Puzzle 8S71 Main

Trump Moves to Lilliput

by Richard Pavlicek

Leaving the White House was never foreseen by our 45th President.

This was only possible after a fake election, with most Democrats voting twice, and ballots right out of Sixth Sense: “I see dead people.” Notwithstanding, the Trump coup failed, and a forced eviction finally achieved a Trump ending. Now the problem was where to put him. Weeks went by, and no country stepped forward. Where would someone of such small stature be welcome?

But of course! The island of Lilliput!

We’ll stop by the there shortly, but first let’s look at two other trump endings:

 win 2Elopement K Q — K A Q K — — — — A K A South leads — A Q Q

With spades trump, South needs two of the three remaining tricks. If South leads the Q, West pitches his heart, and declarer can win only one trick. If South leads the Q, West can either ruff or pitch for the same result. Instead, South must cash the A then lead a diamond.* North elopes with the K, either by overruffing the queen, or pitching if West ruffs high.

*The elopement itself requires only a two-card ending, but I’ve used three to emphasize correct preparation.

The next trump ending is rare, because its preconditions are restrictive:

 win 2Smother play A Q J — — K 10 — — A — A A K — South leads Q J K — —

Again South needs two tricks. If a trump is led, only the A wins a trick; but if South exits with his losing heart, the defense is helpless. West’s only hope is to pitch his club as East wins the A, then the forced diamond return is ruffed by South, and the K is smothered. If West overruffs, so does North; if West underruffs, North pitches.

The above examples used extremely high card ranks. In actual play, the endings would usually contain middle ranks — but in light of our country’s own Trump ending, now is the time to think small.

Create a three-card ending for (1) an elopement and (2) a smother play.

You must win two tricks against any defense by the lead of only one card. Goal is to use the lowest cards possible.
Challenge yourself by entering the North-South cards. For a void suit enter a hyphen (-)

 1. win 2Elopement — — 3 4 3 4 4 4 — South leads

 2. win 2Smother play — 3 2 3 — 5 2 — — 4 South leads

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Andrew Spooner Wins

This puzzle contest ran from November 23, 2020, to New Year’s Day. There were 33 entries* from 19 persons (multiple entries were allowed from the same person, but only the last one counted). Not exactly a robust turnout but better than the recent Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.

*In the original contest solvers had to submit all four hands (not just North-South).

Fifteen solvers submitted a valid solution for at least one ending, but only five were correct on both. Hats off to Andrew Spooner, who was the only solver to submit optimal solutions (lowest rank sum) for both. Andrew was the winner of Diamond Stack and has other recent high finishes. Successful solvers are listed below by total rank sum, with ties broken by South rank sum and date-time of entry.

Winner List
RankNameLocationTotalSouth
1Andrew SpoonerAustralia7516
2Grant PeacockMaryland7715
3Charles BlairIllinois7715
4Joseph DiMuroCalifornia7715
5Jean-Christophe ClementFrance7717

 Puzzle 8S71 Main Top Trump Moves to Lilliput

Solution

This puzzle was a takeoff on Lilliputian Squeezes (2015) where the object was to create the smallest triple squeeze. Today Americans are more obsessed with Trump endings — albeit four years overdue — so that was the obvious follow-up.

Trump elopement

The first of my chosen trump endings was the trump elopement, for which most solvers found the lowest possible rank sum (36) using only twos, threes and fours in each suit. Alas, some submitted bogus layouts like the following:

 win 2Crossruff 3 — 2 3 — 3 3 4 4 4 4 — South leads 2 2 — 2

South ruffs a heart in dummy, then ruffs a diamond with his last trump. Two tricks, and only one path to success; but is this an elopement? Not by my definition, which requires the lead of a plain suit in which next hand is void and has a higher trump. This is a crossruff.

Four of the five winners managed to give South three deuces (optimal solution):

 win 2Elopement 3 3 — 2 — — 3 4 3 4 4 4 — South leads 2 2 2 —

Andrew Spooner: Ruff a diamond in the North hand, then lead a club to elope with South’s trump.

Joseph DiMuro: South must lead a diamond, ruffed in dummy, then return a club; South’s trump wins a trick by elopement.

My favorite of the optimal solutions contained a squeeze element:

 win 2Elopement 3 — 3 3 4 — 4 4 — 4 3 — 2 South leads 2 2 2 —

South leads a heart to elope with the 3, while West is squeezed. West cannot afford to ruff (North discards a diamond and declarer crossruffs the rest), and whichever four he pitches establishes North’s three.

Charles Blair: Geza Ottlik described a similar elopement as West being squeezed in the four of clubs.*

*In Ottlik’s scenario West could safely pitch a diamond (East had a winner) so the “club-four squeeze” was appropriate; pitching it would establish the three, and keeping it would allow the three to be ruffed.

Smother play

The second trump ending, the smother play, proved to be a stumbling block for almost half the solvers. In their attempts to reduce the rank sum they overlooked alternate solutions. To wit:

 win 2Simple ruff 6 2 3 — 5 2 3 — — — — 4 3 2 South leads 4 3 — 2 —

The smother play works perfectly: South leads the losing diamond, West’s only hope is to pitch a heart, and the forced club return smothers West’s 5. Alas, but so does the simple play of crossing in trumps and ruffing the heart. Since my conditions required South’s first lead to be unique, this was clearly invalid.

One way to render a valid solution was to reduce my example to its lowest terms:

 win 2Smother play 6 4 3 — — 5 2 — — 2 — 5 3 2 — South leads 4 3 2 — —

Joseph DiMuro: This is just the diagram you provided, with the ranks lowered as far as they will go; so I know I don’t have the optimal solution… I may try to improve it later.

Joe “knows” right but apparently got caught up in the holidays — or was kidnapped by aliens — as he didn’t follow up.

Since five trumps are required for a smother play, the lowest theoretical sum is 39 ( 6-5-4-3-2 + 3-2 + 3-2 + 3-2 + any 4) but achieving it is tricky — in fact impossible when South has two trumps without leaving an alternate solution. The secret was to invert the layout, which no doubt was an easy task for our winner from Down Under. What else? The optimal solution:

 win 2Smother play 4 3 — — 3 — 3 2 3 — 5 2 — — 4 South leads 6 — 2 2

Andrew Spooner: South’s only winning play is to lead a diamond and discard a club from North. East can either ruff, allowing declarer to win two trumps easily, or discard a club for the smother ending.

Andrew was the only solver to find optimal totals for both endings and the South tiebreakers, thus preventing my second “puzzle victory.” Only once in all my past puzzles (World Series of Bridge) was the optimal solution not found by someone.

Eliminating losers

The Donald: Consider this your last fake puzzle contest, Mister RP-loser!
As soon as I overturn this fake election, I will order the FCC to block this f***ing site for good.

 Trump control Democrats’ futile efforts Trump promotion Twitter’s main function Trump suit Litigation by Rudy Giuliani Trump Echo Nevada casino opening soon Trump a loser Is there a comma missing?

My next contest will honor greatness: I Have a Dream… is now open and ends on MLK Day. Hey, that’s January 20, the official Trump ending, so it eliminates a loser as well. All aboard for Lilliput!

 Puzzle 8S71 Main Top Trump Moves to Lilliput

© 2020 Richard Pavlicek