Analyses 8Y56 by Richard Pavlicek
While this contest was under way, I was thinking about the various ways Johnny Cash has touched my life. When I was a teen, one of my favorite TV series was The Rebel, starring Nick Adams; and I didnt even realize at the time that its theme song was written and sung by Cash, Johnny Yuma, was a Rebel I also enjoyed the Columbo episode with Cash in the villain role, which he played to the hilt. And even my favorite Christmas song, I Heard the Bells, is awesome and inspiring as recorded by Cash.
With all good theres some bad, and a lot has been made of Cashs pill popping. He was even jailed a few times (no, not Folsum Prison) for drug possession but released in a day or so. One of his greatest hits, Ring of Fire was supposedly based on his personal torment of drug addiction, and the lyrics certainly back it up. At least he managed (or was lucky) to overcome it, unlike some superstars such as Elvis or Marilyn.
Well, not really. In fact, my first thought in writing about Johnnys drug problem was to wonder if he had withdrawal symptoms. Why? Because my fleet of trucks is at the bank to make a cash withdrawal of $100 million (a mere pittance for PavCo Diamonds). Only trouble is, Google Maps wont give me directions to Poland! Sorry, Darek.
These six play problems were published on the Internet in July of 2007, and all bridge players were invited to submit their answers. On each problem you are declarer in a spade or club contract and had to choose your line of play from the choices offered.
This contest had 690 entrants from 110 locations, and the average score was 39.54. Congratulations to Darek Kardas (Poland), who was the first of four to submit perfect scores. Darek is a past winner in this series (March) and a two-time winner in my old series, as well as the top-ranked participant in the top-ranked location (Poland invariably tops the location ranks). Also scoring 60 were Ding-Hwa Hsieh (Kirksville, Missouri) third straight 60; Jerry Fink (Cincinnati, Ohio); and Zoran Bohacek (Croatia) nice, I like the cek ending. Just a point back at 59 were Lajos Linczmayer (Hungary); Joanna Sliwowska (Poland); Jacek Masiarek (Poland); and finally not from Poland, Jonathan Mestel (London, England).
Well, I guess Im the one who fell into a ring of fire, as once again participation is down, down, down and it burns, burns, burns. Depressing. Oh well; Ill get even! When Fritz returns to be your partner for Halloween, I expect nobody will show up, so I can slide off this bell curve for good.
Average score (39.54) was about a point below the 2007 combined average (40.63) and a shade below the old series average (39.66). Only 331 persons scored above average (40+) to make the listing. Two problems were aced by the consensus (about typical), and the consensus scored 46. Three problems warranted a 9 score, and two of them (#1, #5) were exceptionally close. Indeed, extensive study of Problem 1 unveiled a different solution than originally expected.
In the overall standings, Ding-Hwa Hsieh retained her top spot (not surprising after another 60) with a 59.50 average. Close behind with 59.25 are Darek Kardas and Lajos Linczmayer; followed by John Lusky (Oregon) with 59.00, and Carsten Kofoed (Sweden) with 58.75. Next with 58.50 are Leif-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe), Jerry Fink (Ohio) and Rainer Herrmann (Germany).
Several people noted the 2005 film Walk the Line (not my title reference), which I saw in a theater. Disappointing. Its always hard to accept an actors portrayal of a familiar person nothing against Joaquin Phoenix, but his resemblance to Cash was marginal at best. And Reese Witherspoon? LOL, give me a break. Pitiful as June Carter, she will always be Legally Blonde at Harvard to me (of course, if she took up our game, Play Bridge with Reese would be a lot more exciting). Even the music was flat, lacking the gusto of Johnny (and June), but I guess that makes his artistry even more appreciated.
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.
|4 South|| Q 9 8 4|
A K 2
Q 8 6
K 10 5
|Lead: 10||East plays 5|
| A 5 3|
Q 9 7 6 4 3 2
After winning the A, how do you play?
|C. Win K (pitch diamond); ruff heart||10||338||49|
|E. Ruff heart; lead Q||9||17||2|
|F. Ruff heart; lead 3||7||77||11|
|A. Win K (pitch spade); ruff heart||5||53||8|
|D. Win K (pitch diamond); run 10||4||183||27|
|B. Win K (pitch spade); run 10||2||22||3|
Surprisingly, this unusual auction ends quietly in 4 . Perhaps you should have passed partners stab at 3 NT, but that would fail if East has five diamonds (likely) or if West has a king. Pulling to 4 was sensible because your ragged suit is atypical for the bidding. Usually when you pass 1 NT and bid a minor later, its because your suit is solid (or establishable easily) based on the logic that you were happy to defend notrump. In any case, whats done is done.
Assuming six club tricks, you have nine tricks in top cards; and it appears you must win the Q to succeed. If West has the K, this is easy; but if East has it (likely), you will probably need an endplay. Alternatively, you could play East for K-x, or West for J-x or 10-x*; but these are long shots. Wests shape is almost surely 3=6=3=1, as with any wilder distribution he wouldnt sell out to 4 . Consider the following layout.
*Lead low to the eight (intrafinesse), then run the queen.
|4 || Q 9 8 4|
A K 2
Q 8 6
K 10 5
| J 10 2|
Q 10 9 8 6 4
J 7 2
| K 7 6|
J 7 5
A K 9 5 4
| A 5 3|
Q 9 7 6 4 3 2
After winning the A, suppose you follow the popular Line C, pitching a diamond on the K and ruffing a heart; then lead a club to the king and ace. No good. East will cash one top diamond then exit with a club. If you next lead a low spade, West will play an honor*; and if you duck, he will exit safely with a diamond. If instead you run trumps, you have no diamond left to endplay East.
*If East has K-J-x or K-10-x, the endplay will work, since you can duck the trick to East (or cover if West plays his honor).
Aha! Instead of pitching a diamond on the K, suppose you pitch a spade (Line A); then when East wins the A, he cannot cash both diamonds (else dummys Q is good). If East cashes one diamond and exits with a club, you will run all your trumps to reach A-5 10 opposite Q-9 Q. Then if East keeps K-x, he is thrown in with a diamond.*
*Guessing the ending should not be a problem, as East should be 3=3=5=2 based on the bidding.
Oops. The problem with pitching a spade (Line A) is that you will fail whenever West has the K, which is certainly plausible in fact, it could be the reason East didnt go to 4 (looking at J-x-x or worse would be a deterrent). West could just as easily have a hand like K-J-x 10-9-8-x-x-x x-x-x J, since the 10 lead is ambiguous. It is also arguable that a suit headed by 10-9 is more likely, since leading from the queen adds a risk (North may have the K and South a blank jack).
Line C is good (far better than Line A), but I felt there was a better play that would eliminate failure when East has K-x-x as in the diagram. If you can discover who has the Q before you pitch, you will locate the K. That is, if West has 10-9-8-x-x-x, he should have the K; but with Q-10-9-x-x-x, East should have it.*
*Assuming East has A-K; else the K would have to be with East, and there would be no endplay chance with West having a diamond entry.
On this reasoning, I expected the top award to go to Line E. After ruffing a heart at trick two (without cashing the K) and leading the Q (unblocking the 10), East is obliged to put you in dummy. Suppose he takes the first club, cashes one diamond, and leads a club to the king. Then the K will reveal Easts holding.* In the diagram, you will discover East has J-7-5 and pitch a spade, then run trumps for the strip squeeze. If East shows up with Q-J-5, you will pitch a diamond and play West for the K.
*East should play the J (card he is known to hold) on the second round, so only the third round will reveal if he has Q-J-x or J-x-x.
As usual, before completing the award table I read comments pertaining to the viable options, especially from past participants with proven ability; and this time I was persuaded to demote my choice. Line E has two glitches: (1) East might foresee the endplay and lead a spade from the king (you cant safely duck since you still have two diamonds) to make you think West has the K and go wrong, and (2) West might have 10-x-x 10-9-8-x-x-x J-x-x A, in which case only Line C works.*
*West holding a blank A is more likely than it seems, as it would account for both opponents being conservative. Note that some Easts would bid 4 with hands like the diagram, even after Norths 3 NT.
What about leading a low club (Line F) after ruffing the second heart? Not as good. Whenever East has A-J and the K, he can defeat you by winning and returning a club to your queen. Then you have to lead a third trump to reach the K, and cant return to hand to run trumps.
What about the case of a 3-0 club break? Too far-fetched to consider. If West had a club void (say, 3=6=4=0 or 3=7=3=0), would any reputable player sell out to 4 ? Not in my experience. Indeed, over 3 , I like a pressure jump to 4 (unless its a slam try of course) as many good things can happen: It might make; it might stampede North into a phantom sacrifice; and it may be down one versus a makable 4 . Thus, running the 10* only seems to cater to wimps, though East might save you by hopping with A-8 and the K trying to avoid an endplay, not expecting West to have a club honor.
*Several respondents also pointed out that, if you plan to run the 10, it would be better to do it at trick two (without cashing the K) to retain flexibility. True. I probably should have included that option but chose the parallel structure.
Ill take a close second for Line E, thank you. I wish I could take 9.9, but PavCo doesnt deal with fractions even my diamond cutters throw away anything less than a carat.
Third place goes to Line F, which works just as well as Line E when West has a stiff J (or if West has the K). Fourth place goes to Line A, which only works when East has the K.
Running the 10 is the least deserving. Between Lines B and D, it is much better to pitch a diamond (Line D), analogous to Line C vs. Line A, as well as greatly favored in the voting.
Jerry Fink: With a void in clubs (and 6-7 hearts), West would have continued to 4 . It is important to get a read on hearts and clubs before committing to a play in spades, [then] if the K must reside with West, the rest is easy. If East has the K and cashes a high diamond before exiting with a club, I will fall back on the 75-percent chance of leading a low spade and covering Wests play to endplay East.
Rainer Herrmann: The 10th trick will have to come from spades, but entries to dummy are in short supply. Some sort of endplay against East [may] be needed.
Carsten Kofoed: Ill get some information about Wests distribution and points I believe 3=6=3=1 and 4 HCP, else they could make 4 . Later I must decide whether to play a spade to the eight, endplaying East; or to the queen.
Joon Pahk: Ill let the opponents help me out in the black suits.
Steve White: It looks best to play West for the K; and once committed to that, I might as well cover all club combinations by starting low toward dummy. If West produces the A, I retain the slight chance that hes 4=6=2=1. Line A could please the fans, catching East with the right holding, and guessing the end position to endplay him; but with many of those holdings East would have bid 4 .
Neelotpal Sahai: If trumps are 2-1 and East has K-J-x-x or K-10-x-x, a finessing position in spades will develop.
Manuel Paulo: Consider this possible East hand: K-J-x-x Q-J-5 A-x-x A-J-8. Next I will lead the 10, then [after ruffing the diamond return] I will take an intrafinesse in spades.
Adrian Barna: Difficult to follow all possible cases, but this seems to work in most; e.g., if East has K-J-x-x Q-J-x A-J-x-x A-x, or J-10-x J-x-x A-K-J-x A-J-x. Ill continue with a low trump to the king.
N. Scott Cardell: If I dont discard a diamond, I [may] lose two diamonds, a spade and the A; and I also want to find out where Wests 3-5 HCP are (he may have Q-10-9-x-x-x or 10-9-8-x-x-x) without closing any options. Next I will lead a trump to the king and be well-placed to find the best line. For example, if East has J-x-x and A-x, then West has the Q and J and shouldnt have an ace or king; so Ill [play] to endplay East.
Dale Freeman: It might be correct to run the 10 but I cant bring myself to do that!
Sebastien Louveaux: Stripping East out of his hearts to prepare an endplay.
Roger Sun: I hope West has the K, and I will protect against East having all three trumps.
Frans Buijsen: After the heart ruff, Ill play a club to the king [in case] East has all three, in which case Ill need the K with West.
Perry Groot: Best way to avoid two spade losers seems to be an intrafinesse [after] eliminating the red suits
Toby Kenney: Ill next lead a club to the king, win the club return, and lead a spade to the nine to endplay East when he has the K, A-K and A.
Ulrich Nell: Followed by a diamond, hoping to endplay East later when I lead a spade to the nine.
Jonathan Ferguson: Hopefully, this is one time that the obvious line is the correct answer. I hope West has 10-x Q-10-9-x-x-x K-x-x-x x.
Mark Kornmann: Removing Easts heart exit before leading a club to the king will more or less endplay East (unless the diamond honors are split); but Id like the option to dump a second diamond if East shows up with the Q at trick three.
Thibault Wolf: This can also win if East has A-J-8, as he may be endplayed
Barry White: East might hold something like K-J-x-x Q-J-x A-J-x-x A-x, in which case an intrafinesse of the 9 followed by running the Q will work. I need clubs to be 2-1 for the entry.
Debbie Cohen: Close among Lines A, C and F. Discarding a diamond is better than a spade, as I avoid going down immediately if West has the K, and the ending will offer more choices. As for playing trumps, leading to the K seems better than running the 10, as East [may be] endplayed if clubs are 3-0 and he has the K and A-K.
Brad Theurer: I will likely need the K with West (his lead could be from Q-10-9 or 10-9) and he may have a singleton J, so this improves over Line D. If East has A-J-x, I can get to dummy eventually with the Q to pick up trumps. This also preserves endplay possibilities if clubs are 2-1 and East has A-K and K-J-x (or K-10-x), but I may have to guess the spade layout.
Franco Chiarugi: There is no reason to run the 10 early. If East has A-J-8 and K-J-x-x (or K-10-x-x), I can succeed if the A and K are split.
Gerald Cohen: Stripping the hand, and eventually leading a spade to the nine.
John Cunningham: I may try an intrafinesse in spades, depending on the diamond and club lies.
Julian Wightwick: Then draw trumps, hoping they break, and get out with a diamond. I will eventually take the intrafinesse in spades, unless I learn that West has more than two spades.
Micah Fogel: This will likely strip East of hearts; then I will lead a trump to the king, [maybe] endplaying East with A-J-8.
Steve Moese: Next I will lead to the K to clarify the trump position (East has either two or three clubs). If opponents dont break spades, Ill lead low to the eight
Mauri Saastamoinen: West could have a hand like 10-x 10-9-8-x-x-x A-J-x-x x, or he could have the K instead of the A. How will I know? I will try to suck as much information as possible before I have to decide I plan to play the Q next, so if East takes and returns a trump, I can win in dummy and play a diamond.
Suresh Adina: I might make the contract with three losers ( A, K and a diamond) by endplaying East with a diamond. East is likely to have all remaining points except the Q and a [few] jacks.
D.C. Lin: I will put all my eggs in one basket: the intrafinesse in spades.
Is that a bridge strategy?
Or a method of contraception?
Roger Morton: Next Ill play a club to the king, and East will have to get off play with a club. When trumps are 2-1, East will be endplayed when I later play a low spade, covering Wests card.
Dmitri Shabes: [Probably] I will play West for J-x or 10-x.
Okan Ozcan: East will be endplayed if clubs are 2-1; when he exits with a club, I will play a spade to the nine.
Len Vishnevsky: I want to lead trumps from hand, so I wont have to guess a singleton J on my left.
Anthony Golding: This looks like the best way to avoid four quick losers, and next I play a trump to the king. Ultimately, I may take an intrafinesse in spades, or lead up to the Q, depending on where the other honors are.
Junyi Zhu: I will try to eliminate both red suits, and endplay East in spades.
Barry Rigal: Im hoping for some sort of endplay down the line when East has a hand like K-10-x-x J-x-x A-K-x-x A-x.
Bill Powell: Then the 3. Looks like I need West to have the K.
Lajos Linczmayer: West likely has six hearts, say, J-10-x Q-10-9-8-7-x J-9-x x; but he might have competed with J-10-x Q-10-9-8-7 J-9-x-x x as well. To control the play, I must lead clubs before discarding on the K; and I will unblock the 10 to avoid entry problems.
Jonathan Mestel: Unblocking the 10. If East has all the trumps, well, even Johnny Cash went down, down, down.
|4 South|| A 5 2|
A 5 4 3
4 3 2
J 6 3
|Lead: K||East wins A|
| K Q J 10 6|
A K 7 4 2
East returns the 7 to the eight; then West leads the J, East pitches the 8, and you ruff. Next?
|E. Win A; A||10||134||19|
|B. Win K; Q||7||190||28|
|C. Win K; A; A||6||136||20|
|A. Win K; A||5||119||17|
|D. Win K; A; A||4||57||8|
|F. Win A; A||3||54||8|
Surprise, surprise. You reached a sound contract, virtually laydown on normal breaks, so perhaps you can walk a wider line. Oops; maybe not, as East makes a foreboding club discard on the third diamond. Could East have made a mistake and discarded from club length? Hardly, as he rates to have a safe discard from five hearts (West would rarely have four hearts for his 2 bid). More likely, East has a doubleton club and is shortening himself to threaten a ruff.
The above evidence is clearly supported by Wests suit preference for clubs: He won the second diamond as cheaply as possible ( 8) and returned the lower ( J) of equal cards.* This strongly suggests the Q, since he would hardly indicate club preference with a singleton (hed probably lead it). If Wests Q is guarded, he is likely to have a singleton trump, as in the following layout.
*West is known to have the Q, so he can safely lead the J without concern. On the bidding, it is arguable he could lead any lower diamond; but this might be described as torture. East has enough to think about without wondering if West chose to open with K-Q-10-9-8 then decided to force East on lead with a diamond ruff.
|4 || A 5 2|
A 5 4 3
4 3 2
J 6 3
J 9 7
K Q J 10 9 8
Q 10 5
| 9 8 4 3|
K Q 10 8 6
| K Q J 10 6|
A K 7 4 2
After ruffing the third diamond (East pitches the 8*), you cannot afford to draw trumps with the anticipated 4-1 break. Instead, you must keep a trump in dummy to prevent being tapped again. Suppose you win the K and A, then cross to the A (Line C) to reveal the trump lie, and lead a club from dummy. East will discard a heart (ruffing gives you an easy claim), so you win the K and give up a club to West. All appears cozy now. Not! West will lead another diamond, which you ruff in dummy but East will not overruff. Stranded in dummy, you cannot reach your hand without tapping yourself, so East gets a trump trick. Down one.
*From this discard, some respondents assumed East would have 8-5, but I doubt an expert would deliberately paint a picture; so I would expect 9-8 or 10-8 else a singleton (ouch).
To turn the tide in your favor, you need two trumps in dummy one for the diamond ruff, and one to return to hand. Therefore, you must rely on inferences rather than discover the 4-1 trump break. Cash the A and cross to the A (Line E) then lead a club. It seems clumsy to waste two trump honors on the same trick, but its necessary; you cant cross to the A, as this subjects you to a heart tap. If the defense goes the same way, you have an easy path to your hand to draw trumps and claim.
Curiously, all other plays are equally inferior at least I couldnt determine any difference based on the compelling evidence West has Q-x-x. All succeed when trumps break, and all fail by a trick when East has four. Rather than go into cases where the defense has erred or strayed, I find it very, very easy to be true to the voting, that is. Besides, I just got through a difficult analysis of Problem 1, so Ill take the easy way out on this one.
Jerry Fink: West almost certainly has Q-10-x. Danger to avoid is a 4-1 spade break, and I will get locked in dummy if I cash two spades too early.
Lajos Linczmayer: If East has four spades and two clubs, I must preserve two spades and the A in the dummy.
Jonathan Mestel: I need a trump exit off dummy if East has x-x-x-x K-J-x-x-x A-x x-x.
Rainer Herrmann: Cashing two spades could strand me in in dummy, after West takes his Q and leads another diamond (when East has four trumps).
Carsten Kofoed: This keeps control if spades are 4-1.
Joon Pahk: If East has four trumps, I need to keep two trumps in dummy to handle a fourth diamond when West wins the Q.
Leif-Erik Stabell: Two rounds of trumps (Line C) will not be good enough if West is 1=3=6=3; after winning the Q, he can lead another diamond to lock me in dummy.
Steve White: I need to lead the second club from dummy in case West started with Q-x-x; and I must keep two low trumps and the A in dummy in case East started with four trumps.
John Lusky: East is likely to be 4=5=2=2. This allows me to continue with a club to the king (East pitches) and a third club. Regardless of what the defense does, I can come back to my hand in spades.
Neelotpal Sahai: Ill watch out for a doubleton club and four spades with East, and only this line succeeds. Next I will lead a club toward the king.
Manuel Paulo: Consider this possible East hand: x-x-x-x K-J-x-x-x A-7 8-5. When I next lead a club, East cant ruff my king.
Charles Blair: Im trusting East to be 4=5=2=2 but Im worried.
Alfred Sheinwold had the same problem.
Alfred E. Neuman solved it.
Adrian Barna: Playing East for four trumps and two clubs. A second round of trumps would prove fatal when West wins his Q and returns a diamond.
N. Scott Cardell: To be at all sensible, Easts club discard must be from [shortness]. To avoid losing both a club and a club ruff, I must lead the second club from dummy. Another likely danger is [four trumps with East], as West might have defended differently if trumps were breaking. [Play described].
Bruce Neill: If East started with four spades and two clubs, I have to lead up to the K, and keep two trumps in dummy to keep control if West plays a fourth diamond.
Tim DeLaney: At first, it looks like East may have misguessed which suit to discard, but [thats unlikely]. Danger is that West has x Q-x-x K-Q-J-10-9-8 Q-10-x, or similar When I next lead a club from dummy, East cannot gain by ruffing air.
Dean Pokorny: Easts club discard suggests something like x-x-x-x K-J-x-x-x A-x 8-x. If so, the second club should be played from dummy, and the entry used must be the A (leaving the A intact to prevent a heart force).
Jordi Sabate: Easts 8 must be a singleton or doubleton. If East has four spades, I can win in the latter case only with Line E.
Dale Freeman: One trump lead is enough, and I must lead up to the K through East. I may still succeed if trumps are 4-1.
Sebastien Louveaux: Planning to establish clubs by playing through East, who cannot ruff profitably. I retain trumps in dummy to avoid being shortened. I cannot afford two trump leads (Line C), as it would leave me short of an entry to hand.
Roger Sun: I hope East has two clubs, as I protect against a 4-1 trump distribution.
Perry Groot: Any other line of play [will not cope] with the danger of East having four spades and two clubs.
Toby Kenney: If East started with two clubs and four spades, I need to keep two trumps in dummy one to ruff the diamond, and one to lead back to my hand.
Jim Munday: I need 3-2 clubs, but I can cater to 4-1 spades. Clubs must be established while I have two trumps in dummy
Ulrich Nell: I will continue with a club to the king, then (if East pitches) another club.
Thijs Veugen: East is likely to be 4=5=2=2, so I dont want to be forced again.
Barry White: Next I will lead a small club. If East holds x-x-x-x K-J-x-x-x A-7 x-x, he will be caught in a Mortons fork of sorts.
Brad Theurer: East probably started with a small doubleton club (if a singleton, Im in trouble as spades would likely be 4-1), so I will avoid having an honor ruffed. I must use the A entry (not the A), since I cant afford to be tapped again if trumps are 4-1.
Franco Chiarugi: East probably has x-x-x-x K-J-x-x-x A-x x-x. I must lead the second club from dummy, so if East ruffs I have no problem. If he pitches, I will play the K and another; then with any return by West, dummy will have a spade to return to my hand.
Dawei Chen: Other lines will destroy my only hand entry in trumps when they split 4-1.
Gerald Murphy: Next I will lead a club; if East ruffs, my club loser goes away. If he discards, I will win the K and lead another one; then I am in control
Julian Wightwick: Then a club to the king. This is necessary if East is 4=5=2=2.
David Kenward: East most likely has a doubleton club. Ill next play a club toward my hand and set up clubs. If West returns a diamond, I can ruff in both hands (if East overruffs) and pick up a 4-1 trump break.
Micah Fogel: The contract cant be made if West started with a club void, barring a miracle and Im not even sure then.
Mauri Saastamoinen: Next I lead a club. East could well be 4=5=2=2 (West being 1=3=6=3).
D.C. Lin: It is crucial to draw just one round of trumps; otherwise West can return a diamond when he wins the third club.
Len Vishnevsky: I hope West has only three clubs, as I need to score both my high clubs and clear the suit to [retain] control when spades are 4-1. East cant afford to ruff the second club when led from dummy.
Anthony Golding: Easts club pitch looks like shortage, so spades wont break (else East would have bid hearts); so I have to hope clubs were 3-2. Next Ill play a club to the king (it doesnt help East to ruff) and a club. I can ruff a diamond exit in dummy to neutralize Wests trumps and draw trumps. I cant afford to play the K first, else East wont overruff the diamond exit.
Paulino Correa: Hopefully, East will have a doubleton club; otherwise, I cannot see how to win. Even then, I cannot play two rounds of trumps, else I will be locked in dummy
Leonard Helfgott: This is better than two rounds of spades, because then I can be dummy-locked and forced to ruff again (failing if trumps are 4-1). The extra trump in dummy allows a reentry.
Junyi Zhu: Next I play a club from dummy. Drawing two rounds of trumps (Line C) is flawed, as a fourth diamond will create problems if trumps are 4-1.
Richard Stein: Seems theres one problem in every play contest where an opponent does something mysterious. What on earth is this club pitch? From three, four or five clubs, it wouldnt make any sense; East could have a singleton, but that gives him either five trumps (Im down) or six hearts (a nonforcing 2 response). Ill play him for a doubleton, and lead the second club from dummy.
|4 South|| 10 9|
7 4 3 2
Q 10 7 5 2
|Lead: K||East plays J|
| A K Q 8 6 4 2|
9 3 2
West next leads the A (East plays 10) then the 3, won in dummy as East plays 7. Next?
|B. Ruff heart (high); draw trumps||10||90||13|
|A. Draw trumps||8||49||7|
|E. Win A; finesse J||5||275||40|
|C. Ruff heart (high); finesse J||4||82||12|
|D. Ruff heart (low); finesse J||3||66||10|
|F. Lead the J||2||128||19|
Partners spade raise appears well-judged at least before the trump shift, although now its looking like he misjudged. If only he were inspired enough to bid notrump. Enough dreaming; back to the task at hand of turning nine tricks into 10.
A club ruff in dummy is your obvious chance for a 10th trick, and Easts 7 offers a ray of hope. It looks like a singleton; so if you could finesse a club into East, he couldnt stop the ruff. Crossing to the A (Line E) seems the safest way to go about this.
Hold the bass guitar! Several things dont add up with the actual defense. If East had a club honor and only one trump, why did West cash a second heart, removing his entry to lead another trump? Further, Easts carding in hearts (10 on second round) screams suit preference for diamonds; surely, if he had the K or Q, he would play his lowest heart. Therefore, West must have K-Q, so any line based on finessing the J is an exercise in futility. The deal rates to be something like this:
|4 || 10 9|
7 4 3 2
Q 10 7 5 2
| J 5 3|
A K 6
8 6 3
K Q 8 5
J 10 9 8
K J 9 4
10 7 6 4
| A K Q 8 6 4 2|
9 3 2
After A-K and a spade won in dummy, if you cross to the A and lead a club (Line E), West will split his honors and gain the lead to return a second trump. Similarly, if you ruff a heart to hand (Line C or D). No matter what, you cannot keep West off lead in clubs. Even if you duck the club to keep both minor aces, the only possible squeeze would be a crisscross (reaching Q-10 A opposite A 9-3), which obviously fails with a different defender protecting each minor suit.
Yes, there is a way to keep things on your side, and the 9 is the key. You should have figured you werent dealt that card for nothing! If East has the 10, along with the indicated K and 4+ hearts, he will come under pressure as trumps are run; but you mustnt touch the delicate club suit until later. Proper technique is to ruff a heart (high) to make sure only East can guard the fourth round, then draw trumps. Lead another trump and the A (optional) to reach this position:
|South leads|| |
K Q 8 5
10 7 6
| 6 4|
9 3 2
When you lead your next-to-last trump (pitching the 10 from dummy), East may as well sing Folsum Prison Blues. He must keep both winning red cards, so he will let go a club; then a club to the queen-ace, and the J establishes your 9 while you still have a trump left.
Curiously, if West shifted to a spade at trick two (instead of cashing a second heart), the same squeeze will materialize by running trumps to reach:
|South leads|| |
K Q 8
10 7 6
| 6 4|
9 3 2
On the next spade, the 10 goes from dummy, and East is history. Note that dummys 7 will establish if East pitches another heart.* This certainly emphasizes the power of running trumps; even if you have no idea what might happen, it pays to make your opponents sweat.
*If West held A-K-8, a trump shift at trick two defeats the contract.
Second place goes to running trumps immediately (Line A). Ruffing a heart isnt necessary when Wests spot is the 6, as the same squeeze works. On a super-expert plane, one could surmise that West has to have the 6; else he wouldnt cash a second heart to give you a chance. Even so, that plane may still be on the runway.
Other plays are almost hopeless assuming East has the K and no club honor, a deduction I deem to be manifest. Leading toward A-J early on (Lines C, D and E) works only if West has K-Q-x-x-x-x and East 10-x. The 6-2 club break greatly increases the chance of an overruff*, so ruffing a heart low (Line D) has to be the worst of the lot. Between Lines C and E, there is no difference in theory; but crossing to the A (Line E) is better technique if the defense erred, as well as preferred by the voting.
*West probably would lead the A with A-K doubleton, but you cant always trust these scoundrels. Further, assuming Easts 7 is a singleton, if West has three hearts, he would have a singleton diamond, and East would have bid 1 with four hearts and six diamonds possible, I suppose, but quite a parlay.
Last place goes to leading the J from dummy (Line F), as it fails even when West has six clubs. After another trump lead, your opponents will be roasting chestnuts as the contract burns, burns, burns in a ring of fire.
Ding-Hwa Hsieh: East may have 7 J-10-x-x-x K-J-x-x 10-x-x.
Jerry Fink: Why the A at trick two? Only plausible explanation is that West feared my getting a pitch on diamonds and needed his partner to give suit preference in hearts. I read Easts 10 to show K-J, and therefore place West with something like J-x-x A-K-6 x-x-x K-Q-8-x.
Lajos Linczmayer: East showed diamond preference. If he has the K and 10, I can squeeze him in three suits. The heart ruff is required if West has A-K-8.
Jonathan Mestel: I believe Easts 10 signal and am allowing for x-x J-10-9-6 K-J-x-x 10-x-x. Naturally, on the run of trumps, I keep a close watch on this heart of mine.
Carsten Kofoed: The first three tricks suggest that East has the K, so hell be triple-squeezed if he has 10-x-x.
Joon Pahk: Based on Easts signals, I dont think he has a high club honor; but he might have the 10, in which case he can be crushed in three suits.
Leif-Erik Stabell: Easts signals strongly indicate the K and no club honor, so I must hope he has the 10 and is forced to unguard it in the end.
John Lusky: Isolating the heart guard. If East has the K and 10 (and West K-Q), the defense will be unable to hold the position as I run trumps. (If I could instead arrange to ruff a club, the defense has erred.)
Bruce Neill: Im hoping East has the K and 10, and West has K-Q. Then on the run of trumps, East will have to unguard his 10 to keep diamonds and hearts covered; so I can build a club trick
Tim DeLaney: West was forced to lead trumps to stop a club ruff. Easts carding suggests he has the K, so West can be placed with K-Q. Ruffing a heart isolates the menace, then leading all but one trump will squeeze East if he has the 10.
John Auld: East has indicated a high diamond, so he probably has nothing in clubs. Organizing a club ruff looks impossible, so Ill play East for 10-x-x, and an amazing squeeze
Jordi Sabate: Easts 10 showed diamond [preference], so Ill play him for the K and 10 (West K-Q) to have any chance. After ruffing a heart (in case West has another) and running trumps, my 10th trick will probably be the 9. Thanks, Geza.
Sebastien Louveaux: West cannot have the sole guard in both minors, so a crisscross squeeze (Line F) will fail. After isolating the heart menace, I will apply pressure
Sandy Barnes: A guard squeeze [of sorts], forcing East down to 10-x, in order to protect diamonds and hearts.
Thijs Veugen: East seems to have the K (heart signal), in which case I can make 4 if he has the 10 (West having K-Q). Ruffing a heart gets a count of Easts hand [and will isolate the menace].
Roger Courtney: Followed by more trumps.
And finally, a few words from the campaign trail:
Barack Obama: Before deciding my play, Ill invite my opponents to a summit conference, then Ill nuke the bastards. Picture the headlines of tomorrow: Obama Nabs Osama! Not much difference, just a B here and an S there, but BS is what Im all about!
Hillary Clinton: Richard, I dont play bridge! Ask Willy or Monique if you can pry them from the sheets.
|5 South|| 3 2|
9 8 3
A Q 10 6
K 10 9 8
|Lead: 4||East wins A|
| A K 7 6 5 4|
A Q J 2
East returns the 7. How do you play?
|A. Pitch a diamond||10||165||24|
|F. Ruff (low); finesse 10||8||100||14|
|E. Ruff (low); finesse Q||7||158||23|
|B. Ruff (high); win A; 10||5||156||23|
|C. Ruff (high); win 10; ruff heart||4||63||9|
|D. Ruff (high); win 10; Q||2||48||7|
Yes, 4 would have been a better contract, but the bidding was certainly sensible. East judged well to bid 3 (not a game try) to limit your options and force you to guess. Jumping to 4 might land on partners singleton, and cue-bidding 4 might elicit 5 ; so I agree with 5 at IMPs (4 is probably a better gamble at matchpoints). Anyway, its too late now; even the Man in Black cant change suits during a performance.
Five clubs is cold with normal breaks (3-2) in each black suit, but the auction is ominous. Easts 3 bid suggests an unbalanced hand, so its presumptuous to assume everything will be friendly; chances are, one of your suits will split 4-1. The key question is: What can you do about it?
Suppose East has a singleton spade and clubs are 3-2. The best approach seems to be to ruff the heart high, cash the A, and cross to the 10 (Line B) then lead a spade. If East ruffs (from three trumps originally), you will succeed; but he will surely pitch. Then its hopeless, as you lack communication to set up spades without tapping your hand again. If West had the singleton spade, matters would be even worse. The bottom line: You need spades to break.*
*Not absolutely but for practical purposes. If the K is onside (unlikely), you can manage a dummy reversal.
Assuming spades are 3-2, you might be able to cope with a 4-1 club break. One possibility is to prepare a complete crossruff by finessing the Q (Line E). Unfortunately, it is destined to lose based on Easts opening bid; and seeing you pursue this tack, he will return a trump to limit your crossruff to 10 tricks. You might still get home by finessing the 10, but it wouldnt be a great surprise for this to lose as well. Consider a plausible layout:
|5 || 3 2|
9 8 3
A Q 10 6
K 10 9 8
| J 8|
K J 6 4
8 7 3
6 5 4 3
| Q 10 9|
A Q 10 7 2
K J 9 2
| A K 7 6 5 4|
A Q J 2
If you knew West had four clubs, it is easy to succeed: Ruff the second heart low, establish spades with a ruff, return to hand with a trump, and lead good spades until West ruffs (overruff and draw trumps); or if he discards all his diamonds, simply lead toward the A. No fair! In fact, I wouldnt insult you by offering this four-eyed line. Imagine having to tell your teammates how you went down with spades and clubs both 3-2.
To cope with the 4-1 trump break honestly, you must keep a close watch on when you ruff the heart. Forget about the diamond finesse (fated to lose) and just pitch a diamond on the second heart (Line A). Essentially, this forces West to commit the defense before you commit your play. If West leads a trump, you can establish spades and draw trumps, because your hand hasnt been tapped. If he leads anything else, you have a complete crossruff.
Second place goes to ruffing low and finessing the 10 (Line F). This is better than finessing the queen, since it will locate the J immediately. Whichever diamond East wins, he must return a trump; then if A-Q are good, you will cash out and crossruff; else you will establish spades and hope for 3-2 trumps.
Third place goes to ruffing low and finessing the Q (Line E). If it wins, you are home even with both black suits 4-1* (heart ruff, A, diamond ruff high, draw trumps); but Easts opening makes this a long shot, especially after West appears to have the K.** If it loses as expected, a trump will be returned, and youll have to guess whether to take a second diamond finesse or play for 3-2 trumps and establish spades.
*Thanks to misdefense. If both black suits were splitting badly, East should return a trump at trick two.
**East may have a read of the heart lie and be falsecarding with A-K (or even A-K-Q), but it still must be 75+ percent he has the K.
Other plays are considerably worse. Fourth place goes to Line B, which depends on 3-2 spades and clubs logically assuming intent is to set up spades rather than switch to diamond finesses. An advantage of this over some lines is that it allows the second spade to be led from dummy, reducing the chance of going down two if spades are 4-1.
Fifth place goes to Line C. After ruffing dummys last heart in hand, presumption is that trumps will be drawn and a spade will be ducked, succeeding against 3-2 breaks in each suit.
When in doubt, lead trumps is not good advice for declarer, so its no surprise that Line D winds up in the basement. After you draw two trumps (killing any chance of a crossruff), you will have to bang down A-K. With friendly breaks, youre home; but if a top spade is ruffed, youll be down two or three.
Ding-Hwa Hsieh: East may have Q-J-x A-Q-10-x-x-x K-J-x x.
Jerry Fink: Five clubs will not make unless spades are 3-2, and pitching a diamond is the [best] way to handle a 4-1 club break.
Lajos Linczmayer: As East seems to have the K, Ill protect against 4-1 clubs. I plan either to establish spades or crossruff.
Jonathan Mestel: Tough problem; Lines A, C, E and F all look reasonable, with occasional squeeze chances. At pairs, Id assume 4 was not making; but at IMPs, a 3-2 spade break seems as good as I can get. West may have bid 1 NT with Q-10-x-x J-x-x K-x-x-x x-x.*
*Jonathan may be too subtle. Note that his example produces an amazing 12 tricks (dummy reversal and squeeze) with spades 4-1. RP
Leif-Erik Stabell: Looks like I need spades 3-2, but a 4-1 club break should pose no problem. I will play a crossruff, unless West returns a trump (then set up spades).
Steve White: Assuming spades are 3-2, this lets me keep control regardless of which opponent has four clubs If they shorten me, I will crossruff; if not, I will ruff a spade in dummy and pull trumps.
John Lusky: Playing for 3-2 spades, without having to guess anything else about the hand. A 4-1 spade break is a much lesser risk than 4-1 clubs, as East might have returned a singleton spade (necessary if I were 6=1=1=5 with good spade intermediates missing the ace). Other lines either run into trouble against 4-1 clubs or require luck in diamonds and/or guesswork and might fail against friendly distribution.
Neelotpal Sahai: Since the K is likely with West, the diamond finesse wont work. I can handle a 4-1 break in trumps but not in spades. If West returns a trump, I will ruff the third spade and draw trumps Otherwise, I will crossruff.
Manuel Paulo: Consider these possible East hands: x-x-x A-Q-J-10-7-2 K-J-x x, or x-x A-Q-J-10-7-2 K-J-x-x x. After winning the K, if West leads: (1) his last heart, I ruff, cash A-K and A, then crossruff; (2) any other card, I win, set up the spade suit, and draw trumps.
Charles Blair: This works as long as the Men in Black (spades) behave.
Adrian Barna: Playing [to succeed] against 4-1 trumps and 3-2 spades. On a trump return, I establish spades; on a heart (or any other) return, I crossruff.
N. Scott Cardell: West looks to have the K and perhaps the J as well, so East is almost certain to have the K as part of his opening. With the K offside, I will need spades 3-2; but with care I can succeed if clubs are 4-1. [Play described].
Tim DeLaney: Spades must be 3-2 to have a chance; and if clubs are also 3-2, I cant go wrong. Since neither opponent led a club, they will not be 5-0; so I must guard against a 4-1 break. Pitching a diamond threatens a high crossruff; or if West leads a trump, I will establish spades and draw trumps.
John Auld: I can now make 11 tricks on a crossruff unless West leads a trump, in which case I ruff out spades and draw trumps. I need spades to break but not clubs.
Jordi Sabate: This allows me to crossruff, unless West returns a trump (then I will set up spades).
Roger Sun: If spades are 4-1, the contract is [doomed]; but if clubs are 4-1, this allows me to establish spades if West returns a trump, else crossruff.
Ulrich Nell: On a club return, I will establish spades (which must be 3-2).
Thibault Wolf: This wins when spades are 3-2. If West continues hearts, I crossruff; if he leads a trump, I can establish spades. Line E is attractive because it wins whenever West has the K (barring a singleton with East); and if not, it may succeed if West has the J, by finessing again and squeezing him in spades and diamonds but odds seem better for a normal spade break.
Thijs Veugen: As long as spades divide, I will make 5 either on a crossruff, or simply by ruffing the third spade and drawing trumps. Clubs can be 4-1.
Franco Chiarugi: This seems the highest probability, requiring only 3-2 spades (clubs can be 4-1). Lines E and F are interesting but [diminished] by the high probability of the K in East.
Ashley Sawyer: I hope to set up a complete crossruff, as all my trumps but one are high.
Dawei Chen: I dont think I can deal with spades 4-1, but this allows me to establish spades or crossruff (depending on the defense) when clubs are 4-1.
David Kenward: I can now try for a complete crossruff if a trump is not returned; otherwise, I can set up spades whilst keeping trump control.
Steve Moese: [Preparing for] a high crossruff.
Roger Morton: I think spades have to be 3-2, but I can make on any 4-1 trump break. If West returns anything but a trump, Ill crossruff. On a trump return, Ill set up spades.
Okan Ozcan: From the play it looks like East has only A-Q, so I reject any line based on a diamond finesse.
Richard Stein: West has K-J-4, and East A-Q-10-7-6-2; so East has the K Pitching a diamond gains on lies where spades break and clubs dont. West is forced to return a trump (else concede a crossruff), then Ill set up spades with a ruff and claim.
|5 South|| A J|
A K 10 5
Q 7 3
A K 4 3
|Lead: K||East plays 5|
| K 10 9 8 7 6 5|
Q 6 5
West next leads the A (East plays 6) then the J. Your play?
|D. Win K; ruff Q; win A||10||163||24|
|F. Win Q; finesse J||9||249||36|
|C. Win K; ruff Q; finesse J||8||79||11|
|E. Win Q; A||5||84||12|
|A. Win K; A||4||78||11|
|B. Win K; ruff Q; win A||3||37||5|
Four spades would have been easy-guitar music, so partner had to put you in five to be worthy of my theme this month. Seriously, its hard to criticize partner for the raise, as you might have held a stiff diamond; and from his point of view, prospects were excellent for any needed finesse to work, besides the likely squeeze chances.
This problem is all about the queen of trumps. Should you try to drop it? Or take a finesse? Wests opening bid requires most of the missing high cards, which makes a good case for the abnormal play of a first-round finesse of the J. Not so fast. Many years ago, I learned not to try to locate queens based on enemy suit bids, as shortness in a suit offers equal if not greater incentive to bid. This is even more true today, as good players know the advantage of getting in first, and lighter openings are common with shapely hands. Therefore, I dont like the idea of committing to a first-round spade finesse (Line C or F) at least not immediately.
Another possibility is that you may have no guess at all. What if you start spades, perhaps intending to finesse the jack, and West shows out? Oops. Talk about changing horses! Now you have to arrange a trump coup to capture Easts guarded queen. Consider this plausible layout:
|5 || A J|
A K 10 5
Q 7 3
A K 4 3
Q J 9 6
A K J 8 2
J 10 9 7
| Q 4 3 2|
8 7 4 3
10 6 5
| K 10 9 8 7 6 5|
Q 6 5
After two top diamonds and a club shift, suppose you win the Q and lead a spade to the ace (Line E or adjusted Line F) then the J which holds, as even Matilda wouldnt cover. Next you ruff the Q, cross to the A, ruff a heart, cross to the A, and ruff another heart. This brings you down to the right length (same as East) for a trump coup; but you cant get back to dummy, as East will ruff the third club.
You must develop a different ending to deliver the tie that binds East, which means using your entries to greater advantage. Win the club shift in dummy, ruff the Q, cross to the A (Line D) and ruff a heart, all of which is virtually risk free on the bidding. Now lead a trump, and when West shows out youre in business: Win the A, run the J, then ruff a heart to reach this ending:
|South leads|| |
A 4 3
10 9 7
| Q 4|
| K 10|
Finally, cross to the A and lead the K for the tie that binds.
If West follows to the first trump lead, Line D still allows the option to take a first-round finesse. The slight drawback (versus Lines C and F) is that if West has Q-x-x, you must decide how to return to hand; i.e., West might have a doubleton heart or a stiff club. Therefore, it would be reasonable in Line D to play to drop the Q, as the slight edge in finessing might be offset by this drawback though I think the finesse still offers better odds. Just be happy it wasnt part of the problem.
A close second goes to the popular choice, winning the Q to take an immediate spade finesse (Line F). All considered, this is certainly the percentage play in spades, mainly because you wouldnt know to finesse East anyway. This gains if West has Q-x-x (a likely holding) and loses if he has x-x-x or x-x.* If the finesse wins and West has Q-x-x, returning to hand is no problem, as the Q can be safely ruffed.
*West having two or three low spades is less likely than normal odds, because it means he needs every other high card to justify an opening bid, e.g., x-x Q-J-x A-K-J-x-x J-10-x, or x-x-x Q-J-x-x A-K-J-x-x J.
No doubt, some will argue that the pursuit of a trump coup (Line D) is unwarranted because of the slight risk of not having a safe return to hand if a first-round finesse is later taken. This is what keeps the game interesting! Judgment calls are often close but being the moderator helps my cause.
A close third goes to Line C, a first-round trump finesse after ruffing a diamond. In theory, this adds the risk of a heart overruff if West has Q-x-x and a stiff heart, but in practice its hard to imagine East passing 1 with seven hearts. Thus, its effectively the same as Line F but less popular in the voting.
Other plays (Lines A, B and E) are clearly weaker, as they involve cashing the A early. This commits you to dropping the Q, which is slightly inferior on the bidding. The main flaw is that you have no chance for the trump coup.* Among them, theres no real difference, so theyre ranked by the voting.
*Based on the bidding and defense, if East has Q-x-x-x, he cannot have three clubs, because he must have a third diamond (no high-low) and at least four hearts (West cannot have five).
Jerry Fink: A safety play, preparing for a trump coup if East has Q-4-3-2 x-x-x-x 8-6-5 x-x.
Lajos Linczmayer: Next I ruff a heart, and play a low trump. If West shows out, I make the contract unless East had a singleton club. If West follows, I think the percentage play is to play for drop.
Jonathan Mestel: You dont even make us decide what to do if West does not show out of trumps.
Rainer Herrmann: East could be 4=4=3=2.
Carsten Kofoed: Another exploring play; who has the Q? The bonus comes when West is void in spades.
Joon Pahk: Playing West for the Q; but just in case he shows out, I can still coup East if he is 4=4=3=2. Im hoping East would have made a weak jump shift with 6+ hearts, so I wont be embarrassed by West overruffing as I try to return to hand.
Leif-Erik Stabell: I might have to make a good guess in spades unless West is 0=4=5=4! Then theres no guess, as I can handle the 4-0 break easily enough.
Steve White: Im planning to hook the opening bidder for the Q, but Ill keep trump-coup chances alive in case he shows out.
John Lusky: West may have either the Q or spade shortness for his opening bid. This prepares the way to pick up four spades with East whenever I can.
Neelotpal Sahai: East with Q-x-x-x is the only real but surmountable danger, provided I am alert and ruff Q in three options is too much of a hint. [Play described]. If West follows to the first trump, I will play to drop the Q.
Charles Blair: If spades are not 4-0, I guess this is as good a way to play as any.
N. Scott Cardell: West needs most of the 14 missing HCP for his opening, but East could still have the Q. This will find out if East started with J-x-x, and prepare for a trump coup if he has Q-x-x-x. Next I will ruff a heart and lead a spade, and if West follows low, I must decide if he needs the Q.
Bruce Neill: Trump reduction drill, in case East has four spades. At the table, I might be too busy wondering why we got so high to see this!
Johnny Cash wouldve seen it easily, as wondering
why he got so high was normal technique.
Tim DeLaney: Eventually, I may have to guess spades correctly; but meanwhile, I shorten my trumps to prepare a trump coup in case East has Q-4-3-2.
John Auld: Planning ahead for a trump coup. The only time Ill play East for the Q is when West shows out.
Dean Pokorny: [I plan] to finesse East for the Q. Next I will ruff a heart and cross to the A, and I might discover East has Q-x-x-x and execute a trump coup.
Jordi Sabate: Only this option will protect against Q-x-x-x in East, and the best way to count points to decide who has the Q in other cases.
Dale Freeman: Preparing for a trump coup if East has all four trumps. I hope East doesnt have seven hearts; ouch!
Sebastien Louveaux: As East probably would have bid with [seven] hearts, it is safe to ruff a heart. If I discover that East has either the J or a heart honor, I will play West for the Q. Otherwise, I will play spades from the top.
Frans Buijsen: Trying to get some knowledge of the enemy hands before committing to a trump choice. In particular, finding a heart honor with East should be his only honor.
Perry Groot: There is not much information about how to play spades, but only this line works when East has Q-x-x-x.
Toby Kenney: West seems most likely to have the Q, but its possible that his opening was based on distribution To cater for a spade void with West, I need to prepare a trump coup by ruffing a heart next.
Jim Munday: On the auction, hearts are likely 4-4, and West is likely short in spades. There is a real chance that spades are 4-0, and this is the only way to set up a trump coup.
Ulrich Nell: A little discovery may be of assistance.
Mark Kornmann: South is a bad bidder! One spade is plenty, then 4 over the 2 NT follow-up; then who cares about the Q? Diamonds are 5-3 based on the play, so Ill see if the J drops [before deciding my spade play].
Barry White: I will either finesse or play for a 2-2 trump split whichever works. :) However, if East has four trumps, I must retain the A entry to prepare for a trump coup. Next I ruff a heart and lead a trump.
Debbie Cohen: This preserves chances for a trump coup, even if East has only two clubs.
Brad Theurer: If trumps are 2-2 or 3-1, I have to guess; but if West has, say, Q-J-x-x A-K-J-x-x J-10-9-x, I need to set up a trump coup immediately. Ill follow with a heart ruff and a spade to the ace.
Dawei Chen: I am going to play A-K, unless if I have a marked finesse against Easts Q-x-x-x, in which case I must reduce my trump length to prepare for a trump coup.
Julian Wightwick: Just in case East has all four spades. Next Ill ruff a heart and cross to the A. If both follow, Ill play for 2-2 trumps; but if West shows out, timing is right for a coup.
David Kenward: Then ruff a heart and play a trump toward dummy a necessary start to pick up four trumps with East. If West follows to the trump, Ill finesse the J, since West is likely to have a weak-notrump hand.
Suresh Adina: With any other defense the contract is cold, since a diamond could be pitched on the K. Now I need to play spades for no loser, so Ill try to get a count of the hand by playing side suits.
And when East gets a club ruff, you will
definitely know how to play spades.
D.C. Lin: Preparing for a trump coup if East has Q-x-x-x. I dont think odds favor this line, but ego sure favors to find it working especially when there are kibitzers.
Roger Morton: I might occasionally find out something interesting about the distribution before guessing trumps.
Dmitri Shabes: I still dont know if I am going to finesse in spades, but this is the only way to deal with four spades in East.
Okan Ozcan: I need to shorten my trumps in case East has Q-x-x-x x-x-x-x x-x-x x-x.
Roger Courtney: This discovery play (of sorts) looks best by quite a long way.
Len Vishnevsky: If West has four trumps, Im down. If East has Q-x-x-x x-x-x-x x-x-x x-x, I need to ruff myself down for a trump coup.
Neat. If youre not already down,
then ruff yourself down.
Anthony Golding: Ill next ruff a heart and play a spade to the ace; if West shows out, I can pick up Easts Q-x-x-x.
Paulino Correa: How is my guessing today? West probably has Q-x-x Q-J-x A-K-x-x-x J-x, but I want to grab as much information as I can
Junyi Zhu: Trying to explore before deciding about trumps.
Adrian Barna: West is most likely to hold the Q, and this guards against a heart or club singleton. (After cashing the A, ruffing the Q is safe.)
Ruben Buijs: I took a shot of cocaine, and I laid that woman down.
David Freeling: West almost certainly has the Q, so I might as well finesse right away. Sure, he could have opened with Q-J, A-K-J and J, but thats a [narrow] group of hands.
Ron Landgraff: West opened, so even if spades are 2-2, the finesse is highly likely to work and I have a safe return to hand.
Leonard Helfgott: Even with diamonds 5-3, it is much more likely that West has the Q to justify his opening. If East has the J, its virtually certain that West has the Q; but nothing would change my plan, so Ill save my 100-percent safe reentry.
Bill Powell: I dont think theres any useful information to be gained by fiddling around.
|6 South|| A Q 8 6|
K J 7 5 4 3
A J 8
| K J 10 7|
9 8 6 5 3 2
Enough walkin! This time you run the line. How do you justify such optimism?
|F. Play the 8||10||95||14|
|E. Play the J||9||59||9|
|D. Win A; A; ruff club||7||159||23|
|C. Win A; A; lead 6||6||51||7|
|A. Win A; A; lead J to queen||5||223||32|
|B. Win A; A; lead 7 to queen||2||103||15|
While aggressive, the auction is surely reasonable and would be replicated by many experts. Norths 6 showed first-round control in both minors (diamonds by inference since 5 asked about diamond control) in case a grand slam were in the picture. Meanwhile, back to earth. Even the small slam has troubles not surprising with only 23 HCP but Ive certainly been in worse.
Starting with only seven winners, you have a lot of work to do. A crossruff will not suffice, as scoring all your trumps separately only produces 11 tricks. Best chance seems to be to establish dummy: Four extra heart tricks (including at least one ruff in hand) and a diamond ruff will bring the total to 12. To retain control, this requires a 3-2 trump break and hearts to establish with one ruff (3-3 break or Q doubleton). Consider such a layout:
|6 || A Q 8 6|
K J 7 5 4 3
A J 8
| 4 2|
Q 9 2
Q 10 9 2
A Q 10 7
| 9 5 3|
10 8 6
K 7 5 3
K J 4
| K J 10 7|
9 8 6 5 3 2
Suppose you win the A, A and ruff a club (Line D); then cash the K to pitch a diamond, and ruff a heart high (just in case). Good news in the heart department! Now you have to cross to dummy in trumps (another club ruff loses the good hearts) to ruff a diamond; then return to dummy in trumps. Alas, it cant be done with Easts annoying 9-x-x.*
*You would succeed if either defender held 9-x. Alternatively, and better, is to finesse West for the 9, either on the first trump lead or by overtaking an honor first (as in Line A); if it loses, however, youll be down at least two.
The key to achieving happiness is to save the A for a useful entry, which means not winning the first trick (Line E or F). Ducking with ace-third is common practice; so why did 77 percent of the field miss it? Ill tell you why: Most players are obsessed with counting losers, and they could discard their diamond loser on the K. Sigh. This is why I have always taught to count winners at all contracts.* Winners take tricks, and losers could be defined as people who dont count winners; but I digress.
*Traditional instruction is to count winners at notrump, and losers at suit contracts; but its seriously flawed. Along comes a deal such as a dummy reversal, and your instructor will explain, Well, this time you should have counted winners. Nice. Always count losers unless its right to count winners. Duh! Is it any wonder that bridge popularity is fading?
Whether to cover the 10 with the jack (Line E) or duck completely (Line F) is the main issue, and the latter is better. Put yourself in Easts seat. Would you really let the 10 ride? I dont think so, as South might have the Q and partner could have the A! Therefore, Line E must settle for a close second. On the diagrammed deal, the J is insignificant; but if hearts or spades didnt break, the extra trick could make the difference.
For the record, assume you duck the diamond, and so does East. Next win the A and ruff a diamond (high is best); cash the A; ruff a club*; cash the K, and ruff a heart (high). When the Q drops, cash the 10 and finish drawing trumps in dummy. If West instead leads a club at trick two, you will change tack: Ruff; A; ruff a club; K; ruff a heart (high); then draw trumps ending in hand to pitch the J, and dummy is good with the A entry.
*Close choice versus crossing in trumps. Ruffing a club allows you to salvage down one on a crossruff when hearts do not behave (someone has Q-x-x-x). Leading a trump allows you to succeed against a stiff 9 in either hand (if hearts behave), however, in this case the defense could always have beaten you with a club shift at trick two.
Lines A, C and D are effectively the same in regard to making the contract; all need hearts to set up with one ruff, spades 3-2 and the 9 with West for a finesse (better than playing to drop it). The difference lies in the matter of undertricks. Leading trumps first is inferior, as you can no longer win 11 tricks on a crossruff if hearts go sour. Therefore, third place goes to Line D, fourth to Line C, and fifth to Line A.
Line B is worst, as it commits to dropping the 9 a 27-percent chance versus a 34-percent chance of playing West for 9-x-x. Further, as with Line A, starting your big guns (trumps) before establishing hearts could mean going down more or in the words of a Johnny Cash ballad, Dont take your guns to town, son. Leave your guns at home, Bill. Dont take your guns to town.
Jerry Fink: Saving the A avoids the necessity of playing West for the 9. Ducking (as opposed to covering with the J) might pose a problem if West has 9 10-x-x-x K-10-9-x K-x-x-x.
Lajos Linczmayer: I can make the contract if spades are 3-2 and hearts 3-3 (or Q doubleton). If West continues diamonds, I ruff a diamond. If he shifts to clubs, I establish hearts (ruffing one more club). I also have some chance against Q-x-x-x if East has K-Q doubleton.
Jonathan Mestel: Our optimism may be justified in the Sea of Heartbreak and if hearts dont break, East may have a nasty guess with x-x-x Q-x-x-x K-x-x A-Q-x.
Rainer Herrmann: Ducking is right if East has something like 9-x-x Q-x K-Q-x-x-x A-x-x, or similar.
Carsten Kofoed: I need some luck in hearts, and two ruffs in one hand either two clubs in dummy, or a heart and a diamond in hand. If East has K-Q doubleton, Ill have some extra chances.
Joon Pahk: Even if spades break and I can set up hearts with one ruff, Ill need a diamond ruff in hand to come to 12 tricks. Unless I duck the first trick, my communication will be spoiled.
Leif-Erik Stabell: I must preserve the diamond entry, and Ill need a bit of luck as well. Not much between Lines E and F; but if East has 5-4-3-2 10-9-8-6 K-Q A-Q-7, inspired play (guessing trumps are 4-1) would see me home.
Steve White: I need to keep the A as an entry to ruff a diamond in hand This gains over Line E when East has K-Q doubleton.
John Lusky: If East has a hand like x-x Q-10-x-x K-x-x-x K-J-x, or x-x x-x K-x-x-x-x K-J-x-x, could you blame him for taking the K and returning a heart? I might have a more rational hand for my bidding, such as K-J-10-x-x-x x Q-x A-x-x-x.
Neelotpal Sahai: Even if clubs are 4-3 and spades 3-2, I dont have five entries to ruff clubs, draw trumps, and enjoy two clubs. So hearts must be establishable [with one ruff], and the A must not be wasted now. I dont see much difference between the J and 8, but ducking might tempt East to win the K, leaving Wests Q finessable.
Manuel Paulo: I need to ruff a heart and a diamond in hand, so trumps and hearts must break well. I dont know why to opt for the J or 8, so I choose the lowest card as usual.
Charles Blair: This seems to avoid guessing the 9. Maybe East has K-Q doubleton.
Adrian Barna: If hearts are 3-3, I must keep the A entry to dummy. Playing the 8 has an extra chance of East holding K-Q doubleton and Q-x-x-x
N. Scott Cardell: My basic plan is to set up hearts, but I must also dispose of a diamond loser. Lines A, B and C need to find the 9 with West or doubleton, so are markedly inferior to Lines E and F. [Play described]. Line F is superior psychologically, as it may deflect West holding 9 10-9-x-x K-10-9-x-x A-Q-x; both black suits look dangerous, so he may continue diamonds, letting me make despite the 4-1 trump break. [Play described].
Bruce Neill: If I win the first diamond, there are communication difficulties unless the 9 is onside (preferably doubleton!) so Ill duck. Line F (versus Line E) gives me an outside chance of a miracle if East has, say, 5-4-3-2 Q-x K-Q K-J-x-x-x.
Tim DeLaney: I can make 6 if [trumps break] and hearts run after one ruff; but winning the A is premature and would force me to finesse dummys 8 later.
John Auld: A crossruff wont work, so I need to establish hearts with a ruff, and ruff a diamond. I play low to elicit some help; maybe East will pause and win the K from K-x-x-x.
Dean Pokorny: I will try to ruff one heart and one diamond, hoping hearts will establish. Holding up the A is necessary if East has something like 9-x-x Q-x-x Q-x-x K-J-x-x.
Dale Freeman: I might as well lose the diamond now and see what the opponents do next.
David Freeling: Holding up the A improves the tempo. After a second diamond, I will win and ruff a diamond (high) in hand.
Toby Kenney: I need hearts to ruff out (3-3 or Q doubleton) and a diamond ruff as well. Ducking the first diamond [saves a useful entry] and allows me to counter a club shift by ruffing two clubs in dummy, then drawing trumps in hand and crossing to the A to enjoy the hearts.
Javier Carbonero: I hope the lead is from Q-10-9, in which case East may win the K, allowing the J to be finessed.
Jim Munday: Maximizing entries to ruff a heart and a diamond. Psychologically, the 8 is better than the J
Thibault Wolf: The Q must be second or third, and its important to keep communication in diamonds.
John Cunningham: Hoping for a diamond continuation to preserve dummys spade length.
David Kenward: Hopefully, I can set up hearts with one ruff; but thats only 11 tricks, so I need to ruff a diamond as well.
Paulino Correa: I need hearts to behave (3-3 or Q doubleton) and spades 3-2. If I play the A at trick one, Ill need three entries to dummy, meaning the 9 must be doubleton [or finesse West] better to duck the lead. If diamonds are continued, Ill win and ruff a diamond, [etc.] If a club is led, Ill play differently, keeping the A to get back to the established hearts.
Douglas Dunn: On a diamond return, Ill win the A and ruff a diamond, making if hearts are 3-3 (or Q-x) and trumps 3-2.
Frans Buijsen: I need a dummy reversal ( A, diamond ruff, heart ruff, four spades and five hearts) to win 12 tricks.
Brad Theurer: Some good luck is needed (trumps 3-2 and hearts 3-3 or a doubleton Q), and I need to save the A to manage entries. Depending on the defense, I will be able to ruff a heart and a diamond in hand or two clubs in dummy, as I set up hearts.
Gerald Cohen: I need to preserve the A [either to ruff a diamond], or as a final entry to the good hearts.
Gerald Murphy: Playing for 3-3 hearts and 3-2 spades.
Comments are selected from those scoring 43 or higher (top 210) or in the overall Top 100 prior to this contest. On each problem I only used comments that support the winning play, except for close runner-up views on Problems 1, 5 and 6. This may be considered biased, but I feel its the best way to ensure solid content and avoid potential embarrassment in publishing comments that are off base. On this basis, I included about 85 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. Nonetheless, it is possible that I overlooked something. Anyone who wishes to debate the analyses, or thinks there is a reason for a scoring adjustment, is welcome to e-mail me (email@example.com).
I hope you enjoyed the contest, as well as the memory of one of Americas greatest country singers. If you happen to live in a part of the world where Johnny Cash is unknown such as Siberia, Zambia or Arkansas perhaps this acquaintance will enrich your life. Certainly, anyone could use a little Cash. Thanks to all who entered, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site. Time to go, so the backup singers will finish it off:
Mike Harney: I remember the day when I couldnt even crawl the line.
Mike Frentz: So, are you Johnny or Richard? As long as youre not a boy named Sue, I think were okay.
Mark Kornmann: South fell into a ring of fire by bidding so badly!
Tim DeLaney: Arent you a month late with this theme? After all, Johnny Cash didnt marry July Carter.
Charles Blair: We need a Folsom Prison coup!
Credits to Johnny Cash (1932-2003) and his song I Walk the Line.
© 2007 Richard Pavlicek