Main     Puzzle 8S19 by Richard Pavlicek    

The Deep Six

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 their 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.

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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

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