Puzzle 7F20   Main

Phantom Sacrifice

by Richard Pavlicek

With only East-West vulnerable, North took the liberty to make a Michaels cue-bid (showing both major suits). This inspired South to jump directly to 4 , as even if it failed, it would surely be a great sacrifice at favorable vulnerability.

 4 × SouthE-W Vul A 6 5 4 3 J 9 5 4 3 3 2 2 WEST1 Dbl North2 Pass East2 Pass South4 Pass ?  ?  ?  ? ?  ?  ?  ? Q 10 7 2 K 8 7 2 5 4 5 4 3

Alas. The postmortem revealed that East-West could not make any game and there were no void suits. What are the exact East-West hands?

Solution

The only possible East-West layout that satisfies the conditions is shown in the diagram. Note that 5  is defeated with a trump lead; 5  is defeated with the K lead; and 3 NT is defeated with the A lead (South must unblock the 7).

 4 × South A 6 5 4 3 J 9 5 4 3 3 2 2 Trick Lead 2nd 3rd 4th W-L K A 10 6 A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 J 9 8 Q K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 A Q 10 7 2 K 8 7 2 5 4 5 4 3

As evidence that this is the only layout, consider that that East-West must hold at least 11 top tricks (five in each minor plus the A) so some kind of blocked position is required to defeat five of a minor. If West, instead, had K A-10-6 A-K Q-J-10-9-8-7-6, it would be easy to make 5  (ruff a heart).

The spades must be divided exactly as shown to allow N-S to run that suit in notrump. Any other layout would give E-W a stopper.

If the hearts were divided in any other way, 5 could be made — either by a simple heart finesse; or if East has the A, a side entry to the East hand would give the defenders an impossible task.

[Corrected 9-30-99. In the original puzzle I did not specify “no void suits” and Scott Cardell noted there were alternate solutions based on East having all nine diamonds. Thanks, Scott, for the eagle eye.]

 Puzzle 7F20   Main Top   Phantom Sacrifice