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Six Against The Rock

Alcatraz! Isolated in the cold, turbulent waters of San Francisco Bay, the infamous American prison now sleeps. From 1934 to 1962, “The Rock” was a Federal Penitentiary, housing some of the most notorious thugs, such as Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly.

Heralded as “inescapable,” the daring epithet was challenged many times — the bloodiest attempt coming in 1946, which was depicted in the 1987 film with the above title.

Apparently it proved to be true, as no one ever escaped — at least according to official records. Bodies of many who tried were never recovered but declared dead, presumably from drowning. But I wonder. Did any of them actually make it?

Now it’s your turn to try to escape from The Rock. Plan your moves carefully on these six problems, and you won’t be declared dead. Choose your play from the options listed, each of which 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 Standard American Bridge. Assume all players are experts.

In April 2006 these six problems were presented as a contest with 1056 entrants from 115 locations. 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 four-star luxury cell at nearby San Quentin (still open for business), complete with semiprivate toilet and cell phone.
Winners must be at least 18 years of age with a felony record. Employees of PavCo Mafia Enterprises are ineligible.

Oh no! Your escape attempt has been detected, and the sirens are blaring. There’s only one chance: Hit the water and swim!

Problem 1

IMPs
None Vul
S 4 3
H K J 9 6
D Q 9 8 2
C K 3 2
West

Pass
All Pass
North
Pass
2 H
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 H
4 H
Lead: H 7TableEast plays H 3



4 H South
S Q J 9
H A Q 10 4 2
D A 5 4
C A J

A. Win H 9; lead spade to queen
B. Win H 9; lead spade to nine
C. Win H 9; C A; C K; ruff club high
D. Win H 10; H 9; lead spade to queen
E. Win H 10; lead diamond to queen
F. Win H 10; lead diamond to nine

Problem 2

IMPs
N-S Vul
S A J 2
H A K J 2
D A K 4
C J 5 2
West

Pass
Pass
All Pass
North

Dbl
3 S
East
1 NT
Pass
Pass
South
Pass
2 S
4 S
Lead: C 10TableEast wins C Q



4 S South
S K 9 8 7 6 5
H 4 3
D J 10 8
C 6 4

East continues C K-A (West plays C 7-3) and you ruff low. What next?

A. Win S A; S K; lead spade
B. Win S A; S K; H A-K; ruff heart
C. Win S A; lead S J and duck queen
D. Finesse the S J
E. Win H A-K; ruff heart
F. Win D A-K; lead diamond

Problem 3

IMPs
E-W Vul
S A J 10 8
H Q 3
D 10 9 8 7 2
C K Q
West

Pass
Pass
North

2 C
3 NT
East

Pass
All Pass
South
1 NT
2 D
Lead: H 5TableEast plays H K
on North’s H Q



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

East returns the H 10 then H 8, as you hold up your ace.
What do you pitch from dummy, and what next?

A. Pitch S 10; win D A
B. Pitch S 10; win C K; finesse D Q
C. Pitch S 10; win C K; run D 10
D. Pitch D 2; run S 9
E. Pitch D 2; lead spade to jack
F. Pitch D 2; lead spade to eight

Problem 4

IMPs
Both Vul
S 8 6
H K 5 3 2
D K J
C K J 6 4 3
West
Pass
1 S
All Pass
North
Pass
Dbl
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
4 H
Lead: S QTableEast plays S 2



4 H South
S A K 7 3
H Q 10 9 7
D A Q 10 9
C 2

After winning the S A, what next?

A. Lead the H Q
B. Lead H 7 to the king
C. Win D K; lead heart to queen
D. Win D K; lead heart to 10
E. Lead C 2 to the king
F. Lead C 2 to the jack

Problem 5

IMPs
Both Vul
S K 6 4 3
H K 8 4 2
D Q 7 3 2
C Q
West

Pass
All Pass
North

2 NT
East
1 H
3 H
South
2 C
5 C
Lead: H 9TableEast plays H 10



5 C South
S J 2
H
D A K 5 4
C A K J 10 9 8 7

You play low from dummy and ruff in hand. What next?

A. Duck a spade
B. Win C A-K-J-10; duck spade
C. Win C A; all trumps
D. Win C Q; lead spade to jack
E. Win C Q; ruff heart; win all trumps
F. Win C Q; ruff heart; win C A-K-J; D A-K

Note: Trumps split 2-1.

Problem 6

IMPs
N-S Vul
S A K 8 6 5
H A 5 3
D 8 3
C A 6 2
West

2 H
Pass
All Pass
North

2 S
4 H
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 D
3 NT
6 D
Lead: S 10Table



6 D South
S J
H Q 4 2
D A K Q J 10 9
C K 7 4

A. Win S A; lead S 5 and pitch heart
B. Win S A; ruff spade; win all trumps
C. Win S A; four trumps; duck heart
D. Win S A; five trumps; duck heart
E. Win S A; all trumps
F. Duck the first trick

Note: All follow to the first trump lead.

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Acknowledgments to the 1987 film by Koch Vision Studios
© 2006 Richard Pavlicek