Puzzle 7F59   Main

Optimum Contract

  by Richard Pavlicek

In bridge articles one occasionally comes across the phrase “optimum contract,” which refers to the highest scoring contract a side can make on a given deal against best defense. In some cases this contract must be declared from a specific direction to prevent a damaging opening lead. Consider the following deal and decide your answer to the two questions:

S 9
H J 10 9
D A Q 4 3 2
C A K Q 2
D J 10 9 8 7 6 5
C 8 7 6 5 4 3
TableS A K Q 8
H A K Q 8 7
C J 10 9
S J 10 7 6 5 4 3 2
H 6 5 4 3 2

A. What is the optimum contract for North-South?

B. What is the optimum contract for East-West?


A. The optimum contract for North-South is 3 S played by South. West has no hearts, so whatever he leads is won in dummy and declarer gets four discards as East follows suit. Then the D Q is led, and if East ruffs low, South can either discard his last heart or overruff to win nine tricks. (East must not ruff high, else South wins 10 tricks.)

B. The optimum contract for East-West is less obvious. It is easy to see that East (or West for that matter) can make 2 NT — East has eight winners and North has five, so the play is straightforward. But can E-W do better?

Can East make 3 H? No, only the same eight tricks are available as in notrump.

What about diamonds? Only eight tricks are available by West, although East can make 3 D — four of West’s clubs go away because South must lead a major suit. Alas, making 3 D is still an inferior score to 2 NT, so we’re back to square one.

Enter the bizarre. The optimum contract for East-West is also 3 S played by East. Regardless of the lead, East wins one top trump and five hearts. South must now ruff all plain-suit leads and repeatedly lead trumps, allowing East to score the S 8 as his ninth trick.

As Victor Mollo’s Hideous Hog would describe it, “Curious hand; makes three spades both ways.”

Puzzle 7F59   MainTop   Optimum Contract

© 1999 Richard Pavlicek