Puzzle 7F28   Main

# The Oblivious Shift Principle

by Richard Pavlicek

Despite all hands being flat as a pancake, this deal contains some intriguing play and defense possibilities. Three notrump is the obvious contract with 26 HCP, but it’s far from obvious how to make it — or even if it can be made, with all finesses destined to lose.

 3 NT SouthNone Vul 10 3 2 A Q 10 K 10 2 J 10 9 8 WestPassPass North3 NT EastPass SOUTH1 NTPass A 9 5 9 8 7 6 9 8 7 7 6 5 J 7 6 K J 5 A J 4 3 4 3 2 Lead: 9 K Q 8 4 4 3 2 Q 6 5 A K Q

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and place your bets! Are you a player or a defender?

With best play all-around, can declarer make 3 NT? Or can the defense prevail?

## Solution

Assume the heart lead is ducked to the jack, and East shifts safely to a club.

 3 NT South 10 3 2 A Q 10 K 10 2 J 10 9 8 Trick1 W2 E3 S4 S5 S Lead 9 4 K Q 5 2nd10A677 3rdJ5910K 4th2823A W-LL1W1W2W3L2 A 9 5 9 8 7 6 9 8 7 7 6 5 J 7 6 K J 5 A J 4 3 4 3 2 Lead: 9 K Q 8 4 4 3 2 Q 6 5 A K Q

Declarer unblocks the top clubs and makes the key play of a low diamond to the king. East cannot benefit by ducking, so he wins the A. What now, dear East?

A spade return gives the contract immediately, setting up South’s suit; and a heart into dummy’s A-Q leaves no defense when the J is led. Suppose East tries to establish his long suit and exits with a diamond; no matter which, but say the J.

 NT win 6Success 10 3 2 A Q 10 2 J Trick6 E7 S8 S9 N Lead J K 6 J 2ndQ59? 3rd8210 4th263 W-LW1W2W3 A 9 5 8 7 6 9 8 — J 7 6 K 5 J 4 3 — East leads K Q 8 4 4 3 Q 6 —

South wins the Q and leads the K, ducked (best) by West, then a diamond to the 10. On the J East must pitch his long diamond and West his long heart to avoid losing a trick outright, then A and Q endplay East in spades.

So 3 NT can be made, right?

### Leading to oblivion

Wrong. East can defeat 3 NT with the “oblivious shift” to a low diamond at Trick 2. Declarer is gifted a trick immediately, but the defense can thwart any further gain. If declarer wins the 10, unblocks clubs and leads a diamond, East ducks the Q (or captures the K and returns the suit) leaving declarer without recourse. A variety of other endings may ensue, but the defense can always prevail.

There could a useful tip here: When an endplay is inevitable, it is often better to surrender the trick sooner than later.

 Puzzle 7F28   Main Top   The Oblivious Shift Principle

© 1995 Richard Pavlicek