Main   Challenge 8X57 by Richard Pavlicek  

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I Heard the Bells

“…on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play.”

Whatever your religious beliefs — Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism or other — you will certainly agree that Christians have more songs! We try to conceal this by calling some of them “carols,” but we’re not fooling anyone. Too many songs!

Most of the classics are pretty (despite some archaic lyrics); but now we have to put up with “The Chipmunk Song,” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and even dogs barking “Jingle Bells.” Enough already!

The title song is one of my all-time Christmas favorites, especially as recorded by the late Johnny Cash. His deep, bass voice inspires awe to the lyrics, making me shiver whenever I hear it. I wish I could replicate his artistry here.

Have you ever “heard the bells” at the bridge table? Keep your ears pealed for a clue to the winning play on these six problems. As South, choose your play from the options listed, each of which is rated on a 1-to-10 scale per my judgment.

Bidding is standard, and opponents use standard leads and signals. For a reference see Standard American Bridge. Assume all players are experts.

In December 2005 these six problems were presented as a contest with 1108 entrants from 119 locations around the world. The contest is closed, but you can still quiz yourself and find your score immediately. If you’re lucky, you might even win a valuable prize.*

*Prizes include a life-size statue of Giorgio Bell-adonna and a lifetime supply of Ding Dong dessert cakes. Winners must be at least
18 years of age and certified bell captains. Employees of PavCo Ringers and Bell Telephone companies are ineligible.

“And wild and sweet, the words repeat. Of peace on earth, good will to men.” Now listen carefully…

Problem 1

IMPs
None Vul
S A 2
H A 8 7 6 4 2
D A 9 8 2
C 4
West

Pass
All Pass
North
1 H
3 D
East
Pass
Pass
South
2 D
3 NT
Lead: S JTableEast plays S 7



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

A. Win S A; H K; H A
B. Win S A; H K; run D J
C. Win S A; D A
D. Win S K; H A
E. Win S K; lead D J to ace
F. Win S K; run D J

Problem 2

IMPs
N-S Vul
S 7 5 3
H J 9 4
D 8 3
C A Q 9 6 5
West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
4 S
Lead: S 2TableEast wins S A



4 S South
S K Q J 10 6 4
H K 3
D A K 2
C 4 3

East returns the S 9 to your king (West follows). What next?

A. Lead the H K
B. Lead the H 3
C. Ruff diamond; lead H 4
D. Ruff diamond; lead C 5
E. Finesse the C Q
F. Finesse the C 9

Problem 3

IMPs
E-W Vul
S 5 4
H
D A K 9 7 6 3
C K 6 4 3 2
West

2 H
All Pass
North

3 D
East

4 H
South
1 S
4 S
Lead: D QTableEast plays D 10



4 S South
S A K Q J 10 2
H 4 3 2
D 5 4 2
C J

A. Win D A; draw trumps
B. Win D A; S A; lead D 5
C. Win D A; S A; lead C J to king
D. Win D A; S A; run C J
E. Win D A; lead C 2
F. Duck the D Q

Problem 4

IMPs
Both Vul
S 7 4 3
H Q 7 2
D 10 8 2
C K 10 8 2
West
1 D
Pass
North
Pass
3 NT
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 NT
Lead: S KTableEast plays S 9



3 NT South
S A 5 2
H K J 5
D K Q J
C A J 7 3

West continues S Q-10 (East plays S 6-8) and you win the third round. How do you play clubs?

A. Win C A; C K
B. Win C A; run C J
C. Win C A; finesse C 10
D. Win C K; C A
E. Win C K; run C 10
F. Win C K; finesse C J

Problem 5

IMPs
None Vul
S A J 10 3
H Q 4 2
D A 4 3
C 7 4 3
West

Pass
North

4 S
East
2 H
All Pass
South
2 S
Lead: H 7TableEast plays H 9



4 S South
S K 7 6 5 4
H K 8
D K 8 2
C A 8 2

After winning the H K, what next?

A. Win S A; run S J
B. Win S K; S A
C. Win S K; finesse S J
D. Lead the H 8
E. Duck a diamond
F. Duck a club

Problem 6

IMPs
N-S Vul
S A K Q 5 2
H Q 10 8
D A 7
C A 10 4
West
3 D
Pass
Pass
North
Dbl
5 D
6 H
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
4 H
6 C
Lead: D QTableEast plays D 8



6 H South
S 4
H A 9 7 5 3 2
D K 9
C Q 9 7 2

A. Win D A; run H Q
B. Win D A; run H 10
C. Win D A; lead H 10 to ace
D. Win D K; S A; run H Q
E. Win D K; H A
F. Win D K; lead H 2

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Acknowledgments to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow whose 1864 poem inspired “I Heard the Bells”
© 2005 Richard Pavlicek