Analyses 8Y08 MainChallenge

Diamonds in the Ruff

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

These six problems were published on the Internet in January 2007 as a contest open to all bridge players. As declarer, you had to find the best way to cope with a threatening diamond ruff, choosing from Options A-F.

Problem 123456Final Notes

Having tons of diamonds hardly seems like a problem, but it’s similar to the old Scrooge McDuck syndrome. Walking around the house, knee-deep in diamonds is painful. I can’t take a bath anymore, and taking a shower reminds me of Robert Schuller and the Crystal Cathedral. I can even empathize with Auric Goldfinger, but I have enough sense not to try to contaminate the world’s diamond supply. Hmm, wait a second… Jwaneng would be an easy mark. A few dozen mercenaries with elephant guns should do the trick.

The good news is that PavCo Diamonds will go public next month. Market analysts predict that De Beers will seek a merger, but no way! PavCo will stand alone, and to ensure a competitive edge, we will be selling 5-carat pendants at half price until next October. Top that, De Beers! Of course they won’t, so we’re already planning for an Oktoberfest celebration with ‘de beers’ flowing on tap.

John Reardon Wins!

This contest had 1269 entrants from 117 locations, and the average score was 42.61. Congratulations to John Reardon (England) who was the first of 16 to submit perfect scores. This is no surprise, as John was a triple winner in my last series and the leader in 11 of 17 all-time categories. Also scoring 60 were Leif-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe), Tim Bolshaw (Thailand), Bruce Neill (Australia), Darek Kardas (Poland), Ding-Hwa Hsieh (Missouri), and 10 others, most of whom are household names around here.

Participation to start this new series is encouraging, topping my old-series high of 1153 (February 2005). Hopefully, this is a sign of increased interest, rather than a courtesy for the opening contest.

The average score (42.61) was well above the past all-time average (39.66), but this reflects a variety of factors including field competence, problem difficulty and my scoring decisions. A total of 617 persons scored above average (43+) to make the listing. Being the start of a new series, overall standings are meaningless — or as many would say, like all of my projects.

Some people were disappointed that my new series will be play and defense contests only, i.e., no bidding polls, but most comments were favorable. When I began these monthly events in 2000, participation was mostly from the U.S., but now the great majority are from other countries. Therefore, bidding polls based on U.S. methods are less attractive. Card play, however, is the same for everyone (except for defensive leads and signals) and has greater appeal.

I just became aware that Serbia & Montenegro are now separate countries with new ISO codes (Serbia = RS, Montenegro = ME) so my location list has been updated. Speaking of Serbia, I was amused by the surname of its new participant: Milica Pavkovic. Hmm… Now there’s a guy I want as a PavCo miner!

Each problem offered six plausible lines of play (A-F). 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.

Assume all players are experts. Bidding is standard (except as noted) and your opponents use standard leads and signals. For a reference see Standard American Bridge.

Analyses 8Y08 MainChallengeScoresTop Diamonds in the Ruff

Problem 1

Both Vul
S 10
H A 9 5
D A K Q 8 3
C A 5 4 2
1 C
1 D
2 NT
4 S
All Pass
1 S
3 S
Lead: D 10TableEast plays D J

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

After winning the D A:

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
F. Lead the C 21036229
B. Lead S 10 to jack833927
C. Lead S 10 and run it740532
A. Lead S 10 to king3867
E. Win C A; ruff a club2524
D. Lead the H 51252

Several respondents questioned the bidding, particularly South’s choice to rebid spades rather than support diamonds. The given auction, however, meets my approval since the spade suit is meaty, and 4 S is the only likely game. Playing in diamonds, a spade misfit would make the South hand useless, except for a few ruffs. Catching the S 10 was fortuitous, but even a low singleton might be enough.

What’s going on in the diamond suit? Superficially it seems West has led from 10-9-6, and East has a singleton jack; but is that realistic? It’s possible of course that West chose a passive lead from, say, S A-Q-x H K-10-x D 10-9-x C K-J-x-x, but in that event you’re destined to go down. Realistically, West’s lead is a singleton, and East’s jack (from an insignicant J-9-6) indicates a heart entry* as opposed to clubs. The following deal is typical.

*When the opening lead is an obvious singleton (based on the bidding), attitude or count is useless; so standard practice is to show suit preference.

IMPsS 10TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH A 9 51 WD 10AJ2
D A K Q 8 32 NS 10?3JQ
C A 5 4 23 WH 3!A84
S A Q 7 2TableS 6 34 NC A6Q3
H K 7 3H Q 10 8 6 25 NC 28S 47
D 10D J 9 66 SS KAC 46
C K J 9 7 3C 10 8 67 WH 7!5QJ
S K J 9 8 5 48 ED 64S 23
H J 4Declarer fails
D 7 5 4 2
4 S SouthC Q

Suppose you take the usual path to prevent ruffs by drawing trumps. At Trick 2 you lead the S 10 to your jack (Line B) and West’s queen. West shifts to hearts as instructed, and no matter what you do now, East will gain the lead to deliver the diamond ruff. Down one.

Time to bring out the cleaver! You need to cut the enemy communication, and the only way to do this is to transfer your side loser from hearts to clubs. Lead a low club at trick two (Line F), giving West his king; then on a heart shift, take the ace and discard your remaining heart on the C A. The rest is straightforward, provided you overtake the first spade in hand.* You have just enough trumps to force out West’s honors, take two taps and draw trumps.

*If you run the S 10, West can defeat you by ducking, as you will then be tapped three times and lose control.

Second place goes to an immediate trump lead to the jack (Line B), succeeding when East has the S Q, plus a few other slight chances such as H K-x West (East cannot gain the lead). Running the S 10 (Line C) is slightly inferior, because West could have S A-Q-x-x H K-x D 10 C K-J-x-x-x-x, whereupon ducking will effect a tap-out.

Other plays are greatly inferior if not hopeless. Leading to the S K is counterintuitive on the bidding. Leading a heart (Line D) or ruffing a club (Line E) is almost like playing for the wrong side. Rather than try to decide bad, worse and worst, the voting order will do fine.

Comments for F. Lead the C 2

John Reardon: I must cut their communication; I expect West to hold something like S A-Q-x H K-x-x D 10 C K-J-x-x-x-x.

Leif-Erik Stabell: West might easily have something like S A-Q-3-2 H Q-6-3-2 D 10 C K-J-6-3, in which case I have to prevent East from obtaining the lead. Later, I must remember to overtake the S 10.

Tim Bolshaw: An expert would normally prefer the lead of the H K to a singleton in dummy’s suit, [especially] with partner marked with a weak hand, possibly with no entry at all. East’s play of the D J (suit preference for hearts) confirms this. I think West can also be placed with either S A-Q-x or A-x-(x), as with four trumps he would have led from his long suit. The danger is S A-Q-x, where I stand to lose two trumps, a heart and a ruff. By leading the C 2, I can keep East out of the lead…

Bruce Neill: In case West has, say, S A-Q-x H K-x-x-x D x C K-J-x-x-x.

Perry Groot: East cannot be allowed the lead, for he will give West a diamond ruff. It is more probable that East has a high heart honor than the C K. [Later] I will throw a heart on the C A to cut communication.

Dean Pokorny: I’ll preserve the C A for a heart discard (scissors coup) in case West has something like S A-Q-x-x H Q-x-x-x D 10 C K-J-x-x.

Jordi Sabate: The dangerous layout is S A-Q-x and a singleton diamond in West, in which case it would be a mistake to lead a trump now, as West will win and switch to hearts (East’s D J was a suit-preference signal) to receive his ruff. This is safe if West has the C K (sure from the bidding and D J play), as I will discard a heart on the C A

Rob Balas: Opening lead seems to be singleton, and the D J [shows] that East has a heart honor and not the C K. Therefore, I need to cut communication before working on spades. I’ll let West in with the C K then use the C A to pitch a heart to prevent East from getting the lead…

Rainer Herrmann: Divide and conquer!

Jonathan Mestel: Cutting the diamond-ruff link. Perhaps the D J is suit preference for hearts.

Nicola Farina: … This avoids East taking the lead to give West a diamond ruff. I don’t think the contract can be made if East has a singleton diamond.

Jerry Fink: West, having three or four more honor cards than East, rates to be the hand with a singleton diamond. It’s quite a number of different distributions, versus a balanced 12-14 count with S A-x-x and D 10-9-6. I vote for the scissors play.

Nigel Guthrie: Jack and GIB sat at the bar, celebrating their latest victory. “In a pathetic attempt at self-justification, Richard has posted some hands from the match in his latest contest. No wonder he won’t let us enter!” boasted GIB. “He doesn’t want to be shown up,” agreed Jack. “Take Board 1: At both tables West led a diamond from S A-x-x H K-10-9 D 10-9-x C K-J-10-x, and I simply ran the S 10 for 10 easy tricks. At the other table, Richard somehow managed to lose the C K and two diamond ruffs!”

Lajos Linczmayer: I’ll play West for a singleton diamond, say, S A-Q-x-x H K-10-x-x D 10 C K-J-x-x. East’s D J is presumably suit preference for hearts.

David Kenward: Keeping East off lead; the D J indicates a likely heart entry.

John Lusky: Executing a scissors coup if West has something like S A-Q-x-x H K-x-x D 10 C K-x-x-x-x. I am playing for West, not East, to be short in diamonds; and for East to be giving a suit-preference signal at trick one. If East is short in diamonds, I am sunk unless he has the S Q, but then West would have H K-Q and [probably] have led a heart…

Tim DeLaney: An avoidance maneuver to prevent East from getting the lead to give West a diamond ruff. When hearts are led, I will cash the C A to discard a heart, then play spades…

Baron Ng: A typical scissors coup, assuming West is holding S A-Q-x H K-x-x-x D 10 C K-J-x-x-x. …

Sriram Narasimhan: The danger is losing two spades, a heart and a diamond ruff. This guarantees the contract as long as West has the C K and spades are no worse than 4-2. If a heart is returned, I’ll win the ace, cash the C A pitching a heart, and lead a spade to the jack…

Dale Freeman: Hopefully, West has the C K, and this will prevent East from getting in to give him a diamond ruff.

Neelotpal Sahai: West is likely to have S A-Q-x-x H K-10-x D x C K-J-x-x-x for his bidding,…in which case this is the only line to ensure the contract, as it breaks communication… Defense collects two spades and one club, all won by West.

Rob Wijman: The idea is to cut off East, who may have an entry in hearts,…by discarding a heart on the C A. West is likely to have the C K in something like S A-Q-x-x H K-J-x-x D 10 C K-J-x-x.

Manuel Paulo: West should have a hand like S A-Q-x H K-x-x-x D 10 C K-J-x-x-x, so I must destroy a heart entry to East before drawing trumps.

Joon Pahk: I’d like to say I wouldn’t have bid so much without the C Q, so I might as well make use of her.

Jim Munday: A scissors coup will prevent West from reaching East in hearts for a diamond ruff.

Gilles Korngut: It looks like West has led a singleton, and East is showing a heart honor. This insures that East will never get in to give West a ruff.

David Caprera: Cutting communication with my Jerry Mathers.

Carsten Kofoed: East signals for hearts, so I’ll cut their connection. Even if West has S A-Q-x-x, I’m home.

Mark Chen: I will throw a heart loser on the C A as a scissors coup to prevent East from giving West a diamond ruff.

Chris Gibson: Scissors coup; the D 10 appears to be a singleton, and the D J is suit preference for hearts.

Keith Falkner: Snip! East wants a lead to his H K, so West has all other point cards. I’ll win North’s aces at tricks three and four, pitching the H J, then lead the S 10 to the jack and queen, later losing the S A also. At the end I’ll bask in diamonds — or Robins.

Paulino Correa: The lead is hardly from D 10-9-6; it may be a doubleton, or East may have made a smoke cloud with J-9-6. … Assuming the C K in West (reasonable for his opening bid), East can only gain the lead in hearts, …but I can cut their communication by exchanging a heart loser for a club loser. …

Albert Feasley: This gives West the C K in exchange for cutting the defensive communication in hearts…

Bruce Chen: The D J is a suit-preference signal showing the H K, so West has the rest of the high cards. I’ll give him his C K, so I can throw the H J on the C A, preventing a diamond ruff.

Nigel Weeden: I’ll win West’s heart return and discard a heart on the C A; then with communication successfully cut to eliminate the risk of a diamond ruff, it’s time to tackle trumps.

Birol Guvenc: West may be able to ruff a diamond, so later I’ll throw my losing heart on the C A.

Pekka Niemisto: Nothing can stop East from getting a ruff if he is short in diamonds. If West is after the ruff, East’s most likely entry is in hearts (with H K-Q West might have led the king, and the D J by East seems a strong suit preference). …

Rod Roark: Seems likely that East has a heart honor, as West did not lead one, and East’s card suggests suit preference; so I’ll play for West to hold all the other high cards.

Madhukar Bapu: The D 10 lead appears to be a singleton and spells danger. A scissors coup can be put to good use by leading the C 2 to put the defenders out of touch.

Imre Csiszar: The lead appears to be a singleton, and the D J suit preference. West likely has S A-Q-x-(x), so to succeed I must not let East gain the lead in hearts to give West a ruff.

Adrian Barna: This works best when West led a singleton and also holds the C K, thus removing East’s entry in hearts. … This loses to Line B only when West led from D 10-9-x and East has S Q-x-x.

Bob Stitt: Cutting communication to East by losing a club instead of a heart to avoid a diamond ruff.

Bill Daly: So I can pitch a heart on the C A, of course. This may be the only legitimate way to stop a diamond ruff. I can’t be sure that East has a heart [entry], but he almost certainly doesn’t have the C K.

Anthony Golding: It looks as though West has a singleton diamond and probably S A-Q-x-(x), and East has a heart entry. This cuts communication (West must have the C K) so they just get two trumps and the C K.

Josh Sinnett: West’s lead and East’s signal suggest that East’s entry is in hearts. [Later] pitching my losing heart on the C A prevents West from getting a diamond ruff — a classic scissors coup.

Tong Xu: It seems that West led a singleton diamond, and East has a heart honor; so this prevents West from ruffing a diamond. [Later] I can finesse spades once, although it seems West has both spade honors.

Davies Guttmann: If the D 10 is a singleton, I can discard the H J on the C A to sever communication. If diamonds are 2-2, I just lose two spades and a club.

Douglas Dunn: This play helps to stop East from getting the lead in hearts later, in case the D 10 is a singleton.

N. Scott Cardell: If diamonds are 3-1, I risk losing two spades, a heart and a diamond ruff. Also, West probably would have led the H K if he held K-Q, so the heart honors are likely to be split, which means West needs S A-Q and the C K along with one high heart for his opening. If the D 10 is from 10-9-6, there is little I can do; but if the D 10 is a singleton, I can cut communication…

Robb Gordon: A delayed scissors coup. Wouldn’t the D J be a fantastic play from S x-x-x H x-x-x-x D J-9-x C K-x-x!

Noel Landry: Chances are West has S A-Q-x and the C K, plus the H K or H Q. The idea is to prevent East from getting in to give West a ruff. … Of course, I’ll look like an idiot if East has the C K and West H K-Q; but I give West some credit that he might have chosen to lead a heart with K-Q.

Tom Buttle: Since East’s entry seems to be in hearts, I need to toss my losing heart on the C A to deny the impending ruff.

Paul Thurston: Cutting of a different kind may work here. I can’t stop West from delivering a ruff (or two), but I can stop him from getting one.

Nick Krnjevic: East has a heart entry, so West has the rest. I’ll sever communication for the ruff by throwing my heart on the C A.

Cong Zhang: Looks like West has a singleton diamond, and East’s [only] high card is in hearts. If I lead spade at trick two, I cannot stop West from ruffing a diamond…

Richard Aronson: West probably has the S A and a stiff diamond, [else] the lead probably would have been from H K-Q instead of a doubleton or tripleton diamond. … East signaled high [to show] a heart entry. [This play ensures] East never gets in, and I will lose only one club and two spades, barring an extremely bad spade split (unlikely on the bidding).

Roger Morton: A diamond ruff is pending, and East has signaled a heart entry. I need to cut communication before drawing trumps, discarding a heart on the C A.

Gerard Versluis: Hopefully, this will keep East off lead, as I can throw a heart on the C A, losing only two spades and a club.

Carl Hess: West might have found a heart lead from K-Q; so if East has an [entry], it’s in hearts, and thus the D J is suit preference. A scissors coup is necessary.

Thijs Veugen: West would probably have led the H K with K-Q, so he’s likely to hold the C K. This will cut the communication for a diamond ruff.

Matt Matuszewski: Trading a club loser for a heart loser to sever communication.

Javier Carbonero: Layouts with no future must be rejected, e.g., S A-Q West and a singleton diamond East… Also, if diamonds are 2-2, the contract will prevail with only three losers. [Correct play explained].

Zbych Bednarek: I must cut communication between opponents [to prevent] a diamond ruff; on the C A, I will throw a heart, losing one club and two spades, and the rest are mine.

Gerald Murphy: Since the D 10 looks like a singleton, I will [later] discard a heart on the C A; then comes a spade to my jack.

Ron Tacchi: Tacchi theory of bridge quizzes states that the answer to the first question is always what first appears to be the most ludicrous. Note the word “appears” — in this case it is hopefully a form of scissors coup…

Gerald Cohen: I don’t think I can make this if the lead was from three, so I’ll play West for the singleton and try to prevent East from gaining the lead.

Fred Herring: Playing West for a stiff diamond, and East for a suit-preference signal. If they haven’t flimflammed me, I need to sever the heart entry, then all is well.

Why is Fred paranoid about accepting obvious clues? Aha! Must be because of his brother, Red.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: I will cut communication in hearts by pitching the H J on the C A to stop a diamond ruff, in case West has S A-Q-x H Q-x-x-x D 10 C K-J-x-x-x.

Ronald Smith: I plan to discard a heart on the C A, then lead the S 10 and overtake with the jack.

Frans Buijsen: It looks like West wants to ruff diamonds, so I’ll try to eliminate East’s heart entry.

Guven Dalkilic: I will discard my second heart to prevent East having an entry to give West a diamond ruff.

Metin Uz: Intending to pitch a heart on the C A… West may have both spade honors, but East will be able to get in if he has either heart honor.

Toby Kenney: This scissors coup should prevent the diamond ruff; I can pitch my heart loser on the C A.

Analyses 8Y08 MainChallengeScoresTop Diamonds in the Ruff

Problem 2

None Vul
S Q 7
H A 10 6 4 2
D J 3
C A 8 4 2



4 S
Lead: C QTableEast plays C 5

4 S South
S K J 10 9 8 5 4
D Q 10 9 5
C K 3

C. Win C A; H A; lead D J1031225
D. Win C A; lead D J814712
F. Win C K; lead D 5713210
B. Win C A; H A; lead S Q519716
E. Win C K; lead S 4332125
A. Win C A; lead S Q216013

Murphy’s Law in the lapidary business states, “If a diamond can be shattered, it will be shattered,” and so might this contract. Four spades looks pretty cozy, routinely losing just two diamonds and the high trump, but there are two apparent dangers: (1) An opponent might have a singleton club and get a club ruff, or (2) an opponent might have one or two diamonds with S A-x-x-(x) and get a diamond ruff after two rounds of trumps are played.

The first danger is resolved by pitching a club on the H A, despite the inelegance of having to win the C A in dummy and part with the C K — which costs nothing since you always have to lose two diamonds, and your remaining diamonds will be good. Therefore, the winning play should be a choice between Lines B and C.*

*I deliberately didn’t specify what to pitch on the H A so as not to hand over the solution. If you didn’t see this, I wasn’t going to tell you.

Skirting the second danger is less clear, and no play is 100-percent foolproof. The most likely diamond danger is honor-doubleton in one hand together with S A-x-x, as in the following layout:

IMPsS Q 7TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None VulH A 10 6 4 21 WC QA53
D J 32 NH A3C K!7
C A 8 4 23 ND J!45K
S A 6 2TableS 34 WS 2Q34
H Q 9 8 7H K J 5 35 ND 3!A92
D K 2D A 8 7 6 4Declarer succeeds
C Q J 10 7C 9 6 5
S K J 10 9 8 5 4
D Q 10 9 5
4 S SouthC K 3

After winning the C A and pitching the C K on the H A (unnecessary this time), leading trumps would bring your demise. West would duck the first round, then no matter what you did next, he would win the S A and D K, then lead to partner’s D A for a ruff. The proper play is to start diamonds (Line C). Suppose West wins the D K and shifts to a low trump (ace and another lets you claim).* A second diamond now leaves the defense helpless. Note that if East held the S A and removed dummy’s trump, West could not have a trump left.

*If East wins the first diamond and returns a club, you should ruff with the S 8 (just in case) then lead a low trump. If ducked, continue diamonds as above to cope with any defense.

If the defense wins two diamonds and West is able to lead a third diamond immediately, you should ruff of course, then return to hand with a heart ruff to ruff your fourth diamond. The only risk is West with a singleton heart (virtually impossible as he would have led it). Note that if you ruff high twice in hand (after ruffing two diamonds) you can’t cope with a 4-0 trump break.

If either opponent held a singleton diamond with S A-x-x, Line C would fail. A trump would be returned; then the second diamond could be ruffed and the S A cashed to leave you with a third diamond loser. This could be averted by leading trumps before diamonds (Line B), or before the second diamond; but alas, you would then fail against the far more common scenario in the diagram.

Second place is a toss-up between Lines D and F, either of which caters to the diagram but ignores the possibility of a singleton club. Line F has a theoretical edge, succeeding if West failed to lead his singleton with S A-x-x H K-J-x-x-x-x D x C Q-J-10*, but even then the play and defense are double-dummy. Line D has a psychological edge, as West (with six clubs) may think you have the singleton and shift in vain to trumps. Nonetheless, these edges aren’t worth a measly carat, so I broke the tie by the voting.

*After East wins the D K, he must give West a ruff (else you can succeed by reverting to trumps); then West must lead ace and another trump. Cashing the H A and ruffing a heart then leads to a double squeeze.

Fourth place goes to winning the C A, cashing the H A and leading trumps (Line B), which caters to a singleton club in either hand — 6.78 percent a priori and little affected by West’s lead (he would probably lead any six-bagger or any singleton). Curiously, this is almost as likely as the diamond danger*, though the 6.78 percent must be reduced for cases in which the defense cannot achieve a ruff (no entry with long clubs, or a blank S A with the stiff club).

*I calculate the chance of either hand holding S A-x-x-(x) with D A-x, K-x or x-x (excluding D x-x in East because West would lead a top diamond) to be 7.42 percent. If West has D x-x, declarer can succeed by leading trumps once (ducked) then switching to diamonds; but anyone who starts trumps is probably oblivious to this and expectedly would lead a second trump.

Worst of all are Lines A and E, which ignore both apparent dangers. Rather than stir up any diamond dust on a tiebreaker, they’re ranked by the voting.

Comments for C. Win C A; H A; lead D J

John Reardon: I throw the C K and plan to ruff diamonds, unless opponents help me by playing trumps.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Having discarded the C K on the H A, the contract should be safe, even if East holds S A-6-3-2 H Q-J-8-7-5-3 D A-4 C 5.

Tim Bolshaw: The straightforward line of playing trumps risks a club or diamond ruff. By winning the C A and discarding my other club, I eliminate the risk of a club ruff. I next play diamonds, starting to cut opponents’ communication… If they win and play a low trump, I’ll just play another diamond, and everything is nicely under control.

Bruce Neill: Danger is a club ruff or a diamond ruff — or both if West has, say, S x H K-x-x-x-x-x D A-x-x-x-x C Q. I’ll pitch the C K to eliminate the first risk, then cut diamond communication before drawing trumps.

Perry Groot: The problems I see are a singleton club, or three spades with a doubleton diamond. To cut communication, it looks best to play two rounds of diamonds before turning to spades.

Dean Pokorny: I’m afraid of a club ruff, so I’ll pitch the C K before trying to ruff two diamonds high.

Jordi Sabate: I will discard the C K (in case clubs are 6-1) and lead the D J. The defense cannot manage a diamond ruff unless someone has a singleton diamond. …

Rob Balas: I need to watch out for a singleton club, and/or 5-2 diamonds and an associated diamond ruff. Therefore, I pitch the C K…and work on diamonds, while I still have trumps on the board to ruff good diamonds if necessary.

Jonathan Mestel: Throwing the C K — in case opponents are allowed to ruff clubs, too. (I once allowed a diamond ruff on a similar hand.)

Grant Peacock: This caters to 6-1 clubs; and I start diamonds before spades, in case someone has two diamonds and S A-x-x.

Nicola Farina: I’ll pitch the C K, just in case clubs were 6-1; and then lead diamonds, either to ruff two diamonds in dummy or to establish the suit.

Charles Blair: Sneaky. I have to worry about a club ruff as well as a diamond ruff.

Jerry Fink: After taking care of business, I’ll lead a diamond to prevent a diamond ruff. [Curious] that leading trumps [might enable] a diamond ruff. Nice symmetry.

David Kenward: I’ll throw the C K to save it from being ruffed. Leading trumps first fails if either hand ducks holding S A-x-x and D A-x or K-x.

John Lusky: [Besides a club ruff], this protects against an opponent having S A-x-x and D A-x or K-x. Playing a spade before a diamond lets the opponent duck one round and get a diamond ruff.

Zahary Zahariev: Discarding the C K then leading diamonds will decrease ruffing chances.

Sriram Narasimhan: I am in danger of losing the S A, D A-K and a ruff. Pitching the C K caters to a club ruff, then playing the D J caters to a diamond ruff. … If opponents next duck a spade, I will continue diamonds to cut communication…

Dale Freeman: Throwing the C K will stop a club ruff; then the D J will stop a diamond ruff when an opponent has S A-x-x and a doubleton diamond…

Rob Wijman: This takes care of 6-1 clubs or 5-2 diamonds and any trump distribution.

Dmitri Shabes: To protect against a diamond ruff, I can’t touch trumps before playing a diamond. Lines C, D and F are similar, but this also protects against a club ruff by discarding the C K

Manuel Paulo: If West has a hand like S A-x-x H Q-x D K-x C Q-J-10-9-7-6, there are two dangers: a club ruff by East, and a diamond ruff by West. To prevent the first, I win in dummy and lead the H A to discard a club; to prevent the second, I play on diamonds while I have trumps in dummy.

Gilles Korngut: This protects against 6-1 clubs, or a doubleton diamond with S A-x-x-(x).

David Caprera: A red herring. An opponent may get a club ruff…

You may be right, but just to be sure we’ll check with Fred.

Keith Falkner: Pitching the C K in case [either opponent] has a singleton,…then diamonds. If opponents try to thwart me by leading trumps, that’s OK too.

Albert Feasley: Leading trumps before diamonds fails when either defender has two diamonds and S A-x-x (he will duck once then get a diamond ruff). Not pitching a club fails when either defender has a stiff club. …

Bruce Chen: Diamonds need to be played to prepare for a ruff if necessary, while dummy still has trumps.

Bill Powell: Ditching the C K guards against a 6-1 club break. Although this telegraphs my hand, I believe expert defenders will be ducking a spade whatever line I take.

Peter Hall: Throwing the C K in case clubs are 6-1. A further danger is an [opponent] with S A-x-x, who may win the second spade and get a diamond ruff [with a doubleton]; playing diamonds now stops [this].

Rod Roark: Aiming to make, even if someone has a singleton club or a doubleton diamond. After tossing the C K, I will play on diamonds twice if there’s still a trump in dummy.

Imre Csiszar: Lines C, D and F protect equally against a diamond ruff, in case an opponent has a doubleton with S A-x-x. This (discarding the C K) also protects against a club ruff.

Adrian Barna: Discarding the C K and leading the D J assures the contract against a singleton club, or if either opponent holds S A-x-x and honor-doubleton in diamonds. [Next] I will lead one round of trumps and, if it holds, lead a diamond again.

Bill Daly: Pitching the C K, of course. As long as I can lead a second diamond before opponents win the second spade with the ace, I’ll [probably] be OK…

Barry White: After pitching my C K, lest there be a 6-1 split lurking, this [should produce] 10 tricks. Opponents will be unable to duck a spade and get a third-round diamond ruff.

Patrick Schenkhuizen: After discarding a club on the H A, if I play trumps I risk a diamond ruff when a player holds S A-x-x.

Davies Guttmann: This guards against a club ruff if clubs are 6-1,…and also a third-round diamond ruff.

Michael Day: [Main dangers] are an opponent getting a second-round club ruff or a third-round diamond ruff; so I pitch my C K and lead diamonds. [If] a third diamond is led, I will have a trump on the board; else opponents can’t get a ruff.

Ludek Ambroz: Dangerous is S A-x-x and D A-x or K-x in the same hand.

Vic Sartor: I will pitch the C K, and hope to avoid a diamond ruff… Opponents can’t lead trumps without giving up ruff chances.

Nick Krnjevic: Cashing the H A caters to a stiff club, then diamond plays will sever communication for a diamond ruff.

Richard Aronson: I sluff my C K…in case clubs are 6-1; then opponents lack the tempo to stop me from either pulling trumps or ruffing diamonds high if a third diamond is led. If I pull a round of trumps first, an opponent will duck [with S A-x-x and D A-x or K-x] and cannot be stopped from getting a diamond ruff…

Gerard Versluis: Now that I got rid of the C K,… I can either set up diamonds, or ruff two diamonds [if opponents lead a third diamond immediately].

Javier Carbonero: …Effort must be to avoid a ruff. Though a small danger, it is good policy to discard the C K to avoid a club ruff. If I draw trumps too early, a defender may take the second round and get a [third-round] diamond ruff. …

Len Vishnevsky: … [If I lead trumps] and West has, say, S A-x-x H Q-x-x D K-x C Q-J-10-x-x, he will win the second round and get a diamond ruff. [Therefore], I need to play diamonds, threatening to ruff them high in dummy. Just in case clubs are 6-1, I pitch the C K.

Michael Shuster: Pitching my smaller club on the H A…

Classy! West would have bid with eight hearts, so wasting both top clubs at trick one may stupefy the opponents.

Fred Herring: Pitching the C K; I can afford to ruff high. If D A-K are won in two rounds, I can play trumps; if a diamond is ducked, I can ruff a diamond. I expect the defense to duck the first time spades are played.

Analyses 8Y08 MainChallengeScoresTop Diamonds in the Ruff

Problem 3

N-S Vul
S 8 6 3 2
H A Q 10
D A 2
C A 8 6 3
2 S
4 S
6 H
Lead: D QTableEast plays D 4

6 H South
H K J 8 7 4 2
D K 7 6 5 3
C 2

After winning the D A:

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
E. Lead D 2 to king1017314
F. Lead D 2 and duck if East follows959247
B. Win S A; lead D 58947
A. Win S A; D K7706
C. Win H A; lead D 2 to king316113
D. Win H A; lead D 2 and duck if East follows217914

Finding partner with four spades is a surprise on the auction, not so much for his double but because of the aggressive enemy bidding with only eight trumps. West apparently took the liberty to open a five-bagger* and East heeded the vulnerability to take an advance sacrifice. If you’re not used to getting bounced around like this, you’re playing against easy opponents.

*System agreements on weak two-bids state “6 cards (occasionally strong 5)” so this should be expected. My general guideline for suit quality of a five-carder is four of the top six cards (e.g., K-Q-10-9-x or Q-J-10-9-x) but judgment may fudge on this, especially at favorable vulnerability.

Six hearts is an excellent contract, albeit a lucky stab on your Diamond Jim Brady auction. I like the blast to 6 H, because there’s no way to investigate*, and it gives the opponents the last guess about whether to sacrifice.

*Blackwood would be useful, but 4 NT should be for takeout.

So what is West up to with his lead? Only a 5-1 diamond break is a problem, so did he open 2 S with five diamonds? Or is he leading a singleton? The latter is more likely, so if you play diamonds straight up, he will ruff your king and return a trump, leaving you a trick short. Aha! You can afford the trump return but not the D K being ruffed, so a textbook safety play comes to mind. Consider this layout:

IMPsS 8 6 3 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH A Q 101 WD QA43
D A 22 ND 285S 7
C A 8 6 33 EH 32510
S K J 10 9 7TableS Q 5 44 NS 24A9
H 9 6 5H 35 SD 6C 4H Q9
D QD J 10 9 8 46 NS 35H 410
C Q 10 7 4C K J 9 57 SD 7C 7H A10
S ADeclarer succeeds
H K J 8 7 4 2
D K 7 6 5 3
6 H SouthC 2

After winning the D A, suppose you lead the D 2 and duck when East follows (Line F). Regardless of the return, you can ruff two diamonds, draw trumps and claim. Transportation is no problem, as the S A and spade ruffs provide risk-free entries to hand. A piece of cake.

Are you satisfied? If so, you might be hung up on textbooks. On this occasion, ducking the diamond gave up your chance for an overtrick* but offered no advantage in return. The danger of West ruffing your D K and returning a trump is illusory. You only need to ruff two of your losing diamonds, because a double squeeze is sure to exist if the D K gets ruffed.

*While not a primary concern, overtricks are significant at IMP scoring. Trust me; over the years I’ve lost five important matches by 1 IMP, and twice lost an 8-board playoff after a tie. I’ve won some close ones, too, but they’re soon forgotten; only the losses come back to haunt.

Proper technique is to lead a diamond to the king immediately (Line E). Suppose West ruffs and returns a trump, won by the ace. Cross to the S A; ruff a diamond; ruff a spade; ruff a diamond; ruff a spade, and lead two more trumps to reach this position:

H win allS 8
C A 8
S KTableS
C Q 10C K J
H 8
D 7
South leadsC 2

Finally, the H 8 completes a simultaneous double squeeze. The bidding (5+ spades in West) and the known diamond layout ensure success. On the actual layout, this gains nothing over the safety play; but anytime diamonds are 4-2 or 3-3, you will 13 tricks.

Can anything go wrong? Yes, a 4-0 trump break will defeat you if West returns a club after ruffing. This ruins the double squeeze, and you cannot ruff three diamonds without losing a trick to West’s H 9. Even so, this is not a deficiency for Line E but a bonus. Line F always fails against this distribution, but if West returns a trump after ruffing, you will succeed.

A close second goes to the ‘textbook’ safety play (Line F), giving up the chance for an overtrick. Effectively as good is to cross to the S A and duck a diamond (Line B). Well, not quite, as clever defense could conceal the heart-club distribution and force you to guess.*

*If West has, say, S K-J-10-9-x HD Q-J-10-9-8 C J-x-x, a safe crossruff develops, including a trump coup against East’s H 9. However, if declarer plays for this, he fails against S K-J-10-9-x H 9-x D Q-J-10-9-8 C x.

Fourth place goes to winning the S A and D K (Line A), which has a serious flaw, losing outright if West has five diamonds (East will ruff and return a trump). Nonetheless, I think it deserves a close fourth since it works just as well as Line E in my diagram* and usually gains an IMP over Lines B and F. Indeed, it is arguable that the frequent 1-IMP gain warrants second place, but I always resolve dubious IMP issues in favor of making the contract.

*If West ruffs and returns a trump, you must win the trick in hand, which is safe once East follows (if he shows out you had no play anyway); else you would lack communication to ruff two diamonds without killing dummy’s spade threat or club entry.

Worst by far is to draw a round of trumps immediately, as it effectively signs your own death warrant when diamonds are 5-1. If you next lead a diamond to the king (Line C), West can ruff and return either a club (killing the squeeze) or a trump (limiting you to one ruff). If you instead duck a diamond (Line D), East can lead a second trump (or if he doesn’t have one, West can ruff and lead his last trump) since you now lack the entries to isolate the spade threat for a squeeze. At least Line C retains the chance of an overtrick.

Comments for E. Lead D 2 to king

John Reardon: If West ruffs this, I will still succeed by a crossruff or, on a trump return, a double squeeze.

Leif-Erik Stabell: The contract is safe enough if diamonds are 5-1 and hearts 3-1. If West ruffs the D K, he cannot play both a trump [to stop a crossruff] and a club to break up a double squeeze. A crucial distribution is West with something like S Q-10-9-7-5-4 H 9-6-5-3 D Q C K-J, where it will be almost impossible for him to find a club switch to break up the squeeze, while it should be routine defense for East if I duck a diamond.

Tim Bolshaw: I visualize West with 6=3=1=3 shape. If I play a diamond to the king,…I can apparently be beaten by a trump shift; however, a double squeeze comes to the rescue (clubs middle suit). So the diamond duck is unnecessary…

Bruce Neill: It looks just so-o-o-o obvious to duck the second diamond, but it’s unnecessary assuming spades are 5-3 (or 6-2). If West ruffs the second diamond and returns a heart, I can ruff two spades to set up a double squeeze. It’s hard to see how ducking a diamond could cost [more than an overtrick], but maybe East cunningly suppressed his clubs with S Q-x-x H D 9-x C K-Q-J-x-x-x-x-x!

Ding-Hwa Hsieh: If West ruffs, I still can recover by a double squeeze or crossruff. However, if West holds S K-J-10-x-x H 9-x-x-x D Q-J-10-8 C, I will go down by ducking a diamond.

Paranoia seems to be infectious. Bruce and Ding-Hwa should open a law firm — call it Murphy’s Law.

Perry Groot: My first impression was to duck a diamond; however, it seems that if the D K is ruffed, I still can ruff three diamonds, or if West returns a trump, succeed with a double squeeze. …

Dean Pokorny: At the first sight it seems the contract is doomed if West ruffs the D K [and returns a trump], but this isn’t true,…as it is easily made via a double squeeze. … Line E is slightly better than Line A, which fails when West has [five diamonds].

Jordi Sabate: Dangerous layouts are those with 5-1 diamonds and 4-0 trumps. Lines B, E and F are safe if East has four trumps, but none of them work if West has four trumps. I think Line E is better, because it will be more difficult for West to find the winning defense (ruff and play a club to break a double squeeze) than East, who may have a complete count of the hand. …

Rob Stevens: The diamond duck looks clever,…but I don’t need to worry about West ruffing. On a club return, I can ruff three diamonds [barring 4-0 hearts which defeats any line]; else I have a double squeeze.

Rob Balas: Of course, if East ruffs, I’m not playing the D K. If West ruffs, he will need to return a heart to prevent three diamond ruffs; then I have a double squeeze around clubs…

Rainer Herrmann: Ducking a diamond is misguided, since [a ruff] and trump return will allow a double squeeze. If West’s lead was a singleton and he holds four trumps, only a club switch will beat the contract — difficult if West holds the C K, as it would be the only return to let 6 H make if I have C Q-x and a spade void.

Jonathan Mestel: If West ruffs and leads a trump, I have a double squeeze. If West has S Q-10-9-x-x H 9-x-x-x D Q C K-x-x, he should return a club but may not. Can I ever make it against that? No, I’m short of an entry to dummy.

Grant Peacock: If West ruffs trick two, that’s fine; unless he started with all four hearts, in which case there was no play anyway. Overtricks count for 1 IMP, right?

Jarek Gasior: I hate to lose an IMP. If the D K is ruffed [and a trump is returned], a double squeeze will be the recovery.

Nicola Farina: Even if diamonds split badly, this should work. If West ruffs, he must exit with a trump to avoid a crossruff; then a double squeeze will give me the 12th trick.

Tim DeLaney: Ducking a diamond gives up an IMP to guard against West holding only four spades — a bridge impossibility — so I’ll try for the overtrick. If West ruffs and leads a trump [to stop three diamond ruffs], I have a double squeeze with clubs the common suit. It seems radical to [think about] an overtrick in a vulnerable slam, but matches can be decided by a single IMP.

Carsten Kofoed: If West ruffs, I must hope that he has at most three hearts or that he doesn’t play a club to break the double squeeze. I will often take all 13 tricks.

Paulino Correa: Regular play will be to [win D A-K] and ruff a diamond, eventually making an overtrick. What could go wrong? … West’s lead could very well be a singleton,…but if he ruffs my D K and returns a trump [to prevent three diamond ruffs], I still win…with a classic double squeeze. …

Wei Victor Zhang: Worst case is the D K ruffed by West, who will return a trump, but this leads to a successful double squeeze…

Madhukar Bapu: By letting West ruff the D K, I am setting up a double squeeze, since West must return a trump to prevent a crossruff, leaving the C A intact as an entry. …

Adrian Barna: … This keeps two options if West ruffs the D K: If he returns [a club], a crossruff will work [barring 4-0 trumps]; if he returns a trump [or spade], a squeeze will work. This also works when East started with a singleton diamond and four trumps. …

N. Scott Cardell: Interestingly, ducking a diamond looks like a safety play, but in fact it’s an un-safety play… Leading to the D K is virtually 100 percent on the bidding. [Play variations described]. The only failing case is when West has chosen to open 2 S with 6=4=1=2 [or 5=4=1=3], and even then he might err by returning a trump. …

Quentin Stephens: Why didn’t West lead a spade? The D Q is likely to be a singleton…

Frans Buijsen: If diamonds are 5-1, I need to ruff in dummy two times.

Toby Kenney: If the D K gets ruffed and a trump is returned, I have a double squeeze. … On a club return, I’ll try to crossruff, succeeding unless West has four trumps, in which case I don’t see any way to succeed.

Analyses 8Y08 MainChallengeScoresTop Diamonds in the Ruff

Problem 4

Both Vul
S A J 2
H A 10 8
D Q J 7
C Q 10 5 2


2 NT
4 H

All Pass
1 H
3 NT
Lead: D 9TableEast plays D 6

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

You overtake the D Q with the king to lead the H Q (West plays H 3).

B. Win H A; S K; S A1025720
F. Run the H Q939031
C. Win H A; lead H 8751441
D. Win H A; lead D 74252
E. Win H A; finesse C J2474
A. Win H A; S K; finesse S J1363

As on Problem 1, the auction was subject to criticism. Many respondents thought 2 NT was Jacoby*, but it’s a natural game force. Therefore, the only dubious call is North’s correction to 4 H; though it’s a reasonable decision at IMPs, since 3 NT could be in serious trouble opposite two low spades.

*Personally, I think Jacoby 2 NT is one of the worst conventions ever devised. Not only does it take away an important natural bid, but the rebids by opener reveal the shape of the closed hand (splinter or lack of same). I only wish all my opponents played it.

While we’re on the subject of questionable actions, some respondents wondered why the D Q was played, only to be overtaken with the king. It hardly matters with six touching cards, but I would play the queen to entice East to take his ace; and when it holds, I want to be in hand to lead the H Q.

West apparently led a doubleton diamond, which East deduced from the bidding, probably with four diamonds and knowing you couldn’t be 5-5 in the red suits. The obvious danger is a losing heart finesse, followed by D A and a ruff, and an eventual black-suit loser. Consider this plausible layout:

IMPsS A J 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH A 10 81 WD 9Q6K
D Q J 72 SH Q38?K
C Q 10 5 23 ED A327
S 10 8 7 4TableS Q 9 6 54 ED 510H 2J
H 4 3 2H K 55 WH 4A56
D 9 2D A 6 5 4Declarer fails
C K 9 7 6C 8 4 3
S K 3
H Q J 9 7 6
D K 10 8 3
4 H SouthC A J

Suppose you try the routine play and run the H Q (Line F). East will win the H K, cash the D A, deliver the ruff, and West will exit safely with a trump. Now you’re doomed as the cards lie. Even if West had the S Q, you might still fail, as there’s no clear indication to take the spade finesse (or play for a squeeze) as opposed to the club finesse.

If you refuse the heart finesse and lead a second heart (Line C) this eliminates the safe trump exit. West will then have to lead a spade, which allows you to try both finesses by playing the S J from dummy. Whether this is an improvement, however, is moot, because West might have the H K after all.

It’s time to do some strip mining. The best play is to refuse the heart finesse and cash both top spades (Line B) followed by a spade ruff before exiting with a heart. This ensures the contract (barring a 7-1 spade break) anytime hearts are 3-2, as West will be endplayed if he gets a diamond ruff. If hearts break 4-1*, you are still OK if the C K is onside, provided you are careful to win the second round of trumps in dummy (defender with H K-x-x-x will duck) to take the club finesse.

*Curiously, a 5-0 trump break is even less of a problem, since you will know right away to abandon the spade strip; then routine play nets 10 tricks with the C K onside. In some cases, e.g., S x-x-x-x H K-x-x-x-x D 9-x C K-x, it wouldn’t even help you to finesse hearts, since the contract is doomed.

Second place goes to the routine trump finesse (Line F). Assuming the C K is offside (primary concern leading to defeat) this gains over Line B when West has H K-x-x-x but loses to H x-x-x-(x), and also to H x-x if East has the S Q. I decided to make it a close second since the finesse is more likely to produce an overtrick or two, or even three.*

*Dedicated PavCo miners can win all 13 tricks when West has S x-x-x H K-x-x D 9-x C 9-x-x-x-x. If you don’t see it, the spotlight on your hard hat may need a new battery.

Third place goes to the pseudo safety play of winning the H A and leading another heart (Line C). While this prevents a ruff when West has only two hearts (unlikely), it results in defeat against common hands such as S x-x-x-x H K-x-x D 9-x C K-x-x-x. This could be embarrassing, too, as everyone who finesses trumps will score an overtrick while you are going down.

A distant fourth goes to winning the H A and leading a diamond (Line D) which has some hope with the C K offside: If West ruffs with a doubleton trump or H K-x-x, he will have to lead a spade, giving you a chance to try the spade finesse freely.

Worst of all is to take an immediate black-suit finesse (Line A or E) as you’re almost certain to go down if it loses. Based on the presumed diamond lie, finding the S Q West is more likely than the C K East; but you could be set two if the spade finesse loses and a club is returned (you can’t get to dummy to pitch your C J). Rather than decide the better of two bad plays, they are ranked by the voting.

Comments for B. Win H A; S K; S A

John Reardon: I will eliminate spades before playing a second trump. If West gets a diamond ruff, he may be endplayed.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Eliminating spades then giving opponents a trump trick is essential if West has something like S 9-6-5-4 H 5-3-2 D 9-2 C K-6-4-3.

Tim Bolshaw: I will try to ensure that West is endplayed after ruffing a diamond.

Bruce Neill: Trying to stop the ruff; or if not, endplay West after he ruffs with, say, S x-x-x-x H x-x-x D x-x C K-x-x-x.

Perry Groot: I’ll ruff the S J and exit with a heart. This wins whenever hearts are 3-2; if West gets a ruff, he is endplayed.

Dean Pokorny: If everything is misplaced (say, S Q-x-x-x H K-x D A-x-x-x C x-x-x in East), I need to…ruff out spades before playing the second trump. East can take the H K and give West a diamond ruff, but poor West is endplayed.

Jordi Sabate: My intention is to eliminate the spade suit and play another trump. If trumps are 3-2, I’m safe;…if West has the third trump, he can get a diamond ruff, but then he has to concede a ruff and discard or lead clubs into my tenace.

Rob Stevens: West’s ruff will come at the cost of being endplayed.

Rob Balas: I’ll play for hearts to behave. Running the H Q works better if hearts are 4-1 with the king onside; but the opening lead looks like a doubleton (East ducking the ace), and I’d be in trouble with the H K offside… Playing the H A also works if the king is singleton, or if the king is onside and hearts are 3-2 either way. So I’ll strip spades and exit with a heart…

Rainer Herrmann: If a diamond ruff is unavoidable, I’ll endplay West — unless he holds four trumps, in which case the club finesse is still available.

Jonathan Mestel: Was North not allowed to pass 3 NT? Perhaps he knew hearts were 3-2. :)

Jerry Fink: A 3-2 heart break is more likely than H K-x-x-x with West. I’ll set up an endplay to catch West if he ruffs the third round of diamonds.

Nigel Guthrie: Richard lost a couple of IMPs when he failed to take his winning finesses.

Lajos Linczmayer: I’ll play West for S x-x-x-x H x-x-x D 9-x C K-x-x-x. This only loses if West has H K-x-x-x [and the C K].

David Kenward: Then ruff the third spade and exit with a trump. If West started with H x-x-x or H K-x-x and gets his ruff, he will be endplayed; and with H x-x or H K-x, he doesn’t get his ruff at all.

John Lusky: The plan is to ruff out spades and exit with a second trump. West will be endplayed if he started with three hearts and gets his diamond ruff. …

Baron Ng: Next ruff a spade and lead a heart, which works if hearts break 3-2. If hearts are 4-1, it still works with [the C K onside].

Zahary Zahariev: Then ruff the S J and play a trump. If West has something like S 10-x-x-x H x-x-x D 9-x C K-x-x-x, he will be endplayed. I’ll go down if West has H K-x-x-x [and the C K], but I feel this line is better then the heart finesse. …

Sriram Narasimhan: The diamond ruff may be unavoidable, so the plan is to put myself in a position to endplay West. I will ruff the third spade and return a heart. …If West gets a diamond ruff, he is endplayed if hearts were 3-2; if he has a fourth heart, I can fall back on the club finesse.

Neelotpal Sahai: Followed by spade ruff and a trump. East possibly wins the D A and gives a diamond ruff to West, who is now endplayed. This takes care of situations where the S Q, H K and C K are wrongly placed…

Rob Wijman: For the defense to make sense, East must have [D A-x-x-x]. The idea is to eliminate spades then get out in hearts, so that if West gets his ruff, he must present me with a trick [if hearts are 3-2].

Manuel Paulo: A possible West hand is S x-x-x-x H x-x-x D 9-x C K-x-x-x. I eliminate spades before losing a trump; then if West gets a diamond ruff, he is endplayed; or if East leads a club, I win the ace and draw the last trump.

Jim Munday: If trumps are 3-2, I cannot be defeated. I must eliminate spades before playing a second trump; then if opponents take the diamond ruff, West will be endplayed.

David Caprera: This would be an easier play to make if dummy were not dealt the S J. A plethora of riches.

Yes, I know the feeling. Counting bridge hands is a lot easier than counting my carats.

Eugene Dille: If West ends up ruffing a diamond, he will have to return a black suit [if hearts are 3-2].

Carsten Kofoed: West will often be endplayed if he ruffs a diamond; and if he has a fourth heart, the club finesse may succeed.

Dan Spain: I will eliminate spades before leading a second trump. If East is the one with a doubleton diamond and three hearts, I will need the club finesse; but would West ever lead the nine from D A-9-x-x?

Keith Falkner: Then ruff a spade and lead a heart. If West ruffs a diamond, he must lead a black card [if hearts are 3-2]…

Albert Feasley: After I ruff the third spade and play a heart, …East can give West a diamond ruff or lead through my clubs — but not both. If West gets a ruff, he will be endplayed…

Bruce Chen: I cannot prevent a diamond ruff if West started with H x-x-x; however, if spades are eliminated, he will be forced to lead back a club upon ruffing, [else a ruff-sluff]. …

Bill Powell: What was wrong with 3 NT? If I eliminate spades, West will be endplayed after his diamond ruff [if hearts are 3-2].

Peter Hall: I will eliminate spades then exit with a trump. If West can take a diamond ruff, he has to lead a black card [if trumps are 3-2], which deals with the club loser… Ah! Now I see why you bid 4 H, partner.

Pekka Niemisto: Eliminating spades first guarantees the contract if hearts split 3-2, because if West gets a diamond ruff, he must lead a [black suit] to my advantage.

Rod Roark: I’ll ruff a third round of spades before playing trumps again, to make West pay for his diamond ruff with an endplay.

Madhukar Bapu: If hearts are 3-2, eliminating spades [before leading a second trump] will endplay West if he gets a diamond ruff. This play fails only when West has H K-x-x-x [and the C K].

Adrian Barna: Eliminating spades then playing a second trump works whenever West started with less than four trumps or the club finesse wins (barring a spade ruff)… Why on Earth didn’t North pass 3 NT?

Don’t jump to conclusions. I said North was an expert. Assuming an Earthling was your choice.

Balazs Szegedi: Then ruff a spade and lead a heart. This assures the contract when trumps are 3-2 (assuming West led his short suit). …

Bill Daly: Stripping spades, so that if West gets his diamond ruff, he’ll be endplayed.

Jai Grama: I will eliminate spades before playing a second trump. [If hearts are 3-2], this should endplay West into giving a ruff and discard or playing into my C A-J.

Anthony Golding: Then ruff the third spade and play a trump. If West started with three trumps and a doubleton diamond, he’ll be endplayed after getting his ruff.

Curt Reeves: I eliminate spades then resume pulling trumps, which makes it impossible for the defense to win four tricks [if hearts are 3-2]. I answer this under duress, as my partner would have passed 3 NT.

I know. Word is out that your partner will do whatever it takes to make you dummy.

Davies Guttmann: Eliminate spades and play a second heart. If hearts are 3-2, West is endplayed after a possible ruff.

Douglas Dunn: Again there’s a danger of a diamond ruff. Best to ruff the S J then play a second round of trumps; even if West ruffs a diamond, he probably will be endplayed.

N. Scott Cardell: Next I will ruff the S J and lead a trump. The D 9 lead appears to be top of a doubleton, so all I need is a 3-2 heart break (or the H K singleton or the C K onside). …

Ludek Ambroz: Then I ruff a spade and lead a heart. A diamond ruff is not dangerous [with hearts 3-2]. If West has four hearts, I have to finesse in clubs.

Laszlo Sztrapkovics: Spade ruff then a heart. If West ruffs a diamond, he is endplayed if he has no more trumps; else a club finesse will help. Why did North bid 4 H instead of passing 3 NT?

Paul Thurston: This might fail when West has H K-x-x-x, …when a trump finesse (too simple for a Pavlicek contest?) would work. Otherwise, ruffing the third spade strips West [of a safe exit].

Mark Lehto: I am a simple soul. At the table I’m sure I would just run the queen, but this seems 100 percent for any 3-2 heart break (assuming West has a doubleton diamond).

Matt Matuszewski: Ruff a spade then exit with a heart. If East leads a club, he can’t give West a diamond ruff; or if he gives the ruff, West will be endplayed in the blacks.

Jeff Miller: Looks like the best chance is for West to be endplayed after collecting a diamond ruff.

Zbych Bednarek: Next ruff a spade. [If trumps are 3-2] and West gets a diamond ruff, he will be thrown in, so I won’t need the club finesse.

Subhransu Patnaik: Endplaying West if he gets a diamond ruff [and hearts are 3-2].

Len Vishnevsky: I can afford to lose one heart, one diamond and a ruff. I’m safe unless the C K is offside, so assume that. If East has H K-x, West gets a ruff no matter what; if East has H K-x-x or H x-x, I need to guess hearts. If I eliminate spades along the way, a diamond ruff leaves West endplayed.

Analyses 8Y08 MainChallengeScoresTop Diamonds in the Ruff

Problem 5

E-W Vul
H J 9 3 2
D K Q 10 9 8
C 6 2

All Pass
2 D
3 S
1 S
2 S
4 S
Lead: D 2TableEast plays D 4

4 S South
S A 9 8 6 5 4
D J 3
C A J 5 3

After winning the D K:

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
B. Win H A; lead C 3101068
C. Lead the D Q945436
D. Lead the D 8820516
A. Win H A; lead D J719315
F. Duck a club615612
E. Finesse the C J515512

Note: If you lead a club, East plays the C 7.

Strange happenings. Either West has underled the D A, or East has judged to duck. The former seems implausible on the auction, but East may have realized the futility in winning with D A-x-x-x-x, as one ruff would stifle the defense, leaving dummy with a trump entry and three good diamonds. Therefore, a layout like the following is predictable:

IMPsS K QTrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W VulH J 9 3 21 WD 2K43
D K Q 10 9 82 ND Q?6JS 7
C 6 23 WS 2!Q34
S J 7 2TableS 10 34 ND 107!C 3S J
H K 8 7 5 4H Q 10 65 WH 5210A
D 2D A 7 6 5 4Declarer fails
C Q 10 8 4C K 9 7
S A 9 8 6 5 4
D J 3
4 S SouthC A J 5 3

East’s diamond duck was as sharp as a diamond cleaver. Winning the ace and giving the ruff would be the end of the defense; you could even score an overtrick. Logically, if it’s right for the defense to abandon diamonds, it seems right to continue with the D Q (Line C). East ducks again allowing West to ruff, then West returns a trump. On the next diamond, East ducks a third time, West ruffs with his last trump and exits with a heart. Alas, you’ve reached a dead end, as you can’t give up a club without East gaining the lead to return his last trump to stop the club ruff. Down one.

Let’s try a different tack by leading a club at trick two. Suppose you finesse the C J (Line E) in vain, which West wins and returns a trump. Ruffing a club doesn’t help, as it merely trades the trick for a trump loser; and leading a diamond is just as futile, as East can win (or West can ruff), then a trump return kills dummy. Ducking the first club (Line F) is effectively the same.

So what else? It may seem that winning the H A can serve no purpose, but it’s the key to an elimination play — or as I call it this month, strip mining. Next you must duck a club (Line B) to retain control and preserve options. Suppose the defense shifts to a trump (best); then ruff a heart, cash the C A, ruff a club, and ruff another heart to reach this ending:

S win 3S
D Q 10 9 8
S J 7TableS 10
H K 8H
DD A 7 6 5
S A 9 6
South leadsC J

Finally, cash the S A and exit with a diamond. Either West must ruff your losing diamond with his natural trump trick, or East must win and return the suit to let you pitch your club loser. Basically, you needed East to have 2=3=5=3 shape, which was a reasonable chance after the play to the first trick.

Second place is a toss-up among Lines A, C and D (leading a diamond first, or after cashing the H A). These work outright when West has only two spades (with his presumed singleton diamond), albeit less likely than normal odds because West would bid on some hands with 5-5, 6-4 or 7-3 shape. I couldn’t find any significant difference*, so they’re ranked by the voting.

*In theory, Line D is slightly inferior, as West can stop an overtrick if he pitches (e.g., with S J-x H K-10-x-x-x D x C Q-10-x-x-x) when you lead the D 8 to your jack. Sure he will — or my name isn’t Scrooge McDuck.

Lines E and F (losing a club at trick two) are worst, as barring some lucky layouts, the likely trump return prevents you from succeeding against any trump division. One fortuitous scenario is to catch East with 2=2=5=4 and honor-doubleton in hearts, in which case you can endplay West.* Whether to finesse the C J or duck will rarely matter, as East would probably split with both honors; and West could hardly hold C K-Q-(x) after East’s low diamond at trick one. Rather than gaze into my diamond crystal ball, I’ll yield to the voting. Wow; a photo there, too, but Line F ekes out by 1 vote — reminiscent of “Florida goes to Gore.”

*Win the H A, cash the C A, ruff a club, ruff a heart, cash the S A and exit with a spade. When West tries to exit with his top heart, pitch a loser; then he must give you the H J in dummy.

This was the toughest problem of the set, so my scoring was generous. It rarely happens that the winning line gets the fewest votes, so I guess you could say I won this problem for coming up with the most plausible bluffs. I’ll celebrate the occasion by cutting myself a 50-carat diamond stickpin — better make that 10 carats, as I don’t want to flaunt my wealth. By the way, how many billions in a gazillion?

Comments for B. Win H A; lead C 3

John Reardon: I hope West has something like S J-x-x H K-10-x-x-x D 2 C K-10-x-x.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Looks like diamonds are 5-1, and East can see that winning the first trick and giving his partner a ruff is futile. So East could easily be 2=3=5=3, in which case it will be possible to eliminate hearts and clubs, then exit with the D J when East has no safe exit.

Tim Bolshaw: The opening lead is surely a singleton, and I am inclined to expect trumps 3-2 (West having three). My basic plan (assuming opponents do not let me set up and run diamonds) is to force West to ruff a diamond,…but I must be careful with the timing. … Opponents must return a trump (seeking to eliminate entries to the diamond suit); then heart ruff, C A, club ruff, heart ruff, S A and lead the D J

Bruce Neill: Trick one is a surprise. Maybe East has S x-x H K-x-x D A-x-x-x-x C K-x-x and can see that taking the first diamond is hopeless. In that case, I need to ruff two hearts and a club, then lead a diamond; so I need to cash the H A before giving up a club, so I can’t afford a club toward the jack.

Perry Groot: If East is 2=3=5=3, this allows me to strip East of hearts and clubs, then force another trick in diamonds or spades.

Dean Pokorny: East did a great job ducking the lead if he has five diamonds (almost surely after West’s lead) and two spades. If East has 2=3=5=3 pattern, I can prevail by stripping his pointed suits before playing a second diamond, throwing him in to get a club discard.

Jordi Sabate: The D 2 is a singleton, and West probably has three trumps, so I cannot play on diamonds (else East retains the D A,…letting West ruff). My [best] chance is to play East for 2=3=5=3 distribution. If the defense wins the club trick and plays a trump, I proceed: heart ruff, C A, club ruff, heart ruff, S A and a diamond. As Kantar says, “How tough you are!”

Rob Stevens: To endplay East, I will need to find him with 2=3=5=3 shape, and extract his round-suit cards. Dummy’s two entries must be used to ruff hearts, so the H A must be cleared.

Rob Balas: Nice defense so far; looks like East refused the obvious ruff to keep control of the diamond suit. I think I can counter that with a strip and stepping-stone throw-in if East is 2=3=5=3… I will need to remove East’s hearts, so I start that now and switch back to clubs. I will ruff a club and two hearts (using the S K and club-ruff entries), cash the S A, and lead a diamond to throw East in,…else force West to blow a trump trick by ruffing. If East plays an honor on the C A, I may decide to play him for 3=3=5=2 — depends on my table feel — in which case I must forgo the club ruff and pull trump while ruffing two hearts, else a heart pitch and subsequent uppercut could create a dangerous entry to West.

Rainer Herrmann: Trumps probably need to break, but West is more likely to have three trumps. If the defense does not touch diamonds, I’ll strip East of clubs and hearts, then endplay him to force a diamond return…

Jonathan Mestel: This gains if East is 2=3=5=3, in which case he’ll have to lead a diamond after I remove his exits. If a heart honor appears [on the second round], I could play East for S x-x H K-x D A-x-x-x-x C K-x-x-x and endplay [West].

Grant Peacock: Playing East for 2=3=5=3, which is a likely layout.

Charles Blair: … The idea seems to be to play East for five diamonds and three hearts, throwing him in with the D A.

Jerry Fink: East can be thrown in with a diamond at trick 10 if hearts and clubs…are stripped from his hand.

Nigel Guthrie: I hope to endplay East if he holds, say, S x-x-x H x-x-x D A-x-x-x-x C x-x.

Lajos Linczmayer: I suppose West led his singleton diamond because he doesn’t have H K-Q or C K-Q. If East (a passed hand) has, say, S J-x H Q-x-x D A-x-x-x-x C K-10-x, I must exhaust his exit cards.

David Kenward: East is likely to have five diamonds and two spades, thus working out that taking the D A was not a good idea. If East is 2=3=5=3,…I can ruff out his hearts and clubs, then throw him in with the D A at the finish.

Tim DeLaney: The D 2 is surely a singleton, and I must assume trumps are 3-2. How can I ever score a second diamond trick? It would easy if West has two spades, but he probably has three. The plan is to ruff a club in dummy, while stripping East of the rounded suits, and pulling two rounds of trumps to leave West with a natural trump trick. In the end position I lead the D J, where East must return a diamond; now West’s ruff does no harm…

John Lusky: On the lead, I think West has a singleton diamond. If East is 2=3=5=3, then on a non-diamond return I can strip out his hearts, clubs and spades, then exit at trick 10 with the D J and pitch my club loser on the forced diamond return. A diamond return at trick four makes the play even easier.

Zahary Zahariev: Begin the cleaning of East’s hand, which I imagine to be like S 10-x H H-x-x D A-x-x-x-x C H-x-x. In the four-card diamond ending, he will be endplayed.

Sriram Narasimhan: Next I can ruff [two hearts] and a club, and eventually stick East in with a diamond, hopefully when he has only diamonds left. On any other play, opponents can return a spade (East ducks any diamond for West to ruff), and the contract cannot be made, since an entry for a heart ruff is removed.

Dale Freeman: I am assuming East made a good play ducking with D A-x-x-x-x, and he will duck again so West can ruff if I lead another diamond, making dummy’s diamond suit useless. Therefore, I will play for East to be 2=3=5=3, ruffing two hearts and one club to strip his hand; then when in with the D A, he will have to return a diamond to eliminate my club loser.

Neelotpal Sahai: I can’t cater to West being 4=4=1=4; however, in a very likely scenario of S x-x-x H K-10-x-x-x D x C K-10-x-x, only this line works. It is important to cash the H A (to be able to ruff a heart when opponents play a trump) and to play a [low] club at trick three to [keep control] and guard against a possible trump promotion.

Rob Wijman: Plan is to shorten my trumps with two heart ruffs to S A-9-8 and…lose only one club, one diamond and one spade (to the 10 or jack).

Dmitri Shabes: West’s lead seems to be a singleton, and East defended well. If trumps do not break, it’s hopeless; so I play for 3-2 trumps and East not to have four cards in either rounded suit. I will ruff two hearts in hand, one club in dummy, and after cashing S A, lead a diamond while the high trump is still out.

Manuel Paulo: If East has a hand such as S x-x H x-x-x D A-7-6-5-4 C x-x-x, I can strip his side suits by ruffing two hearts in hand and a club in dummy. After cashing the S A, I lead the D J and either win the trick or endplay East despite West having yet a master trump. A low trump on the opening lead would have defeated the contract.

Joon Pahk: Clearing the decks for a crossruff. If opponents lead a trump, I can still strip East if he has at most three hearts.

Jim Munday: Tough hand. East almost certainly has D A-x-x-x-x and is likely to be 2=3=5=3. If I play a diamond, he will let West ruff, then a trump shift will defeat me. The idea is to remove East’s exit cards before playing the second diamond. If the defense plays a second diamond [early], I can succeed [more easily].

Gilles Korngut: The D 2 is probably a singleton, and this line is needed if East is 2=3=5=3.

David Caprera: I may need to score small trumps. I haven’t figured out what is going on in the diamond suit, but opponents are allowed to do screwy things.

Debbie Cohen: I’m guessing West led a singleton diamond, and East ducked the ace.

Paulino Correa: The lead has a strong scent of a singleton… Trumps will have to be 3-2, or the contract is hopeless with five a priori losers. If East is 2=3=5=3,…I will be able to remove everything but diamonds from his hand, forcing him to win the D A and return a diamond to discard my last losing club. [Play sequence described].

Thijs Veugen: When East has something like S x-x H Q-x-x D A-x-x-x-x C K-x-x, I can eliminate his clubs, hearts and spades, then play a diamond.

Analyses 8Y08 MainChallengeScoresTop Diamonds in the Ruff

Problem 6

None Vul
S 8 5
H A 5 2
D K J 8 5 3
C A Q 4

1 S

2 D
4 H
3 S1
All Pass
1 H
Lead: S KTableEast plays S 6

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

1. weak

You win the S A and lead the H 3, West pitches S 3, to the H A.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
A. Lead the S 81024820
C. Finesse H 7; lead D 4831925
E. Lead the D 3719615
D. Finesse H 7; win C Q; finesse H 9427822
B. Finesse H 7; lead S 7315512
F. Win C K; C A-Q2736

Diamond mining can give you heartbreak, or sometimes not, as this Hawaii Five-O case. West’s discard on the first trump lead is a shock, but at least it puts the missing trumps on the right side — you could hang up your mining helmet if East showed out. The obvious move is to use dummy’s entry to finesse the H 7 immediately (Line B, C or D). Consider a likely layout:

IMPsS 8 5TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None VulH A 5 21 WS K56A
D K J 8 5 32 SH 3S 3A4
C A Q 43 NH 2?67C 2
S K Q 10 9 3TableS J 6 4 24 SD 4A!32
HH Q 10 8 6 45 WD 10!JH 8Q
D A 10 9 7D 26 ES 2798
C J 7 3 2C 10 8 67 WD 9
S A 7Declarer fails
H K J 9 7 3
D Q 6 4
4 H SouthC K 9 5

Suppose you lead a heart to the seven (or cover East’s play) then lead a diamond (Line C). All is fine if West ducks, but a sharp defender will hop with the ace. Reading the layout, he will then deliver two diamond ruffs, using the spade suit for transportation. Ouch; down one before you can breathe.

To prevent this, suppose you cross to dummy with a club (after winning the H 7) to take another trump finesse. Oops! Now you’ve lost control. If you cash the H K (to stop two diamond ruffs) West will win the D A and lead spades* to tap our your last trump; then East will win a trump and a good spade.

*In fact you could be set two if West underleads to East’s S J, allowing East to draw your last trump.

Calling Ward, June, Wally and Beaver! It’s time to get out the cleavers again, as this gem needs to be rough-cut… er, ruff-cut before any polishing can begin. You must lead a spade to cut communication before leading diamonds, so suppose you do so after finessing the H 7 (Line B). This prevents a second diamond ruff; but what about a third spade lead? No problem, provided you ruff in hand; then lead a diamond, and East can be held to one trump trick, courtesy of a trump coup in some variations.

Are you satisfied? Diamond dust may be all over the floor, but don’t reach for the broom just yet. East can defeat Line B by winning your spade exit and leading a trump, removing dummy’s last trump and leaving you wide open for a tap. West will then grab the first diamond and lead spades. Even with diamonds 3-2, you would fail.

Alas, we have to cut some more! Hopefully, this gem will have enough carats left for a pendant, but we may have to settle for a ring. The spade lead must come immediately* (Line A) to keep two trumps in dummy. This prevents the killing trump return (dummy will still have a trump) while catering to diamond-ruff and control issues. If a third spade is led, you must ruff in hand; and if a fourth spade is led (after losing the D A) you must ruff in dummy. In all variations, East can win only one trump trick.

*Several respondents suggested that ducking the opening lead may have been a better play. Not really, as it gains nothing over Line A and may create another problem. For example, suppose West shifts to a low diamond at trick two and you win the trick; now you’re at risk of a ruff with diamonds 3-2, and there’s no safe trump play to cope with all layouts.

Second place is a virtual tie between Lines C and E, either of which can be defeated only by two diamond ruffs. The edge goes to Line C, as leading from hand increases the chance that West will duck the D A, since he doesn’t know you have the D Q.

Lines B, D and F are much worse, as they not only fail in the diagram but against any layout consistent with the bidding (West having four spades). Rather than pick a psychological favorite, they are ranked by the voting.

This problem was derived from a deal played by Gabriel Chagas (Brazil) in a major event.* Chagas brilliantly found the right play, while his American counterpart chose Line C. Alas, justice must have been on an Amazon diamond-hunting expedition, as the Brazilian West ducked the first diamond. Just another push!

*I can’t seem to locate the source and am relying on memory. If anyone knows the event and year, please let me know. The actual deal may be slightly different, particularly as to spot cards.

Comments for A. Lead the S 8

John Reardon: An example of a scissors coup.

Leif-Erik Stabell: West’s discard indicates that he might be 5=0=4=4, in which case I have to cut the defenders’ communication while preserving mine.

Tim Bolshaw: I can only afford to lose one trump trick, so I must cut communication between the defenders before risking any ruffs. East is probably 4-5 in the majors. …The defense will probably lead a third round of spades…to prevent my drawing trumps; however, I can ruff this in hand and play a diamond; then if East gets a diamond ruff and plays his last spade, I ruff in dummy [pitching a diamond], finesse hearts, and cross back to dummy to complete the trump coup. [Variation described].

Bruce Neill: To prevent a second diamond ruff if West has, say, S K-Q-x-x-x HD A-x-x-x C J-x-x-x.

Perry Groot: East is 4-5 in the majors, and thus four cards in the minors. I can’t stand a ruff with [enemy] communication still intact in spades, else East will get a second ruff. This play cuts communication.

Dean Pokorny: The absence of a Michaels cue-bid suggests West is 5=0=4=4. Therefore, I should make the obvious scissors coup (killing communication in spades) right now. If I finesse trumps before giving up a spade, East returns a trump; then West can force me with a spade after taking the D A

Jordi Sabate: If the defense plays spades twice (at trick four and after winning the D A), I will ruff the first spade in hand and the second in dummy, finishing with a trump coup. It’s necessary to play a spade at trick three to break communication, in case East has a singleton diamond.

Rob Balas: Another communication cutter, while maintaining trump flexibility — don’t want the gals to wake up to their double diamond ruff if I can help it. Leading spades now prevents the double ruff, but I have to be careful; a spade return must be ruffed in hand, then I will get busy on diamonds myself.

Rainer Herrmann: It took me ages to see that Line B leads to defeat if East wins and returns a trump.

Jonathan Mestel: Curious; I lose control if I take the natural heart finesse first.

Grant Peacock: East is almost surely 4=5=1=3, so I must play spades before diamonds to cut communication. If the defense responds by forcing with spades at trick four, I must ruff in hand; then everything works out.

Jerry Fink: Careful! I won’t give East the chance to win a spade and strip dummy of trumps.

Lajos Linczmayer: I’ll play East for S J-x-x-x H Q-10-8-6-4 D x C x-x-x. If opponents play a third spade, I ruff in hand.

David Kenward: [I must lead a spade] to prevent East from obtaining two diamonds ruffs, and I need to leave two trumps in dummy to protect against a forcing defense.

Tim DeLaney: The spade lead is necessary to sever communication, and cannot be postponed. If opponents lead a third spade, I must ruff in the closed hand, which insures that I can score five heart tricks; and thereafter East can stop me from scoring a diamond trick only by giving me a ruff-sluff…

John Lusky: The key play to avoid two diamond ruffs or being tapped out if East is 4=5=1=3. There are many variations, but I have an answer to every continuation.

Zahary Zahariev: Contract is easy when East is 4=5=2=2, and without a chance when he is 4=5=0=4. This is the way when he is 4=5=1=3.

Sriram Narasimhan: A spade lead is required to eliminate the threat of two diamonds ruffs; but if a second heart is played first, East can win the second spade and continue hearts, then West wins the D A and continues spades to tap me. An immediate spade lead works well. If opponents take a diamond ruff, club entries can be used to pull trumps if spades are continued. If opponents continue spades, I can ruff in hand and lead diamonds, eventually setting up a trump coup against East if spades are led again.

Dale Freeman: If I draw trumps, I will lose control. If I lead a diamond, it could go: D A, diamond ruff, spade to West, diamond ruff. Therefore, I’ll lead a spade first to stop two ruffs (I would welcome one ruff); if opponents lead a third spade, I will ruff in hand and lead a diamond.

Neelotpal Sahai: Breaking communication for a second diamond ruff.

Dmitri Shabes: … Ducking a spade now cuts the enemy communication (looming diamond ruffs almost a given). Now no matter how many spade ruffs the defense forces on me (from zero to two), I will manage straightforward finesses in trumps or a trump coup. Also, I must preserve both small trumps in dummy at this time; if I [led a second trump] before a spade, East could win and remove the last trump in dummy, then West can win the D A and revert to spades to win trump control.

Manuel Paulo: If East has a hand like S J-x-x-x H Q-10-8-6-4 D x C x-x-x, he can get a diamond ruff but not two; then I can pick up his other trumps.

Joon Pahk: If opponents play a third spade, I can take the force in hand, and still maneuver my way to 10 tricks.

Jim Munday: The primary danger is when East is 4=5=1=3, then an early diamond play can incur two ruffs. A second round of trumps will result in the loss of trump control, as East can win the second spade and play a third trump. I must play a spade now.

Eugene Dille: Destroying the enemy communication while dummy still has [two] trumps.

Carsten Kofoed: This keeps control, even if opponents try to irritate me with more spade leads.

Mark Chen: This cuts transportation to prevent a second potential diamond ruff, and keeps [two] trumps in dummy to handle a forcing defense.

Chris Gibson: I need to cut communication now before East starts getting diamond ruffs.

Keith Falkner: Snip! If East is 4=5=1=3, I think I can manage — but not if he gets two diamonds ruffs.

Paulino Correa: Young apprentice: “An easy one! I can lose only one spade, one heart and one diamond; I just have to finesse hearts and clear diamonds.” Long-time apprentice: “Yeah? What if East has a singleton diamond? West wins the D A, gives a ruff, and regains the lead with a spade for a second ruff. One down!” Master: “Easy. A spade you should lead to cut communication between flanks, then a second ruff will not occur…” Young apprentice (with glorious look): “Told you it was easy!”

Albert Feasley: I need to cut the defensive communication in spades and have two hearts in dummy…

Bruce Chen: The defense should be given a spade, the D A and a trump — but not a second diamond ruff. Leading a spade is a scissors coup.

Bill Powell: If East gets his ruff, I won’t lose another trump; and a spade force allows me to use diamonds as pseudo trumps.

Peter Hall: Leading a spade now cuts the enemy communication for a possible second diamond ruff. Should I take a trump finesse first? No; East could win the spade and lead another trump, leaving me open to a force in spades… Should I cash clubs now? No; I need them for entries to dummy to pick up trumps.

Birol Guvenc: Finessing the H 7 at trick three is wrong; dummy’s two small trumps are needful later on. Therefore, I play a spade immediately to break the enemy communication and prevent a second diamond ruff.

Pekka Niemisto: Having two side losers, I must avoid losing two trumps. There is a danger that East is 4=5=1=3, so I need to attack the defensive entries to avoid two diamond ruffs. Two club entries remain in dummy to finesse trumps. …

Wei Victor Zhang: Breaking communication between opponents, and keeping two trumps in dummy [to retain] control.

Rod Roark: East is likely to be 4=5=1=3. I want to cut communication to block a second diamond ruff, while leaving enough trumps in dummy to keep control if they tap me in spades.

Madhukar Bapu: This is a problem in trump control and disrupting communication between defenders — achieved by playing a spade at trick three. Playing a second trump (finessing the H 7)…results in declarer meeting his Waterloo.

Adrian Barna: I should lead a spade to cut defensive communication to avoid a double diamond ruff, but playing a trump first doesn’t work: East will win the spade and return a trump, making me lose trump control after West wins the D A. Interesting enough, if a spade is returned, I should ruff in hand.

Jai Grama: Cutting communication between defenders to avoid two diamond ruffs.

Anthony Golding: I need to avoid two diamond ruffs,…so I have to cut out West’s reentry. …

Curt Reeves: I think it’s time to get out my scissors. Dangers of this hand include losing control and not having enough oomph left to claim my five winners in the minors. …

Jon Greiman: Too many losing options, so I’d better let the defenders eliminate some of those for me.

Barry White: After wisely taking the first trick, lest I be put in some danger with an immediate diamond [shift], I must now cut the enemy communication so they cannot get two diamond ruffs. I cannot afford to take a trump finesse yet…

Johnny Utah: I will try to cut the enemy communication; otherwise, if diamonds split 4-1, I may lose two ruffs… Two trumps in dummy will protect me if opponents offer a ruff-sluff twice.

Douglas Dunn: This aims to stop East from getting more than one diamond ruff by cutting communication.

N. Scott Cardell: I must get out the scissors now, and with a good count of the hand I should prevail. …

Vic Sartor: I have to cut off spade communication, or East may get two diamonds ruffs. If East ruffs once, I can get to dummy twice in clubs to finesse all his trumps.

Nick Krnjevic: Severing the communication to limit diamond ruffs.

Matt Matuszewski: A scissors coup. If the defense gets one diamond ruff, I’ll need to ruff the likely spade return in hand to be able to finesse East out of his remaining trumps.

Gerald Cohen: Most likely layout has East with 4=5=1=3, so I have to cut communication in spades to prevent losing two ruffs. I think this will work out better than Line B, but life is too short to confirm; and after all, Richard will tell me in the postmortem.

Pontus Silow: I must protect the trump length in my hand and [dummy] until the D A has been knocked out.

Fred Herring: Not Line B, as East can win and lead a trump; then I lose control on a spade lead after the D A is played. Not Line D for [similar reasons]. Not Line C or E, as East is likely short and may get two diamond ruffs… Not Line F, as entries to dummy will be burned, eliminating the possibility of trump coupe. …

My problem exactly! I can easily afford a Trump coupe but Donald won’t put it up for sale.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: Cutting communication for [two] diamond ruffs. …

Metin Uz: East is marked with nine cards in the majors; if his minors are 1-3, there’s a danger of losing two diamonds ruffs. Drawing trumps will cause me to lose control, so I need to cut communication in spades, then play on diamonds and hearts.

Final Notes

I hope you enjoyed the contest, or at least the Sweet Caroline theme by who else but Neil Diamond. If not, I’ll cry all the way to the bank. I’ve got so many diamonds now that I can’t think straight, but I do wish to thank everyone who participated, whether you’re a fellow tycoon or still working on your first billion.

Comments are selected from those scoring 51 or higher (top 249), and on each problem only those supporting the winning play. While this might appear biased, I feel it’s the best way to ensure solid content and avoid potential embarrassment in publishing comments that are flawed. On this basis, I included over 75 percent of the eligible comments. If you supplied comments that were not used, I thank you for the input.

Use of a comment does not necessarily mean I agree with it, but generally they are all worthy. Comments are quoted exactly except for corrections in spelling and grammar. Where I have included only part of a comment, an ellipsis (…) indicates where text was cut. Text [in brackets] was supplied by me to summarize a cut portion or fix an omission. Comments are listed 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 comments) has determined the best solutions in theory, but oversights are possible. Feedback is always welcome.

Scrooge McDuck had his Hewey, Dewey and Louie. Me? Not so lucky, being stuck with these quacks:

Pauline Maguire: I imagine my answers will only qualify me for the salt mines!

Mark Whitman: Offering this quiz is like putting a carat, er, carrot before the horse.
Somehow the correct plays always stay just out of reach.

Jess Mason: If I don’t make the grade for diamond digging, can I be considered for modeling them?

Glyn Puddefoot: Having lived in Jwaneng, I think I can honestly say that my diamond mine is bigger than yours.

Jon Greiman: My play is like carbon: It will take time and lots of pressure before it is worth anything.

Karen Danielson: Loved your diamond expedition! Hope I spaded some gems!

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© 2007 Richard Pavlicek