Bridge tournaments used to run smoothly; boards were duplicated by people, and scores were hand-written on pickup slips. Now its a circus; boards are duplicated by machine, and scores are entered into electronic devices. Never in the history of bridge have there been more fouled boards and scoring errors.
Fortunately, whats bad for bridge can be good for a bridge puzzle, at least when coupled with a warped mind. As a case in point, lets follow Board 13 from the Open Pairs at the Key West Regional.
Board 13 in Section A:
A finessers dream! Declarer wins the diamond cheaply and finesses seven more times to reach A-4 4 A-5 opposite A-5 A-4 4. Then he has the option to squeeze either opponent for a 13th trick; red aces squeeze West, or black aces squeeze East. The same finesses also allow 12 tricks in either major, but no 13th of course with a sure trump loser.
So what, you ask? Well, heres the identical Board 13 in Section B:
The East-West hands are the same, but North-South are entirely different, and this time ugly for declarer. Instead of four overtricks, 3 NT is now set two tricks with perfect defense: diamond lead ducked; heart finesse lost to East, then a spade shift and continuations ruin declarers communication. Major-suit games fare miserably as well, with 4 down three, and 4 down four.
But wait, theres more! I was in Section C, and my Board 13 had North-South rearranged again and remarkably so, as the only makable game was four spades. Alas, Ive lost the hand record! I wrote the ACBL for another copy, but they disavow any knowledge, not only of this event but in general. Perhaps you can help restore it. There were no void suits; I remember that.
Construct a South hand with which 3 NT and 4 both fail, but 4 makes.
Now for the easy part: You dont need to analyze the play! Just enter a South hand and click Verify for an instant analysis of each contract.
Multiple solutions exist. Tiebreaking goals are (1) for North-South to have the lowest freakness, and (2) for South to have the most HCP, in that order of priority.
This puzzle contest, designated April 2018 for reference, was open for over a year. Participants were limited to one try, unlike my usual contests that allowed entries to be revised with only the latest one counting. Participation was lean, no doubt a testament to the difficulty of the puzzle. There were six correct solutions, of which two were optimal (least North-South freakness and the most South HCP).
Congratulations to Dan Gheorghiu, who was first to submit the optimal solution. Dan is a brilliant solver with many past wins including The Case of the Four Aces, Third Best Blues, The Nonagon and Reese's Pieces. Way back in 2011 he also won The Law of Total Trash under the pseudonym Dan Dang, which at the time I assumed was his real name, but now it all makes sense
Dang is he good!
Creating a layout where 3 NT and 4 both fail yet 4 makes is quite a task, with few solutions but thats what puzzles are made of. Below is one valid solution:
Four spades is made as shown. If West instead chooses to ruff at Trick 6, a diamond is pitched, and all variations lead to 10 tricks.
Three notrump is defeated with a diamond lead. If declarer next leads a heart to the jack, East wins and shifts to a spade. Declarer now cannot develop a ninth trick without the defense winning five. The same diamond lead also defeats 4 .
The optimal solution that follows was found only by Dan Gheorghiu and Konrad Majewski:
West would hardly lead the K in practice, but at double-dummy its the strongest start and in fact necessary to beat 4 , although any spade is sufficient to beat 3 NT. Meanwhile, 4 cannot be stopped with any defense.
Dan Gheorghiu: Insanely hard puzzle!
The Donald: Only six correct solutions my ass! Even Hillary sent more than that, and I submitted 13, making four spades on every one of them. Hardly a problem. Any retard can trump a loser!
Id have to agree, except for punctuation. Trump, a loser has a comma.
Professor Irwin Corey: The feasibility of this construction becomes a catalyst to exacerbate protocol over procedure while remaining indigenous to its inception.
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