Main     Puzzle 8K99 by Richard Pavlicek    

Carding Accident

Last week in the Fort Lauderdale Team Championship, I held the West cards on Board 31. Whoop-de-doo, and a pinochle too. South on my right opened 1 C, and I was lured by the vulnerability to psych a takeout double, carefully hiding my hand from the kibitzers to inhibit a flurry of 911 calls. (When I showed the hand later to members of my ward, they claimed I was nuts, almost unanimously preferring a 1 D overall.) Whatever, my double seemed to work as the opponents bid lamely to 3 NT, but I can’t remember the auction.

3 NT South  ?
 ?
 ?
 ?
N-S Vul

West

Dbl
Pass
All Pass


North

?
?


East

Pass
Pass


South
1 C
?
3 NT
S Q 8 7
H 7 6 5 4
D J 10
C 10 9 8 7
Table S J 10 9
H J 10 9 8
D 9 8 7 6 5
C J
North-South cards burned  ?
 ?
 ?
 ?

Before I could lead, partner led the H J out of turn, then an argument broke out between North and South about the bidding sloth to end in 3 NT with 34 HCP. When the words became heated, North ripped up his cards and offered South an obscene gesture before stomping out of the room. Not to be outdone, South took out a huge cigarette lighter and torched his cards, as well as the card fragments North left behind. (ACBL take note: fewer stupid events, more fire extinguishers.)

“No problem!” assured the Director as he arrived to mitigate the situation. “Apparently you did bid like friggin’ idiots, and a lead out of turn isn’t going to matter with your cards on fire,” [cough, choke] “and the smoke in here is making me nauseous. I see only 6 HCP for East-West, so I’m ruling 12 tricks to North-South. Score it up!” We certainly had no objection to being gifted 13 IMPs, so the Director relit his cigar from the burning embers and left.

The kibitzers were also delighted with the rare opportunity to toast marshmallows at the bridge table, and one of them agreed to fill in for North on the last board.

When the smoke cleared …

We scurried to find our teammates to compare scores. On Board 31, I announced “Minus 690.”

“Lose 13,” said Joe, our team captain and only Topaz Life Master.

“What? You mean win 13.”

“No, I was down one in 6 NT. Impossible with the lead I got. Where’s the board? Look at it.”

“Can’t. All that’s left are the East-West hands. Opponents had a carding accident.”

Anybody! We need your help. Joe could not remember the North-South hands, and all I have is a pile of ashes.

Reconstruct the North-South hands to fit the story.

In other words, construct a layout where South cannot make 6 NT against best defense. Also try to equalize the 34 N-S HCP (17 each is perfect) and minimize the freakness (tamer distribution is better). Give it a try before reading the solutions below.

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Tim Broeken Wins!

In March 2015 this puzzle was presented as a challenge, inviting anyone who wished to submit a solution. Forty-one people gave it a try, of which the 17 listed below constructed a layout where South could not make 6 NT against best defense. Well done, and thanks to everyone who participated.

Congratulations to Tim Broeken, Netherlands, who was the first of only two to submit the perfect solution, splitting the HCP and spot cards exactly evenly and achieving the lowest possible freakness. This is Tim’s fifth win in my puzzle challenges. Nearest rivals are Leigh Matheson and Manuel Paulo, each with two wins.

Places 11-17 (tinted rows) appear to be ranked incorrectly, but these solutions did not resemble a 1 C opening by South, and thus demoted from top ranking. In view of the takeout double and table antics, one could argue “Who really cares,” but I’m the Director now [cough, choke] and rule that fitting my story counts. Wayne Somerville shrewdly claimed that North-South were using a strong club system and failed to alert. Nice try, but the last player who failed to alert in these parts was toasted — not with champagne, in a bonfire.

RankNameLocationHCPSpotsFrkn
1Tim BroekenNetherlands17-1727-2714
2Jean-Christophe ClementFrance17-1727-2714
3Jamie PearsonOntario17-1727-2716
4Dan GheorghiuBritish Columbia17-1727-2716
5Audrey KuehEngland17-1727-2719
6Nicholas GreerEngland17-1729-2522
7Jon GreimanIllinois17-1729-2522
8Julien ReichertFrance20-1425-2924
9Hans HulsNetherlands11-2337-179
10Jim MundayMississippi23-1114-4017
11Tom SlaterEngland17-1727-2714
12Dean PokornyCroatia16-1829-2515
13Radu VasilescuPennsylvania13-2131-2315
14Peter NixonBritish Columbia9-2534-207
15Wayne SomervilleNorthern Ireland7-2739-154
16Jacco HopNetherlands7-2741-134
17Jeff YutzlerVirginia7-2745-98

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Solution

With North-South holding 11 top tricks (S A-K H A-K-Q D A-K-Q C A-K-Q) and a guaranteed long spade that will establish with spades 3-3, 6 NT would be cold on most deals. The only possible cause of failure is a communication problem that prevents a winner and/or established trick from being reached. Think blocked suits.

The tamest valid construction was submitted by Hans Huls, Netherlands. Despite 23 HCP, opening 1 C as South is certainly reasonable, and probably wise, considering the rebid problems after 2 C. This also injects some realism into the story, as after the start 1 C Dbl 1 S, South might indeed bid 3 NT to end the bidding.

6 NT South S A K 6 5 4 3
H A
D 3 2
C 5 4 3 2
S Q 8 7
H 7 6 5 4
D J 10
C 10 9 8 7
Table S J 10 9
H J 10 9 8
D 9 8 7 6 5
C J
Lead: H 4 S 2
H K Q 3 2
D A K Q 4
C A K Q 6

Hans Huls: West leads a heart [killing the entry to the long spade]. West guards hearts and clubs, and East guards spades and diamonds.

All true, though any reasonable defense will suffice after the fatal heart lead.

Unfortunately, tameness of distribution was only the third priority in tie-breaking. Hans’s 23-11 HCP disparity was well off the mark in that department. Before showing the winning entry, let’s look at the second-best solution submitted by Jamie Pearson, Ontario. Note that each player has 17 HCP and spot cards totaling 27.

6 NT South S A 6 5 4 3 2
H 2
D A K Q 3 2
C A
S Q 8 7
H 7 6 5 4
D J 10
C 10 9 8 7
Table S J 10 9
H J 10 9 8
D 9 8 7 6 5
C J
Lead: H 4 S K
H A K Q 3
D 4
C K Q 6 5 4 3 2

Jamie Pearson: A heart lead knocks out the key entry to South. Establishing clubs requires unblocking the ace and using the spade entry; establishing spades requires unblocking the king and using the [club or] diamond entry. Either way, communication is broken; so if a black trick is lost to establish the suit, the defense can lock declarer in one hand.

A similar layout (equal counts and freakness 16) was submitted by Dan Gheorghiu, British Columbia. Ah, but of course! Players in the Great White North drink, er, think alike. Party on!

Lowering the bar

The ultimate solution, found by our winner and runner-up, drops the combined freakness to 14 (North 6-4-2-1 = 6, South 6-5-1-1 = 8) while retaining equal HCP and spot cards. (Any lower freakness forces a HCP imbalance for 6 NT to be defeatable.)

6 NT South S A 6 5 4 3 2
H K Q 3 2
D A
C A 2
S Q 8 7
H 7 6 5 4
D J 10
C 10 9 8 7
Table S J 10 9
H J 10 9 8
D 9 8 7 6 5
C J
Lead: D J S K
H A
D K Q 4 3 2
C K Q 6 5 4 3

Tim Broeken: A diamond start, then playing spades when in with clubs, kills 6 NT.

Jean-Christophe Clement: Getting closer; but is this the best solution? I hope so.

Tom Slater: A diamond lead prevents declarer from establishing spades. If declarer [gives up] a club, a spade return ruins all communication, and declarer ends up two off. Teammates did well to go just one off, maybe by cashing out and throwing West in to make all the top winners.

While Tom produced the winning layout, he had North-South switched, so the 1 C opening didn’t jibe. Therefore, I must officially retract my “most alert” anagram dubbed in January.

Final thoughts

Peter Nixon: This layout works, but I don’t much like South’s 1 C opening. Then again, I don’t much like your takeout double either.

Jim Munday: Story reminds me of the board-a-match teams at our local regional. Opponents had an accident and stopped in 2 C when a grand was cold on a good day. Teammates reached the excellent 6 C and went down with the sour distribution.

Bidding accidents… carding accidents… not important! What matters is, were there any flames?

Jeff Yutzler: Since I probably can’t build the best solution, maybe I can build the worst.

Success! Unfortunately you still topped 24 players who didn’t make the leaderboard.

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© 2015 Richard Pavlicek