Main     Puzzle 8N01 by Richard Pavlicek    

Victory Celebration

At our ward’s annual Calcutta, Board 13 proved to be my lucky number. My partner Rocco opened 1 H and raised my 1 S response to game. Some would consider this a misbid, or certainly an overbid, but we never play partscores, and I’ve trained Rocco to grab the dummy at every opportunity. I showed my second suit, or pretended such to stop the lead, and Rocco fulfilled his duty a second time. I wanted to muddy the water further with 6 D but couldn’t afford a three-peat. Oh well, 6 S should be a top with Herman on lead.

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

Herman
West

Pass
Pass
All Pass


Rocco
North
1 H
4 S
6 C


Clyde
East
Pass
Pass
Pass


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

Herman did not want to ruin either of his straight flushes. He remembered the old cliche, “lead a singleton trump” but not the “never” prefix, so the jackleton was on the table; queen; “king” shouted Clyde as he played low trying to trick me, but I’m nobody’s fool and the queen won. Picking up trumps would be easy now, but it would allow only one diamond ruff, leaving me a trick short. The club suit offered good chances, but a better plan was to ruff two diamonds and elope with all my trumps.

The play continued D A; diamond ruff; H A-K (pitching clubs); heart ruff; diamond ruff; heart ruff; C A; heart ruff, leaving me with S A-9 D 5. Exiting with a diamond then ensured the last two tricks with the S K on my right. Making 6 S.

Rocco entered 1430 into the Cellmate, and then paraded around the room in a slow-motion gait, like a vision out of Chariots of Fire. Yes, we celebrate our tops. To err is Herman; to gloat, Andy Devine (or something like that, I can’t remember).

Herman was furious, throwing his cards in the air, exclaiming “I’m dealt two of the best poker hands in my life and end up playing bridge with idiots! What a joke, this birdbrained bidding!”

“Calm down,” I consoled. “For once in your life you made no mistake and were just unlucky. An unbalanced man with an unbalanced hand is a primordial conflict, like two hungry wolves over one piece of meat. You’d have had a better chance to defeat 6 S with a balanced hand to complement your lunacy. Clyde should have the unbalanced hand, since he’s more stable.”

“Yeah, Clyde’s about as stable as an earthworm, you moron. I swear… I’m breakin’ outta here!”

“Relax,” I continued, “we’re all breaking out of here at the end of the month, but until then we must preserve our insanity. I do this by practicing zero tolerance — I tolerate your zeros — and you should reciprocate by applauding my tops.” For emphasis, I trotted a few victory laps, yellow tie flailing in the breeze, then returned to pummel him again on Board 14.

Herman wants to change his luck and begs for your help (though it may be too late for that):

Arrange the East-West cards so 6 S can be defeated no matter how declarer plays.

Per my diatribe, the West hand must be balanced (any of 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2 or 5-3-3-2 shapes) and the East hand, unbalanced. As an extra challenge (tiebreaker for the September 2016 contest) try to keep the combined freakness of the East-West hands as low as possible. Further, Herman insists, lest he do something rational, that West holds the best poker hand; and he’s mad at Clyde, so East must hold the worst.

Try it now

Enter a West hand and click Verify to find out what, if anything, is wrong. Use the help provided to make corrections and repeat. See how many tries it takes you to discover the winning layout.

6 S South S Q 10 2
H A K 4 3 2
D 2
C A Q 10 8
Card pool: S K J 7 6
H Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5
D K Q J 10 9 8 7 6
C K J 9 4 3 2
S
H
D
C
Table East will get
what remains

West leads S A 9 8 5 4 3
H
D A 5 4 3
C 7 6 5

TopMain

Grant Peacock Wins!

In September 2016 this puzzle was presented as a challenge — with no help provided — inviting anyone who wished to submit a solution. Participation was down a bit from previous months, but 47 persons gave it a whirl. Only the 15 listed below produced a valid solution (6 S beatable with the West hand balanced and East unbalanced).

Congratulations to Grant Peacock, Maryland, who was the first of 12 to submit the optimal solution (lowest freakness with the best and worst possible poker hands). This is Grant’s third win in the current series, previously icing St. Valentine’s Hand and Ever More, besides topping 687 participants back in 2002 and his brilliant showings in the Olympics… no, wait, I’m confusing the NBC logo. Completing the medal group were Jean-Christophe Clement, France, in his second runner-up finish; and Nicholas Greer, England, fresh off his win from last month.

RankNameLocationFreaknessWest PokerEast Poker
1Grant PeacockMaryland4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
2Jean-Christophe ClementFrance4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
3Nicholas GreerEngland4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
4Tim BroekenNetherlands4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
5Dean PokornyCroatia4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
6Tina DenleeQuebec4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
7Leif-Erik StabellZimbabwe4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
8David BrooksAustralia4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
9Charles BlairIllinois4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
10Dan GheorghiuBritish Columbia4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
11Tom SlaterEngland4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
12Jon GreimanIllinois4FH-JJJKK2P-8877K
13Gary LeungHong Kong6SF-QJT98FL-QT987
14Christina SyrakopoulouGreece7SF-QJT98FL-QJT87
15Mark RaphaelsonFlorida7FH-JJJ77FL-QT986

TopMain

Solution

While the majority found the optimal solution, I am happy to receive others, especially when they contain interesting features. This entry from Gary Leung, Hong Kong, though falling short in the priority tiebreaker, produced the best West poker hand; but if West leads from his straight flush, the slam makes — a fact Herman would surely appreciate. It also makes with a trump lead, but watch what happens after a club:

6 S South S Q 10 2
H A K 4 3 2
D 2
C A Q 10 8
Leader
1. W
2. N
3. N
4. N
5. S
6. N
7. S
8. N
9. S
Lead
C 4
H A
H K
D 2
D 3
H 2
D 4
C 8
D 5
2nd
A
5
6
7
J
7
K
9
H J
3rd
2
C 6
C 7
A
S 2
S 3
S 10
S 4
S Q
4th
5
8
9
6
8
10
9
3
10
S K 7 6
H Q J 10 9 8
D K J 6
C 4 3
Table S J
H 7 6 5
D Q 10 9 8 7
C K J 9 2
Lead: C 4 S A 9 8 5 4 3
H
D A 5 4 3
C 7 6 5

Declarer’s only chance is to hop with the ace, take his pitches and crossruff. This enjoys a peaceful cruise until declarer winds up in dummy in the following ending:

If a heart is led, East uppercuts with the S J, and the defense must get two trump tricks.

If a club is led and South ruffs with the eight, West has two ways to defeat: Pitch the heart, or overruff and lead the H Q for an uppercut.

If the lead were in the South hand, declarer could succeed, but there’s no way to reach it after an original club or diamond lead.
North
leads
S
H 4 3
D
C Q 10
S K 7 6
H Q
D
C
Table S J
H
D Q
C K J
S A 9 8 5
H
D
C

If down one is good bridge, then…

This deal must be twice as good. I liked this entry from Mark Raphaelson of my home state. While out of contention in all the tiebreakers, it was the only solution to beat 6 S two tricks. Curiously, only one lead by West will set it two. If you don’t see it now, you will soon.

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

Only a full house

Most successful solvers saw through my red herring of giving West a tremendous poker hand, as doing so either drives up the E-W freakness (priority tiebreaker) or allows the slam to be made. So forget the straight flushes and junk the four jacks. In order to defeat 6 S and keep the E-W freakness at 4 (lowest possible) the best poker hand West can have is a full house (JJJKK). Five picture cards! Fan them in a semicircle, and what does it look like? A peacock! Or maybe it was Herman’s allusion to “birdbrained bidding” that inspired Grant to be the first with this construction. [Travel reminder to self: Stay clear of Maryland.]

6 S South S Q 10 2
H A K 4 3 2
D 2
C A Q 10 8
Leader
1. W
2. N
3. N
4. S
5. S
6. N
7. S
8. N
9. N
10. S
Lead
H Q
H K
H 2
D A
D 3
H 3
D 4
C A
C 8
D 5
2nd
A
6
7
7
9
8
K
2
3
J
3rd
5
C 6
S 3
2
S 2
S 4
S 10
7
S 5
S Q
4th
C 5
9
10
6
8
J
10
4
9
Q
S K J 6
H Q J 10 9
D K J 9 7
C 9 4
Table S 7
H 8 7 6 5
D Q 10 8 6
C K J 3 2
Lead: ? S A 9 8 5 4 3
H
D A 5 4 3
C 7 6 5

Grant Peacock: Finding the killing lead is left as an exercise for the patients.

Suppose West makes the safe lead of a heart. Declarer takes two pitches then crossruffs undisturbed to reach this ending:

Any card is led from dummy, and when West overruffs he is endplayed.

After an original club or diamond lead, declarer can reach the same ending with South on lead, then exit with a low spade to achieve the same success.
North
leads
S
H 4
D
C Q 10
S K J 6
H
D
C
Table S 7
H
D
C K J
S A 9 8
H
D
C

Grant’s construction leaves East with a poker hand of just two pair (8877K) which is the worst that can be achieved. A few variations exist: West must be 3=4=4=2 and must always have S K-J H J-9 D K-J-9 C 9-4, but the remaining four cards can be any fitting combination of a six, seven, 10 and queen.

King me!

Another popular game in our ward is checkers, so the above phrase echoes about — alas, sometimes in the wrong game, like bridge. A touch of dementia also helps, as Herman mulls, “Which card would a sane person never lead?” Surely that would be the S K, so it instantly becomes the nuthouse favorite. Get it on the table, and I’ll relinquish the floor to:

Nicholas Greer: To beat 6 S, West must lead the S K. On a non-trump lead, declarer ruffs three times in dummy, and endplays West when the last three cards are trumps. On a low trump lead, declarer sets up a long heart while ruffing diamonds, and discards a losing diamond as West ruffs with his natural trump trick. On the S K lead, the need to ruff diamonds in dummy allows West to ruff the winning heart low and still have the S J as a winner.

Tina Denlee: After the S K lead, South just went unbalanced.

Hey! That’s me, and you’re wrong; I’ve been unbalanced for decades. (ACBL membership should prove it.)

Soon to be committed

Charles Blair: [A guard’s footsteps are heard]. As the players hide their cards, Herman flips over the S K. After the guard has gone away, Rocco (alias the Secretary Jailbird) insists on that lead.

Jon Greiman: Herman would have to be crazy to lead the S K, but at least he can take solace in noting that his second-best poker hand (three nines) still beats Clyde’s two pair.

Tina Denlee: Over 6 S, Herman screamed “Double!” as he slapped down the red card — or so he thought, but he had slapped down the S K instead. The opening gift was accepted…

TopMain

© 2016 Richard Pavlicek