Puzzle 8S19   Main

The Deep Six

  by Richard Pavlicek

On Tuesday April 3 one of my transport vessels was detected by Coast Guard radar. When they radioed a command to board for inspection, the two-man crew had little choice but to launch their dinghy and deep-six the entire ship. Estimated loss was $200 million in gold and ivory, but that’s only a drop in the bucket. At PavCo we don’t mind feeding the fishes occasionally to avoid jail time.

As expected the Feds couldn’t file charges. When the Coast Guard seized the dinghy, my crew captain answered the interrogation with “What ship?” as he hummed “a good ship, Lollipop.” So it’s back to business as usual, and some good news, as the incident inspired a puzzle.

Many contracts are deep-sixed by foul distribution, or would be with routine play. Imagine you are South on this layout:

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

You nearly fell out of your chair on seeing West’s 3 C bid, but at favorable vulnerability that’s common these days, especially short in spades. A takeout double by partner would have been sweet, but no-o-o-o, the fool bids his suit, leaving you little choice but to try the notrump game. West wisely eschews his emaciated suit to lead the H J, and there you are.

The routine play is to establish clubs, but this would almost surely fail on the auction. Barring miracles you would win four clubs, two hearts, a spade and a diamond. The realistic chance to succeed is to delay leading clubs until West has nothing else left, then a ping-pong battle might produce a fifth club trick.

Look closely at the club spots. If you lead clubs first, West will grab his king and return the eight, eventually scoring the seven to deep-six the contract. Instead you need West to start clubs. His best thrust would be the C 8, which you capture and lead middle clubs until West takes his king, then the forced club return allows your own deep six to land the contract.

Double-dummy defense early can foil you, but that’s no reason not to try: Duck the first heart; win the next; lead a diamond to the king, ace; win the heart return, D Q and S A. You’re almost home! Besides clubs, West has only one other card left, which you hope is the D J. Exit with a diamond, and enjoy the volley. West will not.

In the club suit above, South can win five tricks if West leads first, but only four tricks if South leads first, which I will abbreviate as “win 5/4” to aid the description of this three-part puzzle:

With a 6-6 suit division, what are the minimal holdings to win (A) 4/3, (B) 3/2 and (C) 2/1 tricks?

Enter South’s club holding (any six cards except the C 2) to win the first number of tricks if West leads, or the second number if South leads. West will get the remaining six clubs. Assume clubs will not be played until six cards remain. To succeed, South’s holding in each part must be within one pip of minimal. Successful solvers will be ranked by the sum of all South cards (lowest is better) and ties will be broken by the most South sixes. Don’t worry! Three sixes won’t have you deep-sixed by the devil.

Win 4/3 tricks    South  C
Win 3/2 tricksSouth  C
C.Win 2/1 tricksSouth  C

To see if your solutions are successful click

Tim Broeken Wins

This puzzle contest, designated “August 2018” for reference, was open for over a year. Participants were limited to one attempt, unlike my usual contests allowing entries to be revised with only the last one counting. Participation was low, which seems to be the trend these days; but that’s okay. I’ll take quality over quantity any time. There were seven correct solutions, of which four were optimal.

Congratulations to Tim Broeken, my all-time winningest solver. Tim’s rap sheet goes back over a decade and reads like a ‘broeken’ record: Yarborough Fair, The Bricks of Amenhotep, The Jackson Four, Valentine's Hat Trick, Ruff-day the 13th, Fail Safe, Top of Nothing, Diamonds in Distress, Watson's Play of the Hand — and I probably missed one.

Ranking is by the least sum of the three South holdings, most sixes used, and date-time of entry, in that order of priority.

Winner List
RankNameLocationSouth SumSixes
1Tim BroekenNetherlands1333
2Jean-Christophe ClementFrance1333
3Duncan BellEngland1333
4Dan GheorghiuBritish Columbia1333
5Gonzalo GodedSpain1351
6Levi KatrielCalifornia1350
7Samuel PahkMassachusetts1363

Puzzle 8S19   MainTop   The Deep Six


Part A

The weakest South holding to win four tricks (or three) has a rank sum of 51:

Win 4 if W leads C
C K J 9 8 7 3Table C
Win 3 if S leads C A Q 10 6 5 4 

If West leads the nine, South wins the 10 and fires back low; West wins and returns a middle card to the queen, then South exits low to endplay West. One trick less if South leads first.

Part B

The weakest South holding to win three tricks (or two) has a rank sum of 44:

Win 3 if W leads C
C K Q J 9 8 5Table C
Win 2 if S leads C A 10 7 6 4 3 

If West leads the king, South ducks, and again on the queen. South wins the next lead cheaply and exits with the seven to endplay West. One trick less if South leads first.

Part C

The weakest South holding to win two tricks (or one) has a rank sum of 38:

Win 2 if W leads C
C A K Q 10 8 7Table C
Win 1 if S leads C J 9 6 5 4 3 

If West leads, South simply waits for a card he can beat, then exits low to eventually win a second trick. If South has to lead, West wins anything cheaply then exits low to endplay South.

Final Screws

District Attorney: PavCo Enterprises and its CEO are hereby indicted by the Federal Grand Jury on three counts of interstate trafficking. Appearance is mandatory at the U.S. Courthouse in Tallahassee on March 13 at 10:00 am for a pre-trial hearing. All passports have been revoked to minimize flight risk.

Yeah, right… I’m already in Brazil. Take a hike, you retards!

Satan: Listen up, PavCo! You may have escaped the Feds, but winning this contest required three sixes, and there’s no escape from that. Consider 666 engraved on your forehead!

Puzzle 8S19   MainTop   The Deep Six

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