Puzzle 8S01   Main


Two-Way Finesses


  by Richard Pavlicek

This is a sure-trick problem, the object being to ensure the contract against any layout of the unseen cards and any defense. Early bridge books were rife with these problems, usually to illustrate safety plays that are well-known today, but this one is more sophisticated.

Alert! You might even learn something useful, unlike my typical puzzles, which cater to the bizarre and have little if any instructive value. Anyone who participated in last month’s Little Deuce Coupe will surely attest to that.

Challenge yourself with this poser:

3 NT S A 8 3 2
H Q J 2
D A 3 2
C K J 10
Trick
1 W
2 E
Lead
H 10
D 10
2nd
J
J
3rd
K
K
4th
3
?
W-L
L1
S
H 10
D K
C
Table S
H K
D 10
C



Lead: H 10
S K 10 9
H A 5 4 3
D Q J 5 4
C A 2

As South, how do you guarantee making 3 NT after the start shown?

Decide whether you will win or duck at Trick 2, and devise a plan. Assume all opposing plays will be optimal for the defense. That is, any finesse you take will lose, any suit you test will not split 3-3, and the defenders will make no helpful lead or discard unless forced to.

Charles Blair Wins

In November 2010 this problem was presented as a contest, with 58 participants from 37 locations. Thanks to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the seven successful solvers. Ranking is based entirely on date-time of entry.

Headlines of yesteryear! Charles Blair was a three-time winner in my 2000-06 contest series, and one of only three persons out of 7000+ to participate in all my old polls and contests. Can’t lose this guy no matter how much I downscale! Seriously, Charles has become a good cyber friend, as we share a common interest in puzzles re bridge, chess and math.

Other solvers are also familiar. Jim Munday and Julian Wightwick are regulars, sharp as a tack, but the seventh-place Missouri gal has the best record. Ding-Hwa dominated my 2007 series, winning three times and topping the final leaderboard in all 17 categories. I once called her “the Tiger Woods of RPbridge.” Oops! I just removed that reference from an old page, lest I get my face slapped.

Congrats also and thanks to N. Scott Cardell (Washington) with whom I tested this problem shortly after creating it. (Scott is a longtime correspondent and composer of many interesting bridge problems.) Actually, I was a little irked that he came back with the solution too fast. Wise guy. Scott of course didn’t enter the contest because of the prior exposure.

Winner List
RankNameLocation
1Charles BlairIllinois
2Pavel StrizCzech Republic
3Jim MundayCalifornia
4Chris ChambersEngland
5Julian WightwickEngland
6Charles BrennerCalifornia
7Ding-Hwa HsiehMissouri

Puzzle 8S01   MainTop   Two-Way Finesses

Solution

After the first seven plays (forced) you have eight top tricks. Knowing how the cards lie would provide an easy 10 tricks, and it might be possible to win 12; but never mind that. Nine is what you need, and a series of wrong guesses could leave you with the same eight you started with. The keys to success are to develop a red-suit threat behind East and to rectify the count (lose four tricks).

3 NT S A 8 3 2
H Q J 2
D A 3 2
C K J 10
Trick
1 W
2 E
3 W
4 S
5 S
6 E
7 N
8 W
Lead
H 10
D 10
H 9
D Q
S 10
D 8
S 3
S 6
2nd
J
J
2
6
4
4
5
8
3rd
K
K
6
3
2
C 3
9!
7
4th
3
2
A
7
J
A
Q
K
W-L
L1
L2
W1
W2
L3
W3
L4
W4
S Q 6 4
H 10 9
D K 6
C 3
Table S J 7 5
H K 6
D 10 8 7
C



Lead: H 10
S K 10 9
H A 5 4 3
D Q J 5 4
C A 2

First, you must duck Trick 2. West must return a red suit (either black suit gifts a trick) and you must block both by winning the H A and D Q in whichever order West determines. Next run the S 10 to East. If East has no more red cards, he will be endplayed in the black suits. Otherwise you will have a red-suit threat behind East (else a suit breaking 3-3) after winning his exit (say, a diamond) in dummy.

Now you must make the unusual play to finesse spades the other way, low to the nine — a butcher job in spades if there ever was one — but you must focus on the forest not the trees. Assume West wins and exits safely with a spade, won in hand as East follows.

This leaves the ending below, in which you know East guards diamonds (the suit returned when he won a spade trick).

NT win all S A
H Q
D
C K J 10
Trick
9 S
Lead
H 4
2nd
?
3rd
Q
4th
?
W-L
S  ?
H  ?
D  ?
C  ?
Table S  ?
H  ?
D  ?
C  ?



South leads
S
H 5 4
D 5
C A 2

Next cross to the H Q to discover who guards hearts. If East shows out, you have the following matrix:

NT win all
Success
S A
H
D
C K J 10
Trick
10 N
Lead
S A
2nd
C 8
3rd
D 5
4th
C 4
W-L
W1
S
H 9
D
C 6 5 4
Table S
H
D 9
C Q 9 8



North leads
S
H 5
D 5
C A 2
Club queen must drop

After discovering that West stops hearts, the S A effects a double squeeze. East must keep the D 9, and West must keep the H 9, so no matter who has the C Q it must drop.

Now suppose West shows out when you cross to the H Q. The matrix then becomes:

NT win all
Success
S A
H
D
C K J 10
Trick
10 N
11 N
Lead
S A
C 10
2nd
C 8
9
3rd
D 5
A
4th
C 5
6
W-L
W1
W2
S
H
D
C Q 7 6 5
Table S
H 9
D 9
C 9 8



North leads
S
H 5
D 5
C A 2
Club finesse must work

With East guarding both red suits, the S A forces him down to one club, after which the C A and final finesse is a lock.

Each of the successful solvers described essentially the same technique to guarantee nine tricks.

Charles Blair: [From the 5-card ending] next win the H Q and S A. If East began with heart length, take the club finesse. If West had hearts, there is a double squeeze. I think this might be called a “double Gallagher finesse.”

Yes, making 3 NT is like smashing watermelons. No, wait; wrong Gallagher. Charles refers to Ann Gallagher, a movie actress circa 1940, who purportedly would take a two-way finesse one way; then if it won, take it the opposite way saying, “Now let’s see if I’m really lucky.” I’m guessing her “luck” was more successful in picking up suitors than suits.

Jim Munday: The idea is to endplay East for Trick 6; he cannot return a black suit or I have nine tricks. Whichever red suit East returns (he must have 4+ or I’m home already) will give me a positional threat over him. I need both top red honors in dummy to win the return and lose the spade to West. At Trick 8, West cannot return a club so must lead a heart or spade… [ending described]

“Diamond Jim” Munday also earns the top award for artistic merit, being the only solver to duck Trick 2 with the diamond three, thereby creating a replica of Trick 1.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

The next solver illustrates the mirror layout, where the opening lead is a short suit. (This is why I had both defenders lead a ten, which could be either long or short.) Suppose this is full deal:

3 NT South S A 8 3 2
H Q J 2
D A 3 2
C K J 10
Trick
1 W
2 E
3 W
4 S
5 S
6 E
7 N
8 W
Lead
H 10
D 10
H 9
D Q
S 9
H 7
S 3
S 6
2nd
J
J
2
6
4
4
5
8
3rd
K
K
6
3
2
C 3
10
7
4th
3
2
A
7
Q
Q
J
K
W-L
L1
L2
W1
W2
L3
W3
L4
W4
S J 6 4
H 10 9
D K 6
C Q 7 6 5 4 3
Table S Q 7 5
H K 8 7 6
D 10 9 8 7
C 9 8



Lead: H 10
S K 10 9
H A 5 4 3
D Q J 5 4
C A 2

Which leaves the following ending:

NT win all
Success
S A
H
D A
C K J 10
Trick
9 S
10 N
11 N
12 S
Lead
D 4
S A
C 10
C 2
2nd
C 4
C 8
9
7
3rd
A
D 5
A
J
4th
8
C 5
6
W-L
W1
W2
W3
S
H
D
C Q 7 6 5 4
Table S
H 8
D 9 8
C 9 8



South leads
S
H 5
D 5 4
C A 2

Chris Chambers: Next cross to the D A and lead the S A. If East has four diamonds (as well as four hearts), he is forced to a singleton club, so C A and a finesse will win (same for 2=4=4=3). If West has four diamonds, a double squeeze… [ending described]. The theme is symmetrical about the red suits, but if East didn’t have four of either, he would be endplayed in the blacks at Trick 6.

Last Words

Julian Wightwick: Partner didn’t like my spade plays, but he cheered up at the end. A spectacular hand… I like the deliberate blockage of both red suits and the spade compression. It is instructive to play for a position with a red-suit menace over East.

Thanks. Maybe I’ll be inspired to work on more realistic problems and less nonsense like winning deuces. Nah.

Puzzle 8S01   MainTop   Two-Way Finesses

© 2010 Richard Pavlicek