Analyses 8Y48 by Richard Pavlicek
I hope you enjoyed your game with Matilda, or at least will recover after a few weeks of rehab. Whether youre now part owner of Oscar Mayer, or sitting behind the wheel of a Wienermobile, you should remember the experience for a long time. Miss High if you want me just loved you! Her nickname, by the way, was bestowed at her high-school prom, where she is reputed to have asked 25 guys to wave Hi, if you want me. Hmm. I guess that might also explain her career in meat packing. (I better drop this before I lose my family rating.)
I can associate vividly with this months theme, as I did a lot of professional playing in my early bridge career. Oh, the frustrations! Like the medical profession can differentiate between a moron and an imbecile, a bridge pro knows the difference between a dimwit and a nitwit. Unfortunately, I never came across the golden egg in the likes of Matilda. I was happy to give up professional playing for bridge teaching. In the classroom, I was distanced from each students travails, so I could expound winning bridge without the frustration. Like any sensible sea captain, I didnt have to go down with the ship.
During the month of June 2007, these six defensive-play problems were published on the Internet as a contest. All bridge players were invited to participate. As East, you were asked to choose your defense after partner (Matilda) has made the opening lead.
This contest had 763 participants from 110 locations, and the average score was 37.65. Congratulations to Ding-Hwa Hsieh (Kirksville, Missouri), who was the first of three to submit perfect scores. Most impressive of all, this is her second win in a row. One things for sure: She aint no Matilda! Come on, guys! One more strike and youre out. Also scoring 60 were Darek Kardas (Poland) and John Lusky (Portland, Oregon). Eleven players were close behind at 59.
Well, the falling attendance finally ended barely, as June drew two more persons than May. Nice of you to throw me a bean once in a while; or is this just a ripple in the big-bang theory? Ill reserve judgment.
The average score (37.65) was the lowest in the series (fifth lowest all-time), but this reflects a variety of factors including field competence, problem difficulty and my scoring decisions. Also contributing to a lower average is that only one problem warranted a second-place 9; and two had standout winners, leaving second place only 7. Only 325 persons scored 38 or better (median score was just 36) to make the list. Only one problem (#4) was aced by the consensus (less than usual), and the consensus score was 40. Most players are better at declarer play than defensive play, so the lower scores are not surprising. Could this be a reminder about focus?
Overall standings count only your best four scores (at least four participations required) in the six contests this year. Moving into the top spot with a 59.50 average is Ding-Hwa Hsieh (Missouri) two straight wins never hurts but only by tiebreaker over previous leader Tim DeLaney (Indiana). Watch out! Closing in fast with 59.25 is a school of sharks: Darek Kardas (Poland), Leif-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe), Bruce Neill (Australia), John Lusky (Oregon) and Lajos Linczmayer the last of whom is a Hungary shark.
Several people pointed out my timeline flaw: Oscar Mayer was born in 1859, so his eldest daughter would probably be at least 100 years old if born during normal child-bearing years. Oh yeah? Well, I just looked it up, and Oscar lived to be 95! I dont think male fertility is limited by age, so maybe he was a swinging octogenarian. So there! No doubt his reputation as the sausage king didnt hurt his romantic life either. I rest my case. Certainly, there couldnt be anything untrue in what I write.
A few respondents mentioned that the queen of diamonds image bears a resemblance to Angela Lansbury. I guess thats only fitting, since Murder, She Wrote would come to mind playing bridge with Matilda. Hmm Could a new theme be brewing? Murder, She Ruffed Murder, She Revoked Dont give me ideas.
Each problem offered six plausible defensive play options for East, after partner (Matilda) has made the opening lead. The merit of each is scored on a 1-to-10 scale per my judgment, which may be influenced by comments received.
|2 South|| Q 10 9 7 2|
10 7 4 2
| A 4 3|
J 10 9 3
10 9 8 4 3
Partner leads K-A-3. South follows 5-Q-J. You pitch the 3 then ruff the third round. What next?
|B. Win A; lead J||10||72||9|
|E. Lead the J||8||451||59|
|C. Win A; lead 10||7||53||7|
|F. Lead the 10||6||134||18|
|D. Lead the 4||3||22||3|
|A. Win A; lead 4||1||31||4|
As you begin your adventure as bridge pro, you can sense the frustration as Matilda goes out of her way to rebid a five-card suit on a dangerous auction. She would call it fearless, but senseless is a better description. Oh well, she escaped. At least you were dealt a high singleton, so Miss High if you want me continues to give you a ruff. Now what?
Per the conditions of this contest, Matildas 3 is meaningless*, so you must determine the best defense on your own. Nothing is clear-cut, as there could be a case for any return except perhaps ace and a trump so you may have no better logic than just to go with the odds.
*Apologies to those who assumed suit preference; but as the saying goes, When everything else fails, read the directions. Surely, those who did read cant be penalized, so my scoring is based on the 3 having no bridge meaning.
In view of dummy, leading the J seems to have the best prospects. Matilda might have A-Q, or perhaps the K and the A. Certainly, the A wont go away, even if South has A-K-Q, so theres no hurry to lead clubs. Consider a plausible layout:
|2 || Q 10 9 7 2|
10 7 4 2
| J 8 5|
A 8 2
A K 8 6 3
| A 4 3|
J 10 9 3
10 9 8 4 3
| K 6|
K Q 7 5
Q J 5
A Q 7 2
After ruffing the third diamond, suppose you lead the J; queen, ace. Matilda probably will lead another diamond for you to ruff (she doesnt know declarer is out too), and declarer overruffs with the 6. This will promote a trump trick for Matilda if declarer leads trumps right away, but he wont. Instead he will win the K, ruff a heart, and cash two clubs ending in hand to reach:
|South leads|| Q 10 9 7|
| J 8 5|
Declarer leads his last heart (safe because he knows you have the remaining heart), Matilda pitches a diamond, and dummy ruffs. Now a spade is won by your ace, and dummy must win the last two tricks with Q-10 over Matildas J-8. This might be called a suicide trump coup, as you delivered the final blow to your side.
Proper defense is to cash the A before leading the J (Option B). Assume Matilda defends as before, leading a fourth diamond, ruffed and overruffed; then declarer wins the K, ruffs a heart, and returns to hand with the Q to reach:
|South leads|| Q 10 9|
| J 8|
10 9 8
A 7 2
Declarer now is stymied. If he cashes the A, he cannot shorten dummys trumps for the coup. If he leads his last heart, Matilda will pitch her club. Either way, she comes to a spade trick.
Second place goes to leading the J without cashing the A (Option E). This loses in the diagrammed deal but suffices anytime Matilda has A-Q, or the K and A. About the only time it gains over the recommended defense is when Matilda has K-J-x K-x A-K-8-6-3 7-6-2, a rather specific hand (adding the J is a 1 NT opening). Another possible gain is when Matilda has a stiff K (ouch, there goes your paycheck); but that gives her four clubs (surely she cant have four hearts), and even Matilda should know how to bid 5-4 shape alas, maybe not.*
*If Matilda has a hand like K K-x-x A-K-x-x-x Q-x-x-x (enough to beat 2 ), you are destined to lose IMPs anyway, because 4 your way is cold. At best, your teammates will be pushed to 3 at the other table.
If youre going to shift to a club, it is similarly better to cash the A first. Third place goes to Option C, which succeeds when Matilda has J-x-x and the A, while failing to cash the A allows declarer to succeed. Option F deserves a close fourth, as it gains when Matilda has K-x-x K-x-x, as you can shift to hearts when you regain the lead with the A.
Leading trumps only helps declarer, but retaining the A (Option D) at least preserves some chances. For example, if Matilda has K-x-x K-x-x A-K-8-6-3 x-x, she can win the K and give you a ruff with the A; then a heart shift survives. I couldnt come up with any layout where ace and another spade gains, so it easily gets the basement.
Thanks to Tong Xu (Japan) for the idea that led to this problem. In the actual deal in a Swiss team event, trumps were K-10-8-x-x facing J-x (with Q-9-x onside), and declarer had to play double-dummy to benefit if the A were not cashed. Alas, in my problem Tong was in the group that assumed Matilda knew suit preference, though he did remember to cash the A. Unfortunately, those in the Land of the Rising Sun may never know how bad Matilda is well, until the Wienermobile hits Tokyo.
John Lusky: Presumably, partner has at least two spades, since she did not rebid 2 or 2 . The conditions indicate that partners third diamond may not be reliable suit preference; so it seems she could have the K and A, and I should therefore return a heart. I cash my A first to help partner in case she has K-x x-x-x A-K-x-x-x A-x-x, and declarer leads a tricky J.
Leif-Erik Stabell: Hoping Matilda can count to six if she is looking at two certain tricks. Not cashing the A might allow declarer to sneak the J through with something like J-x-x A-K-Q-x Q-J-x Q-J-x.
David Kenward: By the problem conditions, the 3 is not suit preference; so a heart is better than a club (possibly we have two cashing hearts). I cash the A first to avoid being thrown in if South has something like K-x K-Q-x-x Q-J-x A-J-x-x.
Sebastien Louveaux: We need two tricks from the rounded suits. No club trick can go away, so we must grab the heart tricks we can. Cashing the A clarifies the situation for partner, who will know to cash out.
Rainer Herrmann: Matilda is marked with 5-3-3-2 distribution. If she has J-x-x and an ace, the contract goes down by promoting the J. Cashing the A is necessary to avoid a trump coup; but does Matilda hold the A or A? I presume she doesnt know Lavinthal. Leading a heart has the advantage that it also wins if Matilda has the K with the A or K.
Lajos Linczmayer: I suppose Matilda may have a balanced 15-count, and even A-K; so she may have any two cards from the K, A-K and A. I take some risk (bare K), but I think it is worthwhile.
Word is out that the sausage queen is in love with you!
She cant wait to become Mrs. Matilda Links Mayer.
Jim Munday: If declarer started with K-x, I can ruff a fourth diamond, forcing an overruff to promote Matildas J. I must be careful to cash the A first, lest declarer arrange a trump coup. I need to reach Matilda immediately though. Being unable to trust the 3, I switch to a heart (rather than a club), as this will defeat the contract when she has A-Q without the J.
Carsten Kofoed: Ill put Matilda in a position so declarer cant deceive her. She shouldnt have a singleton K on the bidding.
Adrian Barna: To prevent a trump coup if South has K-x K-Q-x-x Q-J-5 A-Q-x-x. Matilda should return a diamond, forcing declarer to overruff with the K.
Barry White: If declarer has something like K-x K-Q-x-x Q-J-x A-Q-x-x, this has the effect of disrupting a trump coup after partner returns a fourth diamond, ruffed and overruffed.
Dean Pokorny: Cashing the A and leading a heart is needed if South has something like K-x K-Q-x-x Q-J-x A-Q-x-x. There is a little danger the A will crash Matildas king, as she probably would have bid 2 holding something like K x-x-x A-K-x-x-x Q-x-x-x.
Debbie Cohen: This may keep partner from ducking the A when its the setting trick.
Gabor Lippner: This helps if Matilda has two winners herself ( A-Q, or K plus A), or if she has J-x-x and the A. Her most likely shape is 3=3=5=2 or 2=3=5=3, and in the first case she is slightly more likely to have the A than the A.
Gerald Cohen: The bidding makes it likely that South is 2=4=3=4, as partner didnt rebid clubs or raise hearts. Leading the J immediately is tempting, but a likely danger is that partner will do something dumb; but after the A, even a wiener can take the setting tricks if she sees them.
Thijs Veugen: This will make things clear for Matilda.
Julian Wightwick: Playing Matilda for J-x-x and the A, then a fourth diamond promotes a trick for the J. This might also work if Matilda has the K.
Barry Rigal: Im trying to make sure partner doesnt duck the setting trick. Based on her 2 bid, this must be a lively possibility!
Manuel Paulo: Consider this possible South hand: K-x K-Q-x-x Q-J-5 A-Q-x-x. After winning the A, Matilda leads a diamond (I hope) that I ruff and declarer overruffs; but there is no trump coup, and partner will win her J. If South has a hand like K-x A-K-x-x Q-J-5 Q-J-x-x, I should win the A and lead a club to set the contract with analogous play; nevertheless, there are several other cases where a heart lead is better than a club.
|3 NT South|| A 10 6|
K 10 8 2
10 6 4 3
| J 9 5 3|
Q J 6 5
K J 5
Partner leads the 5, ducked in dummy. Your play? What if declarer next wins the A and leads the 10?
|F. 10; duck 10||10||64||8|
|D. 10; cover 10 (king)||9||117||15|
|E. 10; cover 10 (jack)||6||45||6|
|C. Q; duck 10||5||129||17|
|A. Q; cover 10 (king)||4||210||28|
|B. Q; cover 10 (jack)||2||198||26|
In this two-parter, your first decision is which heart to play at trick one. Normal technique is to play third hand high, but the actual case may be an exception. First, you can be sure declarer has a heart honor in hand, else he would put up the king. If he has the A (or A-J), your play doesnt matter. The crucial case is when South has only the J; then if you play the queen, you will win the first trick but only two heart tricks total, as Matildas long suit will be shut out* perhaps the same fate as your paycheck.
*Barring a seven-bagger, which is far-fetched. If Matilda has five or six hearts, she cannot have an additional entry besides the A.
Proper technique is to play the heart 10, forcing declarer to win the jack immediately.* Then if Matilda has A-9 sixth (or A-9-8 fifth), you are in a position to run the suit as soon as either of you gains the lead.
*Declarer can counter by ducking with J-x-x; but this is from outer space, as it would usually cost his stopper. Even with J-x-x-x, declarer is likely to win (East may have A-10), though a realistic case for ducking would exist.
So whats going on in clubs? (I had to throw in a second part, of course, to keep with my six-choice format no 50-50 guesses around here!) After declarer wins the first trick*, he crosses to the A and leads the 10. To cover, or not to cover? And if you cover, should you play the king or jack? Oh, the pain! It looks pretty bleak whatever you do. The main point is not to panic, but to stay cool and play in tempo. The 10 looks like a fishing maneuver to me, as in the following deal.
*Several respondents complained that I didnt say which heart (ace or jack) declarer won the first trick with. I chose to omit this because it would taint your first play, which was the main point of the problem. Further, I dont think it matters insofar as the best play in clubs. I also didnt specify which spade Matilda played when declarer crossed to dummy, as it would rarely be meaningful (especially opposite High if you want me) unless the Smith signal applied, which it doesnt in these contests.
|3 NT|| A 10 6|
K 10 8 2
10 6 4 3
| 8 7 2|
A 9 7 5 4 3
9 7 3
| J 9 5 3|
Q J 6 5
K J 5
| K Q 4|
J 8 2
A Q 9 8 2
After capturing the 10 with the jack, declarer crosses to dummy with the A and leads the 10. Wouldnt you do the same? Of course. Leading the 10 costs nothing, though he surely intends to finesse the queen (unless he went to the hand-record party). Covering with the jack would be a gift of immense proportion; the king is certainly better, but declarer may judge to finesse again. Ducking the 10 (Option F) is best. Declarer also might have six clubs (opening 1 NT with K-x J-x-x A-x A-Q-9-8-7-2 is routine in expert circles), in which case youd be sick after covering.
Several respondents commented that South might hold Q-9-x-x (with the A), in which case it is essential to win the K and return a heart to preserve Matildas A entry. True, but it is only relevant if Matilda has seven hearts (with A-x-x declarer would duck the first trick); and even then, declarer (with A-x) would surely take the first trick in dummy to start clubs, rather than offer the extra clue that he is well-heeled in spades. Further, with a hand like K-Q-x-x A-x A-x-x Q-9-x-x, declarer would work on diamonds, as the only realistic hope is to win four spades and three diamonds. All considered, a pretty weak case.
Other respondents noted that South may have A-Q-8-x (with J-x-x) and be playing for a stiff 9, in which case it is necessary to cover. Certainly true; but would an expert make this play? Running the 10 fails outright to K-J doubleton onside, and it loses a trick to J-x or a blank honor onside, as well as a blank jack offside quite a payoff for the chance to catch a blank nine. Also, declarer does not know for sure how hearts split (could be 4-4), so he might still succeed after losing one club trick.
Another reason for not covering is that declarer should always succeed with A-Q-x-x and four hearts. Suppose he has K-Q-x J-7-x-x A-x A-Q-8-x and plays clubs routinely, low to the queen. What will he do next? Thats right; hell exit with a heart, and Matilda will squeeze you now theres a switch or if Matilda doesnt win all her hearts (dream on), he can set up a club. Hence, ducking the 10 only costs an overtrick (if he runs it).
Second place goes to playing the 10 and covering with the K (Option D), as it keeps hopes alive if South has A-Q-9-x-x. I decided to make it a close second, as the case for declarer holding A-Q-8-x (with J-x-x) may be more viable than I believe, particularly if he bases his play on your expected duck with K-J-x; i.e., trying to outfox the fox.
Regrettably, I feel obliged to give third place to Option E, as the primary part of this problem was which heart to play. Having got that right, its a pity to make the worst club play. Cest la vie.
Fourth through sixth places, respectively, go to the inferior play of the Q. You could be a hero if Matilda has ace-seventh, but dont hold your breath; chances are you just handed over the contract. The Q would have more merit at matchpoints, as it curbs an overtrick when South has J-9-x. Option B probably deserves only 1, but the sizable vote earned an upgrade.
John Lusky: The 10 forces declarer to win from J-x-x and thus preserve my communication with partner. Best chance seems to be for declarer to have something like K-Q-x J-x-x A-x A-Q-9-x-x, in which case hell probably play the Q if I duck.
Bill Jacobs: Declarer may have K-Q-x-x J-7-2 A-x A-Q-9-x. He couldnt afford to cash three spades because that leaves him in hand. Did he play the K first? Richards problems move in weird and wonderful ways. To create this one, he leaves us to guess exactly what the play is. I am in consultation with my lawyers about this.
Jordi Sabate: Is South has J-x-x, he could duck; but [surely] he will win the jack. Then he has all the remaining points, and hes leading the 10 just in case I play an honor. I think it is best to duck; maybe he will finesse the Q and hope for a spade split, or a 5-3 heart split and a squeeze.
Charles Blair: South may have K-Q-x J-x-x A-x A-Q-9-x-x.
Robert Tamlyn: After playing the 10, I must have been distracted, since I dont know with which card declarer won trick one. As for covering, I do not see how it can help.
Okan Ozcan: I play the 10 to force declarer to win if he has J-x-x. If he has the A, nothing matters. On the 10 lead, if I cover with the jack, hell finesse the queen and see I have the king; if I cover with the king, hell play me for K-J-x, as there is [less] reason to cover with K-x. Therefore, Ill play low and hope he has A-Q-9-x-x and plays the queen.
Tim Bolshaw: The easy part is to play the 10, catering for partner to hold A-9-x-x-x-x (or A-9-8-x-x and declarer going wrong). When the 10 is played, I have a tough decision. The K (never the jack) could be right against a sneaky declarer; however, he probably has five clubs and is fishing for a cover. If he has A-Q-9-x-x, I think he is more likely to get it right if I cover apart from the possibility partner has a stiff queen!
Juuso Leikola: If declarer needs 4-5 club tricks, there is nothing I can do (or he is too clever for me); but if he has hopes of four spade tricks, he may finesse the Q. (If I covered, it would be with the king.) Partner must have A-9 with length.
Jerry Fink: Playing declarer for A-Q-9-x-x, and paying the price if he outsmarted me with A-Q-8-x.
Dawei Chen: I need A-9-8-x-x-(x) from partner and declarer not to play double dummy.
Jonathan Ferguson: Its more likely that declarers hearts are headed by J-8 or J-7 than J-9, so playing the 10 looks like a calculated risk worth taking. Unless declarer is Zia, I wont catch im with A-Q-x.
Julian Wightwick: Hoping Matilda has led from A-9-x-x-x-x or A-9-8-x-x. I will be winning out sides next trick, so it wont matter if Matilda doesnt know whats going on. On the club play, perhaps declarer has A-Q-9-x-x (or A-Q-9-x with four spades) and has to guess what to play for.
Steve White: First the 10, in hopes partner started with A-9-x-x-x-x. I dont cover the 10, as it figures to be a sucker play even Matilda will notice if I crash her stiff honor.
Jim Tully: Best hope is that partner has six hearts headed by A-9.
Barry Rigal: Partner [may] have A-9-x-x-x-x and 3=6=3=1 shape. Declarer will have to guess clubs at once; and why would he?
Roger Morton: Partner surely needs the A to set the contract. Will declarer duck with J-x-x? I have seen it in books; but who does it at the table? And why make declarers job easy in the club department? My 5 does not look too promising; but if Matilda has 9-x-(x), I have blown it.
Daniel Skipper: Declarer must have a heart [honor] to duck the K. Covering the 10 seems unlikely to promote anything for our side, so a smooth duck is best.
Leif-Erik Stabell: Initially hoping to set up hearts with South holding J-x-x-(x). If that works, it doesnt matter if I crash Matildas singleton Q; in fact it might be better to prevent her from continuing with another small heart. Plan B is to play partner for A-x, and set up hearts while she has an entry.
David Kenward: I play the 10, so declarer has to guess whether to win or duck with J-x-x. Covering with the higher honor might give declarer some losing options if he holds A-Q-9-(x); whereas he seems certain to make if I cover with the jack or duck.
Lajos Linczmayer: If Matilda has seven hearts with the ace, I should play the Q; but if declarer has J-8-x and A-Q-8-x, he cannot go wrong if I play the queen and almost certainly will if I play the 10.
Jim Munday: The 10 forces declarer to win the first trick with J-x-x, allowing me to maintain a link to Matildas hand. I will base my subsequent defense on declarer winning the J, since my best hope is Matilda has led from A-9-8-x-x-(x). Unfortunately, this gives declarer the rest of the high cards. If he has A-Q-9-x, he will succeed no matter what I do; with A-Q-9-x-x, he will have to guess how to play clubs He might also hold A-Q-8-x, hoping for a stiff nine, in which case I must cover
Carsten Kofoed: The 10 forces South to win the jack, and could induce a miscount a waltz, but he may try a fox-trot.
Bruce Neill: Plan A: Play the 10 hoping to entice declarer to win first trick with J-x-x-(x). Plan B: Win the K, hoping partner has seven hearts and the A.
David Caprera: Ill play partner for A-9-8-5-x, and maybe the 9. I dont see how to keep Matilda from suicide-squeezing me [if declarer exits with a heart].
Brad Theurer: Covering with the K gives declarer a losing option with A-Q-9-x. He may play Matilda for x-x-x A-Q-x-x-x x-x J-x-x, and try to endplay her.
Adrian Barna: Playing the 10 to keep an entry to Matilda in case South has J-x-x, then covering with K to cater for partners 9-x, or to create a losing option.
Perry Groot: The Q works better if South has J-x; the 10, if he has J-x-x; else it doesnt seem to matter.
Jonathan Mestel: On a good day, I might notice which card declarer wins at trick one. Im playing South for K-Q-x A-x-x A-x-x Q-9-8-x, or K-Q-x J-x-x A-x-x A-Q-x-x.
Mauri Saastamoinen: My main hope is that declarer has something like K-Q-x J-x-x A-x A-Q-9-8-x, with which he may eventually misguess clubs (I would play the same with K-x).
John Reardon: I hope South has either K-Q-x A-x-x A-x-x-x Q-x-x, or K-Q-x J-x-x A-x-x-x A-Q-x.
Dean Pokorny: My only chance is for partner to have A-9-x-x-x-x, so I play the 10 to induce declarer to win the first trick. Second, I play the K hoping declarer will try to endplay Matilda, expecting her to have something like x-x A-Q-9-x-x x-x J-x-x-x.
Anthony Golding: If declarer has A-J-x, my play doesnt matter. If he has J-x-x-(x) and I win the queen, partner may not have an entry; so Ill play the 10. Barry Rigal recently devoted a lot of space to covering positions; and I recall you should cover as high as possible.
Barry is tricky like that. He instructs everyone to cover,
then he ducks smoothly to score 10.
Biddy Smyth: Declarer must have A-Q-x-x [or better] to be leading the 10, so I want to appear like someone with K-x [or a blank king].
|4 South|| 2|
K Q 8 3
A K Q 5 4
K J 6
| A 7 5|
A 6 4 2
A 10 8 3
Partner leads the J, you win the ace, and South plays the four. What next?
|D. Lead the 2||10||156||20|
|E. Lead the 7||8||201||26|
|F. Lead the 3||7||79||10|
|A. Lead the 7||5||235||31|
|C. Win A; lead 2||2||73||10|
|B. Win A; lead 7||1||19||2|
A few respondents didnt understand the bidding, maybe unaware that a takeout double doesnt affect a 2 NT response to a weak two-bid; its still an artificial force. Hence, Matildas 3 shows a minimum, so you checked out at 4 . Perhaps you should have doubled, but sometimes three aces wont stretch into four tricks. (Be cool; youll double the next one.)
Holding four trumps, a forcing defense appeals, so it feels right to lead another spade (Option A) to tap dummy. From the bidding and lead, Matilda must have K-J-10-x-x-x, so Souths queen will be routinely finessed. Careful! The problem with this defense is that you will have no spades left after dummy ruffs twice; hence, the value of the force evaporates. Consider this layout:
|4 || 2|
K Q 8 3
A K Q 5 4
K J 6
| K J 10 9 8 3|
J 8 3
7 5 2
| A 7 5|
A 6 4 2
A 10 8 3
| Q 6 4|
J 10 9 7
10 9 2
Q 9 4
If you win the A and return a spade, declarer will ruff high in dummy, after which he can succeed in several ways. Simplest is to cross to hand in trumps* (you cannot benefit by grabbing the ace), ruff his last spade high, and lead trumps to drive out the ace. Whatever you return, he can reach his hand in clubs (or diamonds if you lead them) to draw trumps and run diamonds.
*Even if Matildas singleton trump were the seven or nine, declarer could succeed by leading the heart eight to hand. The unblocking play allows a second-round finesse against Easts 6, although declarer must guess to do this; i.e., it fails if West has 9-7 doubleton.
What about a diamond shift (Option E)? This would be adequate if Matilda had at least J-9-x; but as the cards lie it provides an extra entry to South, allowing two spade ruffs as before while pulling trumps. A low club shift (Option F) is similarly ineffective, as declarer can win the club nine for an extra entry; though it would work if Matilda had 9-x-x.
Proper defense is to shift a low trump (Option D). This maintains trump control, while ensuring that declarer is not given an extra minor-suit entry to hand.* If declarer wins in hand, ruffs a spade high and leads a low club, you must be alert. Ducking would allow declarer to finesse the 9 and succeed, so you must play the 10 (winning the ace is OK too). Similarly, if declarer starts clubs with the king from dummy, you must duck to foil his communication. All attempts can be countered with sensible defense.
*If South has two minor-suit entries ( J plus Q, or J-10-x), he can always succeed if trumps are handled properly; so further discussion assumes this is not the case.
Second place goes to a diamond shift (Option E), which is adequate unless it provides an extra South entry (as in the diagram). Curiously, if Matilda has only five spades, a diamond shift works more often than a low trump; but Matilda does not seem like the type who would open K-J-10 fifth*, so I downgraded that scenario. Of course, you never really know about Matilda; I mean she rebid a five-card diamond suit on Problem 1. There may be more to her than meats the eye.
*Many will disagree, but I think its a strong winning action at the vulnerability, especially with a stiff heart.
A close third goes to a club shift (Option F), which works if South has Q-x-x (no nine), Q-9 or Q-x, or if South has the J instead of the Q. (Of course, a low trump also works in these cases.) Compared to a diamond return when South has x-x-x Q-x-x (like the diagram), this fails if South has the 9; while a diamond fails if South has 10-9.
Fourth place goes to a spade return (Option A), which is considerably worse, giving declarer a valuable tempo. Essentially, this fails when declarer has either the J or Q, provided he negotiates trumps properly.
Worst of all is to cash the A, as it eliminates the guess when Matilda has a stiff 7 or 9, and gives away an impossible contract when Matilda has a stiff 10* or J. Declarer is home free if he has the J or Q. I couldnt find a theoretical difference between leading a spade (Option B) or another trump (Option C) next, but the latter forces declarer to lead a club to the jack immediately if he lacks the Q. Conversely, a spade back offers many paths to success. Voting also favored Option C.
*Declarer could pick up a stiff 10 against other defenses by ruffing a spade high and leading the 8 to the jack, but this defies all logic. Certainly, a first-round finesse against East is indicated.
Ding-Hwa Hsieh: If South has Q-x-x J-10-x-x-x 10-9-x x-x, this is better than leading a diamond.
John Lusky: Retaining trump control and threatening declarers ability to ruff two spades without getting stuck in dummy.
Leif-Erik Stabell: Hoping South holds Q-x-x J-10-9-x x-x-x Q-9-x, or similar.
David Kenward: The most difficult problem of the set. I want to stop declarer from ruffing two spades in dummy but need to keep trump control. Either a small club or diamond could give declarer an extra entry to hand.
Sebastien Louveaux: A forcing defense would be ineffective, as I will be out of spades later on. I must concentrate on [limiting] communication, and getting rid of small trumps will do that. I hope South doesnt hold the J.
Lajos Linczmayer: I must keep heart control and not help declarer ruff spades. A diamond lead may be fatal if South has 10-9 or 10-9-x.
Jim Munday: My best chance is for declarer to hold three diamonds. This will limit his hand entries and prevent him from ruffing two spades and establishing a club trick.
Carsten Kofoed: Wonderful Matilda must have K-J-10-x-x-x J-x-x-x Q-x-x, so we have made the right decision not to bid 4 , either to make or to sacrifice. A low heart keeps control and doesnt help declarer with his communication problem.
Bill Jacobs: If I win the third heart and punch dummy with a spade, declarer wont be able to hold it together. What I dont want to do is give declarer free entries to hand to ruff spades; so no diamond lead in case 10-9-x; and no club lead in case Q-9-x.
Bruce Neill: I dont want to help declarer ruff his spade losers. If declarer wins the heart in hand, ruffs a spade high and leads a low club, I should be careful to play a club honor, in case South has Q-x-x J-10-9-x 10-9-x Q-9-x.
Brad Theurer: [If South has the J], partner needs the Q and at least the 10 (South has Q-x-x J-10-9-x J-x-x x-x-x). I must not give declarer any help to ruff spades This way, if he ruffs two spades, I can strand him in dummy to get a second club or a diamond ruff; or if he leads a club, I can win and play back a club.
Charles Blair: Hopefully, Miss Mayers diamond collection includes the jack.
Adrian Barna: This works in most cases. If South has Q-x-x J-10-x-x J-x 9-x-x-x, a low heart [or a diamond] works; and against Q-x-x J-10-x-x 10-9-x Q-x-x, a low heart or a low club will do. In the latter case, if South has Q-9-x, only a low heart works
Perry Groot: This kills communication if South has something like Q-x-x J-10-9-7 10-9-x Q-9-x. Leading a diamond or a club is slightly inferior, as it may give South an additional entry.
Jonathan Mestel: Most flexible. A diamond gives an entry to hand if South has 10-9.
Okan Ozcan: If declarer has four hearts, he needs J-10-x, or the Q [and J], to make 10 tricks. If he has J-x-x, I can set it by playing the 2 or the 7
Dean Pokorny: A small heart is the only return that leaves declarer helpless if he holds something like Q-x-x J-10-9-x 10-9-x Q-9-x, because there is not enough communication to ruff two spades and draw trumps.
Jerry Fink: Wow! Ill begin by finding a defense to beat Q-x-x J-10-9-7 J-10 9-x-x-x, which a low heart or a diamond will. Between them, chances look brighter with a heart
Bill Powell: Trying to restrict spade ruffs without relinquishing trump control.
Dmitri Shabes: If it is possible to beat the contract, a small trump will do, except for a fascinating case of South holding Q-x-x J-10-9-7-5 10-9 x-x-x, where only a boring spade comes through. But thats an extremely small number of cases; otherwise, a spade continuation is usually disastrous.
Steve White: Maintaining trump control, and eventually hoping to ruff a diamond if Matilda started with J-x-x
Tim DeLaney: If Matilda has the Q and at least the 10, declarer cannot come to 10 tricks against passive defense; if he tries to ruff two spades, he will have no way to draw trumps.
Gilles Korngut: Necessary if South holds Q-x-x J-10-9-x 10-9-x Q-9-x.
Joon Pahk: This messes up declarers timing to ruff spades and/or pull trumps safely.
Neelotpal Sahai: If partner is 6=1=3=3 without the J, a spade return (or A) sells the contract, as control shifts, and declarer can ruff two spades in dummy. If partner is 6=0=4=3 with the J, the idea is to remove dummys non-club entries, which can be achieved by returning a spade or a small trump (never A and another). A small trump works in either case.
Paulino Correa: I trust Matilda has led from K-J-10, [probably] with 6=1=3=3 shape. If declarer has the J [and Q], hell have a winning line ruffing two spades in dummy If Matilda has the Q, Ill beat 4 as long as I dont lead my aces. If she has the J but not have Q, however, a small trump [may be necessary]; declarer may then present the 10, but Matilda is shrewd enough not to cover (unless she has J-9-x).
Matilda shrewd? I dont think so. She may be stewed,
but her game is forever crude, dude.
Herb Lavine: It seems either a low heart or a diamond is best; but if I lead a diamond and declarer [plays the J] with Q-x-x J-10-9-7 J-9-x-x x-x, Matilda may signal with the 10 and give away the contract.
Franco Chiarugi: I need partner to have either the J or Q. This reduces [communication] without losing trump control, and declarer will later be blocked in dummy.
George Klemic: I will likely cause declarer the most pain if three rounds of trumps are played [before] I lead through his Q.
Mark Chen: Playing partner for K-J-10-x-x-x and the J. This will require me to tap dummy exactly once
Chris Chambers: Cutting declarers communication. Partner must have K-J-10-x-x-x and an outside jack [or the Q].
|4 × South|| 9 6 4 2|
A 7 5 4
Q 8 6 4 2
| A 8 3|
A 10 9 7 5
A Q 7 2
Partner leads the 3. (South plays the K.) Your defense?
|A. Win A; A||10||234||31|
|F. Duck the first trick||7||15||2|
|B. Win A; lead 3||6||60||8|
|E. Win A; lead 5||4||214||28|
|D. Win A; lead 10||3||144||19|
|C. Win A; lead Q||2||96||13|
Argh! Your jaw dropped about a foot when dummy came down. What a catch! Surely, if you had bid 4 , dummys black suits would be switched. Cest la vie. Good news is that Matilda led a singleton, so you can start with A and a ruff. These two tricks, combined with your oops, hold the Wienermobile! You only have one more trick. Consider a likely layout:
|4 ×|| 9 6 4 2|
A 7 5 4
Q 8 6 4 2
K J 10 8 6 3 2
J 9 5 3
| A 8 3|
A 10 9 7 5
A Q 7 2
| K Q J 10 5|
K 10 8 6 4
After Matilda gets her ruff, the best she can do is return a heart to the ace. Then comes a heart ruff (you pitch a club); club ruff; Q; diamond ruff; club ruff; diamond ruff; club ruff, to reach:
|North leads|| 9|
| A 8 3|
| K Q|
Finally, a heart lead gives declarer all but the trump ace, as the K can be ruffed with the 9. Dont you just hate it when that happens?
The consensus was on the ball, realizing the need to lead trumps immediately (Option A). This is most evident if you count declarers tricks: four trumps* in hand, one heart, two diamonds and two club ruffs provided you lead two rounds of trumps. In effect, you sacrifice one diamond ruff (poor Matilda) to prevent two club ruffs, for a net gain of one trick.
*Logically, South has only five spades, as even Matilda wouldnt lead a singleton if she were void in trumps we hope.
A distant second goes to ducking the first trick (Option F), which is adequate if Matilda has the K or K. Declarer cannot lead another diamond, lest you clear trumps; so he must crossruff clubs and hearts, which allows you to discard two clubs then overruff the third round. This fails in the diagram, as declarers K sets up when your ace ruffs out.
Third place goes to returning a low trump (Option B), which works in the unlikely event Matilda has the K, or conceivably the Q if declarer judges to play you for A-Q both. (This does not gain a trick over cashing the A, because Matilda cannot lead another trump.) Not much hope on the bidding, but better than nothing.
Winning the A and leading a heart (Option C) or another diamond (Option D or E) offers no chance, assuming South has five spades as advertised. Even if Matilda has the K or K (or both!), declarer romps home with 10 tricks. I suppose theres some satisfaction in giving Matilda her ruff (a paycheck?), so a diamond return wins on style points as well as by the voting, which really decided the order.
John Lusky: Presumably partner has a trump to have led her singleton, so declarer is apparently 5=1=2=5. Two rounds of trump will leave declarer a trick short, while giving partner her ruff will allow a merry crossruff. Ducking the first trick fails if declarer continues diamonds and partner ruffs.
Leif-Erik Stabell: Looks like partner is 1=7=1=4, which means that we lose our diamond ruff but gain a trick for each round of trumps I play.
David Kenward: And congratulate Matilda on her lead.
Sebastien Louveaux: First (only?) order of business is cut down dummys ruffs. Declarer should have only five trumps (partner would not have led a singleton without a trump), so he will be limited to four spades, one heart, two diamonds and two club ruffs.
Rainer Herrmann: Cutting down declarers crossruff is more profitable than giving Matilda her ruff.
Lajos Linczmayer: If Matilda has a trump, this will beat the contract; we lose one trick but gain two.
Jim Munday: It is counterintuitive to take Matildas trump away; but if I give her a ruff, she will not have a second trump to lead, and declarer will be able to [crossruff]. The counter is to lead ace and a trump now.
Carsten Kofoed: Matildas singleton lead indicates she has a trump, so two rounds of trumps will restrict declarer to nine tricks.
Bill Jacobs: At last a breather. Declarer is 5=1=2=5, and Im stopping the crossruff. Tell me how he comes to 10 tricks when he can ruff only two clubs.
Bruce Neill: Sorry, partner; you found my ace to get a ruff with your singleton trump but no! I need to draw two rounds of trumps right now, in case South has K-Q-J-x-x x K-J K-J-x-x-x.
David Caprera: If partner is getting a diamond ruff, declarer is 5-5 in the blacks; and he cant ruff enough clubs to get home if I pull two rounds of trumps.
Brad Theurer: Partner is probably 1=7=1=4; so if I give her a ruff, she wont have a trump to return, and declarer can crossruff. With two rounds of trumps played, he can take only four trumps in hand, the A, two diamonds and two ruffs in dummy.
Jordi Sabate: Then another spade. Better for South to lose two ruffing tricks, while we lose one.
Charles Blair: Regardless of the result on this deal, my failure to give Miss Mayer her ruff will mean she no longer wants my services. For the sake of this problem, Ill assume Ive already signed a contract for next year with a La-Z-Boy chairess.
Adrian Barna: Two rounds of trumps leave declarer with nine tricks, [assuming] he has only five spades. Even Matilda wouldnt lead a singleton with a void in trumps though I wouldnt be so sure about Fritz. :)
Perry Groot: Giving partner a ruff seems obvious, but then declarer (5=1=2=5) can crossruff for his contract. Only ace and another trump holds declarer to nine tricks
Jonathan Mestel: Wed have set it another if you gave me a ruff!
Robert Tamlyn: After the hand is over, I will need to calm Matilda for not giving her a ruff, but that problem is for later. First I need to draw as many trumps as possible.
Okan Ozcan: I assume partner has a trump for her singleton lead, so she is [1=7=1=4] and declarer probably has K-Q-J-10-x x K-J K-J-10-x-x. If I give partner a diamond ruff, declarer will succeed on a crossruff If I play ace and another trump, he can ruff only two clubs and will [fail] by one trick.
Tim Bolshaw: If South is 5=1=2=5 (or 5=0=2=6), giving partner a diamond ruff will allow declarer to get home on a merry crossruff. Partner may not understand why I did not give her a ruff, but ace and another trump it must be.
John Auld: Eliminating two ruffs gives declarer nine tricks; taking a diamond ruff gives him 10 tricks on a crossruff.
Dale Freeman: Would Matilda lead a singleton with a void in trumps? Ill assume declarer has only five spades, so the A and another will leave him a trick short.
Mauri Saastamoinen: And then another trump. This seems really weird when partner leads her singleton; but if South has something like K-Q-J-10-x x K-J K-J-x-x-x, its the only way to defeat a contract.
Barry White: Following up with another trump. Declarer cannot come to 10 tricks with K-Q-J-10-x x K-J K-J-10-x-x.
Dean Pokorny: Matilda obviously wants a diamond ruff (1=7=1=4); but if I give it, declarer will succeed via crossruff lines. Instead, the best I can do is to play two rounds of trumps and wait for two club tricks.
Juuso Leikola: Partner must have a spade, so South is 5=1=2=5. If I play two rounds of trumps, he can win only nine tricks (four spades, one heart, two diamonds and two club ruffs).
Jerry Fink: Sacrificing a diamond ruff (sorry, partner, the K tricked me) to cut short two ruffing tricks in dummy.
Toby Kenney: On any other defense, declarer can make nearly all of his trumps and the contract. I need to draw trumps as fast as possible. If declarer next plays ace and another heart, I must pitch a club [or ruff] to prevent an endplay.
Nigel Marlow: Declarer must have only five spades; else why would partner try for a ruff? Declarer needs at least three club ruffs to make his contract, and ace and another spade [prevents it].
Bill Powell: Then another spade. Declarer cant get home if hes restricted to two club ruffs.
Debbie Cohen: Stopping ruffs and driving Matilda crazy.
Roland Voigt: South is probably 5=1=2=5. I could give partner a diamond ruff, but then declarer can make 10 tricks on a crossruff. Two round of trumps kill the crossruff, and in the end I will score two club tricks.
Dmitri Shabes: Apparently, the 3 is a singleton; but instead of giving a ruff, Ill play two rounds of trumps! To have any chance, I must hope Matilda has a trump; but even if not, this will at least stop an overtrick.
Steve White: Then continue with another trump, holding declarer to one heart, two diamonds, four spades and two ruffs. (If declarer has six spades, nothing works.)
Gabor Lippner: Partner has a singleton diamond, hence surely a trump; so South is likely to be 5=1=2=5. If I give partner a ruff, she will have to lead a heart or club; and declarer will [succeed] on a crossruff.
Tim DeLaney: Giving Matilda the obvious diamond ruff also gives declarer the contract. Playing trumps assures me of two club tricks. No doubt, Matilda will tell me we could have beaten it another trick by giving her a ruff.
Kent Feiler: And another spade. Im trading one diamond ruff to stop two club ruffs.
Thijs Veugen: South has something like K-Q-J-x-x x K-J K-x-x-x-x, so I must play trumps twice to avoid a crossruff.
Julian Wightwick: Drawing two rounds of trumps. This gains two tricks, while the immediate diamond ruff only gains one. If declarer next plays A and a heart, I will ruff, [although a club pitch is OK too].
Mike Cassel: Matilda is probably 1=7=1=4. (You said we could count on her opening lead, so she wouldnt lead a singleton with a void in trumps.) So I spurn the diamond ruff and take out two of dummys club ruffs.
Hazel Rollasson: Im prepared for a stony glare from partner; but its Matilda, not Medusa, right?
Gilles Korngut: This and another spade limits declarer to nine tricks.
Jim Tully: Killing ruffs. If declarer has six trumps, theres no defense; with five, he cant make more than nine tricks
Roger Sun: Partner should have a trump to lead a singleton, so South has a hand like K-Q-J-10-x x K-J K-J-x-x-x.
Joon Pahk: Declarer will get more mileage out of club ruffs than we would with a diamond ruff.
Anthony Golding: If I give partner a ruff, declarer can win the return and crossruff for 10 tricks. If I play two trumps, he can make four spades, two ruffs, two diamonds and the A.
David Grainger: Limiting declarer to four spades, two ruffs, two diamonds and the A. (Partner has a spade for her lead but cant have another to return if given a ruff.)
Neelotpal Sahai: Then another spade. Declarer is sitting with at least five clubs, so he can ruff only two and discard one
Marvin Levine: If partner can be trusted, she is 1=7=1=4; and declarer (5=1=2=5) can make the hand only on a crossruff. Playing the A and another [prevents this].
Travis Crump: Declarer can win six spades [counting two ruffs], one heart and two diamonds but no 10th trick. If partner doesnt have a trump, she isnt ruffing a diamond anyway.
Barry Rigal: It looks right to kill ruffs I assume declarer is 5=1=2=5 with all the missing black honors.
Paulino Correa: Apart from her seven hearts and singleton diamond, Matilda should have one trump. I have to lead two rounds of trumps. Matilda will be mad; but if I give her a ruff, declarer will crossruff to make the contract.
Ruben Buijs: A diamond ruff will only ensure three tricks. Ace and another spade will leave declarer one trick short.
Manuel Paulo: Consider this possible South hand: K-Q-J-10-x x K-J K-J-10-x-x. Declarer counts seven tricks four trumps, one heart and two diamonds and he gets only two club ruffs after my trump leads.
Leonard Helfgott: I need to eliminate a third club ruff at all costs.
Franco Chiarugi: South probably has K-Q-J-x-x x K-J K-x-x-x-x. An immediate ruff for partner does not defeat the contract. Only playing trumps twice will leave declarer with two losing clubs.
Javier Carbonero: With six spades, declarer is always home; with only five, Matilda could ruff a diamond, but this allows declarer to [succeed] by crossruffing. Ace and another spade holds declarer to six trump tricks, two diamonds and the A
Frans Buijsen: Followed by another spade, leaving declarer with only nine tricks maximum
Roger Morton: I surely have to cut down club ruffs. Can Matilda really have a trump on this bidding?
Albrecht Hollstein: Partner wouldnt lead a singleton with a void in trumps, so South is 5=1=2=5. If I give partner her ruff, declarer has 10 tricks
Mark Chen: Playing declarer for K-Q-J-10-x x K-J K-J-10-x-x; then ace and another trump will leave him a trick short.
Oleg Rubinchik: Pretty much double-dummy If I dont lead two trumps right now, declarer will make 10 tricks on crossruff.
Len Vishnevsky: If partner has a diamond ruff coming, we dont need it. After I play trumps, declarer gets at most four spades, one heart, two diamonds and two clubs. If declarer has six spades, I have to hope Matilda led small from J-x.
Chris Chambers: Matilda must have [two singletons], but giving her a ruff allows declarer to crossruff and make 4 .
Sid Ismail: Stop the crossruff!
|5 South|| 7 4|
Q 8 2
A 7 4 2
7 5 3 2
| K Q 9 8 2|
9 5 3
K 10 6
Partner leads the J. (South plays the 6.) Your defense?
|C. Overtake; lead 3||10||180||24|
|F. Play the 2||7||51||7|
|D. Overtake; lead 6||6||300||39|
|B. Overtake; lead 4||5||65||9|
|E. Play the 9||3||117||15|
|A. Overtake; lead 8||2||50||7|
A number of people complained about the 2 opening with only five cards, but playing with Matilda you do what you have to do. Seriously, it is part of the default system, which loosely defines the length as 6 cards (occasionally strong 5); and I firmly believe its a winning strategy when applied discreetly. The actual hand gets my approval only at the vulnerability, but suits like A-K-J-10-x or A-Q-J-10-x are acceptable most of the time. Matilda will never complain, though, because no matter how many spades declarer turns up with, she will never know.
If not presented as a problem, I suspect the majority of players would routinely signal, assuming declarer is about to win the ace. Unfortunately, assumptions like this are a ticket to the poor house (compare February 2007 Problem 1) or as Benny Hill once outlined on a blackboard, Never ASSUME, because it makes an ASS out of U and ME. No harm can come from overtaking*, and it may be crucial to be on lead if declarer ducks.
*Matilda surely has at least J-10-x for her sacrifice bid; but even if she went berserk with J-x, establishing the 10 for declarer will hardly matter.
Somewhat surprisingly, you win the first trick. Whats going on? Could Matilda have underled the ace? Are you serious? Matilda? She might sleep with kings and jacks, but she never went to bed with an ace. Declarer is certainly ducking; but why? Most likely to rectify the count for a squeeze or throw-in, so you better be alert. Consider a plausible layout:
|5 || 7 4|
Q 8 2
A 7 4 2
7 5 3 2
| J 10 5 3|
Q J 8
A Q J 8 4
| K Q 9 8 2|
9 5 3
K 10 6
| A 6|
A K J 10 9 6 3
K 10 6
Declarers prospects are bleak after a spade lead, as three losers seem inevitable; but theres a glimmer of hope when he ducks. Suppose you shift to a club (Option D) and declarer ruffs the second round. Back in business! Another club ruff will isolate the club threat against Matilda, then running trumps and the A will squeeze her in the minors. (That popping sound you hear is her bra snapping.) Ahh, the life of a chauffeur.
Returning a spade (Option A) or a heart (Option B) doesnt help either, as declarer will lead clubs himself to develop the same squeeze. Note that dummy has two trump entries to ruff two clubs without disturbing the A.
Cashing even one club is too many. Proper defense is to return a diamond (Option C) to attack declarers entries. If he wins the K, you will lead a second diamond when he gives up a club. If declarer ducks the diamond shift as well, Matilda hopefully will take the setting trick with her A.
A diamond shift is also necessary when declarer has A-x A-K-J-10-9-x-x Q-x A-J (or A-x-x and six hearts), although declarer might have won the first trick and played East for the K. Otherwise, he will finesse the J into Matilda, then ruff a club and squeeze her as before. The basic logic is this: If it is right for declarer to duck the A, it must be right to shift to a diamond. If declarer had something like A-6 A-K-J-10-x-x K-Q-x x-x (or Q-J-10), he would win the first trick and play for his legitimate chance of diamonds 3-3 (and K onside if needed).
Based on declarers spade duck, it is difficult to construct a layout where a different defense is necessary; but I suppose some experts would jump to 4 with A-6-x K-J-10-9-6-5-3 K-Q x.* Declarer has no quick entry to dummy to pitch his club, so he would duck and hope for a spade or diamond lead. Any of three defenses then work. A distant second goes to discouraging with the 2 (Option F), as Matilda will then cash her A (holding the A); or in the diagrammed deal she might shift to the Q. A close third and fourth go to overtaking and leading a club (Option D) or a trump (Option B), ranked by the voting.
*With only 7 1/2 playing tricks, I would overcall 3 . Jump overcalls of a weak opening typically show within one trick (or 1 1/2) of the bid made; hence, 4 implies 8 1/2+ tricks.
Encouraging spades (Option E) or overtaking to return a spade (Option A) are about equally poor. Remember, the 9 is high if you want me, so youll be getting another spade, even if Matilda is looking at the A and A. Matilda can see just fine, but dont expect any pearls of wisdom (except around her neck). Rather than pick a wiener, Option E gets the edge per the voting.
John Lusky: This is necessary to break up a minor-suit squeeze if South has A-x-x A-K-J-10-9-x Q-x A-J.
Leif-Erik Stabell: The winning defense if South has A-x A-K-J-10-x-x Q-10-x A-x. Should I have led the nine to make it easier for Matilda to switch to clubs if declarer ducks the diamond?
David Kenward: This is necessary to save Matilda from being squeezed when declarer has A-x-x A-K-J-10-x-x K-J-x x.
Sebastien Louveaux: This is about avoiding a minor-suit squeeze against partner, and a diamond shift is needed if South has A-x A-K-J-10-x-x-x Q-x A-J, or A-x-x A-K-J-10-x-x Q-x A-J. A trump does not remove enough entries, as South needs to ruff only one club to isolate the menace (after a club to the jack).
Rainer Herrmann: South could have A-6 A-K-J-10-x-x-x Q-x A-J, where only a diamond beats the contract.
Lajos Linczmayer: If South has A-x A-K-J-10-9-x-x Q-x A-J, or A-x A-K-J-10-x-x Q-x A-J-9, a diamond switch is necessary.
Jim Munday: There is a danger Matilda can be squeezed in the minors. Declarer would not duck with [ K-Q-x] and quick club losers, so he may hold something like A-6 A-K-J-10-x-x-x Q-10 A-J. If I fail to overtake and lead a diamond, declarer can arrange a club-diamond squeeze by keeping me off lead.
Carsten Kofoed: Matildas bid suggests J-10-x-x x K-J-x-x Q-x-x-x, so declarer may be able to squeeze her. I wont let him be so naughty.
Bill Jacobs: Why is declarer ducking? A club play looks obvious, so I do something else a Rueful Rabbit line of reasoning perhaps.
Bruce Neill: Declarer hopes I wont know enough about the hand to find the diamond switch; he may have A-x A-K-J-x-x-x-x Q-x A-J.
David Caprera: I need to take partner off a potential endplay.
Brad Theurer: Looks like declarer is preparing to squeeze partner in the minors. If he has A-x A-K-J-x-x-x-x Q-x A-J, on any lead but a diamond he can lose a club trick to partner via avoidance, ruff a club, and run trumps for the squeeze.
Jordi Sabate: Declarer seems to have A-x-x and A-K-x-x-x-x; and I worry that he may have K-10-x and a singleton club. In that case I have to overtake (in case he has K-J-x) and lead a diamond to prevent a squeeze against Matilda in the minors.
Charles Blair: I found this a challenging theoretical exercise. If South has A-x A-K-J-10-x-x-x Q-x A-J, I hope I will be able to congratulate Matilda on keeping the right Mayer minor. Would it be better to lead the diamond nine?
With Matilda? Shell think high means you want it
and I dont mean her body after the game.
Adrian Barna: If declarer has A-x-x A-K-J-x-x-x Q-x A-J, he may try to squeeze Matilda in the minors.
Perry Groot: Clubs look more threatening than diamonds, so Ill try to establish a diamond before the fourth club is high.
Jonathan Mestel: Breaking up a squeeze if South has A-x A-K-J-10-9-x-x Q-x A-J.
Robert Tamlyn: If a club shift were needed to beat the contract, declarer would have won the A.
Okan Ozcan: If declarer has A-x A-K-J-10-9-x x-x A-Q-x, I should play a diamond; but why did he duck when he could make it by winning the A? Maybe he has 10 tricks and is preparing for a squeeze, or maybe he has A-J-9 and wants a club shift.
Tim Bolshaw: In context, declarers spade duck is strange. Did partner really bid 4 on something like J-10-x x-x K-J-8-x Q-x-x-x? (Not my idea of a good bid at IMPs.) If declarer has A-x, I would expect him to win. Danger is that declarer could concede a club and ruff one to develop a minor-suit squeeze; thus, I overtake and return a diamond.
John Auld: Matilda may be vulnerable to a minor-suit squeeze, so I attack on entry.
Dale Freeman: This will break up a squeeze on Matilda if declarer has 10 tricks, including Q-x and A-J.
Mauri Saastamoinen: A weird one! Why didnt declarer take a first trick? Im not sure about this, but if there could be some kind of endplay against my dear partner, I should try to stop it.
Barry White: Starting diamonds from my side could be necessary, as declarer may hold A-x-x A-K-x-x-x-x Q-x A-J.
John Reardon: In case South has A-x A-K-J-10-9-x Q-x A-J-9.
Juuso Leikola: Getting the A out early may help us. I dont believe this style of weak twos is winning bridge. On Problem 3, I would double for sure if partner would [often] have a five-card suit.
Jerry Fink: Looks like a squeeze against Matilda is romping down the pike, so I better try to cut communication with dummy as soon as possible.
Toby Kenney: It may be vital to lead diamonds through declarer now.
Nigel Marlow: Whats going on? Wheres the A? It certainly seems right to try to develop our third trick, and overtaking to play a diamond looks best.
Bill Powell: I dont know, but at least this will prevent Matilda leading away from K-J-x-x.
Dmitri Shabes: South may have something like A-x A-K-J-10-x-x-x Q-x A-J.
Gabor Lippner: Declarer may have to squeeze Matilda in the minors; and if she has Q-10-x, I can ruin it by leading diamonds twice through declarer.
Tim DeLaney: This may be the only way to break up a minor-suit squeeze against Matilda.
Kent Feiler: I dont want anyone squeezing Matilda. She might decide she likes it.
Thijs Veugen: To avoid Matilda being squeezed, if South holds something like A-x A-K-x-x-x-x-x K-J-x x.
Gilles Korngut: This may break up a minor-suit squeeze against partner.
Neelotpal Sahai: I wont leave Matilda on lead, as it only gives declarer extra chances to make the contract. Looks like Matilda may have K-J, in which case I have to set up a diamond trick early on.
Junyi Zhu: Trying to establish a diamond winner before dummys fourth club is good, if South has A-x A-K-J-x-x-x Q-x A-J-9. If South has three diamonds (instead of clubs), partner can switch to a club after winning first diamond.
Douglas Dunn: Partner has length in clubs and could be squeezed if the A remains in dummy.
Paulino Correa: There are a multitude of scenarios [I can dream] declarer has x-x A-K-J-10-9-x K-J-x A-Q, and the contract can be beaten only if I attack diamonds twice Congratulations to Matilda for not starting with the A this may have been her Life Master moment!
Manuel Paulo: Consider this possible South hand: A-6 A-K-J-10-x-x-x Q-10 A-J. With any other defense, declarer loses a club to Matilda and squeezes her in the minors.
Leonard Helfgott: To knock out the A entry before clubs set up.
Sid Ismail: Getting our tricks, and saving partner from an endplay.
Sounds like the dialogue of two hookers
discussing their nights work.
|6 South|| J 9 5 3|
A 7 3 2
K Q 4
A J 9 7 5 4 2
10 8 7 6
Partner leads the K. How do you defend?
|A. Ruff; lead J||10||102||13|
|D. Ruff; lead 6||8||55||7|
|B. Ruff; lead A||7||460||60|
|C. Ruff; lead 7||5||47||6|
|E. Pitch the 9||3||92||12|
|F. Pitch the 6||2||7||1|
Well, you made it to the last board with only a few major disasters, so theres hope to make the round of eight; for all you know, your teammates might be having a blockbuster. Prospects brighten up, as your opponents stretch to an apparently hopeless slam. Ideas about doubling race through your mind, but you dont want to scare Matilda out of her normal lead. Please, oh please, lead the suit you bid. Yes!
Any thoughts of pitching (Option E or F) should be quickly dismissed, as declarer surely has the A, else he could hardly have his 4 bid and final push to slam. Indeed, the raise to 5 in standard bidding asks for spade control. Imagine if you discarded and let declarer score up 12 tricks with A-x-x K-Q-10-9-8-6-5 x A-x.
So you ruff. The obvious follow-up is to cash your A before the rats get at it, and its no surprise this was the majority choice. Im sure even more would cash the A at the table; but being posed as a problem, they deduced it was too obvious to be the right answer. While some of my past problems have had mundane solutions, their deduction was certainly right this time. The A could be poison. Consider this layout:
|6 || J 9 5 3|
A 7 3 2
K Q 4
| K Q 10 8 6 4|
K 10 6 3
9 5 3
A J 9 7 5 4 2
10 8 7 6
| A 7 2|
K Q 10 9 8 6 5
A J 2
After ruffing the K lead, cashing the A may look harmless. Not! Declarer will ruff and lead all his trumps to reach:
|South leads|| J|
K Q 4
| Q 10|
10 8 7 6
| A 7|
A J 2
Then three rounds of clubs ending in dummy will squeeze Matilda. While this might get rid of some of her bacon fat, it wont help your bridge career so you might as well put on your chauffeurs cap.
One way to prevent the squeeze is to lead a low diamond, but thats only a trade-off against another danger. Declarer could just as easily hold A-x-x K-Q-10-9-8-6-5 K A-x, and he wouldnt believe his eyes to win the blank king. On a lucky day, he may have a low singleton, and Matilda can give you a second ruff a nice paycheck, no doubt, but not one to be proud of.
The solution is to bide your time. There is no hurry to win the A, as declarer cannot win 12 tricks with any plausible distribution on the bidding. Fears of a five-card club suit (allowing two diamond pitches from dummy) are unfounded, as Souths shape would have to be 2=5=1=5 (for the A to cash); and who would bid 4 over 2 with that? I mean, besides Matilda. (Opponents are experts, remember.)
This narrows the choice to a heart or a club return, between which there is a definite winner. Leading the J (Option A) will reveal immediately if South has a seven-bagger (Matilda will show out), which is the only case for concern.* Hopefully, Miss High if you want me will pitch the 10 from K-10-6-3, so you will know to duck when a diamond is led from dummy; otherwise, you will take your ace. The trump return neatly caters to both dangers, albeit with slight help from Matilda.
*If Matilda follows to the heart, there is no danger in playing your A on the first diamond lead. If declarer ruffs, say with A-x-x K-Q-10-9-x-x A-J-x-x, Matilda cannot be squeezed, because declarer cannot end in dummy after cashing his winners. Matilda needs only to remember that South is out of diamonds to keep her spade winner at the end.
Second place goes to a club return (Option D), as declarer will probably draw the outstanding trump himself, leaving you with the same information as Option A. The catch is that a sharp declarer may win the club in dummy and lead a low diamond immediately. Ouch! Better guess right!
Third place goes to cashing the A (Option B), which only loses to the specific shape in the diagram. Conversely, leading the 7 (Option C) must settle for a distant fourth, as it loses to a variety of shapes when the K is South: 3=7=1=2, 3=7=2=1, 2=7=2=2, 2=7=3=1, 2=7=1=3 and 2=6=1=4.* About the only good news in leading a low diamond is that it will produce a two-trick set when South has a low singleton not to mention exciting Matilda, who lives to win diamond tricks.
*Note that Matilda could have seven spades at the vulnerability. Holding K-Q-10-x-x-x-x and out does not qualify for a 3 bid at unfavorable, which shows seven winners; so even an expert would open 2 rather than pass.
Lastly, if youre not going to ruff the first trick, it makes little difference what you pitch. Pitching the 9 may seem better, feeding Matilda the one thing she knows; but if declarer draws trumps and gives up a spade, you can pitch the 9 (or even the J) then to accomplish the same indeed this may be better, as Matilda might have forgotten the first trick. (Regardless of when you signal to Matilda, I have found it helps to hold the card on your forehead for 10 seconds before slapping it on the table.) Option E gets fifth place per the voting.
John Lusky: Theres no hurry to take the A; if declarer has a diamond, he cannot have 12 tricks. If declarer is 3=7=0=3, leading the A will result in partner being squeezed. If I lead a heart and partner follows, I can safely hop on a diamond lead from dummy, because a squeeze cant operate if declarer is 3=6=0=4. If partner shows out of hearts, hopefully she will tell me if she has the K.
Leif-Erik Stabell: Hopefully, Matilda will encourage diamonds on this trick holding the K, so I know what to do when declarer next leads a small diamond from dummy. South might have A-x-x K-Q-10-9-8-6-5 A-x-x.
David Kenward: South presumably has A-x-x, so ruffing is clear. Playing the A [might] allow declarer to ruff and squeeze Matilda when he is void; and playing a small diamond is not exactly risk-free. So Ill play a trump and hope partner will manage to discard the 10.
Sebastien Louveaux: I must ruff, else declarer will lose only one trick with A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x A-x-x; and if I try to cash the A, it transfers the diamond guard to partner, who will be squeezed. Leading the 7 is also clearly out, as declarer could have A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x K A-x. [If I lead another suit], what do I do if declarer plays the 8 from dummy? Rising can enable the squeeze, while ducking could let him score a bare king. A trump lead will let me know immediately whether partner has a trump; if so, [playing] the A is safe; if not, her discard will hopefully tell me if she has the K.
Rainer Herrmann: Does declarer have a singleton K, or a void? Hopefully, Matilda will discard a high diamond if she has the king.
Lajos Linczmayer: It is not urgent to cash the A, and fatal if declarer is void. I hope I will know more after trick two.
Jim Munday: A deceptive hand. It looks obvious to try to win the A at trick two, but if declarer is 3=7=0=3, he can ruff, run trumps and finish clubs in dummy to squeeze Matilda not to mention my early retirement plans Closer scrutiny shows that my diamond trick cant disappear with any realistic pattern for declarer. I must ruff, else declarer could lose just one spade trick, so the issue is what to return. A low diamond will prevent the squeeze but look awfully silly if declarer holds A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x K A-x. A club looks safe, but I cant rely on Matilda to give club count, and declarer may win in dummy and lead a low diamond. If I rise, declarer could be 3=7=0=3; and if I duck, he could be 3=7=1=2 with a blank K a pseudo Mortons Fork coup as it were. The solution is to return a trump; if Matilda follows (South has six hearts), I can safely play the A on the first lead; if she is out, I hope she will pitch a high diamond holding the K the one signal I can count on.
Carsten Kofoed: If Matilda has the K, shell discard a high diamond. Therefore, Ill know what to do when declarer leads a diamond at trick three.
Bill Jacobs: Not ruff? Very funny. And no A, of course, because it might [be ruffed] and end up with a squeeze on partner. So what if a diamond is led early from dummy? I think Id better lead a heart at trick two to get some data from partners discard. I wonder if I would get this right at the table.
Bruce Neill: No rush to cash the A, as declarer cant have a useful discard, and I dont want to squeeze partner if declarer has A-x-x K-Q-x-x-x-x-x A-x-x. So I lead the J to see [what partner discards] if she is void. If partner follows, I can afford to rise with the A if the 8 is led from dummy.
David Caprera: My A cant go away yet; but if declarer next leads a small diamond from dummy to his singleton king, it will. Trying to cash the A may subject partner to a pointed-suit squeeze if South is void.
Brad Theurer: I must ruff, as declarer may have A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x A-x-x; but then I cant be sure what [to do]. If I lay down the A against that hand, partner will be squeezed in the pointed suits. So I lead a trump, and partner (probably void) will hopefully signal whether she has the K or not, so I know what to do if declarer leads a diamond from dummy.
Jordi Sabate: There are some traps here: I have to ruff the first trick, else declarer can make the contract if he is 3=7=0=3; and if he has that distribution, I cannot then play my A, else Matilda will be squeezed. Another problem is that declarer can play a diamond early from dummy, and I have to guess whether he is void or 3=7=1=2 with a stiff K. The best I can do is ruff and lead a trump. If South has less than seven trumps, I can play the A on the first diamond lead (with 3=6=0=4 declarer cannot squeeze partner). If South has seven trumps, Matilda can pitch a small diamond with 10-6-3 or signal with the 10 from K-10-6-3.
Charles Blair: If declarer leads a diamond from dummy, I have to worry about a singleton K, or a void followed by a squeeze if South is 3=7=0=3. At least Miss Mayer will have a chance to signal high if you want me with K-10-6-3.
Perry Groot: What could go wrong on this hand? South may be void in diamonds! South should have three spades and six or seven hearts, so he cannot have five clubs to throw both of dummys diamonds. Leading a trump will give me a count of that suit. If South has six hearts (partner follows), I will play the A on the first diamond lead, as partner cannot be squeezed if South is void.
Jonathan Mestel: Partner will tell me whether declarer has a stiff K or a void.
Tim Bolshaw: Declarers most likely hand is surely A-x-x K-Q-J-x-x-x A-J-x-x. After ruffing, the A is very tempting (I might well make that mistake at the table); but if declarer is 3=7=0=3, it exposes partner to a spade-diamond squeeze. I am not brave enough to lead a low diamond to show partner not to worry about holding diamonds, for A-x-x K-Q-J-10-x-x-x K A-x with South would be unbearable. Is there anything to choose between a club and trump back? [Yes], if partner follows [to a trump] and declarer then plays a low diamond from dummy, the ace is known to be safe.
John Auld: I must ruff, as declarer may have A-x-x and a diamond void. I must not play the A because it might expose partner to a squeeze.
Martin Hirschman: South could have A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x A-x-x, in which case tabling the A exposes partner to a spade-diamond squeeze. There is no rush to cash the A; even if declarer has A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x x A-x, he will have to lose a spade or a diamond.
Dale Freeman: [If the A is cashing], declarer has a maximum of 11 top tricks If declarer is [3=7=0=3], I must not [lead] the A (or pop when led from dummy); else Matilda will be squeezed in spades and diamonds. If Matilda is void in hearts, maybe she will give me an attitude signal in diamonds, so I postpone the decision
Mauri Saastamoinen: South may have either A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x A-x-x, or A-x K-Q-10-x-x-x K A-J-x-x, so I need to know if partner has a trump. If so, I can safely play the A the first time diamonds are led from the table. If not, I will [find out] if she has the K.
Barry White: This allows Matilda to pitch a high diamond to show the king, as I [fear] declarer may hold A-x-x K-Q-x-x-x-x-x A-x-x, in which case an attempt to cash the A sets partner up to be squeezed. If declarer has A-x-x K-Q-x-x-x-x-x K A-x, Matilda will discard a small diamond [or a spade]. Of course, this may be asking too much of Matilda.
Bill Powell: If South has A-x-x K-Q-10-9-8-6-5 A-x-x, I must not [lead or] rise with the A. If this is the position, Matilda will pitch the 10 on the trump.
Jonathan Ferguson: I need a signal from partner so I can tell if declarer has a stiff K and A-x (I must pop the A when led off the board) or a diamond void and A-x-x (I must duck the A, else partner will be squeezed in the pointed suits). Cmon Matilda, high if you want me or I might end up like Ernest Hemingway.
Harry Elliott: Declarer could have the K or a void, so a diamond lead from dummy would force me to guess whether he is trying to steal the king, or [hoping to develop] a spade-diamond squeeze on Matilda. If declarer has seven trumps, perhaps Matilda can provide a helpful discard on the first round earning her masterpoints.
Hazel Rollasson: Looking for Matildas signal. If she has K-10-6-3, she will surely throw the 10; then I will know to duck the A when a low diamond is led from dummy.
Joon Pahk: If the A is cashing, its not going to run away. If its not cashing, I dont want to expose partner to a pointed-suit squeeze.
Anthony Golding: If declarer has something like A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x A-x-x, pitching lets him escape with a single spade loser, and ruffing and leading the A exposes partner to a squeeze. If he has A-x-x K-Q-10-x-x-x-x K A-x, ruffing and leading a low diamond gives the contract; but [I dont have to cash the A] because hes still got a spade loser.
David Grainger: Declarer cant have more than 11 tricks [if the A is cashing]. I need to ruff, else declarer may just lose a spade; but if I play the A and declarer ruffs [with 3=7=0=3], partner will get squeezed.
Jim Wiitala: [If I lead the A] and declarer is [3=7=0=3], he will ruff and squeeze partner out of her K or spade stopper.
Junyi Zhu: Trying to cash the A will put partner in a spade-diamond squeeze if South is 3=7=0=3. A trump lead may get a signal from partner to help me when declarer leads a diamond from dummy. South may be 2=7=1=3 with a singleton K after all.
Manuel Paulo: South may have A-x-x K-Q-10-9-8-6-5, so I must ruff. If he has a diamond void and A-x-x, I cant lead the A, because Matilda would be squeezed in the pointed suits. If he has the K and A-x, I cant lead a low diamond
Comments are selected only from those scoring 42 or higher (top 209) in this contest or in the previous Overall Top 100 and above average here. For each problem, I only included comments that support the winning defense except Problem 2, which was close, so I included runner-up views. This might seem biased, but I feel its the best way to ensure solid content and to avoid potential embarrassment by publishing comments that are off the mark. Of the eligible comments, I included about 80 percent. Inclusion of a comment does not necessarily mean I agree with it, but generally theyre 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 feels there is a reason for a scoring adjustment, is welcome to e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I hope you enjoyed the contest, and had a little fun with Matilda. Before proceeding on this theme, I carefully checked my database. Whew! Nobody named Matilda; amazingly, even in my old series with 7000+ persons. I thought the name was more common, but it may have been my childhood memories of Waltzing Matilda. Thanks to all who entered, and especially to those who offered kind remarks. Oh! Its lunch time, so Ill leave you with our hot dog vendors:
Joseph Dimuro: Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer winner.
David Caprera: My bologna has a first name Whats yours?
Richard Stein: Hmm Our opponents are experts, yet our team is not in the top bracket? Rather curious.
J. Larry Miles: Driving an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is actually quite an honor; there are about 20 of them around the country, with ongoing competitions to drive them.
Cecil Livingston: Glad I am not a bridge pro!
Micheline Calvert: I love playing with Matilda!
© 2007 Richard Pavlicek