Main   Challenge 8X57 by Richard Pavlicek  

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.

At bridge, you may also have “heard the bells” as a clue struck you in time to find the winning play. Keep your ears pealed as you consider these six problems as South. Choose your play from the options listed; each option will be rated on a 1-to-10 scale per my judgment.

Bidding is standard, and opponents use standard leads and signals. For a reference, see my summary of 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 be 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… TopMain

Problem 1

IMPs None Vul

West

Pass
All Pass
North
1 H
3 D
East
Pass
Pass
South
2 D
3 NT

3 NT South
S A 2
H A 8 7 6 4 2
D A 9 8 2
C 4
Lead: S JTableEast plays S 7
S K 8 5
H K 5
D J 10 6 5 4
C A J 2

How do you play?

  1. Win S A; H K; H A
  2. Win S A; H K; run D J
  3. Win S A; D A
  4. Win S K; H A
  5. Win S K; lead D J to ace
  6. Win S K; run D J
TopMain

Problem 2

IMPs N-S Vul

West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 S
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
4 S

4 S South
S 7 5 3
H J 9 4
D 8 3
C A Q 9 6 5
Lead: S 2TableEast wins S A
S K Q J 10 6 4
H K 3
D A K 2
C 4 3

At trick two, East leads the S 9 to your king (West follows). Your play?

  1. Lead the H K
  2. Lead the H 3
  3. Ruff diamond; lead H 4
  4. Ruff diamond; lead C 5
  5. Finesse the C Q
  6. Finesse the C 9
TopMain

Problem 3

IMPs E-W Vul

West

2 H
All Pass
North

3 D
East

4 H
South
1 S
4 S

4 S South
S 5 4
H
D A K 9 7 6 3
C K 6 4 3 2
Lead: D QTableEast plays D 10
S A K Q J 10 2
H 4 3 2
D 5 4 2
C J

How do you play?

  1. Win D A; draw trumps
  2. Win D A; S A; lead D 5
  3. Win D A; S A; lead C J to king
  4. Win D A; S A; run C J
  5. Win D A; lead C 2
  6. Duck the D Q
TopMain

Problem 4

IMPs Both Vul

West
1 D
Pass
North
Pass
3 NT
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 NT

3 NT South
S 7 4 3
H Q 7 2
D 10 8 2
C K 10 8 2
Lead: S KTableEast plays S 9
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) as you win the third round. How do you play clubs?

  1. Win C A; C K
  2. Win C A; run C J
  3. Win C A; finesse C 10
  4. Win C K; C A
  5. Win C K; run C 10
  6. Win C K; finesse C J
TopMain

Problem 5

IMPs None Vul

West

Pass
North

4 S
East
2 H
All Pass
South
2 S

4 S South
S A J 10 3
H Q 4 2
D A 4 3
C 7 4 3
Lead: H 7TableEast plays H 9
S K 7 6 5 4
H K 8
D K 8 2
C A 8 2

After winning the H K, how do you play?

  1. Win S A; run S J
  2. Win S K; S A
  3. Win S K; finesse S J
  4. Lead the H 8
  5. Duck a diamond
  6. Duck a club
TopMain

Problem 6

IMPs N-S Vul

West
3 D
Pass
Pass
North
Dbl
5 D
6 H
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
4 H
6 C

6 H South
S A K Q 5 2
H Q 10 8
D A 7
C A 10 4
Lead: D QTableEast plays D 8
S 4
H A 9 7 5 3 2
D K 9
C Q 9 7 2

How do you play?

  1. Win D A; run H Q
  2. Win D A; run H 10
  3. Win D A; lead H 10 to ace
  4. Win D K; S A; run H Q
  5. Win D K; H A
  6. Win D K; lead H 2

To see how you did click

TopMain

Acknowledgments to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
whose 1864 poem became the lyrics of “I Heard the Bells.”
© 2005 Richard Pavlicek