Puzzle 8S87 Main
by Richard Pavlicek
The following deal occurred Saturday night in my prison ward. It was the first of a 24-board knockout, however, not the kind of event you would expect. All our duplicate games are knockouts, because they usually end in fist fights, and Im tougher than nails with nary a scar to prove it! You want a piece of me, punk? I didnt think so. Then pull up a chair and witness the excitement. I was South.
|Board 1|| Q 2|
8 6 4 2
A Q 10
Q 10 6 4
| K J 9|
K 9 7
K J 7 3
9 5 3
| 7 6 5 4 3|
Q J 10
6 5 4
Twice in fact
| A 10 8|
A 5 3
9 8 2
J 8 7 2
*no one in my ward calls me Richard
After four passes, Clyde offered, Okay, fellas, we cant start the game like this. Lets go around again. Having a dismal hand, I was happy with a score of zero but agreed to go along when Clyde threatened to deck me. So back to Rocco, who passed again; Clyde trap-passed as usual in his cunning style, and I certainly had no reason to do anything different.
So it was all up to Herman: Sorry guys, I aint no pigeon! But of course we all knew he was, losing about 10 packs of cigarettes a session. Nonetheless, twice around was the house limit. Score it up!
Wait a second, interrupted Clyde, Lets see what actually makes. Looks like spades our way plays miserably with all the diamonds offside, and Rocco and Ricco have a very playable club fit. Great passes, Hermie, my boy!
Thanks, answered Herman, but I just noticed something unusual about my hand.
Yes, and mine too, followed Rocco.
Make that three, echoed Clyde.
I looked closer at my own hand and wanted to agree. But what?
Perhaps you can provide the answers before you get pummeled by the inmates.
|What is the par contract on this deal?|
|What is the most unusual feature of each hand?|
This puzzle contest ran from August 10 to September 10, 2021. There were 35 entries from 23 persons (multiple entries were allowed but only the latest one counted). Only one solver nailed all five parts. Seven others came close with four out of five, ranked below by date and time of entry.
Congratulations to Andrew Spooner of Australia for the only perfect score or maybe I should be disappointed, because without his entry the winner would be me. (Only once in the past was there no perfect solution to a puzzle contest: World Series of Bridge, November 2016.) Andrew also won last years presidential spoof, Trump Moves to Lilliput, there too with the only perfect score. This guy is killing me! I need to bring Trump back from Lilliput so he can build a wall around Australia.
|6||Brad Johnston||New Zealand||4|
|7||John R. Mayne||California||4|
|Puzzle 8S87 Main||Top Unusual Hands|
Several respondents were caught off guard here, perhaps by my story dialogue (thanks Clyde) noting spades by East-West versus clubs by North-South. While 3 is easily defeated, North-South make 2 NT (120) against any defense. This would seem to be the par score, because East can win only seven tricks in spades. But wait! Spades by West plays a trick better, so the par contract is 3 × West (down one) which gives North-South only 100.
These were the easy questions, in fact too easy for anyone with a mind for puzzles. West has only odd-ranked cards (K J 9 7 5 3); North has only even-ranked cards (A Q 10 8 6 4 2); and Easts cards within each suit are consecutive (touching).
Even so, a few respondents drifted astray. Two described Easts most unusual feature as a straight flush ( 7-6-5-4-3); unusual, sure, but nowhere near as rare as all touching cards. Another described West as having the best poker hand (kings full) evidently overlooking Easts straight flush.
This was the fun part, and the essence of my puzzle. Our motley crew of bridge detectives certainly came up with some unusual features, and provided some chuckles as well. To wit:
Nicholas Greer: Amazingly average hand for an RP puzzle.
Sherman Yuen: Worst poker hand, despite having a full house (888AA).
Thijs Engberink: One of each odd card, two of each even card, if present.
Jean-Christophe Clement: Length of each suit is the number of unique letters spelling the first card: three spades ( A = ace); three diamonds ( 9 = nie); four clubs ( J = jack).
Other guesses from respondents who didnt make the winner list: Apart from a straight (JT987), all cards are Fibonacci; almost symmetrical (swap 3 for 6 or 10 for K); and worst poker hand, two-pair (sic). Could the last be a blind mans bluff?
Jean-Christophes answer, while contrived, was at least on the right track. The unusual feature is about spelling, and I was able to slip this one by all but two sharp solvers:
Andrew Spooner: All suits spell words! A-10-8 = ATE; A-5-3 = AFT; 9-8-2 = NET; J-8-7-2 = JEST.
Paul Gilbert: First letters of ranks form words: ATE, AFT, NET, JEST.
Out of curiosity I decided to calculate the chance of a hand like Souths, where each suit spells a word using the first letter of each card. Spellings must be left to right in the ordered list AKQJTNESSFFTT, which yields 12 common words: AN, AS, AT, ATE, ANT, ASS, AFT, JET, NET, JEST, TEST, NEST. Arbitrarily, I also decided to allow the one-letter word A (certainly common) but not the obscure words: EF, EFT, ESS, KEF, JESS, NESS, TEFF. Obviously your mileage will vary according to which words you accept.
My 13 words comprise 31 possible holdings: one singleton (blank ace), six doubletons (A9 A7 A6 AT A3 A2), 12 tripletons (AT8 A93 A92 A76 A53 A52 A43 A42 J83 J82 983 982) and 12 four-carders (J873 J872 J863 J862 T873 T872 T863 T862 9873 9872 9863 9862). The next step was to determine how many of the 635,013,559,600 bridge hands contain only those suit holdings. This was simplified because only three shapes are possible: 4-4-3-2, 4-3-3-3, 4-4-4-1. I counted 214,272 hands, which makes the odds 2,983,586 to 1 against. Putting this into perspective, if you played 100 hands a day, you can expect one every 80 years.
And if it happens to be J-8-7-2 A-7-6 A-7-6 A-7-6, you can laugh your asses off.
But I must admit, our Kiwi guy described the South hand best:
Brad Johnston: All frustrating cards!
|Puzzle 8S87 Main||Top Unusual Hands|
© 2021 Richard Pavlicek