heart.

 win allSuccess J 2 A Q 4 3 5 K Q Trick1 W2 S3 S4 N5 N6 S Lead J A 2 K J A! 2ndQ6944? 3rdA5 2 3Q 4th 378 7 J W-LW1W2W3W4W5 — K 10 9 7 K J 9 6 J K 4 J 8 10 8 7 A 4 West leads A Q 3 2 A Q 4 3 2 — West is squeezed

Leigh Matheson: On a club lead, take the ruffing club finesse; ruff one diamond, cash the club winner, then finesse and draw trumps to squeeze West.

Nicholas Greer: On a club lead, ruffing one diamond leads to a red-suit squeeze against West.

Jamie Pearson: It took me a long time to get that A-Q into the South hand! At first I was trying to put clubs in South for ruffs, but the entries just didn’t work.

Now suppose West leads a heart:

 win allSuccess J 2 A Q 4 3 5 K Q Trick1 W2 N3 N4 S5 N6 S7 N Lead 10 A 5 3 K 4 Q 2ndQJ79AJ4 3rd8 2A 2 3 J Q 4th2768J10 9 W-LW1W2W3W4W5W6W7 — K 10 9 7 K J 9 6 J K 4 J 8 10 8 7 A 4 West leads A Q 3 2 A Q 4 3 2 — East is trump-couped

Leigh Matheson: On a heart lead, ruff a diamond, ruff out the A, ruff another diamond, cash winners, then trump-coup East.

Tom Slater: A heart lead is trickier, but I can ruff two diamonds and establish four side winners, then finish with a trump coup. (I found some near solutions with North having both red tenaces to length and a club void, but West always had one killing lead.)

Tim Broeken: Sorry, no Hitchcockian knack this time, as I am pretty sure this is your intended solution.

## Apro-Poe Finish

Charles Blair: I was disappointed that, in Murders in the Rue Morgue, Poe wrote that an astute whist player would attentively study his partner’s countenance.

Active ethics evidently were not a big thing back then. Of course nobody would ever question Poe’s integrity, because being cheated was better than being dismembered.

And finally, I have proof that ravens and peacocks are genetically linked:

Grant Peacock:
Deep in-to this puzzle peering; long I sit here pleading, fearing,
Wondering why this hellish chore. Might I swap the queen and four?
Finesses, squeezes, one more ruff? Doth a coup bring tricks enough?
Taunt us, Richard, o’er and o’er. Might this fetch a winning score?
Quoth the solvers, “Never more!”

 Puzzle 8K93   Main Top   Ever More