Main   Analyses 8X88 by Richard Pavlicek  

Slick Willy and Monique

Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Let’s see… 952 participants less 472 survivors means that Willy and Monique fleeced 480 victims. Hopefully, you weren’t one of them! But even if your were, you can take consolation that your money will be well spent. “Gold bathroom fixtures would be nice,” plans Monique.
Problem 123456Final Notes

Fortunately, Monique is a compassionate person and offers to make amends. For an additional C-note, she will accommodate any victim with a private tutoring session. She calls it her “booby prize” — but I wonder if that’s figurative or literal. In any case, it might be a touchy situation. Smack!

Willy and Monique were last seen boarding a flight to Zurich with 10 suitcases, no doubt to transfer their June winnings to a numbered account. They’ll be back in Hot Springs next week, so stop by again — anytime your wallet feels heavy. Kisses from Monique!

During the month of June, 2006, these six problems were published on the Internet as a defensive-play contest, and all bridge players were invited to participate. As West, after making your opening lead and seeing dummy, you were asked to choose your next lead from the options listed.

Eugene Dille Wins!

This contest had 952 participants from 111 locations, and the average score was 38.33. Congratulations to Eugene Dille (Illinois) who submitted the top score of 56. Only a point back at 55 was Manuel Paulo (Portugal). Next came an unusual gap — Score 54, where are you? — then three players with 53: Bozidar Putanec (Croatia), Roy Titan (China) and Steve White (Pennsylvania); and two players with 52: Xiaoxin Lu (China) and Leif-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe).

Participation this month was down considerably, not only from recent play contests, but also below June a year ago, which had 966. One reason is obvious: Most people prefer declarer play, and those contests always draw better — but the truth is that defense is more important. You will be a defender about twice as often, except for hand hogs like Willy, of course. The general apathy in this area is also evident in the winning score (lowest ever) and the subpar average (all-time average stands at 39.51 for 35 contests with 25,625 entries from 5247 persons). Nonetheless, 472 persons avoided Willy’s fleecing with a score of 39 or better to make the listing.

In the overall standings, Jonathan Mestel (England) took over the top spot with a 58.75 average, but only by tiebreaker over previous leader Rainer Herrmann (Germany), and Rob Stevens (California). Lief-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe) is next with 58.50, followed by Jim Munday (California) with 58.25. Close behind with 58.00 are Thijs Veugen (Netherlands) and Weidong Yang (China).

In the June Bot’s Eye View, Bridge Buff (Canada) took top honors with 49, an excellent score in a tough contest, but only by tiebreaker over Jack (Netherlands). Six bots beat the average human score. In the overall standings, GIB (US) held its lead with a 47.50 average, closely followed by Jack with 46.50.

I received a few remarks and e-mails this month about my choice of theme. For example, “Why pick on Clinton, with the jerk we have in the White House now?” or “Are you a Clinton hater?” To the latter, certainly not. Compared to “Dubya Dumbass,” Clinton was a great president; and his private life, aside from providing humor, has no bearing on that fact. I simply revived two characters I created back in the ‘90s for my first Slick Willy story. Also, a few women complained that my approach was “sexist,” mainly because my warning “not to be aroused by Monique” implied that only male participants were considered. Sorry. I suppose I could argue that it didn’t rule out lesbians; but a wiser course would be to change the subject immediately.

Each problem offered six lead options for West (after the opening lead with dummy in view), and the merit of each is scored on a scale of 1 to 10, based on my judgment. Comments by participants do not affect their score directly but are often helpful to me in calibrating the award scale.

Bidding is Standard American (unless noted otherwise), and you and partner use standard leads and signals. For a reference on these agreements, see my summary of Standard American Bridge. Assume all players are experts.
TopMain

Problem 1

Chicago None Vul

West
You

1 S
All Pass
North
Monique
1 D
2 S*
East

Pass
Pass
South
Willy
1 H
3 NT
*shows the S A

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

You lead the S K, which wins; partner plays the six, and South the jack. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
C 101027128
S 10844046
H 95374
D 74798
S 43738
C K2525

Weird happenings. It appears that Willy bid 3 NT with a stiff jack; but is that possible? What distribution could he have for such a bizarre bid? Exploring for a suit contract would be obvious with 1=5=3=4, 1=5=4=3 or 1=4=4=4, so it just can’t be. Willy may be slick, but he’s not stupid. Further, and even more convincing, is that partner would signal with the seven (not the six) from 9-7-6-5. The only logical explanation is that Willy is falsecarding, which certainly fits his nature — just ask his wife, Hilarity.

Partner’s play of the S 6 is ambiguous. It could be from 9-7-6; but more likely it’s from 6-5 doubleton*, which means Willy is up to no good with J-9-7, hoping to lure you into a spade continuation. The layout in the following diagram is predictable.

*In this situation, an expert East would drop the S J if he had it, so attitude is meaningless; hence, the S 6 should be count. Even if you disagree with this logic and contend that default agreements (attitude) must prevail, the S 6 could then be from 9-6 or 7-6 doubleton.

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

Willy was obliged to duck the first trick, else he could lose four spade tricks if the diamond finesse lost. His play of the jack was a “pigpen coup,” an attempt to sidetrack you from the threatening club shift, his only concern. If you continue spades, he has a lock simply by winning the ace, cashing four hearts and running the D 9. Therefore, you mustn’t bite.

As to which club to lead, the 10 is clearly right, since it provides the only chance to finesse against dummy’s jack.* (Leading the C K poses no threat.) You need partner to have at least C Q-9-x-x (or Q-x-x-x-x) to succeed legitimately; but Q-8-x-x will suffice if Willy misguesses on the club return.

*Leading the C 5 (not offered as an option) is much inferior. Even if partner has C Q-9-x-x and finesses the nine when necessary, declarer can succeed by playing the jack from dummy and winning the second club to block the suit.

Second place goes to the popular S 10 continuation. If Willy has S J-x, this allows a second opportunity for a club shift (he must duck again). Indeed, this is the only winning defense if Willy has two spades and four clubs; but if that were the case, Willy would be unlikely to drop the S J to make a spade continuation easier. Note that if Willy ducks again, leading a third spade is hopeless (barring a singleton S J), since you have no entry, and declarer will simply finesse diamonds into East.

Other leads are much inferior, as they pose no real threat and rely on the slim hope that Willy cannot come to nine tricks on his own. Third place goes to a passive heart — at least it won’t blow a trick outright. This may be adequate if the devious Willy were plotting a reverse pigpen coup with S J-5 H A-J-10-x D x-x-x C Q-x-x-x, and he tries in vain to develop diamonds; though he could succeed in several ways, e.g., by setting up his long club. Fourth place goes to the D 7, also safe but with the downside of alerting Willy that diamonds lie foul, perhaps guiding him into a winning path.

Leading the wrong black card (S 4 or C K) is worse, as besides posing no threat, either risks losing a trick outright (South may have the S 9 or C Q). Even if Willy has falsecarded with S J-5, leading the S 4 will put partner on lead, rendering a club shift useless — much as if you had led the C K. Rather than expend effort to break this tie, they’re ranked by the voting.

Comments for the C 10

Manuel Paulo: After Willy has the nerve to drop the S J, partner should hold S 6-5 H x-x-x D K-x-x-x C Q-9-x-x. I must lead clubs, and the proper card is the 10. If I lead spades, declarer goes up with the ace and [finesses] diamonds to win nine tricks.

Steve White: Partner is unlikely on the bidding to hold C Q-9-x-x, but it’s almost the only chance I have.

Leif-Erik Stabell: There are hands where (double-dummy) only a diamond switch defeats 3 NT, like S J-9-7-5 H A-J-10-x D x-x C 9-8-x, or S J-9-7-5 H A-J-10-x D 9-8 C 9-7-x; but on many of these, declarer might go down anyway. Is it not more likely that Willy has simply misguessed with S J-9-7-5 H A-x-x-x D Q-x C x-x-x? If hearts were 4-2, the S J at trick one seems like a fair practical shot.

John Lusky: Hoping partner has something like S x-x H x-x-x D K-x-x-x C Q-9-x-x. Declarer is trying to induce a spade continuation, so that he can safely lose a trick to East.

John Reardon: I hope Slick Willy has a hand like S J-9-x H A-J-x-x-x D Q-x-x C 9-x and is trying to induce me to continue spades.

Toby Kenney: If partner had four spades, he would have encouraged more strongly; so there’s no future in spades. On the other hand, a club might be necessary if declarer has S J-9-5 H A-J-10-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x.

Sebastien Louveaux: I expect declarer to have only four hearts. The S J is unlikely a singleton, else partner would have [signaled differently]. My impression is that declarer…is trying to trick me into continuing spades to avoid a dangerous club switch. …

Jonathan Mestel: I suppose Willy has S J-x-x H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x. Why are you so mean to your only intelligent President of the last three decades?

Gary Gordon: Declarer can’t have a singleton, because partner would surely play the seven with S 9-7-6-5. … I suspect Willy is trying to deter me from finding his weak spot, so I am not taking the spade bait. Partner can’t have much on the bidding, but with Willy’s penchant for underestimating his opponents, East may just have enough space to hold the C Q and D K.

Marek Malowidzki: I believe the only chance is for partner to have C Q-9-x-x and a diamond trick.

Lajos Linczmayer: The S J can’t be a true card, so Willy wants me to continue spades. He may have, e.g., S J-7-5 H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x (I would play the S 7). I hope partner has C Q-9-x-x or Q-x-x-x-x.

Len Vishnevsky: Declarer is sneaky, and might have S J-x-x H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x.

Jerry Fink: … Here, partner is expected to drop the S J, or otherwise give count. Hence, the S 6 is either from 9-7-6, or much more likely, 6-5 (certainly not 9-7-6-5), and thus no hope of running spades. A club shift is called for, and is apparently what Mr. Resident is trying to seduce me out of.

Brad Theurer: Willy wants to make it easy for me to continue spades, but I’m not biting. I have to hope partner has a stopper in one red suit and at least C Q-9-x-x. A typical hand for South could be S J-9-x H A-J-10-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x.

Neelotpal Sahai: The C 9 is the most crucial card, and I hope partner has it; but even then, it is crucial to shift to the C 10 if South has S J-x-x H A-J-10-x D Q-x-x C 8-x-x, or S J-x-x H A-J-10-x-x D x-x C 8-x-x.

Barry White: I suspect declarer holds S J-9-5 H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x-x C x-x and wants me to continue spades (he wins the next spade and can safely finesse into East). I must shift to the C 10 (not the king) so we can run the suit if partner wins the D K.

Ron Landgraff: … If partner has three or four spades, South has made a strange but successful bid.

Daniel Korbel: Declarer is clearly falsecarding, but his reason to do so is not evident. Generally, players do this when they fear a shift to another suit; a prototypical hand is S J-x-x H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x, although declarer might be double-crossing me with S J-5 H A-J-x-x D x-x-x C Q-x-x-x… The tiebreaker in favor of a club is that declarer can always make with the second hand if he guesses well, even if I switch to diamonds. (For this reason, the D 2 might be a better choice if I put my eggs in that basket.)

Tim DeLaney: Partner’s S 6 is not compatible with a singleton S J in the South hand, so Willy wants me to lead another spade. No doubt, he has something like S J-x-x H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x C x-x-x.

Sathya Bettadapura: Declarer doesn’t want a club shift; on a spade continuation, he finesses diamonds and has nine tricks: one spade, four hearts, three diamonds and one club.

Thijs Veugen: If South has S J-9-7-5 H A-J-x-x-x D x-x C 9-x, I have to attack clubs now before South can develop a second spade trick. …

Ken Cohen: Playing partner for the D K and C Q-9-x-x, or Q-8-x-x [if declarer misguesses]. Declarer may be playing the S J with three or more to induce a continuation…

Jim Munday: … Willy has no reason to play the S J — unless he wants the suit continued. There doesn’t appear to be much hope if we can’t set up clubs. The C 10 caters to Willy holding S J-x-x H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x-x C 9-x.

Ruud von Seida: Looks like declarer has the spades (otherwise, strange card from partner), so I hope for some good clubs with partner…and either the H A or D K.

Dale Freeman: I doubt if Willy would jump to 3 NT with a singleton S J. Hopefully, partner has the C Q.

Jon Greiman: What’s going on in spades? Surely, declarer’s jack is not honest, as partner could spare the seven from 9-7-6-5. Clearly, declarer is goading me into a spade continuation, and I’ll have none of that.

Carlos Dabezies: Unless Willy is ultra slick, he has [at least] S J-x, and I have no entry if I clear spades. Partner…may have the D K and C Q-9-x-x, or even C Q-8-x-x might do.

Imre Csiszar: I do not know why South played the S J when he knew I would know it’s a falsecard, but a spade continuation is the last thing he would want if I held the H A or D K-Q. Hence, South is marked with the H A and a diamond honor; so if 3 NT can be beaten, it will be by the C 10.

Joon Pahk: Willy wants me to continue spades, so that can’t be right. I’ll play partner for C Q-9-x-x and the D K.

David Ingham: The S J is clearly a falsecard (partner would play the seven with 9-7-6-5…). Therefore, declarer is making it safe for me to continue spades, [because] he desperately fears a [club] shift. … Could this be a diabolical triple cross, with a club shift [giving] declarer four tricks in an otherwise unmakable contract? In the menagerie, perhaps; but on earth, declarer would simply duck the opening lead in both hands. …

Adrian Petculescu: If not afraid of a switch, South would play small, not the jack. Partner must have the D K and C Q to beat the contract…

Tong Xu: Partner would play the S 7 from 9-7-6-5, and South would try for a [suit] game if he had a singleton S J. It seems declarer is afraid of a shift to a minor suit, which should be clubs.

Kevin Lane: If partner had four spades, he should have bid 3 S. More likely is S J-9-7-5 with South, and a spade continuation allows declarer to set up his ninth in spades while he still has a club stopper.

D.C. Lin: Willy surrenders one black jack, so I’ll attack the other.

I guess you should know…
from “D.C.” experience.

Gerald Murphy: Careful; South could be falsecarding with the S J. I’ll play partner for the C Q and [length]; if all goes well,…partner will cash clubs after winning the D K.

Paulino Correa: Declarer cannot have a singleton spade (partner would not play the six with S 9-7-6-5). Clubs is the promising suit, and I [hope] partner has C Q-9-x-x-(x) and the H A or D K.

Bruce Neill: The cunning S J must be to lure me into continuing spades, so Willy must be afraid of a club switch. Maybe he has S J-9-x H A-J-x-x D Q-x-x-x C 9-x.

Sid Ismail: Establish club tricks before partner’s D K is dislodged. South’s S J is a falsecard.

Albert Feasley: Slick, with S J-9-7-5, can’t stand the club switch.

Julian Pottage: South has not jumped to 3 NT with a singleton spade. …

Frans Buijsen: The S J looks like a deception from J-x [or J-x-x], so I now play partner for C Q-9-x-x.

Wei Victor Zhang: With no entry, continuing spades is futile. More reasonable is a club switch, hoping partner holds C Q-9-x-x and a stopper in a red suit.

Sandy Barnes: Partner needs the C Q and a diamond card.

Mauri Saastamoinen: There is something fishy. Mr. Resident probably has something like S J-9-7 H A-J-x-x D Q-9-x C 8-x-x, and he is trying to pull my leg.

Rob Wijman: … I’ll play partner to have the D K and C Q-9-x-x. If I lead the C K first, Willy can effectively shut our communication by going up with the ace.

Charles Blair: Looks like the “pigpen coup,” but maybe there’s something even trickier going on…

Gerald Cohen: I assume the S J is a falsecard (the dirty coup), so the best shot seems partner with [C Q-9-x-x] and a red-suit winner.

Barry Rigal: Declarer is playing the dirty coup (reverse Bath coup) with S J-x-x… If he played a true card, the club shift stands out.

David Grainger: Would South jump to 3 NT on a stiff S J? I don’t think so,…which means our defensive entry must be the D K,…and he wants me to continue spades to cut our link.

Subhransu Patnaik: Partner is likely to have a diamond entry, so I’d better try to establish his suit, which is likely to be clubs.

Joel Singer: The S J can’t be singleton, so South is trying to get me to continue spades; hence, it must be right to switch. Diamonds don’t seem to have a future, so I’ll try clubs. TopMain

Problem 2

Chicago E-W Vul

West
You

Pass
Pass
North
Monique

2 C
4 H
East

Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Willy
1 NT
2 H

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

You lead the S J; king, ace, six. Partner returns the S 4; nine, 10, three. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
S 51015316
D 2836839
D A69210
C 10516718
C 34889
H 73849

Somewhat surprisingly, you are able to win the second spade, which marks partner with the S Q, else Willy has taken the L out of “slick” with his play at trick two. Partner apparently wants you on lead for some reason. Examining the spade spots reveals the two is missing, so it seems like partner started with S A-Q-7-4-2, and Willy with 9-6 doubleton. Could partner want a diamond shift? Possibly, but with a singleton diamond, partner would have led it himself; a void is far-fetched on the bidding*; and if he has the D Q, there is no hurry to lead the suit (aside from the possibility of a two-trick set if he has D Q-x).

*Few experts would open 1 NT with, say, S 9-6 H A-K-Q-x D Q-10-9-x-x C A-x. Even if it’s deemed too light to open 1 D and reverse, most would prefer 1 H as the best start.

Wait a second! Something is fishy. If partner had five spades, how could he know to return a low spade? You might have led the jack from J-x (giving South 10-9-x-x), so an underlead could give away the contract. If partner had only four spades, however, the underlead would be safe (ruling out five spades with South) and might be necessary to avoid setting up South’s fourth spade if you had J-10-x. Yes, it’s that cunning Willy again! He has the S 2 all along and is preserving it to muddy the layout, which rates to be something like this:

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

Suppose you lead a low diamond at trick three. Willy will simply draw trumps, then force out the D A to ensure 10 tricks (with the eventual club finesse). Shifting to a trump or a club leads to the same denouement. The killing defense is a spade continuation to tap dummy, removing a vital entry. Then you can win your D A at the proper time (partner will high-low to show a doubleton), and declarer will be unable to get rid of his club loser — down one.

Second place goes to the popular choice of a low diamond, based on the remote chance that partner is void, plus the possibility of a two-trick set (no great windfall, nonvulnerable at Chicago) if partner has D Q-x.

Third place goes to the D A, which is distinctly inferior to the D 4, because (1) it eliminates the guess if Willy requires only one diamond trick*, (2) it loses the chance for a two-trick set, and (3) it offers up the contract if Willy can divine partner’s D Q-x.** Divine? I wonder if anyone else can remember Andy Devine slobbering, “Wait for me, Wild Bill!”

*Willy might have five hearts, e.g., S 9-6-2 H A-K-Q-x-x D 10-x-x C A-K, and need only to guess diamonds. Of course, he should get it right anyway, since East (a passed hand) is known to hold S A-Q.

**Willy probably would finesse anyway, suspecting you held D A-Q-x-(x).

Other choices (H 7, C 10, C 3) are worse, as they not only give up the slim chance that partner is void in diamonds but might be helpful to declarer. Rather than pursue microscopic differences, they’re ranked by the voting.

Comments for the S 5

Eugene Dille: To get rid of dummy’s entry. (Partner has a heart honor.) …

Manuel Paulo: Partner didn’t lead queen and another spade because he couldn’t know the distribution of the suit… I assume South has S 9-6-2 H A-K-Q-x D Q-x-x C A-x-x (or D Q-x C A-x-x-x) and lead the S 5 to force dummy when the entry is not yet profitable; later on, I win the D A according to partner’s count signal.

Steve White: I hope declarer has a third spade, so this will force him to use the dummy entry now.

Leif-Erik Stabell: I must take away the late entry to the diamonds; South has S 9-6-2 H A-K-Q-x D Q-10-x C A-8-x.

John Lusky: Where is the S 2? Seems like declarer must have it; otherwise, partner could not be sure I did not have S J-x. By tapping dummy, I can isolate dummy’s diamonds…

John Reardon: I will play Willy for S 9-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-x C A-x-x-x, or S 9-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-x-x C A-x-x. Willy can even have H A-K-Q-J. By removing the late entry to dummy, I stop him from enjoying a diamond trick and beat his game.

Toby Kenney: This is the only play to set the contract if South has S x-x-x H A-K-Q-J D Q-x C A-x-x-x; and the only play to let it through if he has S x-x H A-K-Q-J D Q-x-x C A-x-x-x.

Junyi Zhu: Removing dummy’s entry for diamond winners.

Sebastien Louveaux: If declarer is missing the D Q, he [may] have to guess it. Otherwise, diamonds will be good and he will be able to discard any club losers; e.g., South having S x-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-x-x C A-x-x. The only way to oppose this is to remove dummy’s late trump entry by forcing dummy to ruff; then I will duck the D A until declarer plays his last diamond.

Jonathan Mestel: Attacking the late entry to the scary diamond spots; South: S x-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-x C A-x-x-x? … If partner had five spades, he might well have won the S Q.

Marek Malowidzki: To remove the entry to dummy, which would enable declarer to use diamonds when established — and also, I believe, [the S 5 instead of the S 8] suggests some useful club values.

Lajos Linczmayer: Partner has S A-Q-7-4, and Slick Willy is concealing the S 2. (From S A-Q-7-4-2, partner would cash the S Q, as I could have S J-x and the C A). If partner has the C K, I must duck one or two rounds of diamonds according partner’s count signal.

Jerry Fink: If partner began with S A-Q-7-4, my job is to force dummy to ruff now before diamonds become established. If partner began with S A-Q-7-4-2, this allows dummy to discard a club, and declarer to make the contract; but partner’s correct return from that holding to give critical current count is the S 7.*

*An excellent agreement, which I also play; but alas, it’s not the standard method on which these contests are based. –RP

Brad Theurer: If partner had five spades, his underlead would be risky, since I could have led from S J-x. More likely, he has four spades, so a spade continuation is both safe and necessary to take out the late entry to dummy’s diamonds if South has, say, S 9-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-10-x C A-x-x.

Neelotpal Sahai: I guess declarer is hiding the S 2, and partner has only four spades. A third spade at this stage is required to remove dummy’s late entry once diamonds are set up. I give South a holding like S 9-6-2 H A-K-Q-J D Q-10 C A-8-x-x; but if he has only two spades, this is the only return to give away the contract.

Barry White: I will play South to hold S 9-6-2 H A-K-Q-x D Q-x C A-x-x-x, or so. By forcing dummy to ruff before diamonds are established, I can deny declarer an entry to dummy later. (With any other lead, he can draw trumps and [enjoy] three diamond tricks with the spade-ruff entry).

Ron Landgraff: Removes an entry to dummy.

Tim DeLaney: Partner couldn’t underlead the S Q without assurance that I had not led from S J-x (South could have four spades), which means that Slick Willy has cunningly concealed the S 2. So, I lead a spade to remove the late entry to dummy in case South has S x-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-x-x C A-x-x, or S x-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-x C A-x-x-x; then I hold up the D A until Willy plays his last diamond. (South cannot have four diamonds, else partner would have…shifted to his diamond.)

Sathya Bettadapura: Then I hold up the D A per partner’s count signal,…and Willy can’t [enjoy] an additional diamond trick; so the defense makes a club trick. …

Thijs Veugen: South seems to have S 9-6-2; so in case he has S 9-6-2 H A-K-Q-x D Q-x C A-x-x-x, I have to play a spade before the diamond suit is established.

Ruud von Seida: This way, dummy and partner will both have three trumps; then I can hold up my D A, and diamonds are dead.

Jon Greiman: I need to get rid of dummy’s entry in case South has S 9-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-10-x C A-x-x.

Joon Pahk: If partner has the D Q, declarer will have to guess diamonds sooner or later anyway; but if declarer has something like S x-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-10 C A-8-x-x, I have to tap dummy to take out the late entry before he can set up diamonds.

David Ingham: What’s going on? Partner’s only spade holdings consistent with the carding are A-4-2, A-Q-7-4 and A-Q-7-4-2. The first is virtually impossible (Willy would have won the S Q),…and the last is unlikely (partner would have cashed the S Q since I could have led from J-x). Could partner be void in diamonds? Possibly, but then he would likely have returned an “impossible” S 7 to alert me that something was going on. The likeliest holding is A-Q-7-4, so Willy is up to his falsecarding tricks. Why? Because he has S 9-6-2 H A-K-Q-J D Q-x-x C A-x-x (or D Q-x C A-x-x-x) and intends to draw trumps, knock out the D A, and use a late spade ruff to reach dummy… If I make him ruff now, I ruin his plan. …

Tong Xu: If partner had five spades, he wouldn’t dare return small from the queen; so he has four. This will shorten dummy’s trumps to prevent declarer from using the fourth diamond. South may have something like S x-x-x H A-K-Q-x D Q-x-x C A-x-x.

D.C. Lin: Nearest card to my thumb.

I was only guessing before, but now I’m sure
you must work for the U.S. government.

Rainer Herrmann: Killing the late entry to the diamonds.

Teymur Tahseen: Tapping dummy to restrict access to the long diamond (without declarer first conceding a club).

Jim Wiitala: Declarer must have one more spade. TopMain

Problem 3

Chicago N-S Vul

West
You

Pass
Pass
North
Monique

2 NT
4 S
East


Pass
All Pass
South
Willy
1 NT
3 S

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

You lead the H Q, which wins; partner plays the six, and South the seven. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
C K10525
H J832134
C J713214
D 46546
D J511312
S 2328029

Willy is up to his tricks again, evidently changing his mind about concealing a five-card spade suit. Most players would live with their first decision, but Willy has become fickle playing with Monique — and I don’t mean just at the bridge table. Perhaps he just realized that his 100 honors would score better in spades.

The heart situation is easy to diagnose. Partner must have the king, and Willy is probably holding up with A-x-x, a routine control play to prepare for a heart ruff in dummy.* Willy’s play of the H 7 suggests he may have A-7 doubleton, but you should know by now not to trust any of his spot cards; he falsecards out of habit. “Sorry, Hilarity, I have to work late again.”

*Partner cannot have H A-K, as this would give Willy something like S A-Q-J-x-x H x-x-x D A-K-x C x-x — hardly a 1 NT opening, even in Arkansas. Oops, no e-mails please; I have nothing but respect for the people of Arkansas… and the U.S. government, Microsoft, and a partridge in a pear tree.

A trump shift is futile; partner can’t have the S A (by similar logic as above), so there’s no chance to stop the heart ruff. A heart continuation won’t accomplish anything either, so thoughts turn to the minor suits. In view of the threatening club suit in dummy, it may be necessary to attack diamonds. Alas, this is dangerous because it requires partner to have the D 10 along with his likely king. If South has D A-10-(x), it surrenders the contract instantly. Consider a plausible layout:

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

If you shift to the D 4, Willy will simply play low from dummy to ensure a trick; even if partner held the D J, Willy would be able to establish the D Q for a club pitch. If you defend passively by continuing the H J, Willy will eventually establish the club suit (finesse the C Q and duck a round after trumps are drawn) to rid his losing diamond. Are you stymied?

Maybe not. Your only hope is to attack dummy’s club entries, and the best way to do it is to lead the C K. Suppose Willy wins the C A and loses a trump finesse to your king; now lead the C 8. Willy could succeed by ducking this to partner’s blank 10, but that’s far-fetched. Naturally, he will assume you have C K-8 doubleton and win the queen, after which he has two good chances: (1) If he thinks you have the D K, he will lead ace and a diamond before ruffing a heart, or (2) if he thinks partner has the D K, he will ruff a heart and run trumps for a strip squeeze. Neither works, but he’ll surely opt for the strip squeeze with Monique so close.

What about shifting to the C J? Not good. When the C Q wins, you are marked with the king, so Willy will know it is safe to duck the second club. Further, Willy may have C 10-x-x or 10-9-x and succeed easily if you lead the C J, while the C K still defeats him barring mirrors. Essentially, leading the C K follows the principle of playing the card you are (or will be) known to hold.*

*Curiously, only the C 8 shift (not listed as an option) will succeed at double-dummy. In practice, however, this would be a poor stroke, because it fails miserably whenever South has the C 10.

The recommended defense also succeeds and may be necessary when Willy has a doubleton club (with D A-10-x). Failure to lead clubs at all would allow Willy to draw trumps and duck a club, then the entire suit will run with a second-round finesse — albeit a dubious line of play. A belated club shift (after winning the S K) would allow Willy to run trumps for a twin endplay.*

*Four-card ending is D Q-5 C A-7 opposite D A-10-x C x. You must keep a club stopper to prevent a simple throw-in against partner, and you must keep D J-x to prevent Willy from running the D Q; then Willy throws you in with ace and another club. This is double-dummy, of course, as normal play is to take two diamond finesses (low to queen then finesse 10).

Scoring the runners-up on this problem was difficult, because of subjective or psychological factors. For instance, the C J is just as good as the C K with open cards, but I don’t think it deserves second place. Similarly, in comparing diamond leads, the D 4 is much better than the D J in technical merit, but declarer may misplay after the D J because he thinks you have the 10.

After much consternation, I decided to rank the popular H J continuation second, mainly because it is less committal. After winning the S K later, you still have the opportunity to shift timely to diamonds if you think South has three clubs; or shift to a club honor if you think South has two clubs. Throwing the ball back to Willy may also garner additional clues from the way he proceeds.

Third place goes to the C J, which works fine whenever South has a doubleton club (surely his most likely short suit), or if partner has C 10-9 doubleton (provided you next lead the king).

Next comes a diamond shift, which basically commits to partner having the D 10 — ostensibly a favorite, though Willy’s choice to open 1 NT taints your odds. As to which diamond, the D 4 gets the edge, as it holds the fort whenever partner has the 10; whereas the D J loses if South has A-9-x and covers with the queen.

Worst of all is a trump shift, as it surrenders a vital tempo. If South has S A-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D A-x-x C x-x, he can win cheaply, establish clubs with a ruff, cash the S A, ruff his heart loser, and pitch a diamond on a good club as you ruff. Wham, bam, zoom; it’s over. Alternatively, declarer could (probably should) try a low diamond to the queen first; and when it fails, revert to the same club-suit establishment.

Comments for the C K

Eugene Dille: I hope declarer has only two clubs.

Manuel Paulo: If declarer has S A-Q-J-x-x H A-7-x D A-10-7 C 10-9, he can’t set up and cash clubs because of my S 8; but if I don’t lead a club honor now and after winning the S K, he [can] squeeze me in the minor suits after forcing partner’s D K.

John Reardon: I want to knock out the club suit before trumps are drawn, in case Willy has something like: S A-Q-J-10-x H A-x-x D A-10 C x-x-x.

Junyi Zhu: Breaking communication and limiting declarer to two club tricks.

Jonathan Mestel: If declarer has S A-Q-J-10-x H A-x-x D A-10-x C 10-x, I must attack clubs. This could be wrong if declarer has S A-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D A-x C 10-9-x; but when I win the S K and lead the C 8, he may well go for the strip squeeze — sounds more in character.

David Caprera: How about S A-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D A-10 C 10-9-x? Willy needs to assume the C K is onside, so the C J will be ineffective. If he is 5=3=3=2, it doesn’t matter which club; but he may be talked out of a cold game if I play C K then C 8…

Marek Malowidzki: … Declarer has nine tricks: four spades, H A, heart ruff, D A and two high clubs. Partner must have the D K, so declarer needs to get another club trick. … Depending on the club count (partner should give count on the C K), I will continue clubs or play partner for D K-10.

Lajos Linczmayer: Willy must have S A-Q-J-x-x, H A-7-x and the D A. If partner shows three clubs, I lead the C J next. If he shows two clubs (I hope not x-x), I change horses and switch to diamonds, hoping for D K-10.

Neelotpal Sahai: If declarer has the D K, the contract is cold; so he should hold something like S A-Q-J-10-x H A-7-2 D A-x-x C x-x (I have already learned that Slick Willy never plays the deuce at the first two opportunities). Position of the D 10 has become very material; [if] declarer has it, he has chances…for an endplay. In addition, declarer can ruff a heart, give up a spade and duck a club to set up the club suit… So it is important to attack clubs now and and when in with S K.

Barry White: I must start to kill dummy’s club suit; I will continue clubs when in with the S K.

Daniel Korbel: Declarer must have three hearts, else ducking is horrible. Switching to a club [might] blow the hand immediately if declarer has S A-Q-J-10-x H A-x-x D A-x C 10-9-x, where a diamond shift is required. On all other layouts, there is time after winning the S K to shift to diamonds if it seems necessary; and a club is the only winning defense against S A-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D A-10 C x-x-x. Playing a club now also ends the hand when declarer has S A-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D A-10-x C x-x… I choose the C K, as it will induce partner to play the C 10 only when he has C 10-9.

Tong Xu: If declarer has S A-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D A-10-x C 10-9, both the C K or C J works. But if he has S A-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x D A-10 C 10-x-x, without seeing full hands, he may [assume] my C K is from C K-x and duck it.

Gerald Murphy: To kill the club suit, and play partner for the D K. If declarer ducks the C K [or wins and finesses spades], I’ll play another club.

We interrupt this program with a comment from the White House:

George W. Bush: I lead a king, of course — and you didn’t even offer the S K, my first choice — ‘cuz I’ve been offered the throne of Tonga when my term ends. King George Dubya! Sounds nice, eh? Yukka, yukka. Texas to Tonga, with a white shack in the middle! You jealous? Yukka, yukka. Gonna kick ass, too, and there won’t be no Congriss to git in my way. TopMain

Problem 4

Chicago Both Vul

West
You
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
Monique
Pass
2 D*
3 NT
East

1 C
Pass
All Pass
South
Willy
1 NT
2 H
*transfer

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

You lead the C K. Partner overtakes with the ace and returns the C 10 (South plays three, five). Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
D 510485
D J9303
H 10622323
H 45586
S 9449051
S 3310311

Has partner lost his marbles? Overtaking your C K with the ace suggests ace-doubleton, but that’s inconsistent with the bidding — not to mention that declarer would cover the C 10 with J-8-7-x-x-x-x, and he’d surely have 9+ tricks no matter what you did next. There’s only one logical explanation: Partner has all the club honors (and necessary spots) except the queen and is guarding against your holding a stiff king. From partner’s point of view, South is marked with the C Q, so overtaking cannot cost a trick and would be crucial if you did not have another club.

This explanation, of course, means that Willy overcalled 1 NT without a stopper, but we’ve all done that on occasion, especially over 1 C, which is often short. Here’s a layout that fits the bill, or fits the Will:

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

Willy had no ideal action over 1 C. Some would overcall 1 S; some would double; and some would pass; but 1 NT is certainly a reasonable choice. If East has a long club suit, chances are West will be short; so many players will ignore their partner’s suspect minor and lead an unbid major. Good thing you didn’t fall for that!

The key point to this problem is suit preference. Partner has signaled that his entry is in the lower of two plausible suits.* When three suits are possible (common at notrump), accepted practice is to rule out one of them by logic, either from the bidding or the appearance of dummy. In this case, hearts should be ruled out**, so the choice is between spades and diamonds. Thus, partner asked for a diamond, and failure to respect it could hand over the contract.

*With the C 9 in dummy, partner was obliged to lead an honor. Thus, the C J would show an entry in the higher suit.

**If partner has the H A, declarer cannot win nine tricks unless he overcalled 1 NT with nine cards in spades and diamonds holding two low clubs (or three low clubs and a stiff heart); or conceivably, S A-Q H Q-x D A-K-x-x-x-x C x-x-x. This is possible, but it seems to fall under the heading of demented, not slick.

There’s not much difference between the D J and D 5, but the latter gets the top award per the voting. The D 5 also provides a safety net if partner has D K-x-x (doesn’t blow the whole suit), though he would hardly overtake your C K without a sure entry — indeed, you could run the first five clubs if he played routinely.

Other leads are much worse, and arguably without merit based on the logic of partner’s defense; indeed, if partner has the D A as indicated, the choice is immaterial. I decided to rank the heart leads third and fourth (tie broken by voting) because they cater to the demented 1 NT overcalls I mentioned above. Who knows? Willy might try anything to keep Monique dummy. Partner might defend the same way if his entry were in hearts, but he would never return a low club if his entry were in spades. Thus, the popular choice to return a spade has to settle for the basement.

I was surprised that so many respondents were off track on this problem (only 8 percent found the diamond return). No doubt, many spade leaders misinterpreted partner’s C 10 as “high,” perhaps out of impulse without fully considering the situation. Some thought partner could have C A-10-8-7-x-(x), but overtaking then would be folly. Then again, maybe I’m the one who is off track. Can I go play with my trains now?

Comments for the D 5

John Lusky: What’s going on? The only layout that makes sense and gives a chance to beat 3 NT is to give partner C A-J-10-8-7 and a side ace. If so, the C 10 is suit preference for diamonds; South has S A-Q-J-x H A-Q D K-x-x C x-x-x-x.

Junyi Zhu: It seems partner’s clubs are [headed by] A-J-10-8, and he is trying to signal a diamond shift from my side. …

Jerry Fink: Partner was obviously dealt C A-J-10-8-7-(x) and is showing suit preference away from spades. If he has the D A, any return but a diamond could let declarer run a quick nine tricks in the majors.

Daniel Korbel: How long have you been dreaming up this scenario? If partner wanted a shift, he could have just discouraged on my C K; so either I am called upon to do something bizarre, or more likely, partner is just setting up his suit in case I had a singleton king. If partner has C A-J-10-8-x-x and a sure reentry, I may have to find it right now. Since he returned the C 10 (not the jack), his entry is unlikely to be spades. Although I suppose S A-J-10-x H Q-x D A-K-x-x-x C x-x (or the like) is possible against Willy, a heart return might run into S A-J-10-x H A-Q D K-x-x-x C x-x-x.

Ken Cohen: Playing partner for S J-x H x-x D A-x-x C A-J-10-8-x-x, and his protecting against a stiff C K… The C 10 is suit preference for diamonds.

Imre Csiszar: … Partner expected the C Q to be with South and had to lead the jack or 10, so the suit-preference meaning of the 10 is “not spades.” A heart return, if wrong, may easily let declarer make nine tricks in the majors; while even Willy would hardly have bid 1 NT with a hand that could take nine tricks [missing] the H A.

Billie Johnson: No more clubs to lead…

Eric Williamson: In case South has S A-Q and H A-Q, only a diamond switch will beat the contract…

Kevin Lane: … Partner wastes 7 of our HCP on one trick? What [could] prompt such a play? He couldn’t have known I had the C Q, so let’s say he holds S x-x-x H x-x D A-x-x C A-J-10-8-7. Assuming South has the C Q, and that my C K may be singleton, [he overtakes] and plays the C 10 (needed to cover dummy’s nine) as suit preference. … But in this case, it wouldn’t matter which diamond I returned. Maybe partner has S x-x H A-x D x-x-x-x C A-J-10-8-7, and [surmised] that declarer could not come to nine tricks without the heart suit unless I led away from an assumed S J-x-x-x… Thus, a diamond return is safe — oops, but it still doesn’t matter which one.*

*Kevin brings out an interesting point about my quiz construction. You should never rule out an answer because it seems the same as another. If you could, I would be giving you a free ride to eliminate two answers. A number of times in the past, the top score has gone to such a duo — and if there is no significant difference, the voting decides, as it did here. –RP

Comments for the D J

Brad Theurer: Partner’s overtake is bizarre — unless he has the C J and probably the C 8 as well — thus, his return of the C 10 is suit preference for diamonds. Willy evidently overcalled 1 NT with no club stopper on a hand such as S A-Q-10-x H A-Q D K-x-x C x-x-x-x, where we need to cash our minor-suit winners before he runs nine tricks.

Xiangmin Gao: I’m sure partner is crazy… TopMain

Problem 5

Chicago None Vul

West
You

3 D
All Pass
North
Monique

4 H²
East

1 D
Pass
South
Willy
2 D¹
4 S
1. Michaels
2. Arkansas transfer

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

You lead the D J, which wins; partner plays the four, and South the nine. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
D K1012113
H 4831934
D 3614215
S 7410111
C 5316217
C J210711

Strange system Willy and Monique play, but that’s not your problem. According to their notes, Arkansas transfers apply only when Willy uses Michaels, as this frees Monique for the service she performs best — turning the dummy (what, you thought something else?). If Monique had a heart fit, she would have transferred with 4 D.

It was tempting to lead your singleton heart, but starting with the D J worked well, holding the trick. Partner obviously has the D A, but his low diamond (attitude) gives pause for thought. Does he want a club shift? Should you now lead your singleton?

The answer lies in visualizing the distribution. The doubleton heart in dummy means that Willy must have six hearts (partner can’t have five), so he has only two minor-suit cards.* If Willy is 5=6=1=1, the contract is unbeatable unless partner has both major aces (unlikely, as Willy should have one of them). Your best chance is that Willy is 5=6=2=0, in which case you can win two diamonds, one major-suit ace and a heart ruff if you time the defense properly. Consider the following layout.

*The possibility that Willy is 4-6 in the majors is far-fetched, as a simple 1 H overcall would be routine.

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

After your D J holds, suppose you shift to your singleton. Oops. Willy wins the H K, and his remaining diamond loser goes away on the C A. You’ll get your heart ruff, of course, but that’s only three tricks. You needed to take your diamond tricks first.

Should partner have signaled differently? Perhaps, but the situation was unclear from his perspective. Partner could not know that South has six hearts, so a club shift might be needed; e.g., to avoid an endplay if declarer crossruffs the red suits before exiting with a spade to East’s blank ace. He also wasn’t even sure you would win the first trick (South might have had the D K). In any case, his signal is just one piece of evidence. Counting the hand and acting accordingly takes a higher priority.

The best defense is to continue with the D K — not a low diamond, as partner will not know what to do if he wins the ace. Then a heart shift will alert partner to your singleton, and you’ll set the contract with a heart ruff when he wins the S A.

The recommended defense also succeeds if South is 5=6=1=1 lacking an ace, e.g., S Q-10-9-x-x H Q-J-10-x-x-x D x C x.* Even though partner will not know to give you an early heart ruff, repeated diamond taps make it impossible for declarer to draw trumps before attacking hearts; then any reasonable defense will produce four tricks.

*South can’t have the C K, else partner would have won the D A at trick one. Without the C K, ducking risks losing to a stiff king; or D K-x, and declarer ridding his other diamond with a club finesse.

Second place goes to a heart shift, as this succeeds whenever partner’s ace is the H A. You will be able to cash a second diamond after getting a heart ruff.

Third place goes to a low diamond lead, which is inferior to a heart, because partner will not know to lead ace and another heart. He will surely continue diamonds, letting Willy slip through with S A-Q-x-x-x H Q-J-10-x-x-x D 9-x C —.

Other leads are considerably worse. Leading a trump serves no purpose; if partner has hearts bottled up (e.g., H A-Q-J-x), almost any defense will succeed. Leading a club is certainly the worst choice, because any time it would be effective, declarer could have prevented it by covering the D J. Between the C J and C 5, there is little to choose, so the voting breaks the tie.

Comments for the D K

Eugene Dille: When this wins, I’ll lead the H 4. To set the contract, South must be 5=6=2=0 without both major-suit aces.

Manuel Paulo: If partner has S x H A-Q-J-x D A-7-6-5-4 C K-x-x, I can lead any trump or diamond. …

Steve White: South has six hearts, since partner won’t have five. If South has five spades [and 1-1 in the minors], it takes a miracle to beat him…

Leif-Erik Stabell: This is fine if partner has S A H x-x-x-x D A-x-x-x C K-10-x-x (switch to the H 4 next); and also opposite S x H A-Q-J-x D A-x-x-x-x C K-x-x (partner plays spades or diamonds when he gets in).

John Lusky: South is marked with six hearts and presumably five spades, so we have no club trick. The best chance is that he is 5=6=2=0 and is falsecarding. I lead the D K because I want to hold the lead to shift to a heart, thus getting my ruff regardless of which major-suit ace partner has.

John Reardon: Partner could be 1=4=4=4 with, say, S A H Q-x-x-x D A-x-x-x C K-10-x-x, in which case I must continue diamonds. [Only] I know to switch to a heart next, so I must play the D K.

Toby Kenney: Partner has [at most] five diamonds, so he cannot have five hearts, giving South six. [If we can’t cash two diamonds], the only hope to beat the contract is for declarer to lose trump control.

Sebastien Louveaux: Partner would have opened 1 H with five hearts and five diamonds, so South has 11 major-suit cards. Winning three major-suit tricks is highly unlikely, even if I can ruff a heart, so the second diamond has to cash… After that, I will play a heart, catering for partner to have either major-suit ace. If I don’t cash the diamond first, it can be discarded on the C A if partner’s ace is in spades.

Jonathan Mestel: The opening bid places South with six hearts. If he has S A-Q-10-x-x H 10-x-x-x-x-x D x C x, I must continue diamonds (or possibly a trump first…). South might also have S A-Q-10-x-x H Q-J-10-x-x-x D x-x C —, in which case I want to keep the lead to make sure of my heart ruff.

David Caprera: Partner’s [low diamond] is just letting me know he has the C K. We need to tap declarer…if he has S A-Q-x-x-x H 10-x-x-x-x-x D 9 C x.

Marek Malowidzki: If declarer holds something like S A-Q-x-x-x H 10-x-x-x-x-x D 9 C x, he will not be able to completely crossruff, so he needs to establish hearts. We can prevent this plan by leading diamonds…

Len Vishnevsky: Unless partner has five hearts, declarer has at least 5-6 in the majors. [Therefore], he can’t have a club loser, but another diamond might go away. … I need to decide whether to try for a heart ruff or cash the other diamond. If partner has both major aces, I’ll get my heart ruff [regardless]; but if declarer has S Q-x-x-x-x H A-J-x-x-x-x D x-x C —, I must cash the diamond now. The D K lets me shift to a heart, going for the jugular.

Tim DeLaney: South obviously has six hearts,…so my best chance is to cash the D K then play for a heart ruff; I need partner to have only four diamonds and a major ace. If he has S x H A-Q-J-x D A-x-x-x-x C K-x-x, a diamond [still] beats the contract. …

Sathya Bettadapura: Partner can’t have five hearts when he has at most…five diamonds. If Willy is 5=6=1=1, leading a trump is unlikely to help; but if partner has good hearts and we play diamonds at every chance, declarer will hopefully run out of gas.

Jim Munday: Partner’s 1 D opening tells me that Willy has six hearts. Our best chance is for Willy to be 5=6=2=0, thus I will continue diamonds — with the king, so I can shift to a heart (difficult for partner to find) and get a ruff… On the off chance Willy is 4-6 in the majors (S A-Q-x-x H Q-10-x-x-x-x D x C x-x), the tap should doom his chances as well.

Ruud von Seida: Declarer is 5-6 in the majors (partner doesn’t have five hearts), so partner is 1=4=4=4 or 1=4=5=3. With the latter there is no real chance, so I’ll hope for the first. After the D K, I’ll lead a heart for a direct ruff (or after partner wins the S A).

Dale Freeman: It looks like Willy has six hearts; and he might be 5=6=2=0, so I better get our second diamond trick before it disappears. If the D K holds, I will try for a heart ruff.

Jon Greiman: I want to be on lead, so I can lead my stiff heart if the D K cashes. Partner must have a major-suit ace, so I will get my ruff.

Imre Csiszar: [If] South is 5=6=1=1,…4 H can be beaten only if partner has [H A-Q-J-x] or better, or both major aces (S A and H Q-J-10-x are not enough).

Will Shepherd: If the D K gets ruffed, [nothing] is lost; and if it doesn’t, the trick may be lost [on the C A].

Stop press! I just received this e-mail from Little Rock:

Bill Clinton: You thought I wasn’t around anymore, huh? I resent this contest and its libelous insinuations against my presidency. Sure, I made some mistakes in my life, like, um… well, like turning Hillary loose to run for God knows what — but maybe that will pay off. My presidency was bushwhacked at both ends (dumb and dumber?), so it’s high time for another Clinton. Go Hillary! TopMain

Problem 6

Chicago N-S Vul

West
You

Dbl
Pass
Pass
North
Monique

Rdbl
4 S
5 H
East


2 S*
Pass
Pass
South
Willy
1 H
4 H
5 C
6 H (AP)
*weak

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

You lead the C K, which wins; partner plays the three, and South the six. Your next lead?

LeadAwardVotesPercent
C 71013414
D Q925927
D J8344
H 2710511
S K635337
S 51677

The bidding may seem strange, particularly Willy’s 5 C bid, but the tactics fit Willy to a tee. After hearing a spade cue-bid from Monique, Willy planned to bid 6 H all along but tried to increase his chances by inhibiting a club lead.* Willy’s duck of the C K suggests the missing clubs are 2-2 (partner having J-3), though it is possible Willy has a singleton (partner having J-5-3).**

*Willy surely has the D A, so his normal control-bid would be 5 D (even with a stiff club); hence, the 5 C bid has to be phony.

**Partner cannot have the singleton, because Willy would have a lock by winning the C K with the ace. Similarly, Willy cannot have J-6, since he would either win the ace or unblock the jack if he ducked — not to mention that partner would play the five from 5-3 doubleton.

So what gives? It looks like Willy is trying to establish dummy’s fifth club, so a spade shift stands out to attack dummy’s late entry. Whoa! That would blow a trick immediately. Willy almost surely holds the S Q — else partner would have doubled 4 S, since you were destined to be on lead against a heart contract.

But wait! Leading the S K will do the job if the queen is singleton. Alas, this is a long shot, as partner would usually preempt to the three level with six spades after your takeout double showing 3+ spades.* Thus, partner should have exactly five spades — unless he’s a wimp.

**It is possible, of course, that you doubled with 19+ points lacking three spades; but this is far-fetched considering opponents’ vulnerable opening and redouble.

Let’s look at a typical layout that fits the assumptions so far:

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

Partner’s 2 S bid is normal for the vulnerability (I did say weak). Willy’s aggressive view is reasonable — don’t overlook the 100 honors, which count — though his normal course would be to bid 5 D over 4 S; then Monique would bid 6 H. The actual auction was the slick version.

Willy has 10 top tricks. A spade shift (king, of course) will prevent the establishment of dummy’s long club. Unfortunately, it also gives Willy an 11th trick, after which you are destined to be squeezed in the minors for 12. Ouch.

Suppose you defend passively by switching to a diamond honor. This lets Willy set up the fifth club, but it only yields 11 tricks. To make 12, he must then squeeze you in spades and diamonds; but it can’t be done because he cannot cash the established club without using the S A entry to dummy, thus killing the squeeze. Are you satisfied?

No, there’s another way. Willy should foresee the above hang-up and realize that setting up clubs requires a 3-3 break. Therefore, he will draw trumps first to discover your singleton, after which he is likely to play you for four clubs from your decision to lead a club, hence 4=1=4=4 shape per the bidding. Instead of trying to establish clubs, he will revert to Plan M — for Monique, mistress of the progressive squeeze. Willy will win the S A (optional) and five rounds of trumps to reach:

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

The last trump effects a progressive squeeze (dummy pitches a spade or diamond). If you pitch a spade, the S Q squeezes you in the minors; if you pitch a diamond, D K-10 squeezes you in the black suits; or if you pitch a club, you lose two tricks immediately. Alternately, Willy could have kept the S A in dummy and squeezed you on the penultimate trump, due to the threat of establishing two clubs by ruffout.

The killing defense is to continue clubs at trick two. This allows Willy to establish the fifth club easily enough, but that’s all there is. Willy must eventually use the S A to reach the good club, after which he cannot squeeze you in spades and diamonds because you pitch behind him.

What about other layouts? If Willy has seven hearts (including D A-K), he has 11 top tricks, and there’s little you can do. Holding S Q H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-K-x C x-x, Willy will either establish clubs or squeeze you in the minors. The S K shift is necessary if he has S Q H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-K-9-x C x, but his duck of the first club was a horrible play when he could succeed against 3-2 diamonds or a blank honor in East.*

*Technique is to lead all but one trump to reach S A-4 D 8-5-3 C 10 opposite S Q H 9 D A-K-9-6. Next cash one diamond (felling the 10), cross to the S A, ruff out West’s remaining black card, then duck a diamond to endplay West. Declarer, of course, must choose between this and playing for a 3-2 break, but the actual lie is indicated when West has a stiff heart.

A neat ending develops in the following layout, although East deserves a degree in wimp-ology:

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

After the C K holds, West must shift to the S K to have a chance — but Willy gets it on with a double guard squeeze. (This is your homework assignment.)

Among the S K, H 2, D Q and D J, there is little difference — at least as far as setting the contract in layouts I consider plausible. (One fact I am adamant about is that South must have the S Q when East fails to double 4 S.) I decided the priority should go to a passive defense, since it gives declarer the losing option to play for clubs 3-3 (West could be 4=1=5=3). Therefore, second place goes to the D Q, and third to the equivalent D J.

Fourth place goes to the H 2, which is probably passive but has the potential danger of picking off partner’s H Q-x-x (or J-x-x-x). Willy could have S Q-x H K-J-10-9-x-x-x D A-K C x-x, and there is no clear indication to take the heart finesse (your double might suggest it, but partner’s weak bid suggests otherwise).

Fifth place goes to the non-passive S K, which effectively forces declarer into a winning path. Willy has little choice but to win the S A and run trumps, falling into the minor-suit squeeze. Due to the difficulty of the problem, I was as generous with the top five awards.

Worst by far is a low spade shift, which not only flouts general principles but is almost certain to give away the contract. Even if Willy never had a prayer, e.g., with S Q-x H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-x C x-x, Monique will soon be dancing on the table. Get out the saxophone and dim the lights. It’s show time!

Comments for the C 7

Steve White: To break up the repeating squeeze if declarer has S Q-x.

Leif-Erik Stabell: … Can I trust anything about Willy after a [fake] cue-bid and raising himself to slam? If he has S Q-x H K-Q-J-10-x-x D A-K-x C x-x, only another club will do. He could have S Q-x-x H K-J-10-9-x-x-x D A-K C x, when a diamond is needed; but might he not have played differently? And with S Q H K-J-10-x-x-x-x D A-K-10-x C x, the S K is required; but would he not have played for diamonds to be 3-2? And might partner not have bid 3 S?

Toby Kenney: This allows declarer to ruff the fifth club good, but it might prevent a progressive squeeze; e.g., if South has S Q-x H K-Q-J-x-x-x D A-K-10 C x-x.

Junyi Zhu: [If] South has 0=7=4=2 shape, this will break the minor-suit squeeze.

True, but you may also need to call the paramedics.
Check your partner’s pulse immediately.

Lajos Linczmayer: I suppose partner would have bid 3 S with six spades. He may have C J-5-3 or J-3, but Slick Willy’s fake control-bid (to avoid a club lead) suggests two clubs. If Willy has D A-K and 2=7=2=2 shape, he makes the slam; and if he had S x-x H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-K-x C x, he would have won the C A. So I suppose he has S Q-x H K-Q-J-10-x-x D A-K-x C x-x, and a progressive squeeze is threatening.

Jerry Fink: Partner did not double 4 S. Why? Because he has S 10-x-x-x-x-(x). Hence, a spade shift is futile against a minor-suit squeeze if Mr. Resident holds the singleton S Q; and fatal if he holds S Q-x. Should it be the latter, I am headed into a crushing triple squeeze, unless I break communication with dummy’s clubs by leading a second club.

Brad Theurer: At first, I thought the dramatic S K would work (South having S Q H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-K-x C x-x), but I get squeezed in the minors. So I…hope Willy is void in spades and lead a club to break transportation for the squeeze (South having S H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-K-x-x C x-x).

Neelotpal Sahai: A holding consistent with the bidding is S Q-x H K-Q-J-10-x-x D A-K-x C 6-5 (forced by habit, Slick Willy plays the C 6 on the first round). I am under a three-suit squeeze,…so I will play another club to break communication. If South started with seven hearts and D A-K, I [cannot stop] a squeeze to bring the slam home.

Ron Landgraff: The 5 C bid smells psychic.

Jim Munday: Willy must have D A-K and the remaining heart honors for his bidding. I see two layouts where we have a chance: S x-x H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-K-x C x, and S Q-x H K-Q-J-10-x-x D A-K-x C x-x. The auction suggests the former, though Willy could easily have been trying to steer a spade lead with the latter. … Also, Willy might have played for a diamond split on the first layout. I believe Willy is up to no good;…and if I don’t get the C 7 on the table, I will soon feel like one of his interns — subject to a triple squeeze… A seven-card heart suit gives Willy 11 top tricks, with a possible 12th on a minor-suit squeeze or establishing the long club (I can only succeed in that case when Willy has a stiff club and no S Q).

Mike Harney: I see now what Cialis means about a “four-hour erection”; I sure hope I don’t wake up to find Willy there.

Bruce Neill: First impression is to switch to the S K to kill the late entry if declarer can set up dummy’s long club; but if that’s the case, he will squeeze me instead (e.g., S Q H K-Q-J-10-x-x-x D A-K-x C 6-5). Better to hope declarer has something like S Q-3-2 H K-Q-J-10-9-8 D A-K-6 C 6 (tricky duck!) or S Q-2 H K-Q-J-10-9-8 D A-K-6 C 6-5; then another club kills any danger of a two-trick squeeze.

Sid Ismail: Removing the entry to the upper hand to break the impending [progressive] squeeze. TopMain

Final Notes

Comments are selected from those scoring 43 or higher (top 226) in this contest, or those in the Overall Top 200 (plus ties) prior to this contest. For each problem I only include comments supporting the winning answer — except Problem 4, where the top two places were a photo. This may seem biased, but I feel it’s the best way to ensure solid content and avoid potential embarrassment in publishing comments that are flawed. Of all eligible comments, I used over 75 percent. 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 use only part of a comment, an ellipsis (…) shows 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 the 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 plays 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 contest, as well as the recollection of some political humor from the ‘90s. Wasn’t it nice when the top news story was the President’s sex life? Oops, my fault; it wasn’t “sex” by his definition. Now it seems like the news is always horrible, like more killings in Iraq. Oh well; time might heal. Thanks to all who participated, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site. Willy finally ran out of falsecards, so I’ll yield the floor to the press crew:

Dan Osman: Can I borrow Willy’s Secretary of Defense?

Jon Greiman: Does anyone else find it odd that the first couple from Arkansas were named Hill and Billy?

Curt Reeves: Was that a “Whoopee” cushion I just sat on?

Bill Cubley: I just returned from London, where I was impressed by the barmaid at the Young Chelsea Bridge Club. Do I get extra credit for the Chelsea connection?

Bill Powell: Slick Willy? More like Tricky Dicky. TopMain

Any similarity to real persons is purely intentional.
© 2006 Richard Pavlicek