Main   Analyses 8X08 by Richard Pavlicek  

Horrors of the Wax Museum

You made it out just in time! A five-alarm fire lit up the city last night, and all evidence points to arson, as the museum was engulfed in flames. The mad curator was seen leaving town on the 9:30 train. His assistant, Igor, refused to comment (but he’s a deaf mute so no surprises there). Forensic experts did spectrographic analyses of the melted wax and debris, discovering high levels of calcium, which may indicate human bones and foul play. The lab is now attempting DNA tests for confirmation.

OK, so I was brainwashed as a child. My parents took me to see House of Wax in 3-D, starring Vincent Price, and I remember how delighted I was with the “Paddleball Man,” but then I became quite frightened at the denouement. To this day, I can’t go into a wax museum without suspecting the same thing, and I always look at the figures very closely. When I see “Elvis in wax,” I only wonder what portion is each.
Problem 123456Final Notes

During the month of October 2004, these six defensive-play problems were published on the Internet as a contest. All bridge players were invited to participate. In each case, you are the opening leader and suspect that declarer (a young lady, or wax robot, you can’t be sure) has committed a horror (bridge mistake) in the early play. After regaining the lead, all you have to do is select your next lead.

Jordi Sabate Wins!

This contest had 902 participants from 111 locations, and the average score was 40.90. Congratulations to Jordi Sabate (Spain), who was first of six to submit perfect scores. Two contest wins in a row for Spain! Also scoring 60 were Gabriel Nita-Saguna (Willowdale, Ontario); Leif-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe); Slawek Cwiek (Poland); Kazik Drozdz (Poland); and Carolyn Ahlert (Ohio). No less than 14 players were only a notch behind at 59.

Scoring was up this month, with the fourth highest average score to date. Highest ever was 42.75 in February 2002, but that was an opening-lead contest; so the second highest of 41.88 in August 2001 might be a better comparison. Participation increased from last month but fell short of the 909 high in April this year. At least it didn’t drop like last Halloween, when Fritz scared people away.

In the overall standings, Leif-Erik Stabell held on to the top spot with a 59.25 average, but only by tiebreaker over Zahary Zahariev (Bulgaria). Close behind with 59.00 are John Lusky (Oregon) and Lajos Linczmayer (Hungary); next with 58.75 are Ding-Hwa Hsieh (Missouri) and John Reardon (England); and next with 58.50 are Manuel Paulo (Portugal) and Rob Stevens (California).

In the October Bot’s Eye View, Jack (Netherlands) surged to the fore with a solid 51, edging out Bridge Baron and GIB (both US) with 49. Jack held on to its overall lead, with GIB still a close second.

Each problem offered six plausible lead options. The merit of each is scored on a 1-to-10 scale based on my judgment, which is also aided by some of the comments received.

Bidding is Standard American, and you use standard leads and signals. For a reference on these agreements, see my outline of Standard American Bridge. Assume partner is an expert, but declarer could be horribly deranged.
TopMain

Problem 1

IMPs None Vul

West
You

Pass
North


3 NT
East


All Pass
South
Wax Lady
1 NT

3 NT South
S 10 2
H 9 3
D A Q J 9 2
C Q J 10 5
S Q J 9 5
H K J 7 2
D 6 3
C K 9 4
Table

You lead the S Q, partner plays the seven, and South the three. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
H J1012614
H 2815117
S J633137
S 5426429
D 62182
C 41121

What’s going on? I mean, besides the possibility of being fleeced at the bridge table by wax-covered corpses. Partner’s S 7 looks encouraging, probably showing the king; and that wax temptress apparently held up the ace, since partner couldn’t have both more than 5 HCP if the bidding is to be believed — but that’s another story.

Could partner have five spades? No, because the S 8 is missing, and he would certainly signal with the eight from K-8-7-6-4. Therefore, South has at least three spades. It is also possible that partner is not encouraging spades at all with S 8-7 doubleton, meaning that South ducked with A-K-6-4-3; but this is remote. Barring that, declarer is marked with the D K, so she will have no problem developing tricks (five diamonds, three clubs and two aces).

If you continue spades, declarer can succeed simply by winning the ace and establishing clubs (cross to dummy in diamonds and finesse). True, she might duck again, having already committed one horror; but offering charity to this wax tramp could come back to haunt you. To beat the contract, you need partner to hold the H Q, which is the only other high card he can have besides the S K assuming South has 15-17. Consider a probable layout:

3 NT
S 10 2
H 9 3
D A Q J 9 2
C Q J 10 5
S Q J 9 5
H K J 7 2
D 6 3
C K 9 4
TableS K 7 6 4
H Q 8 4
D 8 7 4
C 8 6 3
S A 8 3
H A 10 6 5
D K 10 5
C A 7 2

Suppose you shift routinely to the H 2; low, queen, ace. Not good enough. When you win the C K, you will only be able to cash two hearts, or four tricks total, leaving declarer the rest. Another danger of a low heart is that you subject yourself to an endplay if declarer has H A-10-8.*

*As diamonds are run, you must keep all your hearts to set the contract. If you pitch two spades and club, declarer could win the S A to remove your last spade and exit with a heart. Admittedly, declarer would need four wax eyes to play this way (similarly, if you blanked the C K) but there’s no reason to give her a chance.

The proper shift is the heart jack, on which partner will play the eight — not so much to signal but to unblock the run of the suit.* If declarer takes the H A, you can then win three heart tricks (low to the queen, then back through South to finesse against the 10) and set the contract.

*Holding Q-10-x, partner should also unblock (preferably by overtaking with the queen) since he can rule out your switch being from J-x. Note that shifting to the H K would be equally good but was not listed to avoid having to break a trivial tie.

If South ducks the H J, you must switch back to spades; and more specifically, the spade jack to avoid a potential endplay (similar to the one described above). Either way, you will develop five tricks before declarer can develop nine.

While the heart shift is the only realistic chance to beat the contract, it would be dubious in real life because it is predicated on declarer’s error. Against an expert, this would expectedly just toss away an IMP. Now you see why I created the scenario in which declarer’s technique was suspect (to put it kindly).

Of the remaining choices, second place goes to the H 2, which works if partner has H Q-10-x or any 4+ hearts with the queen. If you continue spades, the jack is better than low because it suggests S Q-J-x and tempts South to hold up again; whereas, a low spade (to the king) leaves no conceivable case for ducking. A diamond switch is an exercise in futility, and a club is like playing for the wax team.

Comments for the H J

Jordi Sabate: East does not have five spades; otherwise he would have signaled with the eight instead of the seven. Then, the only way to beat the contract is to hope partner has the H Q and declarer has missed her chance (nine sure tricks if she wins the first trick with the S A). I lead the H J in case partner has Q-8-x (he has to unblock the eight).

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Partner will brilliantly unblock the H 8. I am playing declarer for: S A-x-x H A-10-x-x D K-x-x C A-x-x. If the heart is ducked as well, I will switch back to spades.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Hoping declarer has erred with S A-8-x H A-10-x-x D K-x-x C A-x-x, or similar. Partner can’t have five spades (no eight in the first round); and even if declarer has upgraded S A-x-x H A-Q-10 D x-x C A-x-x-x-x to open 1 NT, there might still be hope after the fatal heart switch.

Lajos Linczmayer: South has S A-8-3. If East has H Q-8-x or better, we can beat the contract. If South holds up the H A as well, I lead the S J to protect against an endplay.

Bruce Neill: Declarer may have ducked with S A-x-x H A-10-x-x D K-x-x C A-x-x. If so, I need to attack hearts now, and the jack makes it easy for partner to encourage with Q-8-x.

Rob Stevens: This is superior to the H 2, as it allows us to pick up declarer’s H A-10-6-x. I know South doesn’t have S A-3 H A-10-9-x because the S 8 is missing, and East would (or should) have played it to encourage spades.

Manuel Paulo: If South has S A-8-3 A-10-x-x K-x-x A-x-x, she may have ducked the first trick fearing I have a hand like S Q-J-9 H K-J D x-x-x-x C K-x-x-x. On the H J, partner unblocks the eight… If South wins the ace, we can run the heart suit after I win the club finesse; if she ducks, I come back to the spade suit (leading the S J) to take three spades, one heart and one club.

Rainer Herrmann: Three spades and a club trick are not enough; so I’ll play South for S A-x-x H A-10-x-x D K-x-x C A-x-x, or similar.

Jim Munday: As long as I don’t lose my head, the defense has a chance. Partner can produce 5 HCP at most, and 3 of them must be the S K. We do not have enough tricks by continuing spades since partner can only have four (declarer has S A-8 remaining). If partner is kind enough to hold the H Q (Q-x-x-x, Q-10-x or Q-8-x) we can succeed. If declarer ducks the H J, I revert to spades; if she wins it (partner unblocking of course) I can cross to partner’s H Q upon winning the C K, and a third heart will seal declarer’s fate. I will leave partner to guard whichever major is not established, and careful discarding will net five tricks.

Whether we agree with your analysis or not, nobody
will argue with your first sentence.

Ed Barnes: Declarer has eight tricks and, unless partner has the H Q (the only card he could produce), declarer will make his ninth at my expense.

Charles Blair: Did South play the S 3 instead of the S 8 with S A-8-3 H A-10-x-x? Horror of horrors!

Todd Anderson: We can’t get enough tricks fast enough with a spade continuation, as declarer holds the H A and can establish clubs while hearts are safe. The duck gives me a chance to establish three hearts and a club in addition to the spade. …

Perry Groot: Partner has an honor in spades, but the spots show he has [at most] four spades. Hence, partner must have another honor, which can only be the H Q. To guard against H A-10-x-x in South, I lead the H J; if it wins, I will shift back to spades.

John Lusky: With S K-8-7-6-4, partner would have played the eight, so continuing spades will not set the contract. Assuming partner has the S K, the only other card he can have is the H Q. I lead the H J in case partner has Q-8-x. (With Q-10-x, he should overtake the jack.) If declarer ducks the heart, I will switch back to spades. Declarer would have done better to win the first spade — or at least to play the eight, the card she was known to hold.

Weidong Yang: The contract is cold if declarer has the H Q (she must have all the unseen aces and the D K, since partner’s S 7 showed the S K). Continuing spades cannot set up enough tricks to set the contract. …

Chris Willenken: Partner’s spade spot precludes him from holding five spades, so I need him to have the H Q in addition to the S K. If I shift to a heart honor, declarer will be forced to duck with as much as H A-10-x-x. I can then revert to spades — the jack, as even this declarer would have won the first spade with four of them. (A low spade would get me strip-squeezed if declarer reads the position.)

Gonzalo Goded: Partner can’t have the S 8, so he can’t have five spades. I can’t see any hope except partner having H Q-8-x or H Q-10-x (hopefully he will signal with the H 8 or unblock the H 10). I must say I am happy that there is no H K option.

Jerry Fink: To set up three heart tricks if East holds H Q-10-8 or Q-8-x and unblocks. If South lets the H J win, I return to spades. South could have made 3 NT by winning the S A at trick one.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: Declarer has three spades, hence continuing spades won’t help. Shifting to the H J caters to A-10-x-x with declarer. If declarer ducks this as well, I revert to spades.

Ulrich Nell: Assuming partner’s values are the S K and H Q, I must increase the number of our potential winners after declarer concedes a club. Then I must maintain this winner count, while avoiding being endplayed in clubs. … Declarer could have taken the S A and conceded a club and three spades.

Dean Pokorny: If declarer holds S A-8-3 H A-10-6-5 D K-x-x C A-x-x, the only way to beat her is to switch to a high heart at the second trick (partner must unblock his H 8). If declarer takes the H A, we take three heart tricks after an unsuccessful club finesse. If declarer ducks the H J, I switch to the S J to retain communication with partner.

Jan de Kleijn: Partner holds 3-5 HCP including the S K (maybe the S A). … Declarer holds the D K, C A and H A; so if I continue spades, we can pick up only three spade tricks plus the C K. Therefore, I need to switch to hearts now…

Bill Erwin: Playing partner for H Q-8-x or H Q-10-x (he will unblock the middle spot). If declarer ducks, I shift back to spades.

David Grainger: The only ways to beat this are to find partner with the S K and H Q, or five spades. If the latter, he would have signaled with the S 8 at trick one, so he can’t have more than four. I shift to the H J (instead of low) in case partner holds Q-8-x. Declarer has to win the first heart, otherwise I will shift back to spades; and the H Q will provide an entry to lead through declarer’s H 10 after partner unblocks the eight on the first round.

Andrew de Sosa: Declarer has at least three spades (partner would have played the S 8 with K-8-7-6-4) and misguessed by ducking the first spade. Since we can only get three spades to go with the C K, I must look to hearts for the setting trick. If partner has as little as H Q-8-x, we’ve got it — assuming I start with the H J and partner unblocks the eight. …

Toby Kenney: If this holds I’ll switch back to spades. Hopefully, partner will be alert enough to unblock his H 8.

Roy Yu: For a real chance to defeat the contract, East must have the H Q. The H J is the card to lead in case South holds something like H A-10-5-4. If South ducks the H J, I will shift to spades.

Julian Wightwick: It looks as though partner has S K-7-6-4 (he would play the S 8 with five spades). This leaves room for at most 2 points more, so I can hope for H Q. If I continue spades, declarer will win and concede a club for her contract; so I’d better switch to hearts. The H J caters for partner having Q-8-x, and he will unblock the eight naturally to encourage. Of course, if declarer ducks the H J, I go back to spades.

Jonathan Mestel: So as to give partner, with H Q-8-4, a chance to equalize the horrors score.

David Wiltshire: Partner’s hand: S K-7-x H Q-8-x D x-x-x-x C x-x-x. Only the H J causes declarer problems (a low heart would kill partner’s queen and leave declarer with a positional stopper). If declarer ducks the H J, I revert to spades.

Anand Nuggihalli: … Partner is likely to have the S K and would have played the eight with K-8-7-6-4; so we can develop at most three spade tricks. Declarer must have three aces and the D K for her 1 NT (if the H Q also, no chance); so it’s time to shift. The H 2 or H J will work if declarer has only H A-x-x, but only the jack works if declarer has H A-10-x-x.

Christian Vennerod: The S 7 is a strength signal in principle, but partner could have 8-7 and declarer A-K-6-4-3. In the latter case almost all Souths would falsecard with a higher spade to get a continuation, or grab the first trick; so it is safe to conclude partner has a spade honor. If I can trust South to have 15 HCP, there is not room for more than the H Q in partner’s hand. …

Roger Morton: If declarer has held up [in spades], the best chance is to play for the H Q in partner’s hand. The H J is the card to lead when declarer has something like H A-10-x-x.

Chuck Lamprey: Partner can’t have S K-8-7-6-4 (he would signal with the eight) so I have to try hearts. Any heart works opposite H Q-x-x-x, but the jack also picks up Q-10-x or Q-8-x if partner unblocks. If the H J wins, I’ll shift back to spades.

Ivan Kolev: In order to win five tricks, I must change the lead to hearts. If declarer has a hand like S A-x-x H A-10-x-x D K-x-x C A-x-x and partner holds H Q-8-x, he must unblock the eight. If declarer ducks, I go back to spades.

Bill Powell: Partner appears to have S K-7-x-(x). I will play him for H Q-8-x, too, and that he’ll unblock the eight.

Thijs Veugen: South has something like S A-8-x H A-10-6-4 D K-x-x C A-x-x. She should have taken the first trick, but now we have a chance. If the H J holds, I shift to spades; otherwise we take three hearts, a spade and a club.

Michael Kammermeier: As the S 8 is missing, partner cannot have five spades; so we must establish hearts. My choice of the H K isn’t listed, but the jack [is the same]. Partner will unblock the eight if declarer has H A-10-x-x; and declarer can’t duck, else I switch back to spades.

Dale Freeman: I hope partner has H Q-10-x or Q-8-x and unblocks the 10 or eight.

Julian Pottage: Partner will play the eight to encourage if he has it; South may have H A-10-x-x.

Daniel Korbel: I think partner needs the S K and H Q to beat this, since he can’t have five spades (he denies the S 8 at trick one).

Gilles Korngut: This is necessary if partner has H Q-8-x. If declarer ducks, a switch back to spades defeats the contract.

Brad Theurer: The spade suit will not produce enough tricks (declarer has at least three spades since partner denied the eight), so I will play partner for the H Q. Leading the H J maintains flexibility, [avoiding] a potential strip-squeeze if a low heart were led.

Neelotpal Sahai: Declarer’s mistake was to duck the first spade. I am hoping partner has H Q-8-x (shifting to a low heart will lead to blockage). If declarer ducks the heart, too, I will revert to spades.

Douglas Dunn: East can’t have five spades, as he would have played the S 8. So it looks like I need to switch to hearts for tricks; the jack is best if declarer has H A-10-x-x.

Jouko Paganus: Partner would not play the seven from K-8-7-6-4, and he can’t have two kings, so I must look for a fifth trick in hearts. If partner has only three hearts, he needs at least Q-8-x; then the H J gives us three heart tricks if declarer takes the ace and partner unblocks the eight.

Paul Inbona: Partner must have either the S K and H Q, or the D K and H Q. The H J allows me to keep an entry in partner’s hand.

Zbych Bednarek: Partner can have only 5 HCP, so the only chance for a set [is that he has] the H Q at least third; and with Q-8-x or Q-10-x he must unblock.

George Klemic: The duck at trick one strongly suggests a single stopper. If partner has the S K and no other HCP, declarer succeeds on any play…(partner would signal with the eight if holding five spades). So I need partner to have another card, and the H Q is the only viable option. Another pitfall is that if declarer holds H A-10-x-x, he will have two stoppers unless I lead the jack (partner of course unblocks the eight). …

Frans Buijsen: Trying to give partner, with S K-x-x-x H Q-8-x D x-x-x C x-x-x, an entry to make three heart tricks against against declarer’s H A-10-x-x.

Don Hinchey: Scary! The case of the disappearing double stopper: If declarer holds S A-x-x H A-10-x-x D K-x-x C A-x-x, I can knock out the H A and later surround the 10 — as long as partner unloads the eight. It looks like declarer erred by holding up in spades, but she couldn’t be sure of the 4-4 division.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: I will play partner for something like S K-x-x H Q-8-x D x-x-x C x-x-x-x. We can pick up three heart tricks if South takes the H A; if South ducks, I will switch back to spades. TopMain

Problem 2

IMPs Both Vul

West
You

Pass
North

1 C
3 NT
East

Pass
All Pass
South
Wax Lady
1 NT

3 NT South
S Q 9 2
H A Q J 10
D A 4 3
C A J 10
S J 10 8 7
H 9 7 4
D K J 7
C K 9 3
Table

You lead the S J; queen, king, ace. South leads the D 5 to the ace (partner plays D 2) then the D 3 (partner plays D 10) to the queen and your king. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
H 41020923
S 8730233
S 10618220
D J5677
C 349611
C K2465

The wax princess doesn’t give up easily, as she puts you right back on defense against 3 NT. You think about whispering some sweet nothings into her ear, but the guillotine across the room suggests limiting your passes to the bridge table. (Besides, she might melt in the heat of passion.) Anyway, you make the obvious lead, and after winning the D K, you can see four obvious tricks by setting up your long spade.

But where’s the setting trick? If partner has the H K, declarer will always fail (no entry to hand) so assume South has it. Further, if South lacked the H K, she would surely use her limited entries for a heart finesse at trick two — well, maybe not this chick. This gives declarer four hearts and three aces; and the play in diamonds (partner’s 10* on the second round) suggests South began with five diamonds and will develop two long cards. Is there any way to stop this? I mean, besides turning up the thermostat and hoping for a meltdown. Consider the following deal:

*Some will argue that partner should high-low since a diamond continuation by declarer seems inevitable, but I think most experts would play as stated, if only by rote or to avoid breaking tempo. In general, it is better not to high-low with 10-x (or 9-x) since you can’t be sure how the play will go, and wasting the 10 could be embarrassing if the suit is abandoned and partner is later on lead.

3 NT
S Q 9 2
H A Q J 10
D A 4 3
C A J 10
S J 10 8 7
H 9 7 4
D K J 7
C K 9 3
TableS K 6 4
H 8 6 3 2
D 10 2
C Q 6 5 2
S A 5 3
H K 5
D Q 9 8 6 5
C 8 7 4

After winning the D K, if you continue spades, declarer will simply win the S 9 and sell another diamond. You have four tricks; she has nine; no problem.

What about shifting to clubs? This is worse, as it could hand over the contract when partner has the H K. On the actual layout, a low club, finessed to the queen and a heart return, offers a few losing options; but declarer can easily survive. (“Survive” might be a bad choice of words, as her wax exterior may already preclude that.)

Instead, you must attack declarer’s communication in hearts; or more aptly, induce her demise by a heart attack. Suppose declarer wins the heart shift with the queen and leads a diamond to your jack. Oh, what a tangled web this leaves:

West leads
S 9 2
H A J 10
D
C A J 10
S 10 8 7
H 9 7
D
C K 9 3
TableS 6 4
H 8 6
D
C Q 6 5 2
S 5 3
H K
D 9 8
C 8 7 4

Declarer’s communication is already brittle, and now you can finish her by shifting to the club king. Take that, wench! If she wins the C A and crosses to the H K to lead diamonds, this will squeeze dummy. If she wins and leads the C J, partner will duck; then declarer can win either two long diamonds or two long hearts, but not both.*

*Several respondents suggested a similar South hand with only four diamonds: S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x C x-x-x-x (partner’s D 10 could be a falsecard from 10-x-x). While the recommended defense is still best, the lack of a fourth club with East allows declarer to succeed.

Of the also-rans, continuing spades is next best, and there is little difference between the S 10 and S 8; the latter gets the edge, as retaining communication may produce a second undertrick when partner has the H K (albeit unlikely). Cashing the D J is better than leading a club, again only mattering when partner has the H K; and curiously, the stunning C K lead described previously is worst of all if made prematurely.

Comments for the H 4

Jordi Sabate: It seems that South has five diamonds and one of the last two important honors (H K or C Q). If she has the C Q, the contract is easy to beat… If she has the H K, I must lead hearts to break communications if she has only two hearts…

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Killing declarer’s communication when her hand is: S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x. If declarer wins in dummy and clears the diamonds, I will switch to the C K. Now, no matter what, we will get five tricks.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Hoping declarer has a singleton or doubleton H K. Against S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x, a heart switch, then the C K when in with the D J, should do.

Lajos Linczmayer: South probably has the H K (if East has it, only a club lead would be fatal). If South has S A-x-x H K D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x-x, both the S 8 or H 4 win; but South is more likely to have S A-x-x H K-x D Q-9-8-x-x C x-x-x. If South returns a diamond, I lead the C K.

John Reardon: If South has, e.g., S A-5-4 H K-8 D Q-9-8-6-5 C 7-5-4, I can ruin her entries. I will play the C K if she next clears diamonds.

Barry White: Declarer needs the H K to have a chance. If she has S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x, a heart lead can beat; if she clears diamonds, the C K should finish her off.

Bruce Neill: I may need to attack declarer’s communications if she has S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x.

Rob Stevens: If South doesn’t have the H K, anything [but a club shift] works. If she does, then [one] hand on which we can beat the contract is S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x. The heart lead creates insuperable entry trouble. On winning the next diamond, the C K will complete her demise (she will end up squeezing dummy).

Nice choice of words, “insuperable,” as it puts declarer
in the soup (or maybe that should be molten wax).

Manuel Paulo: If South has S A-x-x H K-x D Q-9-8-6-5 C x-x-x, and played this way hoping East holds the D K, I follow Benito Garozzo’s advice: “When defending a misfit notrump contract, if no clear path to a set is available, attack the communication suit.” If declarer goes on to set up diamonds, I lead the C K. Afterwards, South can win the [long] hearts or diamonds, but not [both].

Rainer Herrmann: To attack the communication (followed by the C K) [hoping] South has a doubleton H K.

Jim Munday: Declarer appears to have erred by wasting an entry to her hand. …

Ding-Hwa Hsieh: Playing declarer for S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x.

Perry Groot: I play South for something like S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x (else partner will win the H K or signal that he has it). If South wins and continues diamonds, I will know if I need to shift to the C K. South can cross to the H K but will then squeeze dummy with the diamonds. If South first plays a club, partner will duck. Partner’s diamond signal is a bit puzzling.

John Lusky: If declarer has S A-x-x H K-x D Q-9-8-x-x C x-x-x, the defense can prevail if I lead a heart now, planning to lead the C K if declarer plays a third diamond. Declarer’s communication becomes scrambled. If she then comes to hand with the H K to lead winning diamonds, dummy is squeezed. On this layout, declarer would have done better to go after clubs for her ninth trick.

Weidong Yang: Declarer has wasted a precious entry. I won’t lead a spade or a club for her, and she can no longer lead clubs twice and spades once from her hand.

Kamal Roy: The South hand I have to guard against is: S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x.

Chris Willenken: … The only case I can find that matters is when South has H K-x… If declarer wins in dummy and sets up her diamonds, I then play the C K; declarer wins but is finished. If she plays a club, partner ducks, and we have five tricks established (declarer cannot cash nine due to poor communication). If declarer instead crosses to hand with a heart to cash a diamond, dummy is fatally squeezed.

Albert Feasley: Starting a dummy lock.

Jerry Fink: Playing South for five diamonds and H K-x. After my D J is driven out, the C K will cut off declarer’s communication. South could have succeeded by leading a club to the 10 at trick two.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: If partner has the H K, any shift [but a club] will do. If partner has the C Q, a heart back causes communication problems. If declarer wins in dummy and clears diamonds, I will shift to the C K; then dummy will be squeezed if declarer cashes a diamond.

Ulrich Nell: Declarer plays like one possessed of five diamonds and the H K. If the H K is doubleton, this will limit her heart communication. If declarer plays another diamond, I then return the C K to disable her club communication. If she wins and returns to hand with a heart to cash diamonds, she has slit her own throat (she must discard a winner heart or expose a dark suit to the chop). If she instead leads a club, partner prolongs the agony by ducking. … Declarer could have made by immediately finessing a club, losing to partner’s queen; and finessing another club upon winning the heart return in hand. Then cashing winners squeezes me in the pointed suits, and I shall be endplayed in one of them.

Dean Pokorny: If declarer has S A-x-x H K-x D Q-9-8-x-x C x-x-x, I should prepare the ground for a Merrimac coup. First, I return a heart to mess up the communication in that suit. Second, after taking the D J (partner must discard a heart to prevent a throw-in), leading the C K leaves declarer a trick short whatever she does next.

Jan de Kleijn: It’s time to kill the hand. …

Toby Kenney: This will cause entry problems if declarer has a doubleton heart. I’ll switch to the C K when in with the D J (assuming partner hasn’t indicated the H K).

Albert Ohana: South has tried to establish diamonds when the black suits could provide enough tricks. I must now try to disturb declarer’s communication if her H K is doubleton.

David Wiltshire: This may cause declarer insurmountable entry problems when she has H K-x… When next in, I’ll lead the C K.

Anand Nuggihalli: Declarer likely has five diamonds… Does she have the C Q or H K? Play suggests the H K, so something like S A-x-x H K-x-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x, or S A-x-x H K-x D Q-x-x-x-x C x-x-x. … The H 4 works in the latter case, as when I get in with the D J, I will return the C K — and watch the fun…

Or Shoham: … If declarer has the H K, I might take away her entry if it’s doubleton.

Thijs Veugen: If South has…H K-x, she will win the H 10 and continue diamonds. Then I counter with the C K, and she can’t cash diamonds without squeezing dummy.

P.G. Eliasson: … Then when I get in with the D J, I must shift to the C K.

Matt Lahut: South can’t have many more entries.

Anil Upadhyay: This will create communication problems for declarer.

Marsha Platnick: If partner holds the H K, the contract is always going down. My thoughts are that declarer has the H K, as she may have bid 1 D without it. … A heart lead might kill her entries…

Barry Rigal: If declarer has only H K-x, this screws the communication, assuming I shift to the C K when in with the D J. And if I’m right, I get a shot at a Garozzo-type brilliancy prize. :) If partner has the H K, he will win it and go back to spades… TopMain

Problem 3

IMPs N-S Vul

West
You
1 S
Dbl
Pass
North

2 C
Pass
3 H
East

Pass
2 S
All Pass
South
Wax Lady
2 H
Pass

3 H South
S 5 3
H J 8 5
D Q 4
C A K Q 9 6 4
S K Q 10 8 4
H A K 3
D A 10 5
C J 2
Table

You lead the S K, partner plays the six, and South the ace. South leads the H 2, you play the king, and partner the four. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
D 51019922
S Q829132
D A712614
S 45283
C 249511
C J316318

Partscores are usually not exciting, but the guillotine across the room piques your attention fast. If this tart slips through with nine tricks, there’s no telling what might happen. Her winning the first spade seems gratuitous, and indeed could be the edge you need to bust her wax — or if she’s in a playful mood, maybe wax her bust.

Partner’s spade play is ambiguous; it could be low from 9-7-6 or an encouraging signal from J-6-2 — or even 6-2 doubleton hoping to overruff dummy on the third round (partner’s raise was not by choice but at gunpoint). You can rule out four spades, as the S 6 would be a strange play from such a holding; plus he surely would have competed to 3 S with a good fit. You can also be sure partner is close to broke, probably two jacks at most. Consider this likely layout.

3 H
S 5 3
H J 8 5
D Q 4
C A K Q 9 6 4
S K Q 10 8 4
H A K 3
D A 10 5
C J 2
TableS J 6 2
H 6 4
D J 8 7 3 2
C 10 7 5
S A 9 7
H Q 10 9 7 2
D K 9 6
C 8 3

The wax vixen’s intentions are clear: Draw trumps and run the club suit. Your first instinct might be to lead clubs hoping to break her communication, but this is a waste of time. Dummy has two entries outside of clubs (H J and D Q), so declarer will just win and lead another heart. If you then lead two rounds of spades to tap dummy, declarer can reach her hand with a club ruff to draw your last trump; then the D Q is a late entry.

The D Q entry is a thorn, and it must be removed to have any chance. Cashing the D A is a give-up play, so you should shift to a low diamond. Hopefully, partner will have the D J; but if not, nothing will be lost.* Declarer’s best play is to put up the D Q and lead a spade; and if East wins the S J, he must return a diamond through the king. Careful now! Before tapping the dummy, you must cash the H A to prevent a crosswax.

*In the rare event partner has the D K, he should certainly put it up, as your underlead of the ace is quite normal in view of dummy.

The play of this not-so-innocent partscore offers a variety of interesting turns. Suppose partner did not put up the S J in the above line, allowing you to win the trick. You must still cash the H A, and next you must lead a low spade. If you try to tap dummy by leading the S Q, declarer could pitch the diamond to keep you on lead without recourse.

Our villainess, of course, should have ducked the first trick; then the timing shifts in her favor. The best defense is probably to continue with the S 10 to the ace; then win the H K and shift to a low diamond as before. Declarer puts up the D Q and leads three rounds of clubs, ruffing in hand, as you pitch a spade. Next she must lead the S 9 and pitch the diamond — right, like any wax mannequin would find this. Even if you allow partner to win the S J, there is no defense; a trump leaves you endplayed, and a diamond allows a crossruff.

The recommended defense is also effective when South has three clubs (3=5=2=3 or 2=5=3=3) after which a timely dummy-lock will ensure a club ruff. This possibility is remote, however, as partner would usually compete with nine cards in the pointed suits (surely with four spades).

Next best are the simple cash-out plays, and the edge goes to the S Q (over the D A) because it leads to defeat when partner has S J-x and H 9-x (or 10-x). Curiously, underleading the S Q defeats the contract slightly more often than either cash-out; but this surrenders many overtricks, which are hardly trivial when partscores are concerned. Note that the scoring was given as IMPs (not guillotines, hehe).

I couldn’t come up with any plausible layout where a club shift is necessary, so these are ranked last. Between them, the edge goes to the C 2, as leading the jack simplifies the play when declarer has C 10-x.

Comments for the D 5

Jordi Sabate: Declarer must have five hearts to the queen and the D K for his bidding, so I need partner to have the S J and D J to beat the contract. In that case, I will be able to force dummy…and get a club ruff [or an extra spade or diamond].

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Playing partner for the missing jacks, and declarer for 3=5=3=2 shape. It would have been one trick better for declarer if she ducked the spade lead. Now we will end up with five tricks again.

Leif-Erik Stabell: I need to find partner with the two missing jacks, and declarer with 3=5=3=2 (or possibly 2=5=3=3) distribution.

Lajos Linczmayer: South’s critical holding is S A-9-7 H Q-9-8-x-x D K-9-x C x-x. If she [wins the D Q] and leads a spade, I win, cash the H A and lead a low spade.

John Reardon: If South has, e.g., S A-9 H Q-10-9-6-2 D K-8-6 C 10-5-2 we can beat this now.

Barry White: I don’t cash my S Q yet, lest declarer holds S A-x-x H Q-10-x-x-x D K-x C x-x-x (then she could ruff her spade, strip my clubs, and exit dummy with a trump).

Bruce Neill: This attacks communication if declarer has, say, S A-x-x H Q-10-x-x-x D K-9-x C x-x.

Rob Stevens: I can get a club ruff if South holds S A-x H Q-10-9-x-x D K-x-x C x-x-x, or S A-x-x H Q-10-9-x-x D K-x C x-x-x. In the latter case the D A suffices, but the D 5 caters to both. I will need partner’s help in knowing whether to play a third diamond or a third spade.

Manuel Paulo: If the young South lady has S A-x-x H Q-10-9-x-x D K-9-x C 10-x and wins the first trick, dreaming of a West hand like S K-Q-10-x-x H A-K D A-10-x C J-x-x, she has no good answer when I lead the D 5. … [Besides] our four trivial tricks, we will manage to get another spade or diamond, else a club ruff.

Rainer Herrmann: There must be a reason why I was dealt the C J. :)

Jim Munday: The trick is to prevent declarer from enjoying the clubs while maintaining trump control, and to prevent two ruffs in dummy. I picture South with something like S A-x-x H Q-10-9-x-x D K-x-x C 10-x. Tapping dummy in spades is the instinctive play, but it’s not good enough. Declarer will ruff and lead a trump… and can return to hand by ruffing the third club if necessary, pull my last trump, and use the D Q as an entry to the remaining clubs. I must attack the late entry first by leading a low diamond. … I will win any non-club lead, cash a second trump, then tap dummy in spades.

Todd Anderson: Declarer should have ducked the first trick in preparation for a crossruff, rather than attempt to pull trumps and run clubs. As it is, the D Q-x is important, so I lead a low diamond. If declarer rises with the D Q and plays a heart, I take the H A and lead S Q and another spade. Now I can ruff a club [if declarer tries for a pitch] else win two diamonds with a tenace over South’s king.

Yes, indeed — that’s a true “tenace”
in more ways than one.

Perry Groot: According to the spade spots, I will play partner for S J-6-2 and also the D J. … [If declarer wins the D Q and leads a spade], partner will win and lead a diamond through South’s king. Either South has three clubs and will be locked in dummy, or she will have a third-round loser in spades and diamonds she cannot dispose.

John Lusky: This defense works if partner has the D K, or if he has S J-x-x H x-x D J-x-x-x-x C x-x-x. [In the latter case] declarer would have done better to duck the first spade.

Weidong Yang: This will remove dummy’s important entry without giving declarer two diamond tricks. Now, declarer can’t win a [third] club trick nor ruff [twice] in dummy.

Albert Feasley: [If declarer leads another heart], I will force dummy with a spade.

Gonzalo Goded: The only extra chance (besides the D K) is partner holding S J-x-x H x-x D J-x-x-x-x C x-x-x, and [later] forcing dummy… This even has good recovery if partner fails to put up the D K, and may put declarer two off if partner has D K-J.

Jerry Fink: … South should have ducked at trick one.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: … Partner needs to have both missing jacks for the defense to have a chance. I will tap dummy with a spade if declarer plays a second heart.

Ulrich Nell: I shall endeavor to relieve declarer of entries to dummy before she relieves me of trumps. Declarer can be defeated if she holds five hearts…, provided partner has two jacks. If declarer wins the D Q and plays another heart, I win and play S Q and another, forcing dummy to ruff; declarer is now limited to two club tricks and has to concede two diamonds. If declarer instead continues diamonds, I win the 10, take the H A and S Q, and play another spade with the same outcome. …

Dean Pokorny: If declarer holds S A-9-x-x H Q-10-9-x-x D K-x-x C x, only the low diamond return prevents him of making nine tricks because the D Q cannot be used later as an entry to high clubs.

Andrew de Sosa: Hopefully, cutting off communication to those nasty looking clubs. Partner will need the D J…

Toby Kenney: [If declarer wins the D Q and leads another heart], I will tap dummy in spades to hold declarer to two club tricks.

Steve White: Attacking the late entry to the clubs.

Frances Hinden: South was careless taking the first trick.

David Wiltshire: … Declarer’s hand may be S A-9-x-x H Q-10-x-x-x D K-x-x C x, and a switch to a low diamond will beat the contract. (Declarer’s play to get home on other defenses is tricky, but I believe he can always make…).

Joel Singer: I will work on cutting off the late entry to dummy’s clubs. I hope partner has the D J.

Roger Morton: Do wax models know the Bath coup? …

Or Shoham: I will try to trap declarer in dummy by winning the heart return and playing D A-10 (if both good) else spades.

Gillian Paty: One spade, two hearts and one diamond is not enough. … The D Q is the only entry to dummy’s clubs, so I’ll remove it.

Jean-Christophe Clement: To establish a diamond trick before clubs get into the show. Partner must have the D J and S J to beat the contract.

Dale Freeman: I hope partner has the D J.

Alan Kravetz: Trying to keep control of the play, so we can get a slow diamond trick after later forcing dummy to ruff a spade.

Gilles Korngut: Playing declarer for S A-x-x H Q-10-9-x-x D K-x-x C x-x.

Brad Theurer: Seems right to take out the late entry to the clubs.

Neelotpal Sahai: Declarer’s mistake was to win the first spade. I am playing South for a hand like S A-x-x H Q-10-9-x-x D K-x-x C x-x, and this removes the late diamond entry for clubs.

Michael G. Phillips: This kills the D Q as a possible entry later in the hand (when South has the D K). If partner has the D K, I have just set this thing.

Kerry Lafferty: The D K is the most I could hope for from partner, but even the D J will do.

Frans Buijsen: Attacking dummy’s entries, hoping declarer won’t be able to develop clubs.

Paulino Correa: Declarer [may] have the S J, so leading a spade looks bad. Dummy’s clubs look threatening… This does not offer anything to declarer… TopMain

Problem 4

IMPs N-S Vul

West
You

Dbl
All Pass
North

1 NT
Pass
East

Pass
Pass
South
Wax Lady
4 H*
4 S
*Texas transfer

4 S South
S K 10 3
H A 8 2
D A 8 3
C A J 6 2
S A
H Q J 10 9 6 5
D Q J
C K 10 8 7
Table

You lead the H Q, partner plays the four, and South wins the king. South leads the S J to your ace, and partner plays the six. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
H 1010708
H J936941
D Q820823
H 9611313
C 10312113
C K2212

Your double seems to have perpetrated an un-Texas transfer, which is surely good news to keep that wax tomato in the spotlight. What could she have done wrong this time? The heart layout is ambiguous*, but you can rule out a singleton king because partner would not play the four from 7-4-3. No shift seems necessary, so the obvious move is to continue hearts.

*Per contest conditions, this is an attitude situation, so partner could have either 7-4 doubleton or a singleton. Many players show count instead, in which case partner could have either 4-3 doubleton or a singleton. Note that either method includes only one possible doubleton.

Regardless of signaling methods, one thing is clear: Partner could have a singleton heart. You can’t argue that declarer would play differently with H K-7-3, since this South is more like a wax bimbo than a wax Zia. The question is: Which heart? If partner ruffs, you would certainly prefer a diamond return over a club, so the H J looks right. Suppose this is the layout:

4 S
S K 10 3
H A 8 2
D A 8 3
C A J 6 2
S A
H Q J 10 9 6 5
D Q J
C K 10 8 7
TableS 6 5 4
H 4
D 10 9 7 5 2
C Q 9 4 3
S Q J 9 8 7 2
H K 7 3
D K 6 4
C 5

Obviously, declarer should have won the H A at trick one to prevent East from ruffing a winner, but that’s wax under the bridge. As it is, partner ruffs the H A and dutifully returns a diamond. Declarer now can win the D K; cross to the C A; ruff a club; cross in trumps; ruff a club; cross to the D A; and ruff the last club to reach:

South leads
S 10
H 8
D 8
C
S
H 10 9 6
D
C
TableS
H
D 9 7 5
C
S Q
H 7
D 6
C

Finally, an exit in either red suit forces the defense to concede a ruff and discard — making 4 S. Even a wax mannequin might fall into this ending, as there’s not much else to do but ruff clubs, if only to hope the C K-Q ruff out to establish the jack.

The winning defense is for partner to return a trump, which removes a crucial entry to dummy and prevents the above elimination. Partner could hardly deduce this himself, as a diamond could be crucial to take you off an endplay (e.g., if South had S Q-J-9-8-7-2 H K-7-3 D Q-x C K-x) so you need to guide him by leading the H 10. The objective is to indicate no preference between clubs and diamonds, thus suggesting a neutral trump return.*

*The situation is muddled, of course, because partner does not know you have the H 9; i.e., you might have led the H 10 from J-10 (no nine) to suggest a club return. Even so, in view of dummy, a club return is so illogical that partner should interpret the H 10 as a neutral card anyway and return a trump (if he has one).

Curiously, if South’s diamonds were improved to K-9-x in my example, she can succeed even with the H A ruffed and a trump return. Running trumps will produce a neat “double guard squeeze without the count.” All well and good, but I suspect our wax beauty is more likely to produce a double revoke, without a clue.

Instead of trying for a heart ruff, there is also a case for shifting to the D Q, as several respondents pointed out, when South has S J-9-x-x-x-x H K-x D K-x-x C x-x, or S J-9-x-x-x-x H K-x D x-x-x C Q-x. Nonetheless, I consider this a desperate case because (1) South is only worth a game invitation, (2) the S J lead at trick two seems improbable (blocking the suit), and (3) the successful line after a heart return is hardly obvious and arguably double-dummy.

The scoring of this problem was complicated by the equivalent heart honors. It seems clear that the H 10 should win, and the jack deserves a close second. But what about the nine? This strikes me as horrible play — or is that a desired trait this month? Besides asking for the wrong return, imagine if declarer ducked in dummy. Would partner know not to ruff? Torture at best. Therefore, the D Q gets a close third, and the H 9 drops to the middle.

Worse by far is a club switch. I couldn’t find any plausible layout where this gains, and it loses badly whenever South has the C Q. Leading the 10, of course, is technically better than the king (or a low club, which was not listed) to guard against 9-x-(x) in South.

Comments for the H 10

Jordi Sabate: I suppose declarer has made a big horror in the early play with H K-7-3. Thus, I give partner a ruff and ask him for a trump shift (H J = diamonds; H 9 = clubs; H 10 = trumps). I don’t know if partner will read this card, but it is important to kill an entry in dummy…

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: It looks like we have no chance unless partner ruffs the heart continuation. I am trying to ask for a spade return, which is the only one to beat the contract when declarer’s hand is: S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D K-x-x C x. It removes a vital entry to dummy, thus preventing the club elimination followed by the endplay in diamonds.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Hoping that partner can ruff. This should be a neutral card — although partner can’t be sure I have the nine, a club switch looks unattractive in any case. Hoping for S x-x-x H x D 10-x-x-x-x C Q-x-x-x opposite, in which case a spade from partner at trick four should defeat the contract.

Gonzalo Goded: I can’t see any chance to defeat this if partner has two hearts and South the D K… so I play for a mistake by declarer…

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: I need to give [neutral] suit preference if partner ruffs this trick.

Christian Vennerod: What can South have? … With S J-9-x-x-x-x H K-x D x-x C Q-x-x, she is down unless I play a club; S J-9-x-x-x-x H K-x D K-x-x C x-x, or S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x D x-x C x-x-x, is always down; S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x D x-x C Q-x-x always makes; S J-9-x-x-x-x H K-x D K-x C 9-x-x, maybe. … Partner seems to have three spades from the probable trump echo, and he can have one or two (but not three) hearts from his signal. …

Bill Powell: So I can kill the heart menace if I get the lead again.

Richard Morse: Looks like partner’s out of hearts. …

Alan Kravetz: Stay passive. It doesn’t look like dummy will give declarer any pitches.

Gerald Murphy: A neutral card…

Samuel Krikler: If partner can ruff this, the 10 should be read as suit preference for a safe switch

Comments for the H J

Lajos Linczmayer: If partner has S Q-x H x D K-x-x-x-x-x-x C Q-x-x, he must return a diamond. If he returns a club, declarer can make the contract by pitching a club on the third round of diamonds.

Bruce Neill: I want partner to ruff and return a spade. (A diamond is good enough if declarer had S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D K-x C x-x; but a trump is mandatory if declarer had S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D K-x-x C x.)

Manuel Paulo: If South has S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-7-3 D K-7-x C x, she can win the first trick in hand, but must prepare a throw-in with an early club ruff. … Against almost every distribution where I can set the contract, a heart return does the job. Exceptions are South hands like S J-x-x-x-x-x H K-7 D K-9-x C x-x, or S J-x-x-x-x-x H K-7 D 9-x-x C Q-x, when I should lead the D Q.

Rainer Herrmann: The best chance to beat the contract seems to be that East can now ruff. A trump return allows South to develop a guard squeeze with D K-9-x, and a club is dangerous… A diamond back looks safe.

“A diamond back looks safe?” Obviously, you
know nothing about snakes.

Jim Munday: My best chance to beat this is if partner has a stiff heart; other holdings are possible but unlikely. Declarer’s play makes it look like partner has the S Q; but if that’s the case, declarer figures to have the D K and C Q, and will still make the game. The question is: What do I want partner to return? … One holding to fear is: S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D K-9-x C 9. … I couldn’t construct a hand where a club back is needed. If declarer has C Q-9, I will be under some pressure, but declarer cannot duck a trick to partner to rectify the count. If she has S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D x C Q-9-x, I can be endplayed; but a club back doesn’t help. …

Chris Willenken: I need partner to ruff the second heart to have any chance if declarer’s bidding was rational, so the question is what suit-preference signal to give. If declarer has S Q-J-9-x-x-x H K-x-x D K-9-x C x, a spade return by partner allows declarer to guard-squeeze me without the count, and a club return sets partner up for a simple squeeze in the minors. …

Ulrich Nell: To justify her bid, declarer should have the D K or seven spades. If declarer holds three diamonds and one club, she can endplay either partner or myself by ruffing out clubs, denuding me of diamonds, and exiting with a heart or a diamond. This will fail if partner is able to remove either the spade or diamond entry from dummy. To entice a spade return, I play my highest heart, although I have a sneaking suspicion that to suggest the unusual return of a trump I should play the unusual nine.* …

*Ulrich brings out an interesting point. After leading from a sequence, it might be a better agreement always to lead next-to-highest for the lower side suit; thus reserving a lower card (which may be harder to read) for the uncommon desire of a trump return. Nonetheless, this is not standard practice — at least in my experience. –RP

Toby Kenney: A trump switch is necessary if declarer has S J-9-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D K-x-x C x. I don’t think a club switch is ever necessary — if declarer has S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D x-x C Q-9, I can avoid the squeeze-endplay by exiting with the C K; or if she has S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D x C Q-x-x, I can always be thrown in.

Steve White: I hope partner can read this as suit preference for spades, in case declarer has S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D K-x-x C x.

Jonathan Mestel: I’ve a nagging feeling I’ve missed the whole point of this hand. Just how big a horror are we talking about? If South has S Q-J-x-x-x-x H K-x-x D 10-9 C Q-x, I have to give partner a ruff and get a diamond back or I get mangled. …

Chuck Lamprey: I can hardly afford to play clubs, so it’s one of the red suits. For most constructions it doesn’t seem to matter; but if declarer has S J-x-x-x-x-x H K-x D x-x C Q-x-x, I think I have to erase the heart threat so I don’t get squeezed. TopMain

Problem 5

IMPs None Vul

West
You
1 H
Dbl
North

1 NT
All Pass
East

Pass
South
Wax Lady
5 C

5 C× South
S K 8 6
H A J 6 2
D A Q 3
C Q J 2
S A Q J 10
H K Q 9 7 5
D K 9 2
C A
Table

You lead the H K, won by the ace; partner plays the three, and South the 10. Declarer next ruffs the H 2 (partner plays H 4) with the C 6, then leads the S 3 to your ace (partner plays S 2). Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
H Q1013915
S Q744149
C A619422
D 24708
D K3455
H 71131

Wow. There’s nothing ladylike about that 5 C bid — nor even about the South figure, for all you know. Despite 19 points and a seemingly clear-cut double, you can only be sure of two tricks with your aces. Declarer’s early spade play suggests a singleton (confirmed by partner’s count signal) so it looks like South is 1=1=3=8 or 1=1=4=7. Only in the latter case is there hope, as you can win a diamond trick (barring D J-10 in South).

Maybe! Assuming South has the C K (we’re not dealing with Fritz here) she has 10 tricks with the diamond finesse, and you are in danger of being squeezed if South has the D J. “Squeezed to death by a wax automaton” is not what you’d like written on your tombstone, so you’d better start planning a way out. The deal should be something like this:

5 C×
S K 8 6
H A J 6 2
D A Q 3
C Q J 2
S A Q J 10
H K Q 9 7 5
D K 9 2
C A
TableS 9 7 5 4 2
H 8 4 3
D 10 8 5
C 5 4
S 3
H 10
D J 7 6 4
C K 10 9 8 7 6 3

Suppose you defend passively, say by cashing the C A (to avoid a potential endplay) then exit with a spade to the king. The wax dame will draw trumps, finesse the D Q, and run trumps to reach:

South leads
S
H J
D A 3
C
S
H Q
D K 9
C
TableS 9
H
D 10 8
C
S
H
D J 7
C 9

Finally, the last club will force you to blank the D K, and declarer wins the rest.

One way to break up a squeeze is attack entries, but you can’t lead a diamond because of South’s jack. Well, I guess a diamond shift does break up the squeeze, so your epitaph would have to be reworded; but giving away free tricks is not going to improve your stature — unless you’re a wax hooker.

Another way to break up a squeeze is to erase the menace, and that’s the solution here. After winning the S A, lead the H Q, temporarily establishing the jack; but as soon as you win the C A, a fourth heart allows partner to kill it. Note that if partner were unable to ruff the fourth heart, declarer would have eight clubs and be cold for 5 C anyway.

Miss Waxworks, of course, should have led trumps immediately to force out the ace. Then, the spade play could be made in due time (actually, you would have to lead spades yourself) followed by the inevitable red-suit squeeze.

Of the also-rans, none are even close in merit as they could never help your cause when South has the indicated 1=1=4=7 shape. Second place goes to the S Q, which is crucial if South has S x-x-x H 10 D J-10 C K-x-x-x-x-x-x — an egregious misplay, but I did say that South could be deranged. Note that cashing the C A allows South to recover. Leading a diamond is worse, handing over the contract to the D J when this South floozy might not know a squeeze from a wax bean. Last and surely least is the H 7, which doesn’t even deserve 1 point; but I promised you a 1-to-10 scale.

Comments for the H Q

Jordi Sabate: I play the H Q now, and another heart when in hand with the C A. This will kill dummy’s hearts, then I will wait for the setting trick in diamonds if declarer’s shape is 1=1=4=7 (with the D J but not the D 10).

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: Playing declarer for: S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x. When I get the lead with the C A, I will play another heart and partner will ruff, removing the heart threat and thus killing the red-suit squeeze against me. I wouldn’t have had a chance without declarer ruffing a heart too early.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Looks like South might have S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x, so I need partner to ruff away the H J later.

Lajos Linczmayer: I expect South to have S 3 H 10 D J-8-x-x C K-10-9-8-x-x-x. After winning the C A, I lead another heart to kill the jack.

John Reardon: I will lead another heart when in with the C A. South may have, e.g., S 3 H 10 D J-8-7-5 C K-10-9-8-7-6-4.

Barry White: If declarer has S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x, I must lead hearts now and when in with the C A to break up the impending squeeze against me (partner ruffs the fourth heart).

Bruce Neill: As long as declarer has only seven clubs, partner can ruff the fourth heart. Then I hope to make a diamond (or a spade).

Rob Stevens: Declarer has allowed us to extinguish the heart threat for a later heart-diamond squeeze.

Manuel Paulo: If South has S 3 H 10 D J-x-x-x C K-10-9-8-7-6-x, she plays like a wax robot to assume I might hold S A-Q-J-10 H K-Q-x-x-x D K-x C A-x. After winning the C A, I lead another heart, which partner ruffs to quash the menace for the impending red-suit squeeze.

Rainer Herrmann: Kill the heart menace. Declarer could be 1=1=4=7, with partner holding the D 10.

Jim Munday: If declarer has eight clubs, the hand is over; so I must assume seven. Partner’s S 2 (odd count) leaves declarer with (1) S 9-x-x H 10 D J-x C K-10-9-x-x-x-x, or (2) S x H 10 D J-x-x-x C K-10-9-x-x-x-x. Declarer’s errant heart ruff has entombed her chances by providing an opportunity to kill the nagging heart threat. … After partner ruffs out the H J, there can be no squeeze, as partner can guard diamonds with Hand 1, or spades with Hand 2. (His subsequent defense will tell me which.)

Ed Barnes: If declarer has eight clubs, the contract is cold. I must remove the heart threat, and the job will be finished after I win the C A.

Todd Anderson: Yes, I establish the H J; but once I’m in with the C A, I’ll lead a heart so partner can ruff. This removes the heart threat against me, and any squeeze will dematerialize.

Perry Groot: If South has eight clubs, she has 11 tricks; so assume seven. … When I win the C A, another heart will be ruffed by East, killing the H J. This is the only winning defense when South has S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x.

John Lusky: If declarer has eight clubs, the defense is hopeless; so I will play her for something like S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-10-9-x-x-x-x. I will play a fourth heart when in with the C A, and partner will ruff away the heart winner. Partner’s S 9 will then defeat any squeeze efforts. Declarer would have done better to play a trump at trick two.

Weidong Yang: I will kill the reserve officer of the enemy troops — he’s in our field of fire.

Chris Willenken: If declarer has S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x, I must kill the heart menace by playing the H Q now and ruffing out the H J when in with my C A. It’s hard to see how anything else can matter.

Albert Feasley: Looking to promote partner’s C 2.

Gonzalo Goded: I better make partner ruff that pesky H J before declarer squeezes or endplays me.

Stephen Strauss: I need to kill the H J by repeated heart leads before partner’s trumps are exhausted to avoid being squeezed.

Jerry Fink: To destroy the H J threat by setting it up then ruffing it out after winning the C A. South should not have exposed her threat card to this defense.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: The contract is cold if declarer has an eight-card suit. Based on the spade count, declarer is probably 1=1=4=7. After winning C A, I play back a fourth heart for partner to ruff. This prevents a heart-diamond squeeze against me if South holds the D J.

Dean Pokorny: This, and another heart when in with the C A (partner ruffs to kill the H J) is the only way to prevent a heart-diamond squeeze when South has S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x.

Bill Erwin: Planning next to win the C A and let partner ruff out the H J. Otherwise, a squeeze in the red suits may get me.

David Grainger: Declarer is likely 1=1=4=7, so I have to destroy the heart squeeze threat. When declarer knocks out my C A, I will play another heart for partner to ruff out the H J; then I hope partner has any one of D J-10.

Andrew de Sosa: To avoid a squeeze on the impending run of clubs, I intend to play a fourth round of hearts when in with the C A. Partner will need the S 9, so I can save D K-9-x.

Julian Wightwick: If declarer has 1=1=4=7 shape with the D J, she is liable to squeeze me in the reds. I shall lead another heart when in with the C A to kill the heart menace.

Jonathan Mestel: This one is partner-proof; even he can’t fail to ruff the H J and hang on to his S 9.

Frances Hinden: She’ll regret that heart ruff when the heart menace disappears.

Roger Morton: When in with the C A, I will get partner to ruff the H J; so no squeeze.

Chuck Lamprey: I’m going to play declarer to have mistimed the play with S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-10-x-x-x-x-x. Once partner ruffs out dummy’s H J, there is no squeeze.

Thijs Veugen: South has something like S x H 10 D J-x-x-x C K-10-x-x-x-x-x, so I eliminate hearts to avoid a squeeze. Declarer should not have ruffed a heart.

Gillian Paty: It looks like a red-suit squeeze is on its way, so I’ll break it up while partner still has trumps to ruff the H J…

Yi Zhong: To get rid of the squeeze threat when I get in with the C A.

P.G. Eliasson: I need partner to ruff the H J if South has S x H x D J-8-x-x C K-10-9-x-x-x-x.

Jean-Christophe Clement: A typical hand for South is S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-10-x-x-x-x-x. To break the heart-diamond squeeze, I must clear dummy’s hearts; the established H J is useless, as partner has clubs for a ruff.

Julian Pottage: I hope South has only seven clubs (1=1=4=7) so partner can ruff the H J after I get in with the C A.

Daniel Korbel: To break up the squeeze, playing declarer for S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-10-x-x-x-x-x.

David Turner: Looks like I need declarer to be 1=1=4=7, else she’s a claimer. I can avoid the red suit squeeze if she has the D J, as long as I eliminate the heart threat; partner will ruff the H J when I win my C A. I hope. :) Partner controls spades, so he will pitch what dummy does on the last trump.

Gilles Korngut: Playing declarer for S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x. Only the H Q breaks the diamond-heart squeeze since partner will be able to ruff the H J.

Brad Theurer: Kill the heart threat while partner has a trump. This stops a red-suit squeeze when South has the critical hand: S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-10-9-x-x-x-x.

Neelotpal Sahai: Declarer’s mistake was to ruff heart at trick two. Secondly, she should have played trumps at the earliest opportunity. I am hoping South has S 3 H 10 D J-x-x-x C K-10-9-8-7-6-x. … When I get in with the C A, I will play a fourth heart for partner to ruff, and declarer to overruff. Eventually, we will score a diamond trick.

Douglas Dunn: This time I think the lady should have started on trumps. Now I can play hearts to remove the menace from dummy, partner ruffing the fourth round.

Jouko Paganus: I must kill the squeeze against me. Partner must have second club in order to ruff the H J later.

Sandy Barnes: I need to eliminate the heart threat to kill any squeeze. I can count 10 tricks for declarer, so I need to have the heart threat ruffed out by partner while he still has a trump. … Partner needs the S 9 and D 10.

Sebastien Louveaux: This establishes the H J, but partner will be able to ruff it when I get the lead in clubs. This way, if declarer misses either the D J or D 10, he will be unable to squeeze me.

Marsha Platnick: When I next get in with the C A, I will lead another heart to kill the threat for a squeeze.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: I will try to kill the H J in case South started with S x H x D J-x-x-x C K-x-x-x-x-x-x.

Barry Rigal: Planning to lead a fourth heart when in with the C A to break up a little pressure on me. TopMain

Problem 6

IMPs E-W Vul

West
You

Pass
All Pass
North


4 NT
East


Pass
South
Wax Lady
1 NT
6 NT

6 NT South
S A 4
H K 5 3
D A Q 4 3
C K 8 4 2
S J 10 3
H Q 4
D J 10 9 7
C J 10 6 5
Table

You lead the D J, partner plays the six, and South wins the king. South leads the H J to North’s king, then the H 3 to the 10 and your queen (partner plays H 2 then H 6). Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
C J1015918
C 59688
S J731735
S 106455
D 10523526
D 94789

Having failed in four games and a partscore, the wax mistress comes on strong at the finish (maybe I should reword that). A slam? She’s got to be kidding. After a smooth duck on the first heart, you score the H Q, and prospects look good. If you find the right shift, this could be her final meltdown; but right or wrong, please exit the Chamber to the left away from the guillotine.

What do you know about South’s pattern? Partner’s up-the-line play in hearts suggests declarer has a five-card suit, though this is not cast in wax.* Further, you can deduce that partner is short in diamonds (he would not play the D 6 from any three-card holding) so South has three diamonds. This leaves her with three spades and two clubs, or vice versa.

*Partner’s signal is also consistent with five low hearts, leaving South H A-J-10 alone, but even a wax robot would be likely to postpone that finesse. It is also possible that partner had four hearts and elected not to give count, but I see no reason for this — unless the wax woman is trying to compress A-J-10-8 into two tricks.

As far as winners, you can place declarer with four hearts, three diamonds, two clubs (assuming the ace) and a spade — 10 tricks. Of the remaining high cards (S K-Q and C Q) South needs at least the S K or both queens to justify her bidding. With any two of these cards, she can always succeed; if she doesn’t have 12 top tricks, you will be squeezed in the minors.*

*Note that even S K-Q doubleton doesn’t matter, as she would then have three clubs.

Therefore, the critical case is when South has the S K and partner has both black queens, as in this layout:

6 NT
S A 4
H K 5 3
D A Q 4 3
C K 8 4 2
S J 10 3
H Q 4
D J 10 9 7
C J 10 6 5
TableS Q 9 6 5 2
H 7 6 2
D 8 6
C Q 7 3
S K 8 7
H A J 10 9 8
D K 5 2
C A 9

After winning the H Q, suppose you continue routinely with a high diamond, won in dummy. Declarer next cashes another diamond (not essential) to discover the break, then crosses to hand with a heart to reach this position:

South leads
S A 4
H
D 4
C K 8 4 2
S J 10 3
H
D 9
C J 10 6
TableS Q 9 6 5
H
D
C Q 7 3
S K 8 7
H 9 8
D
C A 9

On the next heart, you are squeezed in three suits (declarer pitches a club from dummy). If you pitch a spade, declarer has several winning paths; one is to lead the last heart and pitch the low spade from dummy, which forces East to unguard clubs; then cross to the S A, back to the C A, and the S K squeezes you in the minors. If instead you pitch a club (better), the vixen must exhibit some high-gloss wax: Cross to the C K and return to the C A before leading the last heart.

Going back to when you won the H Q, a spade shift is better because it doesn’t give declarer the luxury of testing diamonds to discover the break. The S A is won, followed by one top diamond, then a heart to hand reaches this position:

South leads
S 4
H
D Q 4
C K 8 4 2
S 10 3
H
D 9 7
C J 10 6
TableS Q 9 5 2
H
D
C Q 7 3
S K 8
H 9 8
D 5
C A 9

On the next heart, you are still squeezed; but suppose you pitch a club (as does dummy) and East a spade. Declarer now must cash two clubs ending in hand, then lead the last heart, on which you pitch a spade. To succeed, declarer must assume diamonds are not splitting and pitch the D 4 from dummy; then a diamond to the queen squeezes East in the blacks.

The spade shift might also benefit when South has S K-Q-9-x by creating a losing option (spade finesse) — especially against a wax bimbo. (An expert would hardly fall for a finesse so gratuitously offered.)

Surely, a spade shift would be good enough against any mannequin, but you can do better. If you switch perfectly to the C J, even a wax Belladonna couldn’t make 6 NT. Note that it’s important to lead an honor (not a low club) to save partner’s queen; else you would be squeezed in the minors. The key difference is that a club forces South to win the ace to remain fluid in clubs, and this kills a crucial late entry to South (remember that back-and-forth maneuver in clubs).

So where did the wax mistress go wrong? Her heart play can’t be faulted, as the finesse through East is technically correct. The blunder was winning the first diamond in hand, thus losing flexibility in her entries. If the trick is won in dummy, the D K can be used as a late entry to hand if you switch to clubs.*

*For a detailed study of these positions, see my article on Pure Squeezes.

Second place goes to the C 5, which works the same as the jack if partner has C Q-9-x. Next best is a spade shift as already stated. Between the S J and S 10, there is obviously no technical difference; so rather than split hairs (maybe a bad choice of metaphors this month) on psychological merit, they are ranked by the voting. Similarly, between the D 10 and D 9. Due to the difficulty of the problem, my awards were generous — call it a Halloween treat.

Comments for the C J

Jordi Sabate: Declarer has an odd number of hearts, and the only problem is when she has five; otherwise, the defense has nothing to do (either she always makes or is always off one or two tricks). This is the only way to avoid a later squeeze if declarer’s hand is S K-8-x H A-J-10-9-8 D K-8-x C A-9.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: To give us a chance, I am playing declarer for S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-x. Only a club return kills communication for the double squeeze, and the jack is better if declarer’s small club is the nine. Again, we are lucky declarer didn’t win the first trick in dummy.

Leif-Erik Stabell: If partner is to be trusted, declarer should have five hearts and at least three diamonds. I hope South has S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-x, as I am going to part with two clubs on the next two hearts. Surely, not even a wax figure can bid like this with S Q-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-x-x. Against mortals, a spade switch will surely do, since declarer will have to pitch a diamond in dummy without testing the suit in order to squeeze us. But against wax figures?

Lajos Linczmayer: South’s critical holding is S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-8 D K-8-x C A-9. She should have won the first trick in dummy. Now the C J destroys the squeeze if I discard clubs on hearts.

John Reardon: From partner’s D 6, I know South has three (or four) diamonds. Possibilities worth considering are (1) S K-x-x-x H A-J-10-9 D K-x-x C A-Q; although a minor-suit squeeze on me works, South will play for a double squeeze with spades as the middle suit (I expect she would unblock clubs, [test] diamonds and cash the C K before finishing hearts)… (2) S K-Q-x-x H A-J-10-9 D K-x-x C A-x; I must keep diamonds while partner keeps spades, so we are squeezed out of our club guard whatever I return. (3) S K-Q-x H A-J-10-9 D K-x-x C A-x-x, or (4) S K-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-x-x; I will be squeezed in the minors whatever I return. (5) S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-9; the potential for a compound squeeze must be defended carefully.

Barry White: If declarer has S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-x, I think a club may attack the entries necessary for a double squeeze. I lead the jack in case declarer has C A-9.

Bruce Neill: If declarer has S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-9, she should have won the opening lead in dummy. As it is, a high club breaks the squeeze.

Rob Stevens: It isn’t clear whether partner would high-low with two diamonds, but he certainly wouldn’t play the six from 8-6-x. Thus, I can place South with 3+ diamonds, which eliminates leading another diamond (if South held, say, S K-x-x-x H A-J-10-9 D K-x C A-Q-x, a second diamond forces her to guess which squeeze to play for). Of the other cases, only S K-Q-x-x H A-J-10-9 D K-x-x C A-9, or S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-9, allow any chance; and only with the latter does it matter (I must lead the C J). I think the C 10 is also worthy of consideration for its psychological factor.

Manuel Paulo: If South has S K-8-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-8-x C A-9, I must lead the C J to destroy the impending compound squeeze.

Rainer Herrmann: If South has bid the slam based on a five-card heart suit, East needs to have both remaining queens… If South’s distribution is 3=5=3=2, only a high club defeats the pending compound squeeze. I will abandon clubs unless South wins this trick with the C K.

Jim Munday: Partner’s D 6 must be [from shortness] so declarer has three or four diamonds. If declarer has three or more clubs (or A-Q), I will be helpless to prevent a minor-suit squeeze; so I will give South C A-x. If partner gave true count, declarer has three or five hearts; though I will leave open the possibility of four, as I’m not one to always give count in an obvious guess suit. … One holding where my play matters is: S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-x. I need to lead a club, and I can’t afford to lead low in case declarer has C A-9, as this will subject me to a minor-suit squeeze. If South is a doll, I wouldn’t mind; but a wax dummy seems much more likely; so make it the C J.

Todd Anderson: I have to take myself off a squeeze by letting partner guard clubs.

Perry Groot: Suppose South has only 11 tricks and needs a squeeze for 12. Then South needs exactly C A-9 (with A-Q or any three clubs there is a club-diamond squeeze, and with A-x there is no difference between the C J and C 5). … If South has S K-8-x H A-J-10-9-8 D K-x-x C A-9, I must lead a club honor to kill a club entry and a compound squeeze.

John Lusky: This is necessary if declarer has S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-9. If declarer wins in hand, I can defeat the compound squeeze by giving up clubs on the penultimate heart (declarer then cannot cash her winners in the right order because there is no way back to hand). If declarer instead wins the club in dummy, I will give up spades; although I need partner to have the S 9 to defeat a guard squeeze. Declarer would have prevailed if she had won the first diamond in dummy, preserving the D K entry.

Weidong Yang: Very complicated. I know the task is to destroy a combined squeeze by attacking entries, but there are too many lines to analyze. Therefore, I choose a card at random before I time out at the table. :)

Chris Willenken: Declarer needs 11 tricks to have any chance (no repeating squeeze appears possible), and partner must guard clubs for the defense to have a chance (otherwise I will be squeezed in the minors). … One hand where [my play matters] is a rather bizarre S K-x-x-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x C A-x. If I exit passively with a spade or diamond, declarer can cash the S A and diamond tops, then play hearts; a compound squeeze operates on the fourth round. … The C J shift prevents this by breaking up declarer’s entries, while preserving partner’s club guard; I will later safely be able to unguard clubs.

Jerry Fink: Breaking up the double squeeze that will result after I am forced to give up protection in a black suit on the play of two more hearts (compound squeeze). The D Q at trick one wins for South.

Jan de Kleijn: I will be squeezed in the minor suits unless partner holds the [guarded] C Q.

Bill Erwin: Partner’s carding shows values in clubs.* This play may ruin declarer’s transportation for a squeeze.

Bill’s inference comes from the heart suit. With three low hearts, say 7-6-2, an expert would play the two first (count) then follow with six or seven, respectively, as suit preference for the lower or higher of two obvious suits. This information is tainted, however, because partner is obliged to play one way or the other, and he may have no clear preference. –RP

David Grainger: Assuming declarer has five hearts, I must play for partner to have both black queens to have a chance. Even the S K isn’t enough now, as a minor-suit squeeze cannot be broken up.

Albert Ohana: Declarer probably has five hearts and may recover by way of a compound squeeze. Returning the C J ruins the communication for that to succeed.

Steve White: Attacking entries, while preserving partner’s club guard (Q-x-x). Partner also needs the S Q.

Jonathan Mestel: Entry attacking. I suppose South should have won the first diamond on the table; or maybe bid 6 H; or guessed better. I have high hopes partner will hang onto the C Q or S Q as needed — he can’t get everything wrong. Can I do anything if declarer has S K-9-x H A-J-10-9-x D K-x-x C A-x? Looks like a guard squeeze.

Frances Hinden: Best chance of not being squeezed.

Chuck Lamprey: No doubt I’m getting squeezed again, but I’ll play declarer for S K-x-x H A-J-10-x-x D K-x-x C A-x, which is one hand I can do something about. Who’s got that S 9?

Ivan Kolev: Prospects are dark; but partner may have both missing queens, and South a hand like: S K-x-x H A-J-10-9-7 D K-x-x C A-x. … On the third round of hearts I will ditch the C 10, so partner will know to save clubs and pitch spades.

Michael Kammermeier: Five hearts in South will threaten us… This may break up a double squeeze without isolating the club menace.

Frank Ayer: A club-diamond squeeze may be coming, and I have to protect diamonds. This will tell partner what is going on, so he can protect clubs.

Alan Kravetz: Partner needs C Q-x-x to beat this hand.

Len Vishnevsky: If partner gives count against a slam, and if declarer won’t open 1 NT with a five card major, it looks like partner has five hearts and a preference for clubs. … Partner has 2-4 HCP (probably 2-3 since declarer accepted the invitation) and no jack; so it’s the S K or a black queen. Looks like the C Q…so the C J is safe. If declarer has S K-Q-9-x H A-J-10 D K-x-x-x C A-9, the C 5 lead isolates my club guard for the minor squeeze. …

Lim Chui: Partner must have C Q-x-x to prevent a squeeze against me in diamonds and clubs.

Gerald Cohen: Partner needs both black queens to beat the hand. If he has only one, declarer has at least five black winners, three diamonds and three hearts — and a squeeze is on. We clearly have to share the club stopper, so the C J looks right.

Gerald Murphy: I’m not sure of the heart situation at the moment, but I have to play partner for the C Q.

Zbych Bednarek: The only chance is that partner has the C Q; if not, declarer always squeezes me in the minors. …

Sandy Barnes: I need a count on the hand to decide which black suit to discard on the hearts. …

Samuel Krikler: A squeeze is in the offing. I have a [probable] count of hearts and diamonds, and the club-spade count will complete the picture. This may come down to who holds the S 9 and C 9. TopMain

Final Notes

Comments are selected only from those above average (the top 465 in this edition) and on each problem I only include comments supporting the winning solution — except Problem 4, where the top two choices were close. While this might seem biased, I feel it’s the best way to ensure solid content and avoid potential embarrassment in publishing comments that are off mark. On this basis, I included over 70 percent of the eligible comments. My inclusion of a comment does not necessarily mean I agree with it, but generally they are all worthy. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

Comments are quoted exactly, except for corrections in spelling and grammar. If I have used only part of a comment, an ellipsis (…) indicates where text was cut. In some cases I have inserted text [in brackets] to supply an omitted word or phrase, or to summarize a cut portion. Comments appear in order of respondents’ rank, which is my only basis for sequencing.

I am confident that my lengthy study of these problems (combined with the input of your comments) has determined the best defensive leads in theory. Nonetheless, it is possible that I overlooked something. Anyone who wishes to debate the analyses, or thinks there is a reason for a scoring adjustment, is welcome to e-mail me (richard@rpbridge.net).

I hope you enjoyed the tour. Too bad about the fire, but “accidents” happen. Thanks to all who participated and especially those who offered kind remarks about my wax site. Uh-oh. I noticed there’s a remake of House of Wax in the works, starring Paris Hilton (the waxed blonde, not the hotel) scheduled to open next year. Bye for now! The cleaning crew just arrived to wax the floors:

David Caprera: I hope I gave declarer a few good whacks.

Don Hinchey: O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to defend.

Richard Stein: It would indeed be horrific to get waxed by this automaton at the table.

Leonard Helfgott: Of course, you are aware that the muscular assistant (played by Charles Buchinsky) later became a very famous actor.

Yes, Igor was none other than Charles Bronson.

Bill Powell: This is getting too difficult — even the location question got harder. TopMain

Acknowledgments to Warner Bros. House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price.
© 2004 Richard Pavlicek