Puzzle 8S41   Main

Duck Season Opener

  by Richard Pavlicek

The September 7 meeting of Puzzlers Anonymous marked the opening of Duck Season, but not for the hunting of waterfowl. It was the first day of Professor Freebid’s annual seminar on ducking plays, the popularity of which has waned over recent years, many would say at the same rate as his marbles. “Timothy!” called out the Professor. “Come join me. I have a ducking good puzzle for you.”

[Timothy sat down at the Professor’s table to see a bridge diagram scribbled on a napkin.]

“I was East on Tuesday night, playing with Marlon. On Board 1 we sat quietly, as Bonnie and Grover bid to six hearts. As you know, they play a crazy system — forcing club with relays and such — so every bid was artificial, except the last of course. I don’t know what their bids meant, or whether even they knew, but it doesn’t really matter.

“So where are their hands?” asked Timothy. “Even Bonnie and Clyde would need some cards to shoot at.”

“Ah, but that’s the puzzle! Marlon led the queen of clubs, and we beat the contract.
Afterward I noticed Grover could have made six hearts by ducking Marlon’s lead.”

“Wouldn’t that be a holdup, not a duck?” Timothy asked.
“But I suppose the terms are interchangeable.”

“Not!” chided the Professor. “It’s like comparing arithmetic and calculus. A holdup has no quantal dependence, while a duck is affected by bosonic deflections on the hyperbolic plane. Anyone can execute a successful holdup, but a winning duck requires spatial foresight.”

“Whatever,” Timothy sighed, wondering why he bothered to ask. “At least I can understand the ‘spatial’ part, as most of what you say is from outer space.”

6 H South  ?

1 C
2 D
2 S
3 D
3 S
6 H
All Pass
2 C
2 H
3 C
3 H
3 NT
S Q J 7 6
H 5
D J 10 9 6
C Q J 10 5
Table S 9 8
H Q 8 7 6
D Q 8 7
C 9 8 7 6
Lead: C Q  ?

“Impertinence won’t help you,” warned the Professor. “I will also reveal there are no voids, except between your ears.

“Now shut the duck up, and solve it.”

Construct a South hand where ducking the C Q lead is necessary to make 6 H.

Multiple solutions exist. Tiebreaking goal is for the South hand to be as strong as possible. Strength is judged by the sum of all card ranks: Ace = 14, king = 13, queen = 12, jack = 11, etc.

6 H South North will
get what

Try it! It’s fun!
S Q J 7 6
H 5
D J 10 9 6
C Q J 10 5
Table S 9 8
H Q 8 7 6
D Q 8 7
C 9 8 7 6
Available cards:
Lead: C Q S   
S A K 10 5 4 3 2
H A K J 10 9 4 3 2
D A K 5 4 3 2
C A K 4 3 2

To see if your solution is successful click

Charles Blair Wins

This puzzle contest, designated “December 2018” for reference, was open for over a year. Participants were limited to one attempt, unlike my usual contests that allowed entries to be revised with only the latest one counting. I thought my previous puzzle fizzled, but even fewer tried this one, or maybe bridge interest is fading into oblivion. Oh well, reminiscent of Agatha Christie, “And then there were three”: Only three people found a correct solution, but each was optimal (strongest possible South hand).

Congratulations to Charles Blair, who was first to submit a solution. Charles is a brilliant solver, not only of bridge puzzles but of traditional problems in play and defense, and it’s hard to find a leaderboard around here without his name on it. Charles is my most prolific participant, going back over 20 years, as well as a regular correspondent who poses puzzles of his own. Previous wins include Have Cards, Will Double, Let Your Heart Be Light, Mission: Implausible, Two-Way Finesses, World Series of Bridge and The Piranha Strike Back.

All solutions were perfect, so ranking is by date-time of entry.

Winner List
RankNameLocationSouth Sum
1Charles BlairIllinois132
2Tina DenleeQuebec132
3Dan GheorghiuBritish Columbia132

Puzzle 8S41   MainTop   Duck Season Opener


The main obstacle of this puzzle, and probably why I had so few entries, is the tiebreaking condition to make the South hand as strong as possible. Curiously, there is no solution where South has more than two of the outstanding high cards (S A-K-10 H A-K-J-10-9 D A-K C A-K) so any attempt to bulk up the South hand was a dead end. Two aces and the 11 best ‘deuces’ was the best you could do to produce the optimal solution below:

6 H SouthS K 10 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H K J 10 9 21 WC Q2!63
C A K 23 SH 3S 6K6
S Q J 7 6TableS 9 84 ND A726
H 5H Q 8 7 65 ND K839
D J 10 9 6D Q 8 76 NC A745
C Q J 10 5C 9 8 7 6continued below…
S A 5 4 3
H A 4 3
D 5 4 3 2
Lead: C QC 4 3

While it’s hardly obvious, ducking the first trick is essential, not only to rectify the count for a later squeeze but to keep both spade entries intact (West cannot lead spades). Suppose West shifts to a trump (best) and East covers the jack to remove an entry to your hand. Draw a second trump, cash both top diamonds and the C A to reach this position:

H win allS K 10 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 10 9 27 NC K8H 4!10
D8 SD 410H 2Q
C K9 NH 107S 3C J
S Q J 7TableS 9 810 NH 98S 4?
HH 8 7West is squeezed
D J 10D Q
C J 10C 9 8
S A 5 4 3
H 4
D 5 4
North leadsC

Next lead the C K and ruff it to reach your hand. Ruff a diamond to isolate the diamond protection to West, then finish drawing trumps to squeeze West. Either your D 5 or dummy’s S 10 will become good.

As usual our Canadian temptress was right on the mark, with better stories than mine:

Tina Denlee: Bosons being of antimatter, to find the solution you must try to fail the tiebreaker, because the right cards have negative mass. South must have the H A or H K for no trump loser; also the S A or S K, else the S 10 is won by an antimatter finesse. Fill the rest with low cards, and the answer pops out.

Duck Soup

Charles Blair: I revoked at the club last week! Thank you for restoring my self-confidence.

Professor Freebid: The State revoked my Drivers License last week, so I designed a self-driving vehicle powered by bosonic fusion. Production is already underway. If a cop stops me now, I can tell him to duck off, or this car could blow your ass to bits.

Puzzle 8S41   MainTop   Duck Season Opener

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