Main   Challenge 7X41 by Richard Pavlicek  

The Game Is Afoot

Tension filled the musty room as Professor Moriarty threw six decks of playing cards onto the large oak table. “Sit!” he ordered. “I’m in a sporting mood. We’ll play six hands of bridge, and if you go plus on each one, I’ll set you free.”

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson had been investigating the theft of the Crown Emerald and were seized by Moriarty’s henchmen. They were now being held captive in the basement of the archvillain’s home. “And if we don’t?” Holmes inquired.

“That’s easy, Mr. Holmes. You and your bumbling doctor friend will be my guests for lunch. I’ve just installed a brand new piranha tank, and the August heat is making the little buggers voracious. Anyone for bridge?”

“Hardly seems fair,” Watson grumbled. “I’ve only played bridge a few times. Can’t we make it gin rummy?”

“Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot,” instructed Holmes, then he whispered in his friend’s ear, “Just bid only minor suits, or double with a good hand. Try to make yourself dummy — that shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Then, let’s begin.” Moriarty grinned. “The cards have already been shuffled, so I’ll deal each hand to save time. Colonel Moran? I know you’re not a bridge player, but sit down as my partner and just pass. Holmes? You sit here on my right.” As fate (or the Professor’s evil design) would have it, Holmes became declarer on each deal.

In August 2003 these problems were presented as a contest, which had 838 entrants from 114 locations. The contest is now closed, but you can still challenge yourself and find your score immediately. On each of the six problems, you are South, and all you have to do is choose your play from options A-F. Each option is rated on a 1-to-10 scale based on my judgment.

Bidding and carding by West (Moriarty) is standard, and assume expert skill. For a reference on these agreements, see my outline of Standard American Bridge. Do not draw any inferences from East (Moran) who always passes and knows little about card play except to follow suit.

So match your play with Sherlock Holmes. The only prize this month will be staying out of the piranha tank. Remember: Scoring is plus-or-fishfood, so don’t worry about overtricks! TopMain

Problem 1

Plus-or-Fishfood N-S Vul (very)

West
1 C
All Pass
North
1 D
East
Pass
South
1 NT

1 NT South
S 10 7 5 3
H K Q 9 8
D K Q J 10
C 4
Lead: C KTableEast plays C 2
S J 4 2
H 10 3
D A 6 4 3
C A J 10 8

Your play?

  1. Win C A; lead H 10 to king
  2. Win C A; run the H 10
  3. Win C A; D K (both follow); D Q-J
  4. Win C A; D K (both follow); all diamonds
  5. Win C A; lead the C J
  6. Duck the first trick
TopMain

Problem 2

Plus-or-Fishfood N-S Vul (very)

West
1 D
All Pass
North
Dbl
East
Pass
South
2 C

2 C South
S A 4 2
H A Q 6
D A 5 4 2
C K 4 2
Lead: S QTable
S K 7 6
H 8
D 9 7 6 3
C Q 10 9 7 5

Your play?:

  1. Win S A; H A
  2. Win S A; lead C 2 to queen
  3. Win S A; lead C 2 and finesse 10
  4. Win S K; S A
  5. Win S K; finesse H Q
  6. Win S K; lead C 5 to king
TopMain

Problem 3

Plus-or-Fishfood N-S Vul (very)

West
1 S
3 D
North
Dbl
3 H
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 H

3 H South
S A Q 6
H K Q 10 2
D Q J 3
C A J 4
Lead: C KTableEast plays C 3
S 8 7 4
H 9 6 4 3
D 10 5
C Q 10 8 2

After winning the C A, how do you play?

  1. Lead the H K
  2. Lead the H 10
  3. Lead the H 2
  4. Lead the D Q
  5. Lead C J to queen
  6. Lead C 4 to 10
TopMain

Problem 4

Plus-or-Fishfood N-S Vul (very)

West
2 S*
All Pass
North
3 C
East
Pass
South
3 NT
*weak; undisciplined

3 NT South
S J 8 3
H K
D A 6 5 2
C K Q 10 8 7
Lead: S 10TableEast plays S Q if you play jack; else S 4.
S A 2
H A Q J 5
D K Q 10 4
C 5 3 2

Your play?

  1. Play S J; win first round
  2. Play S J; win second round
  3. Play S 3; win first round; win H K
  4. Play S 3; win first round; lead C 2
  5. Play S 3; win second round; win H K
  6. Play S 3; win second round; lead C 2
TopMain

Problem 5

Plus-or-Fishfood N-S Vul (very)

West
1 H
3 H
North
2 H*
3 S
East
Pass
All Pass
South
2 S
*Watson make-me-dummy transfer

3 S South
S A K Q J 10 9
H 10 5 3 2
D 5
C K Q
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 6
S 8 6
H J 4
D Q J 4
C A 8 6 5 4 2

West next leads the C J (won by king) as East plays C 3. Your play?

  1. Draw trumps; lead H 3
  2. Draw trumps; lead D 5
  3. Draw trumps; win C Q; lead H 3
  4. Draw trumps; win C Q; lead D 5
  5. Lead the H 3
  6. Lead the D 5
TopMain

Problem 6

Plus-or-Fishfood N-S Vul (very)

West
1 H
2 H
3 H
North
Pass
Pass
4 D
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
2 D
3 D

4 D South
S 7 5 2
H J 10 4
D K Q
C K 10 5 4 3
Lead: H KTableEast plays H 2
S J 4 3
H A
D A J 10 8 7 6
C A 9 2

You win D K-Q on which West pitches two hearts. What next?

  1. Lead S 2 to jack
  2. Lead S 2 and duck it
  3. Lead H J (East plays H 5) and pitch a spade
  4. Ruff heart; draw trumps
  5. Lead C 3 to ace; draw trumps
  6. Lead C 3 and finesse nine

To see how you did click

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Credits to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Photo is Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson.
© 2003 Richard Pavlicek