Analyses 7X72 MainChallenge

Distribution Most Foul

Scores by Richard Pavlicek

“Indeed, what began as an absorbing evening of bridge
was to turn into a more dangerous game altogether.”

These six declarer-play problems were published on the Internet in February 2004 as a contest open to all bridge players. Each contract was endangered by foul distribution, and you had to choose your play from the choices offered.

Problem 123456Final Notes

When I asked Miss Marple how she would play these hands, her reply sent me reeling, “Bridge? Lordy be. Who do I look like, Sherlock Holmes? My facade as a dithering old maid has allowed me to play only one card game. Mind you, Richard, if you ever feel up for a naughty game of Old Maid, I will beat your pants off!” Umm… I was speechless, let alone terrified by the way she flailed those knitting needles. Oh well; we can write off Miss Marple. Unless I can coax Hercule Poirot* out of retirement, we’ll have to solve these problems on our own.

*Agatha Christie’s more famous detective and hero of Cards on the Table, where a murder occurred at a bridge game. Did somebody find the killing lead? (I could not find any bridge connection for the Jane Marple character or the late Margaret Rutherford.)

Dean Pokorny Wins!

This contest had 838 entrants from 104 locations, and the average score was 37.80. Wow, 19 perfect scores sets a new record (previous high was 13 in October 2002). Congratulations to Dean Pokorny (Croatia) who was first* in the clubhouse. Only a few minutes behind was Howard Dean (US). Hmm… Did he drop out of the presidential race just in time? Or is the secret just having “Dean” as one of your names? Third place went to Lajos Linczmayer (Hungary). Rather than relist the top 19 here, suffice it to say it contains a lot of familiar names.

*Ties are broken by the exact date and time an entry is received. Dean Pokorny’s entry was received February 2 at 15:42 GMT, well into the second day of the contest; so it’s not like you have to beat the clock to win. Obviously, there’s an advantage to entering early, but that’s the easy part; coming up with the winning answers is not.

In the overall standings, Zahary Zahariev (Bulgaria) increased his lead to a sizzling 59.75 average, barely enough to edge out Leif-Erik Stabell (Zimbabwe) with 59.50. Close behind are Charles Blair (US) with 58.75 and John Reardon (UK) with 58.50. Not surprisingly, each of these guys had a perfect score this month.

One reason for the flurry of perfect scores was the definability of the problems. Foul distribution may seem like bad news, but it was actually good news in analyzing each layout. With fewer intangibles, the winning plays were easier to spot. Beware! Next time I’ll get even with “Distribution Most Tame.”

February 2004 was special for me, as I became a grandfather: Seth Pavlicek was born February 7. My son Rich and his wife Lisa Kow are the proud parents. Lisa is a fine bridge player (she and Rich won the Mini Spingold last summer in Long Beach) and her father Ronald Kow is a regular participant in these polls and contests. Seth appears to be endplayed into following suit.

Bidding is standard (except as noted) and opponents use standard leads and signals.
For a reference see Standard American Bridge. Assume all players are strong but not necessarily expert.

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 may be influenced by comments received.

Analyses 7X72 MainChallengeScoresTop Distribution Most Foul

Problem 1

E-W Vul
S 4 3
H A 4
D J 7 6 5
C J 9 5 3 2
3 S
3 NT
Lead: H 10TableEast plays H 3

3 NT South
S K 8 6
H K Q J 5
C K Q 6 4

You win the H K and lead the C Q; West pitches the S 7 and East ducks.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
B. Win H A; lead S 31010713
A. Lead the S 8813616
C. Win H A; lead D 56415
E. Lead the D Q535943
D. Win H A; lead C 33729
F. Lead C 6 to the jack212415

After discovering the 4-0 club break, prospects are suddenly dimmed. All you can establish directly are two clubs and two diamonds which, together with four hearts, leave you a trick short, let alone the entry problems to win even those tricks. The good news is the probable 7-1 spade break, which prevents the defense from winning more than two spade tricks.

The best chance is to catch East in a club endplay, so you must stop leading clubs. It seems logical to force out the D A (Line E), perhaps after unblocking the H A (Line C). Consider this likely layout:

IMPsS 4 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W VulH A 41 WH 1043K
D J 7 6 52 SC QS 728
C J 9 5 3 23 SH 52A6
S A Q J 9 7 5 2TableS 104 ND 5?2K4
H 10 9 8 2H 7 6 35 SH Q8S 37
D 4 3D A 10 9 8 26 SH J9C 3D 8
CC A 10 8 7continued below…
S K 8 6
H K Q J 5
3 NT SouthC K Q 6 4

Suppose you cross to the H A and lead a diamond to the king, then cash your last two hearts to reach this position:

NT win 3S 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H7 SS 6J!410
D J 7 68 WS A!D 6C 78
C J 9 59 WD 3!7AQ
S A Q J 9 5 2TableS 1010 ED 10C 4S 2J
HHDeclarer fails
D 3D A 10 9
CC A 10 7
S K 8 6
South leadsC K 6 4

No good. If you lead a diamond, East can win and establish a diamond. If you lead a club to the jack, East can win, cash the D A and lead a spade; then West plays three rounds of spades, leaving you locked in hand with a club loser. Leading the C K is also futile. Suppose you exit with a spade; West wins and cashes the S A, then a diamond return allows East to set up a diamond.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

To get started on a winning path, you must reduce the defensive options early by leading a spade, though it is necessary to unblock the H A first (Line B). This forces West to commit: Either cash two spades and establish the king, or lose his second spade trick entirely. Suppose he chooses the latter and exits with a diamond, East playing the D A and another to reach:

NT win 5S 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H7 SH Q8S 47
D J 78 SH J9C 3D 2
C J 9 5 39 SC 4S 2JA
S A Q 9 5 2TableS10 ED 9S 8S 5J
H 9 8H 711 ND 7!8S KS 9
DD 9 8 2East is endplayed
CC A 10 7
S K 8
South leadsC K 6 4

With the enemy communication broken, you now have a workable endplay. Cash your remaining hearts, pitching a spade and club, forcing East to pitch his long diamond. Then exit with a low club to the jack and ace. East can postpone the agony by exiting with a diamond, but he is thrown right back in with a diamond to lead away from the C 10.

If West takes the other fork (cashing two spades) the play is similar. With the S K established, you need only three more minor-suit tricks, which is easy with the East hand an open book.

Line A (lead the S 8) merits only second place, because if the defense plays ace and another diamond, you will be locked in hand with the heart suit blocked. If you cross to the H A and lead a low club, East will duck; or if you lead the C J, East can win and exit with a diamond equal — either way, avoiding the endplay.

The remaining lines are inferior. Line C is slightly better than Line E, because unblocking the heart suit leaves fewer ways for the defense to beat you. Lines D and F are the worst, as leading clubs prematurely allows East to escape most endplays; between them, Line D gets the edge since you can succeed if East’s spade is the queen.

Comments for B. Win H A; lead S 3

Dean Pokorny: The critical distribution is when West holds 7=4=2=0. Assuming a singleton spade in East, the only way to make 3 NT is to take away East’s exit card by playing a spade after cashing the H A, developing a throw-in position.

Lajos Linczmayer: The contract is cold if East has less than five hearts. If East has S 10 H x-x-x D A-9-8-x-x C A-10-8-7 and I lead a low spade at trick three, D A and a low diamond defeats the contract.

Neelotpal Sahai: West would be too strong to open 3 S with a very good suit, a void and an outside ace; so the D A should be with East. After I unblock the H A and remove the spade exit from East, I will either keep West out of play or get the S K. Later on, East will be endplayed…to give me a ninth trick.

Zahary Zahariev: I can’t do anything if West’s shape is 7=2=4=0. If West is 7=3=3=0, East must take the first club and return ace and another diamond and I haven’t a chance. So I give West S A-Q-10-9-x-x-x H 10-9-x-x D x-x C, and I must break their communication after carefully unblocking the H A. … If East takes the S 3 and returns, for example, ace and another diamond, now H Q-J (discard a spade) and East must pitch a diamond; then a club to the jack and East can’t avoid the endplay.

Gareth Birdsall: Main priority is to cut the defensive communication, but I must unblock hearts first. If West doesn’t cash the S A, I will endplay East with a club to the jack.

Francois Dellacherie: If West is 8=2=3=0 (unlikely), this will cost the contract; and if 7=2=4=0, there is no way to succeed. The interesting cases are when West is 7=3=3=0 or 7=4=2=0. The main plan is to endplay East in the minors, and I need to remove East’s spade at some point. Playing the S 8 now is OK if diamonds are 3-4; but if East has five, the defense can destroy my tempo and communication by playing D A and a diamond. If I unblock the H A first, none of this can happen. …

Leif-Erik Stabell: The only line if West is 7=4=2=0; Line A or B works against 7=3=3=0.

Manuel Paulo: If West has S A-Q-J-x-x-x-x H 10-9-x-x D x-x C —, this cuts the opponents’ communication. Sooner or later, East will be endplayed…

Marcus Chiloarnus: Bridge is a long lesson in humility.

Frans Buijsen: Playing East for S x H x-x-x D A-10-x-x-x C A-10-8-7, and preparing the endplay. East will be squeezed out of his [long diamond]; then I will play a club to the jack for a throw-in. (Line A does not work when East has five diamonds.)

John Reardon: If West takes two spades and leads a diamond to East’s ace and another diamond (as good as anything), I win and cash the hearts… I need three more tricks with S K C K-x-x, while dummy has D J, C J-9-x, and East is fixed when I lead a club to the jack. … This is better than Line A because it caters for diamonds being 2-5; both lines need hearts to split.

Frances Hinden: I need to cut the enemy communication before endplaying East; I also need to unblock hearts early to get them cashed in case West is 7=4=2=0.

Rob Stevens: Break defenders’ communication. The H A needs to be unblocked so East’s heart exits can be stripped. I aim to endplay East by eventually leading to the C J.

Jing Liu: Line A looks very close but may fail when West has 7=4=2=0 shape.

Rainer Herrmann: “Divide and Conquer” were the words of the late Terence Reese for the proper strategy on such deals.

Sebastien Louveaux: Planning a squeeze-endplay against East… Unblocking the H A is necessary if opponents play [two rounds] of diamonds, as I cannot afford to use my C K as an entry.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: In view of the bidding and lead, East rates to hold the D A; and West must have seven spades for any chance. The H A should be cashed before cutting the communication, so hearts can be cashed before West is thrown in to get an extra club trick.

Toby Kenney: Cutting the enemy communication so I can eventually endplay East. …

Laurentiu Dimcica: Basically, I play for a throw-in on East in the five-card ending: D J-7 C J-9-5 opposite S K-8 C K-6-4… then I play the C 4 to dummy’s jack, and East is forced to give dummy the D J and C 9. If East ducks diamonds twice, I still make either two clubs or a third diamond trick. If West cashes the S A, a similar four-card ending [develops].

Bruce Neill: Does West have seven spades or eight? If eight, I can succeed by never touching spades; but the S 7 discard suggests East has a high spot, so I’ll unblock the H A and play a spade to cut communications. This works if West is 7=4=2=0 or 7=3=3=0 (although if 7=3=3=0, East missed a chance to grab the C A and start diamonds); and they can always beat me if West is 7=2=4=0. As a bonus, this also works if West is 8=3=2=0 or 8=4=1=0.

Jouko Paganus: Breaking opponents’ communication and forcing them to decide whether to take two spade tricks or not.

Dale Freeman: I assume East has both minor aces. This will disconnect the opponents’ spade link, then I hope to endplay East.

N. Scott Cardell: If West had a side ace, he would have led a spade and set the contract cold. I have eight easy tricks outside of spades, so West cannot afford to give me a spade trick. … After ducking a spade, the defense has nothing better than to exit in hearts (assuming West has seven spades); then if I find hearts 4-3, I take them all (discarding a spade and club). I then lead a diamond, and East must win and put me back in hand; then a club to the jack leaves East no winning option.

Sandy McIlwain: I need to limit the enemy spade tricks before I open up diamonds and hearts, and it’s better to clear the H A first to [unblock the suit].

Patrice Piganeau: In case West has 7=4=2=0 shape, and East has D A-10-9-x-x.

Foppe Hemminga: [Necessary] if East has S J H 8-7-3 D A-9-8-3-2 C A-10-8-7.

Grant Peacock: I don’t think the hand will be too difficult once I make West decide whether to cash his S A.

Tim DeLaney: Taking out West’s entry at a time when he can do no harm. East eventually will be endplayed in clubs.

Pui Kei Tsang: Not for leading a spade from dummy but to unblock hearts.

Rich Pavlicek: Taking away East’s exit card.

Connie Delisle: Remove East’s exit card while it is still safe to do so.

Bill Powell: … I’ll try to throw East in, [first in clubs] then with his fourth diamond, thereby holding him to one club trick.

Julian Wightwick: I will duck the spade, cash red-suit tricks pitching a spade and a club, then get out with a club to the jack. East will be endplayed to give me a third club trick so long as he started with at least four diamonds. He can exit in diamonds but gets put back in with the last diamond.

Adam Folke: This way I unblock hearts and remove East’s exit card.

Len Vishnevsky: I need to cut the enemy spade transportation and throw in East to lead a minor to dummy. … Do I need to cash the H A first? Yes, in case West has S A-Q-J-10-x-x-x H 10-9-8-x D x-x C, to unblock hearts so I can squeeze East.

David Klaus: My hope is to endplay East in clubs.

Pieter Geerkens: … East will eventually be thrown in with a club to the jack after hearts are run and diamonds unblocked.

Junaid Said: Playing East for both red aces and planning to endplay him with a club to the jack for three club tricks.

Analyses 7X72 MainChallengeScoresTop Distribution Most Foul

Problem 2

None Vul
S A 6 4
H Q 4 2
D A 7 5
C A 5 4 2
1 C
1 S
4 H
Lead: S 3TableEast plays S Q

4 H South
S K J 7 5
H K J 9 7 5 3
D 10 3

After winning the S K:

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
D. Lead D 10 and duck it1012215
F. Lead C Q and duck it917120
E. Lead C Q to the ace7658
B. Lead the H J622126
C. Lead H 3 to the queen421826
A. Lead the S 51425

Several respondents remarked that the “distribution most foul” on this problem was North’s for his takeout double. To each his own; but it seems better to get in the auction early than to worry about balancing later. My philosophy is that 4-3-3-3 doubles are OK with 13-14 HCP, provided you don’t count the queen or jack in the enemy suit to reach this minimum.

What could go wrong on this hand? The spade lead, even though a likely singleton, presents no real danger; you can afford to lose a spade ruff. West is clearly marked with the H A for his opening, so it seems the only cause for concern is if he has all four trumps. Suppose you lead a trump to find out what you’re up against, and this is the layout:

IMPsS A 6 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None VulH Q 4 21 WS 34QK
D A 7 52 SH J?62D 2
C A 5 4 23 SD 10J5Q
S 3TableS Q 10 9 8 24 EC 6QKA
H A 10 8 6H5 NC 27H 33
D K J 4D Q 9 8 6 26 SD 34A6
C K J 10 9 3C 8 7 67 ND 78H 5K
S K J 7 58 SS 5C 9A2
H K J 9 7 5 39 NC 48H 710
D 10 310 SS JH 868
4 H SouthC Q11 WH A4S 99
Declarer fails

On the H J lead, West will duck. If you next lead a low heart, he will duck again; then if you revert to spades, West will wait until he can ruff a winner then pull dummy’s last trump, leaving you a trick short.

If you lead a spade after the H J holds, West can beat you in two ways: (1) Ruff (S 10 suit preference from East) and shift to a diamond to reach East with the D Q (or C 8 if declarer tries a loser-on-loser) for a second ruff, or (2) pitch a club to let the S A win, then later ruff the S J and clear trumps.

At Trick 3 suppose instead you duck a diamond to East; win the club return; club ruff; D A; diamond ruff; spade to ace (West pitches); club ruff. Fun while it lasted, but a similar dead end; West ruffs the S J and clears trumps, so you lose the last trick.

It’s beginning to look like your immediate trump lead was a mistake — and so it was.

“If you don’t see what a thing means, you must be looking at it the wrong way around.”

To find the right way around, you must adopt a subtle approach, and ducking a diamond early (Line D) is the only way. Not only does this break the opponents’ communication, but it retains the D A as a potential key entry later on. Follow the play:

IMPsS A 6 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
None VulH Q 4 21 WS 34QK
D A 7 52 SD 10!J5!Q
C A 5 4 23 EC 6QKA
S 3TableS Q 10 9 8 24 NH 2!D 2J6
H A 10 8 6H5 SS 5C 3A2
D K J 4D Q 9 8 6 26 NC 2!7H 39
C K J 10 9 3C 8 7 67 SS J!H 868
S K J 7 5continued below…
H K J 9 7 5 3
D 10 3
4 H SouthC Q

Suppose East overtakes at Trick 2 and returns a club; queen, king, ace. Now lead a trump to the jack (ducked); spade (West pitches) to the ace; club ruff (key play); S J which West ruffs to reach this position:

H win 5STrickLead2nd3rd4th
H Q 48 WH A4D 65
D A 79 WH 10QS 97
C 5 410 NC 48H 910
STableS 10 911 SH KD 4C 5?
H A 10HEast is squeezed
D K 4D 9 8 6
C J 10C 8
S 7
H K 9 7 5
D 3
West leadsC

West is obliged to clear trumps (else you simply ruff a spade) which you take in dummy to ruff another club. Finally, the last trump completes a double squeeze. That lovely D A entry was your savior.

If the defense returns a diamond at Trick 3, the winning path is different: Ruff the third diamond, and lead a spade (West pitches) to the ace, then the S J which West ruffs. Trumps have never been led, so West cannot stop you from ruffing (or overruffing) your last spade.

Another reasonable attempt is to lead the C Q at Trick 2 and duck West’s king (Line F). Alas, this doesn’t quite work against best defense (immediate diamond shift) but it’s likely to succeed in practice, so I gave it a close second.

Line E (C Q to ace) is clearly worse, as East may gain the lead if you pitch on the second club (easy diamond shift) or at least he will be able to play low clubs as suit preference.

The popular choice was to lead trumps, something we all might do impulsively at the table. If so, leading the jack (Line B) is much better than leading low (Line A). This saves the day when West is 2=4=3=4 (S 3-2 doubleton is possible) by allowing a recovery similar to the previous technique. Worst of all is to lead a spade first (Line A) as it’s probably the only way to go down with a 3-1 trump break.

Comments for D. Lead D 10 and duck it

Dean Pokorny: The only way to guard against four trumps with opener (1=4=3=5 shape)…

Lajos Linczmayer: To cut communication if West has S 3 H A-10-8-6 D K-8-x C K-J-10-9-x. Assume East wins and returns a club; low heart to the jack (assume West ducks); low spade to ace; club ruff; S J ruffed by West; and a double squeeze at the end [if West clears trumps]. …

Neelotpal Sahai: Given the introduction, I will play West for 1=4=3=5 distribution (normally, I might have led the H J from hand). A diamond at an early stage will cut the defenders’ communication. If East gives a spade ruff, West will be ruffing with a natural trump trick. My plan is to make three spades, five hearts and two aces.

Zahary Zahariev: It’s easy if trumps are 2-2 or 3-1; but if West has S x H A-10-8-6 D K-J-x C K-J-9-x-x, I must ruff my fourth spade in dummy. Ducking a diamond immediately is the way to do this, prevent a second spade ruff, and keep trump control.

Gareth Birdsall: I’ll look stupid if West has opened light on S x H x-x-x D K-J C K-J-10-x-x-x-x!

Ding-Hwa Hsieh: I will go down if East has 5=0=6=2 shape, unless I guess to play for a simple squeeze.

Francois Dellacherie: If hearts are 4-0 (else it’s easy) I must do something with my fourth spade. Only 16 HCP are outstanding, so it is likely East has S Q-10-9-8-2 together with a diamond honor. I can allow West to ruff one of my spades (at the cost of his natural heart trick) but not two. If I play a spade toward dummy, West can ruff and play a diamond back… The solution is to duck a diamond at trick two; [follow-up explained]. Leading the C Q in the hope of discarding a diamond on the C A does not work because my hand gets shortened by repeated minor attacks, preventing drawing trumps and unblocking spades.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Cutting the enemy communication lines without running the risk of shortening my trumps — in case West is 1=4=3=5.

Manuel Paulo: If West has S 3 H A-10-8-6 D K-J-x C K-J-10-x-x, opponents can win one diamond and two trump tricks. If West gets a spade ruff, I draw trumps and claim; else, I manage to ruff my spade loser in dummy…

Marcus Chiloarnus: You can’t win unless you learn how to lose.

Frans Buijsen: The only danger is that West has all four hearts, in which case his shape is likely to be 1=4=3=5. I duck a diamond to break communication, then I can determine when a spade is ruffed by west.

John Reardon: The danger is that West has a hand like S x H A-10-x-x D K-x-x C K-J-10-x-x. By ducking a diamond now, I keep control and will lose at most three tricks.

Frances Hinden: I have to cut communication, and it has to be this way to keep the diamond threat [and entry] in dummy for a potential double squeeze… I shall be off if East has a singleton H A, but 4-0 hearts is more likely given the auction. …

Rob Stevens: If hearts are 4-0, danger is losing two hearts, a diamond and a spade. I must first remove East’s diamond entry before leading a low spade toward the ace; but I cannot reenter my hand by ruffing clubs, or West will be able to ruff the low spade and tap me out of trumps while spades are blocked. [If a club is returned] I will come to hand with the H J (ducked); low spade to the ace (West cannot gain by ruffing air); club ruff; then West will ruff the S J and draw dummy’s trumps — but a double squeeze comes to the rescue. The pseudo-clever play of ducking the C Q (Line F) is wrong because West could destroy the squeeze by leading a diamond.

Imre Csiszar: Protects against West’s singleton spade and four hearts, and loses only if East has a singleton H A. The latter is possible (January bidding poll, Problem 6)… but it still appears more likely that West has a genuine one-bid. Moreover, the lady leading a trump now would be Mrs. Guggenheim, not Miss Marple.

Sebastien Louveaux: I plan to ruff (or overruff) the fourth spade in dummy; and I must not let West draw trumps nor allow East to gain the lead in diamonds to play a fifth spade.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: If West holds H A-10-8-6, the play has to be timed accurately. I shouldn’t shorten my trumps prematurely, otherwise West can ruff the second spade profitably. Ducking a diamond is superior to a club because it retains both minor-suit entries. …

Toby Kenney: West must have the H A for his bid, so there is no risk of conceding two spade ruffs if I remove the diamond entry first. …

John Lusky: The danger of a 4-0 heart split can be overcome if I first cut the diamond link between the defenders to avoid the possibility of two spade ruffs; then lead a spade toward the ace. Club plays too early may allow the defenders to tap me out.

Weidong Yang: … The concern here is to handle West with all of the unseen hearts… and I cannot afford West ruffing a spade while East may have an entry in diamonds.

Ognian Smilianov: This keeps all under control… If West has H A-10-8-6, I remove the danger of East gaining the lead to give West a second spade ruff…

Sylvain Brethes: Playing West for S x H A-10-8-6 D K-Q-x-x-x C K-J-x, I can deal with any return.

Alon Amsel: The only danger I can see is West holding all four hearts, in which case he may trump one spade but not two if I break the possible communication with East.

Patrice Piganeau: In case West has S x, H A-10-8-6 D K-J-x C K-J-x-x-x.

Teymur Tahseen: As in all detective mysteries, it’s always the last one you suspect. This prevents East from getting in for a second spade ruff, enabling me to play on spades for a ruff in dummy without risking trumps being cleared or exposing myself to a forcing defense.

Good to hear you’re working on a plan not to expose yourself.

Douglas Dunn: Only danger is a 4-0 trump break. If so, I have to knock out East’s diamond entry early, then aim to ruff the long spade in dummy. …

Tim DeLaney: The 10th trick is a spade ruff, and this severs the link to the East hand.

Noer Imanzal Kartamadjana: West may have a singleton spade and four trumps (no problem if 3-1); then avoiding two trump losers is impossible. I should not draw trumps and must cut opponents’ communication before trying to ruff a spade in dummy.

Andrew de Sosa: Remove East’s only likely entry before starting the ruff fest. Even if West started with a singleton spade, a spade return for a ruff won’t help the defense.

Paulino Correa: East cannot have the H A, so the danger is H A-10-8-6 in West. If East wins and returns a spade, I will let it go to dummy’s ace (if West ruffs, it’s easy); then D A, C A, club ruff and S J — now West has to ruff, but the contract is home.

Jess Cohen: A Caribbean Mystery. … I am hoping East will win the diamond and give West a spade ruff, then the problem of H A-10-8-6 in West is eliminated. … If West does not ruff the spade return, I can play to ruff a spade in dummy. …

Olivier La Spada: The only problem is finding West with four trumps. With a shape like 1=4=2=6 or 1=4=3=5, the danger is an overruff in diamonds… By leading a diamond sooner, I keep the communication option of leading a heart to the jack. …

George Klemic: Am I allowed to assume West didn’t psych 1 C? There are only 16 HCP for East-West, and this line assumes the H A is with West… Ducking a diamond now is important, as I do not want two spades ruffed. Before drawing trumps, I will lead a spade towards the ace (West can’t profitably ruff) in order to ruff the fourth spade. …

Luc Segers: East cannot have the H A, so this cuts communication. I expect to lose a diamond, the H A and a spade ruff.

Pat Rich: The obvious concern is four hearts with West, suggesting too many losers when combined with a diamond and a spade if trumps are drawn. This pickles the foe: A spade ruff back combines two losers; and a heart lead by West eliminates a trump loser. In other cases…I can maneuver to lead a spade toward the ace, then let West ruff the S J; but he cannot prevent a spade ruff in North for 10 tricks.

Junaid Said: This will take care of West having started with 1=4=3=5 or 1=4=2=6 shape. [Later] a low spade will force West to discard (or ruff a loser with a winner), then a spade continuation will ensure a spade ruff or overruff in dummy. …

Analyses 7X72 MainChallengeScoresTop Distribution Most Foul

Problem 3

N-S Vul
S Q 7 4 3
D 10 8 5
C A K 5 2

All Pass

3 H
3 NT
Lead: D KTableEast pitches H 3

3 NT South
S A K 5
H K 6 4 2
D A 6 4 3
C 10 4

F. Win fourth diamond1032038
E. Win third diamond; lead C 10714918
D. Win third diamond; lead H 2615018
C. Win second diamond; lead C 105607
A. Win first diamond411914
B. Win second diamond; lead H 21415

Holdup plays are in vogue, or so it seems from the large plurality of votes for the best answer. I thought maybe that disguising it without a follow-up would throw you off, but you sniffed it out like a Scotland Yard bloodhound. Holding up forever is indeed the proper technique, as the contract can be made against any layout. Consider this one:

IMPsS Q 7 4 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH A J1 WD K5H 33!
D 10 8 52 WD Q8H 54!
C A K 5 23 WD J10H 76!
S J 9 8 6TableS 10 24 WD 9C 2C 3A
HH Q 10 9 8 7 5 35 SH 2D 2J!Q
D K Q J 9 7 2Dcontinued below…
C Q 8 6C J 9 7 3
S A K 5
H K 6 4 2
D A 6 4 3
3 NT SouthC 10 4

East pitches hearts on the first three diamonds; then if West leads a fourth diamond, you pitch a club from dummy as does East. The next step is to concede a heart, preferably low to the jack, to rectify the count, which leaves East on lead in this position:

NT win allS Q 7 4 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A6 EC 710QA
D7 NH A84D 7
C A K 58 NS 32A6
S J 9 8 6TableS 10 29 SS 5!8Q10
HH 10 9 810 NS 4C 9K9
D 7D11 SH K?
C Q 8 6C J 9 7West is squeezed
S A K 5
H K 6 4
East leadsC 10 4

No matter what East returns, you can win the C A, H A and S A. Next win the S Q and S K to see if spades split; no luck there, but East is squeezed out of club to keep his heart stopper. Finally, the H K squeezes West in the black suits. The recommended play caters to the most likely layouts, but it’s not a lock. In the rare event East were 4=7=0=2 you could succeed with a different line (play to squeeze East in the majors) but would fail here.

What if West doesn’t lead a fourth diamond* but shifts to a club? No problem. Just duck the club; then if a club is returned to kill the entry for a double squeeze, dummy will be on lead in the following position.

*Even though Line F states, “Win the fourth diamond,” this does not promise that West will always continue. As I have mentioned in previous contests, any holdup or ducking play leaves you accountable for any effective switch.

NT win allS Q 7 4 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A J6 NC A!7H 28
D7 NS 32A6
C A 58 SS 58Q10
S J 9 8 6TableS 10 29 NS 4H 8K9
HH Q 10 9 810 SD A!2S 7?
D 9 7 2DEast is squeezed
C 8C 9 7
S A K 5
H K 6 4 2
North leadsC

Now you have a lock by cashing the C A. When East follows, either spades will be 3-3 or East will have the remaining club and be squeezed. Cash three spades ending in hand to find out, then the D A squeezes East in hearts and clubs. Had East discarded on the C A, he must have four spades, then he will be squeezed in the majors.

“An archaeologist is the best husband. The older the wife gets, the more interested he is in her.”

The also-rans are considerably worse, but it should be no surprise that holding up twice gets second and third place. Line E will succeed if you can duck a club to East (if West covers this may still be possible on the second round). Line D will succeed if East has 4=7=0=2 shape and a club honor (i.e., so you can duck if East attacks clubs) and some other bizarre positions, such as West having both club honors and being triple squeezed with the C 10 as a clash threat. Fancy stuff, but the edge goes to Line E because of its more realistic prospects.

Fourth place goes to Line C (win second diamond, lead C 10), followed closely by Line A (win first diamond) assuming the same follow-up. If you can duck a club to East and read the position right, you can succeed; e.g., by cashing the S K and S Q before endplaying East with the fourth club to force a heart lead. Worst is Line B (win second diamond, lead H 2) as it evaporates all chances but 3-3 spades.

Comments for F. Win fourth diamond

Dean Pokorny: Ducking diamonds three times and a few tricks later ducking a heart to East is the right play for making a nonsimultaneous double squeeze, assuming West guards spades and both defenders guard clubs.

Lajos Linczmayer: To rectify the count for a squeeze. Only this play works when East has S x-x H Q-10-9-8-7-5-3 D C J-9-x-x, or S 9-8-x-x H Q-10-9-8-7-5-3 D C x-x.

Neelotpal Sahai: An implicit assumption is that West will, foolishly, continue diamonds. On winning the fourth diamond, I can safely lose the heart finesse to East; then the count is rectified, and the stage is set for [several] squeeze possibilities.

Zahary Zahariev: An easy squeeze, but I must give opponents four tricks before this. …

Gareth Birdsall: My plan is to lose four tricks early, and ducking diamonds is the best way to do this. If West doesn’t continue diamonds, I will continue to lose tricks in the minors. Eventually I will either squeeze West in spades and diamonds, or have a double squeeze with clubs as the double threat.

Francois Dellacherie: East has bad hearts and a void; so I doubt he has four spades, too. If West is kind enough to play four rounds of diamonds, I will then lose a heart. Now either spades are 3-3, or I make on the obvious double squeeze. Taking the diamond too early means defeat in many cases.

Leif-Erik Stabell: West is a favorite to hold four spades, so ducking a heart to East should now set up a double squeeze.

Manuel Paulo: Consider this likely East hand: S x-x H Q-10-9-8-7-5-3 DC Q-x-x-x. I discard the H J or a low club on winning the fourth diamond; then I lose a heart to East to rectify the count; afterwards I win the remaining tricks via a double squeeze.

Marcus Chiloarnus: A computer once beat me at bridge, but it was no match for me at kickboxing.

Frans Buijsen: Threats in all four suits, and various stepping-stone variations, don’t make this easy. If West has S J-9-8-x H D K-Q-J-9-7-2 C Q-9-8, I must duck three diamonds to make the squeeze work. …

Frances Hinden: Then I will duck a heart and cash three spades, followed by the H K. …

Rob Stevens: If I were able to duck a club, the play would be easier, which is why West must continue diamonds. I might as well assume spades are with West (or 3-3) since I won’t be able to keep open the option of a heart-spade squeeze against East. The only way to get the timing right is to duck three diamonds and a heart; then I’ll have a double squeeze. Winning the third diamond and ducking two hearts fails on a spade switch.

Jing Liu: On the fourth diamond I discard a club from dummy, then play a heart to the jack. Finally, I play H A, S Q and S K-A to detect the distribution. If spades are 3-3, I am home; if West has four spades, the H K will squeeze him (East had to give up his club stopper to guard hearts). …

Rainer Herrmann: Giving up the diamond threat is a bit counterintuitive, but this is the only way to correct the count against best defense. A decision may have to be taken whether to play for a simple squeeze against East in the majors, or a more likely double squeeze.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: … If West shifts to a club after the third round of diamonds, duck the club; then play for either a heart-club or major-suit squeeze on East.

Toby Kenney: Now I must finesse the H J (cashing the H A first forces me to discard prematurely from dummy on a heart return).

John Lusky: Then I will give up a heart and play for a double squeeze (if spades don’t split) with clubs as the middle suit — unless the defenders’ carding leads me to believe that a major-suit squeeze against East is indicated. Winning the third diamond creates problems with entries if East keeps playing spades after I duck hearts to him.

Nigel Guthrie: Quack, quack, quack, quack.

Laurentiu Dimcica: … If spades are not 3-3, I need a squeeze for my ninth trick. … I will next duck a heart to East (I cannot avoid West if I duck a club). I will have to choose between two options: (1) Squeeze East in hearts and spades, or (2) a double squeeze if West has four spades. [Endings described].

Weidong Yang: … Three situations are possible: (1) West guards spades and both defenders guard clubs, (2) West guards clubs and East guards spades, or (3) West guards spades and East guards clubs. All three can be covered if I duck three rounds of diamonds. …

Bruce Neill: This may be the only safe way to rectify the count for a squeeze if West is 4=0=6=3 with useful clubs.

Sylvain Brethes: I will assume that West didn’t open 3 H with four spades and try for the double squeeze…

Jouko Paganus: Then play a heart to the jack to rectify the count for a double squeeze…if spades do not behave.

Julian Pottage: Rectify the count for a double squeeze if West has spade length.

Steve White: Assuming West leads four rounds of diamonds, I will duck a heart to East to rectify the count. Winning the D A earlier risks having to lose a club to West.

Bob Boudreau: Pitching a club; then duck a heart to East. After cashing the H A, three top spades (ending in hand) and the H K, neither defender can keep enough clubs. …

Dale Freeman: Now duck a heart, and the count is rectified for some sort of squeeze.

N. Scott Cardell: … East [is unlikely] to hold four or more spades for a first-seat vulnerable preempt. West must continue leading diamonds until I take the ace — if he shifts to a club after three diamonds, I duck and win the next club; cash all my black winners ending in your hand; then either the last spade is good or the D A squeezes East regardless of the black-suit distribution. … After winning the D A, I lead to the H J to rectify the count for a double squeeze. Line D, aiming for a spade-diamond squeeze against West, looks good but doesn’t quite work: If I try to duck two hearts to East, he can force me to use the S A-K before I can safely cash the C A-K

Sandy McIlwain: West won’t let me duck a club to East, so I need to lose three diamonds and a heart quickly. The ending will be S 7 C A-5 in North and H K-6 C 10 in South.

Jordi Sabate: I play East for 3=7=0=3 or 2=7=0=4, and I want to win against both options. My first intention is to squeeze West in diamonds and spades (if not 3-3); but if I take an early diamond, they can break the squeeze by playing spades every time I duck a [heart] trying to rectify the count. So if West continues diamonds each time (best defense), I will discard a club then…duck a heart. No matter what East returns, either spades are 3-3, or a double squeeze (with clubs as the common suit) exists.

Daniel Bertrand: … I pitch a club from dummy, then lead a heart to the jack… [Double squeeze described]. Another advantage in winning the fourth diamond is that East might pitch four hearts; or he might hold S 9-8-x-x H Q-10-9-8-7-5-3 D C Q-J and be triple squeezed (my C 10 is a trick if he pitches a club). …

Thijs Veugen: West is most likely to hold the long spades, e.g., S J-10-x-x HD K-Q-J-9-7-2 C Q-x-x. After winning the D A, I play a heart to the jack; then the contract is made on a double squeeze with clubs as the central suit. If East holds the long spades, I have a heart-spade simple squeeze; but I don’t see how to combine the two squeezes.

Norm Gordon: Then a heart to the jack; win any return, unblock the H A, and cash three spades ending in hand. This works when spades split or West has the length (double squeeze). Cashing the H A prematurely allows East to squeeze dummy with a heart exit.

Douglas Dunn: Discard a club in dummy, then play to the H J and queen. [Double squeeze described]. However, if East discards two clubs on the diamonds, cash one club before taking the top spades — if East shows out (4=7=0=2 shape) he can be squeezed in the majors.

Tim DeLaney: Lines C [and E] work if I can duck a club to East; but if West has, say, C Q-8-7, this fails. …

Noer Imanzal Kartamadjana: After winning the D A (club pitch from dummy), I lead to the H J. If East returns a heart, cash three spades ending in hand (squeezing East in hearts and clubs); then lead the H K to squeeze West in spades and clubs.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: If spades are 4-2, there will always be either a simple squeeze against East in the majors, or a double squeeze; however, after giving up a heart to correct the count, I will still have to read the position… Things may be easier if East discards four hearts on the first four tricks. :)

Paulino Correa: … I’ll concede a fourth trick by finessing the H J. East may return whatever he wants, but I’ll win through a double squeeze. [Ending described].

Jess Cohen: The body is in the library. I am playing East for S J-x-x-x H Q-10-9-8-7-5-3 DC J-x. After four diamonds and two clubs, East must get down to S J-x-x-x H Q-10-9, allowing me to set up my fourth heart. If East doesn’t have this distribution, you will find me in the library quite dead.

Was it Colonel Mustard with the candlestick?

Julian Wightwick: East might have one more red card than West, so I’ll play West for the long spade. I pitch a club on the last diamond, then [duck a heart]. I win the return, cash the [H A] and top spades ending in hand; then the H K for a double squeeze. Sadly, I can’t seem to organize things to make whoever guards spades. The alternative to duck two tricks in each red suit (Line D) fails if East plays on spades.

Adam Dickinson: On the auction it seems like East will have either a 3=7=0=3 distribution (no problem) or 2=7=0=4. I next take the heart finesse, losing, but [on a major-suit return] I will end up with a four-card position: S 7 C A-K-5 opposite H K-6 C 10-4. Then the H K squeezes West (assuming spades were not 3-3)…

Mike Sweet: Pitch a club on the fourth diamond, then lead a heart to the jack. Win any return, unblock the H A, and cash three spades ending in hand to squeeze East in hearts and clubs; then cash the H K to finish off West in spades and clubs. The only assumption here is that East doesn’t hold four spades.

Tomaz Butina: To squeeze both opponents after a heart duck — East in hearts and clubs; West in spades and clubs.

Leonard Helfgott: I need to lose four tricks for a double squeeze to work, assuming West is 4=0=6=3… so I will lose three diamonds, then a heart…

Steven Shulman: Then duck a heart to correct the count for a squeeze. East will be pressured to guard hearts, then West will be squeezed in the black suits — I think.

Analyses 7X72 MainChallengeScoresTop Distribution Most Foul

Problem 4

N-S Vul
S K 10 3 2
H 10 4
D K Q 10 9
C A J 9

2 D1

2 S2
3 NT
All Pass
1 D
2 NT
Lead: H 8TableEast plays H Q

3 NT South
S A 8 5 4
H A 7 6 2
D A 8 5
C 7 6
1. Michaels
2. diamond fit + spade stopper

B. Win first heart; lead D 5109611
A. Win first heart; lead S 49769
E. Win third heart; lead D 5614517
C. Win second heart; lead D 5530636
F. Win third heart; lead C 639011
D. Win second heart; lead C 6212615

From the Michaels cue-bid, West is probably 5-5 in the majors, but it’s possible (especially at the vulnerability) that he has only four spades. For example, with S Q-J-9-x H K-J-9-8-x D x C Q-x-x, I would prefer 2 D to a 1 H overcall. But even so, it’s hard to imagine West not having both spade honors, which strongly suggests a throw-in play for your ninth trick. This all assumes, of course, you can win four diamond tricks with the odds-on finesse through East. Consider this typical layout:

IMPsS K 10 3 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
N-S VulH 10 41 WH 810Q2?
D K Q 10 92 EH 5694
C A J 93 WH KS 2C 4A
S Q J 9 7 6TableS4 SD 52K3
H K J 9 8 3H Q 55 ND 1048S 6
D 2D J 7 6 4 36 ND 96AS 7
C Q 5C K 10 8 4 3 2continued below…
S A 8 5 4
H A 7 6 2
D A 8 5
3 NT SouthC 7 6

Suppose you follow the instinctive play and hold up the H A, say, until the third round, pitching a spade from dummy as East lets go a club. You next lead a diamond to dummy (Line E), run the D 10 and return to the D A, as West pitches two spades to reach this position:

NT win 5S K 10 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H7 SS 4JKC 2
D Q8 ND Q7C 6C 5
C A J 99 NC A37Q
S Q J 9TableSDeclarer fails
H J 3H
DD J 7
C Q 5C K 10 8 3 2
S A 8 5 4
H 7
South leadsC 7 6

If you next lead a low spade (West splits) to the king and cash the D Q, pitching a club, West also pitches a club. You can now cash the C A to remove his exit card, but you can’t lead a heart without releasing your S A. Down one. Also note that it wouldn’t help to lead a club in the above ending, as there’s no way to rectify the count for a squeeze.

“Curious things, habits. People themselves never knew they had them.”

Holding up an ace at notrump is a habit, usually good, as on previous problem for as long as possible, but sometimes bad. Crazy game, this bridge; just when you think you’ve mastered a technique, the next deal proves it all wrong.

In this case, to endplay West you must be able to lead a heart after cashing your minor-suit tricks, which means the lead will be in dummy, so you must win the first heart to preserve that opportunity. Next lead the D 5 (Line B) to win three diamonds by finessing East, then a low spade (West must split) to the king to reach this position:

NT win 4S 10 3 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 46 ND Q7H 2C 5
D Q7 NC A!26Q
C A J 98 NH 4!569
S Q 9TableSWest is endplayed
H K J 9 3H 5
DD J 7
C Q 5C K 10 8 3 2
S A 8 5
H 7 6 2
North leadsC 7 6

You next cash the D Q, and West is squeezed. If he lets go a heart, you can routinely establish a spade trick; so he must part with a club. Now cash the C A and exit with a heart, waiting for two spades at the end. Note that West’s fourth-best lead marks him with H K-J-9-8-x (once East’s H Q appears) so you can be confident only West can gain the lead in hearts.

Line A (win first heart, lead S 4) is almost as good — the downside being that you must take a first-round diamond finesse, which may lose to a singleton jack. Note that if you cash the D K before the finesse, you block the diamond suit; and you cannot afford to lead a club before cashing the last diamond, else West will pitch a heart and keep a club to reach East.

Of the holdup plays, it’s more important what you lead next than whether you win the second or third heart. Lines C and E (leading the D 5) are the best of the lot, and the edge goes to Line E, as it allows you to develop a squeeze when West has S Q-J-9-x-x H K-J-9-8-x D J C x-x. Leading clubs early is worst because it gives up the chance of a later club endplay against East (e.g., if East has C K-Q-x-x-x-x), and Line F is better than Line D because the extra heart duck might lead to a squeeze.

Comments for B. Win first heart; lead D 5

Dean Pokorny: I should win the first heart to retain a small heart in dummy as a throw-in card (West may hold 5=5=1=2 with a club honor, obviously leading from H K-J-9-8-x). Then it is better to cross to dummy with a diamond (not a spade) intending to finesse East, while preventing West from winning a singleton D J.

Lajos Linczmayer: Then finesse against East’s D J and endplay West in hearts at trick eight. Only this play works if West has a club honor without the 10. Line F is needed if West has S Q-J-9-7-6 H K-J-9-8-x D J-x C 10, or S Q-J-9-7-6 H K-J-9-8-x D J-x-x C.

Neelotpal Sahai: … Assuming the D J is with East (or singleton with West), West comes under serious pressure after [three] diamonds, a spade toward the king [forcing him to split], then the fourth diamond. If he keeps four hearts and two spades, he can be endplayed with a heart [after cashing the C A]. If he keeps any fewer hearts, he doesn’t have a downing trick [and I can establish a spade trick]. …

Zahary Zahariev: The hardest one. While taking diamonds, West will be under pressure; but I must have a heart in dummy, eventually to endplay West. So I take the first heart. There is little difference between Lines A and B, but I choose Line B because of the chance to capture a singleton D J in West.

Gareth Birdsall: Then cash three diamonds (finessing against East) and play a spade towards the 10; West will split his honors, so win the S K and cash the last diamond. If West has discarded enough hearts or spades, just establish a spade trick. Otherwise, cash the C A and throw him in with dummy’s second heart — hence, the need to win trick one.

Ding-Hwa Hsieh: I am afraid that the young and pretty West player is apt to be endplayed…

Charles Blair: I don’t want a club switch, or to lose to a singleton D J.

Francois Dellacherie: The plan is to endplay West in the majors after making four tricks in diamonds. Ducking a heart is fatal if West is 5=5=1=2 with a club honor; I need to throw West in with a heart from dummy because of communication problems. I play a diamond first in case West has a bare D J (a spade doesn’t work in this case); run the D 10 (if East ducks); D A; then a spade to the K-10 (West splits) and cash the remaining diamond. West has to keep all his hearts and S J-x to prevent establishment of the S 10; then I cash the C A and exit in hearts.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Then run the D 10 (better than Line A, which loses to the stiff D J). The lack of a preempt at this vulnerability makes it very likely that East is 0=2=5=6, which means that four rounds of diamonds will be too much for West.

Manuel Paulo: Consider this typical West hand: S Q-J-9-7-6 H K-J-x-x-x D x C K-x. I win the first trick to keep a heart in dummy for a future exit. As I intend to finesse diamonds, I lead first to the king (in case West has a singleton jack). Later on, West will be endplayed and must surrender a spade trick.

Marcus Chiloarnus: Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.

Frans Buijsen: If I duck the first heart, I am always down against S Q-J-9-x-x H K-J-9-8-x D x C K-x (or similar) in West. To make, I need to find the D J and later endplay West in spades. Line B gives the extra chance of a singleton D J in West (otherwise I’m finessing East, losing only to D J-x in West).

John Reardon: If West has S Q-J-x-x-x H K-J-9-8-x D x C x-x, he will be in trouble. I can cater for a singleton D J by leading the D 5 first, which improves on Line A. When I later lead a spade (after finessing East in diamonds), West must play an honor, so I win the S K and finish the diamonds. What can West throw on the diamonds? Two spades, and then give up.

Frances Hinden: I need the second heart in dummy as a potential exit after four rounds of diamonds to strip-squeeze West. Lucky I thought to put up the H 10 at trick one!

Rob Stevens: Strip-squeeze West. There is no reason to risk a stiff D J with West, and no real ambiguity — I will learn how many diamonds West has; and he isn’t going to have only one club, else East would surely have preempted.

Jing Liu: I must get four diamond tricks. If West is 5=5=1=2, ducking the first heart may be dangerous. When I win my last diamond, West will have trouble discarding.

Imre Csiszar: If the diamond finesse against East wins, after winning the D A, a spade lead forces an honor from West. When dummy’s fourth diamond is cashed, West must keep four hearts and two spades; then, after cashing the C A, he will be thrown in with a heart.

Rainer Herrmann: Run diamonds and strip-squeeze West. I may need dummy’s heart as a throw-in card should West relinquish clubs.

Sebastien Louveaux: Run four diamonds via a finesse (West likely has one diamond and two clubs, else East would have opened 3 C) using dummy’s spade as an entry, forcing West to discard a club. Cash the C A, then put West in with dummy’s last heart (which is why I must take the first heart). West’s lead marks him with H K-J-9-8-x.

Toby Kenney: I’ll finesse East for the D J, and West will be squeeze-endplayed — luckily, I still have a heart left in dummy to throw him in.

Nigel Guthrie: [Better than Line A] in case West has the D J singleton.

Bruce Neill: I need to keep a heart in dummy as an exit card after three rounds of diamonds (finessing East), a spade to the king (forcing West to split) and a fourth diamond squeezing West. If West throws a heart, I win the S A and lead a spade to the 10; else I cash the C A and exit in hearts to endplay him.

Ognian Smilianov: Next I will finesse East for the D J and win the D A; a spade to dummy forces West’s honor; then a diamond. If West pitches a heart, I play for three spade tricks. If he keeps all his hearts and a spade stopper, I cash the C A and exit with a heart, endplaying West in spades. …

Jouko Paganus: Then finesse East and win the D A; lead to the S K (West must split) and cash the fourth diamond. If West comes down to two spades, four hearts and a club, take the C A and play a heart — which I could not have done if I ducked first trick.

Anthony Golding: Playing West for 5=5=1=2, I’ll play D K, D 10, D A (West pitching two spades); spade to jack and king, then the D Q. If West pitches a heart, set up a spade; if a spade, they run; if a club, cash the C A and endplay him with a heart…

Julian Pottage: I will need a three-suit strip-squeeze on West and can afford to cater for a bare D J.

Steve White: I need the S K as a potential entry to the fourth diamond; and a heart in dummy to throw West in for a spade lead…

N. Scott Cardell: … From the bidding and play, West should have all five missing spades and five hearts headed by K-J-9-8. (If West were, say, 5=6=1=1, East would be 0=1=5=7 and probably not have passed in first seat at favorable.) Is so, the contract is cold if I can pick up diamonds. [Play sequence described].

Alon Amsel: I cannot afford a club switch at trick two if West holds C Q-x or K-x.* … I have no problem throwing West in anyway, since East cannot beat the H 7.

*Alon brings out the subtle point that ducking the first heart is not only fatal with a heart continuation but also with a low club shift (albeit unlikely) when West has honor-doubleton. If you win the C A, West can escape the endplay; and if you hold up, he can revert to hearts. -RP

Patrice Piganeau: I must win the first heart to be able to endplay West in hearts and force him to underlead his remaining spade honor. I must lead the D 5 at trick two in case West holds a stiff jack (Line A would not work in that case).

Jordi Sabate: I win the D K; let the D 10 run; D A, and lead a spade to the 10. If West plays an honor, I win and lead the D Q. Depending on West’s discards, and playing him for [at least] 4-5 in the majors, I will either [establish a spade] or endplay him. …

Daniel Bertrand: Since East did not open 3 C, West should have at least two clubs and therefore one diamond or none. After winning the D K, I run the 10… [Play sequence described]. The Rule of 11 [marks East with only one heart above the eight], which is why the H 10 was played at trick one.

Norm Gordon: Playing diamonds will strip-squeeze West, and I am going to risk that West does not have D J-x. …

Tim DeLaney: Shades of Geza Ottlick! On the fourth diamond, West is squeezed out of a worthless club, enabling me to cash the C A and [endplay him]. This is better than Line A because it caters to a stiff D J in West.

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: … I will not play West for fewer than two clubs, as East would probably open 3 C; so I will finesse diamonds at trick three. West will be strip-squeezed… and I will always be able to get my ninth trick in a major.

Richard Higgins: Taking the first heart leaves a potential heart throw-in to force West to give a spade trick (after stripping his minors) — plus I don’t want a club shift.

George Klemic: Evidence is strong that West is 5=5=1=2; if only one club, East would certainly have a 3 C call at favorable (which would probably have us declaring 4 S). … After D K, D 10 (ducked) and D A, a spade lead [forcing West to split] is necessary to reach the fourth diamond. [Endplay described].

Analyses 7X72 MainChallengeScoresTop Distribution Most Foul

Problem 5

E-W Vul
S K 6 4 3 2
H 9 4
D 8 7 3
C 8 5 4

All Pass

2 D
3 H1

2 C
2 NT
4 S
Lead: H JTableEast plays H 2

4 S South
S A Q 10
H A 6 5 3
C A Q 7 3
1. Jacoby transfer

You duck, and West leads the H 10 (East plays H 7) to your ace.
On the S A, East on your right pitches the H 8.

Next PlayAwardVotesPercent
D. Lead the S 10108210
F. Win D A-K; lead H 5851662
C. Win S Q; D A-K; lead H 5711514
E. Lead the H 569111
B. Win S Q; lead H 54172
A. Win S Q; lead S 101182

Just when you thought you had an easy one, out pops a Hawaiian trump break — that’s 5-0 for those unaware of the old TV series. Ouch. Your only trump spot is the 10, which is in the wrong hand to do any good. Obviously, to have any chance you need the club finesse, which seems a big favorite considering East’s repeated plays of lowest hearts. It also looks like you must ruff a diamond, so the instinctive play is to cash D A-K and lead a heart (Line F). Consider a likely layout:

IMPsS K 6 4 3 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
E-W VulH 9 41 WH J423
D 8 7 32 WH 1097A
C 8 5 43 SS A52H 8
S J 9 8 7 5TableS4 SD A?234
H J 10H K Q 8 7 25 SD K675
D Q 10 6 2D J 9 5 46 SH 5C 6S 3Q
C J 6C K 10 9 27 NC 42QJ
S A Q 108 SH 6S 7!C 5K
H A 6 5 3continued below…
4 S SouthC A Q 7 3

Alas. As soon as you lead a heart, West will pitch a club; then you won’t be able to cash two clubs. Suppose you next take the club finesse and lead another heart; West ruffs, and you pitch a club from dummy to reach this ending with West on lead:

S win 3S K 6 4TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H9 WS 8!4D 910
D 8Declarer fails
C 8
S J 9 8TableS
D Q 10D J 9
CC K 10 9
S Q 10
West leadsC A 7 3

If West carelessly leads a diamond, you have an easy path: Ruff, cash the S Q, and West only gets his natural trump trick. But West should exit with a trump. Despite winning the S 10 cheaply, you must still lose two tricks; West will get a club ruff and the D Q (or another trump). So close! Yet so far.

“Never do anything yourself that others can do for you.”

Obtaining a diamond ruff in hand may seem necessary, but it’s a mirage. You have eight tricks, assuming the necessary club finesse, and can elope with two more in the form of dummy’s low trumps. While it may seem counterintuitive, you must cross to dummy immediately in spades (Line D) to finesse the C Q and cash the C A before West is able to pitch one. The position will be:

S win 5S 6 4 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H7 SH 5!D 2S 3Q
D 8 7 38 ND 35A6
C 89 SH 6S 7C 8K
S 9 8 7TableS10 WS 94D 9Q
HH K Q11 SC 3?
D Q 10 6 2D J 9 5Declarer succeeds
CC K 10
H 6 5
South leadsC 7 3

Now lead a heart, and West is a sitting duck — or more appropriately I should say, most fowl. If West ruffs, your first elopement prize is to pitch dummy’s club; then subsequent heart and club leads allow dummy to make two low ruffs, else rid the losing diamond. If West pitches, ruff and return to the D A; then West is obliged to ruff the next heart (else you have 10 tricks) so the club goes away, and your elopement continues. Hey! This is cool.

The recommended technique is not foolproof. When West pitches a diamond at Trick 7, you must decide whether he began with 4-2 or 3-3 in the minors. In the latter case you must next cash both diamonds (which fails in the diagrammed position) before leading your last heart. Nonetheless, only Line D allows you to cater to either distribution.

Lines C, E and F are next best and effectively the same; at least I could not come up with a plausible layout where one gains over another. My policy is to break all ties, so they are ranked by the voting. Line B is worse, failing when West is 5=2=2=4, and Line A (drawing trumps) is worst, failing against any distribution.

Comments for D. Lead the S 10

Dean Pokorny: I need the club finesse, so I should cross right away to the S K; finesse the C Q; cash the C A, then play hearts. When West ruffs high, I throw away the losing club; then I will make the 10th trick en passant with a small trump.

Lajos Linczmayer: East’s discard suggests 0=5=4=4 shape. The club finesse and cashing the C A is urgent, otherwise West will discard a club on the next heart. The missing two tricks will come from elopement. This play also works if clubs are 3-3 [though I may have to guess which to play for].

Zahary Zahariev: … I can’t win if the club finesse loses, so West must be something like S J-9-8-7-5 H J-10 D Q-10-x-x C J-x. I have two clubs, two diamonds and one heart; so I need two ruffs in dummy for five trump tricks. So I cross to the S K; finesse the C Q; cash the C A, and lead a heart.

Gareth Birdsall: If West has only two clubs, I must play the S 10 [to reach dummy for the club finesse]; otherwise West will defeat me by discarding a club on the H 5. On the other hand, if West has three or four clubs, Line F will succeed, and Line D [may] fail when West discards diamonds on hearts. … I’ll go with my reading of the H 8 discard…

Ding-Hwa Hsieh: I don’t know what to do at trick nine. …

Always beware trick nine. With Agatha Christie around it could be strychnine.

Charles Blair: I don’t want West discarding from C x-x.

Francois Dellacherie: This is difficult. I have to hope West is 5=2=3=3 or 5=2=4=2; and in the latter case, playing the S 10 is necessary because I need to cash two clubs before West can discard on a heart. [Next comes] a heart, and West discards a diamond (best) so I ruff; then a diamond to ace. Now I have a problem: If West had 5=2=4=2, I must play a heart again; if 5=2=3=3, I must cash the D K. Actually, 5=2=4=2 is 5-to-4 more likely…when one considers that East has the C K. …

Leif-Erik Stabell: I have to cash two club tricks before West has a chance to discard one. The C K must be right; and if West is 5=2=4=2, no other line will work.

Manuel Paulo: Consider this likely West hand: S J-9-8-7-5 H J-10 D Q-x-x-x C J-x. I lead the S 10 and go up with the king — even if West doesn’t cover* with J-9-8-7! — to finesse the C Q.

*Manuel brings out a clever defensive gambit that didn’t occur to me. If West is brilliant or stupid enough (pick one) to duck the S 10, you will fail if you try to take advantage by winning the trick cheaply. What was that story about Greeks bearing gifts? -RP

Marcus Chiloarnus: A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their hand.

Frans Buijsen: I’m already losing a heart and two spades, so I need the club finesse. I will then ruff hearts (and maybe a club) en passant in dummy — making two diamonds, two clubs, one heart, three trumps and two ruffs in total. I must keep the S Q to control trumps.

John Reardon: I seem to need the club finesse, so I cross to the S K and take it. If West has something like S J-9-x-x-x H J-10 D Q-x-x-x C x-x, I must win two clubs before he can pitch one.

Frances Hinden: Followed by the club finesse and C A before I play a heart.

Rob Stevens: I will play for a kind of double coup en passant; but I must take the club finesse early, lest West with 5=2=4=2 ditch a club on the heart. At first, I thought I could even make the hand with the C K offside (same pattern) with an endplay; however, West can always defeat me. …

John Lusky: Since I plan to play East for the C K, it seems best to take the line that works when he has four clubs (or three clubs if I can read the position) rather than Line F, which works only when East has two or three clubs. So I will take an early club finesse, cash my second club, then play a heart.

Nigel Guthrie: I seem to need the club finesse.

Bruce Neill: If West is 5=2=4=2 without the C K, I need to cross to dummy immediately for the club finesse and cash both clubs before West can throw a club on the third heart. Line F requires East to have 0=5=5=3 or 0=5=6=2 shape with C K. …

Sylvain Brethes: This is obligatory if West has S J-9-8-7-5 H J-10 D Q-10-x-x C J-x, and it can’t hurt in some other distributions. I don’t see any way to make this with C K offside. You give us bad distribution, so it’s hard enough like that! :)

Julian Pottage: It is necessary to finesse the club early for an elopement to work if West is 5=2=4=2.

Jordi Sabate: After winning the S K, I finesse in clubs, cash the C A, and lead a heart. I [can] make the contract if West’s distribution is either 5=2=4=2 or 5=2=3=3, whether he ruffs the heart or not.

Paul Inbona: I must overtake the S 10 with the king to take the club finesse. Thereafter, play the C A and revert to hearts, discarding the last club in dummy [if West ruffs]. This allows me to score two clubs ruffs for 10 tricks. …

Gabriel Nita-Saguna: I have to cash two clubs before ruffing a heart, otherwise West may get rid of a club from his potential doubleton. I don’t see a line covering both West distributions of 5=2=4=2 and 5=2=2=4; so it seems more reasonable to play for clubs 2-4 and diamonds 4-4, than clubs 4-2 and diamonds 2-6.

Yi Zhong: Win the S K, hook the club [and cash the C A], then play a heart. If West ruffs, pitch the club loser; else ruff, play a diamond back, and another heart. …

Paulino Correa: I’ll need the C K in East and two ruffs in dummy to make the contract. Win the S K; club finesse; C A; and lead a heart. If West ruffs, dummy discards the last club; then a spade to my queen; club ruff; D A-K, and another club ensures 10 tricks.

Len Vishnevsky: What’s with the H 2 at trick one? What shift could East want? I guess he doesn’t have to tell me anything, so I’ll ignore it; but I’m suspicious. Playing S Q-10 seems like giving up; the H 5 (whether or not I cash the S Q) lets West pitch from a doubleton minor (or a doubleton club if I cash D A-K first) before I cash my tricks. The S 10 [to dummy] lets me take the club hook, [cash the C A], then elope with my trump midgets — but I may have to guess West’s [distribution].

Analyses 7X72 MainChallengeScoresTop Distribution Most Foul

Problem 6

Both Vul
S 5 3
D A Q 9
C A K 7 6 4 3

1 C
5 NT1
All Pass
5 H
5 S
6 S
Lead: C QTableEast pitches H Q

6 S× South
S A K Q J 8 7
H 6 4 2
D 8 5
C 5 2
1. pick a slam

Trick 1 is an eye-opener! You next lead the S 3, and East predictably pitches a heart.

C. Win S A; lead H 21023428
A. Win S A-K-Q-J; lead S 87668
B. Win S A-K-Q-J; lead H 258110
E. Win S A; C A; ruff a club420524
F. Duck first spade to West314818
D. Win S A; finesse D Q210513

After overcoming the shock of the first trick, a spade from dummy confirms East’s double void and almost certain 8-5 shape in the red suits. With a definite trump loser, you must assume West has the D K to have any chance, and his double makes this likely.*

*It is doubtful that West would double 6 S with nothing in diamonds because it might chase you into 6 NT, with diamonds as a potential trick source. The possibility of a successful runout is greatly diminished if West has strength in both minors.

Assuming the diamond finesse works, 11 tricks are cold; but where is the 12th? The only realistic chance is a squeeze, and the layout is almost an open book. Except for variations in placing the lower diamond honors, the deal must be:

IMPsS 5 3TrickLead2nd3rd4th
Both VulH A K1 WC QKH Q2
D A Q 92 NS 3H 3A!2
C A K 7 6 4 33 SS K?45H 5
S 10 9 6 4 2TableS4 SS Q6C 3H 7
HH Q J 10 9 8 7 5 35 SS J9C 4H 8
D K 10 2D J 7 6 4 36 SS 710C 6D 3
C Q J 10 9 8Ccontinued below…
S A K Q J 8 7
H 6 4 2
D 8 5
6 S× SouthC 5 2

Your threats lay perfectly for a double squeeze: West protects clubs, East protects hearts, and both protect diamonds. True enough, but bringing it home is another story. Suppose you lead five rounds of spades (Line A), giving West his trump trick. This leaves the following position with West on lead:

S win allSTrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A K7 WC JAD 45
D A Q 9Declarer fails
C A 7
HH J 10 9
D K 10 2D J 7 6 4
C J 10 9 8C
S 7
H 6 4 2
D 8 5
West leadsC 5

West can lead any card in his hand, and you’re down. The only entry to your hand is a club ruff, which kills the squeeze.

What if you duck the first trump (Line F)? Still no good; in fact West still can return anything. If you run all your trumps, you are blocked in hearts; and if you cash H A-K after the fifth trump, you can only return to hand by ruffing with your last trump.* Frustrating.

*A basic principle of all double squeezes is that the final squeeze card must be led, and the hand opposite must have no card remaining in that suit. A double squeeze cannot be executed on a trick won by ruffing.

“One doesn’t recognize in one’s life the really important moments — until it’s too late.”

The consensus indeed recognized the “important moment” and found the winning technique. Since both top hearts must be won prior to any squeeze, you should cash them before it is too late. A ruff by West is harmless, so win the S A and lead the H 2 (Line C). Suppose West ruffs and returns a trump (nothing matters). The difference is that after drawing trumps you will have two trumps left in this position:

S win allSTrickLead2nd3rd4th
H A7 SD 52Q4
D A Q 98 NH A94C 8
C A 7 69 NC AH 1059
STableS10 NC 6D 6S 710
HH 10 9 811 SS 8!D 10C 7?
D K 10 2D J 7 6 4East is squeezed
C J 10 9 8C
S 8 7
H 6 4
D 8 5
South leadsC 5

Next finesse the D Q (optionally you could save this for later); win the H A, C A and ruff a club. Leading your last trump then effects a simultaneous double squeeze.

What if West refuses to ruff either top heart? No problem. Win the C A, ruff a club, and ruff your losing heart in dummy. West can score his natural trump trick whenever he wants, but with the D K onside you have 12 tricks.

Of the also-rans, there is no close second. Line B is the only other play with a chance to succeed, but it requires the remote parlay of West having D K-J-10. I decided to give second place to Line A, because it’s the only sequence (Line C included) that produces 11 tricks when the D K is offside.* If you’re a pessimist and assume the contract is unmakable, the difference between minus 200 and 500 is significant; at least it would gain in the long run versus playing for the miracle D K-J-10 in West.

*When West shifts to a diamond (crucial) to break up the endplay, duck the trick to East; then East will later be squeezed in the red suits.

Fourth place goes to Line E, allowing 11 tricks when West has D J-10-x or the king. Lines D and F are worst and identical (ranked by the voting), always needing the D K onside for 11 tricks.

Final credits on this problem must go to North for respecting your choice to play 6 S. I must admit I would fear a devastating spade stack and pull to 6 NT, which fails. The double squeeze won’t function because you must cash the club and heart tops before the last spade; and you can’t do this without establishing tricks for West. Note that when you duck a spade, West will return a spade if his clubs aren’t good.

Comments for C. Win S A; lead H 2

Dean Pokorny: The right way to obtain a simultaneous double squeeze position is to play a heart immediately, preserving my communication.

Lajos Linczmayer: I hope West has S 10-9-6-4-2 HD K-x-x C Q-J-10-9-8.

Neelotpal Sahai: Since there is a marked spade loser, the D K must be favorably placed. I plan to take six spades, one heart, two diamonds and two clubs — and a 12th trick from a double squeeze with diamonds as the pivot suit.

Zahary Zahariev: Once again, the finesse (this time in diamonds) must work. I have a potential double squeeze, but dummy may be squeezed early (Lines A, B and E). Line D is worst because when West gains the lead, he will return a diamond to remove dummy’s entry. …

Gareth Birdsall: I will eventually effect a double squeeze with diamonds as the dual threat suit; but first I must unblock the H A-K in dummy, while taking care not to ruff away my club menace.

Francois Dellacherie: … I need the D K in West. If West ruffs [either top heart], I make on…a double squeeze. If he doesn’t ruff, I have [several] ways to make depending on what he discards — ruffing a third heart in dummy being one solution.

Leif-Erik Stabell: Setting up a double squeeze without ending up too short in trumps. …

Manuel Paulo: Consider East’s real two-suiter: SH Q-J-10-9-8-7-5-3 D J-x-x-x-x C —. If West takes his trump trick by ruffing a heart, I draw trumps and win the remainder with the diamond finesse and a double squeeze; else I manage to ruff a heart in dummy or set up the club suit, according to West’s discards.

Marcus Chiloarnus: Before God we are all equally wise — and equally foolish.

Frans Buijsen: I need the diamond finesse to work, and then I can play for a double squeeze by letting West make his trump right away. For the squeeze, I come down to D A-Q-9 C 7 opposite S 7 H 6 D 8-5.

John Reardon: Assuming the diamond finesse, this is certain. West may ruff and lead a diamond (a club exit is no better) but I finesse the D Q and draw trumps; cash any remaining heart and club winner, then return to South with a club ruff to play a double squeeze. If West declines to ruff the hearts and throws a diamond, a simple red-suit squeeze operates on East; or if he throws only clubs, I can [establish clubs or just ruff a heart].

Frances Hinden: I’m so short of entries to hand that I need to unblock hearts early. Assuming the D K is right, it’s going to be another double squeeze.

Rob Stevens: Assuming the diamond finesse, this is a sure-trick problem. I need to make sure West is unable to remove my diamond [entry], and that I do not ruff away my club threat to get back to hand. If West ruffs this heart or the next — or doesn’t ruff at all — the double squeeze rolls in.*

*Rob brings out the point that, if West discards twice, you can still follow the double-squeeze line even though it isn’t necessary (or would be a simple squeeze against East if West pitches a diamond). There’s nothing wrong with overkill, especially this month. -RP

Jing Liu: The D K must be in West. If West ruffs my H A or H K and returns a diamond, I finesse. After that, I will play S K-Q-J, H K (if West ruffed first heart), C A and ruff a club. When I play my last trump, a double squeeze will work.

Imre Csiszar: If West ruffs this or the next heart, trumps can be drawn, and the timing will be right for a double squeeze — assuming the diamond finesse, which is necessary for the slam to be makable. Otherwise, the third heart can be ruffed.

Rainer Herrmann: Hearts must be cashed first for a squeeze to operate. Otherwise, dummy will be squeezed first.

Sebastien Louveaux: I must hope the D K is onside (otherwise no chance), but I need also a double squeeze around diamonds. I cannot afford to run trumps too early (dummy would be squeezed) so I play a heart. If West ruffs, I draw trumps (discarding two clubs from dummy), cash the other heart, and come back to hand with a club ruff; then the last trump effects the squeeze. Refusing to ruff will not help West, as he is then forced to commit in the minors early.

Venkatesh Ramaratnam: West needs to hold the D K after the vile spade break. … If West ruffs the heart and returns a club, win in dummy; cash three more spades; finesse diamonds; [win any remaining top heart] and ruff a club… The last spade then squeezes West in the minors, and East in the red suits. If West refuses to ruff hearts, ruff a club back to hand and play the losing heart.

Carolyn Ahlert: Triple squeeze West first — between ruffing and pitching either minor. [If West ruffs], a double squeeze follows against both opponents.

Toby Kenney: When attempting to play a squeeze as declarer, always squeeze opponents before dummy. :)

John Lusky: I need the D K onside, and I must be careful not to squeeze dummy by playing too many spades right away. If I keep a spade in dummy and play hearts, I can handle any continuation. If West ruffs, I can make my 12th trick on a double squeeze. If he discards one or more diamonds, I can…squeeze East in the red suits. If he discards only clubs, I can set up a long club.

Laurentiu Dimcica: East is marked with an 8-5 red two-suiter (with 7-6 he would surely bid 4 NT); so West has 5=0=3=5. Having a sure trump loser, I need the diamond finesse. Basically, I am trying to make West ruff a heart so I can reach a double-squeeze position… [Variations described].

Weidong Yang: … I need the right sequence to bring pressure on West first. I am not worried about West ruffing, and the early heart lead squeezes West in an unusual way. Even one more round of trumps is fatal because it breaks the way back to hand…

Bruce Neill: I can’t make if East has the D K; else I have a double squeeze but have to beware of squeezing dummy while drawing trumps. So I [let] West ruff a heart with his natural trump trick, then I only need four rounds to draw trumps, discarding two clubs from North.

Ognian Smilianov: The diamond finesse must work. If West ruffs, I win any return; draw trumps; high heart from dummy; ruff a club, then the last trump [squeezes both defenders]. … This is better than Line B because, if West refuses to ruff either heart, I can ruff the third heart in dummy.

Sylvain Brethes: Are you kidding me? OK, I suppose anything can happen with Miss Marple on the case. I will try for a double squeeze. …

Anthony Golding: I need the D K right. If West ruffs the H A or H K and leads a diamond, I play the queen; draw trumps; cash the remaining heart and C A; ruff a club, and play the last trump for a double squeeze. If West doesn’t ruff [either heart], I cash the C K, ruff a club and play the third heart. If I duck the first trump, I end up in the wrong hand to execute the squeeze.

Julian Pottage: Assuming the diamond finesse works, I still need a double squeeze; so unblock hearts.

Steve White: If West ruffs with his natural trump trick, I’ll be able to pull trumps; cash the other heart; ruff a club; then execute a double squeeze, assuming the diamond finesse is working. If West ruffs neither heart, cash the C A and duck a trump to West — again a double squeeze, except that West was squeezed on the second heart, not at the end.

Dale Freeman: I assume West has the D K. If West ruffs the H A or H K, there will be a double squeeze — no one being able to protect diamonds. Otherwise, I will ruff the third heart or squeeze East in hearts and diamonds.

N. Scott Cardell: … With clubs and trumps stacked, I need the diamond finesse to get up to 11 tricks; and the 12th can come from a squeeze — almost surely a double squeeze with diamonds as the common suit. … For the squeeze to function, my last trump must be the squeeze card; and to avoid squeezing dummy before West, I must cash dummy’s rounded-suit winners before the squeeze card. The only way to achieve this is to leave a low trump on the board and lead hearts. [Play sequence described]. If West refuses to ruff a heart, I can cash the C A, ruff a club and lead my last heart. …

Alon Amsel: The D K had better be onside. I need to let West ruff to set up a double squeeze, else dummy will be squeezed before him.

Patrice Piganeau: To keep spade communication after West has ruffed the heart trick. Assuming West has the D K, a double squeeze will bring me home.

Teymur Tahseen: I have to retain the spade in dummy for communication for the double squeeze.

Steve Barcus: The trick is to play for a double squeeze, and I need the last trump winner to be led from the South hand. Apparently, a diamond lead from West on the go, and a diamond continuation, wrecks the communication.

I once knew a guy who would find that lead. Unfortunately, he’s now on Death Row.

Jordi Sabate: East is 0=8=5=0, and I need West to have the D K. I want to reach a double-squeeze ending with South on lead with S 7 H 6 D 8 opposite D A-9 C 7, and Line C is the only one that can succeed. [Play variations described].

Douglas Dunn: Almost double-dummy, assuming West has the D K. If West ruffs, win any return; pull trumps (throwing two clubs); take the other heart and top club, ruff a club back to hand; then play the last trump for the killing double squeeze. If West refuses to ruff the first and second heart, a heart can be ruffed in dummy.

Daniel de Lind van Wijngaarden: West needs to have the D K. If West ruffs and returns a club, I take the C A and draw trumps; take the diamond finesse; cash the H K; ruff a club; then the last trump squeezes both opponents. If West refuses to ruff both hearts, he has to discard clubs (otherwise East can be simple squeezed); but now clubs can be developed with one ruff.

Tim DeLaney: It will not hurt if West ruffs a heart with his natural trump trick. I win any return; pull trumps; cash all the heart and club winners; ruff a club, then effect a double squeeze with diamonds as the common suit. I must find the D K onside.

David Johnson: Whether West ruffs or not, I’ll have the timing …to effect a double squeeze using my small heart, dummy’s small club and dummy’s diamonds (the D K has to be onside for any hope).

Noer Imanzal Kartamadjana: … The 12th trick must come from a squeeze or ruffing a heart in dummy. … If West ruffs the first or second heart and exits with a club or spade, draw trumps; heart to king; ruff a club; then play the last trump to squeeze West in clubs and diamonds, and East in hearts and diamonds.

Gordon Parnes: …Looks like a double squeeze with the D K onside, but I must get hearts out of the way to keep communication alive.

Paulino Correa: No secret with the distribution, and I definitely need the D K in West. West may ruff the first or second heart, or refuse to ruff both; [either way] I’ll win with a double squeeze (clubs-diamonds on West, hearts-diamonds on East). If West refuses to ruff twice, he is squeezed on the second heart.

Len Vishnevsky: With the diamond hook, I can take two diamonds, two clubs, two hearts and five spades… then I need a double squeeze (West in clubs, East in hearts, both in diamonds). Since I need to ruff a club back to my hand at some point, I can’t draw trumps first or I’ll squeeze dummy. …

Carlos Dabezies: Trying to create a double squeeze with diamonds the common threat, and using the third heart.

Pat Rich: So East is 0-8-5-0 and West is 5=0=3=5; and the diamond finesse must work, or this is doomed. … The goal is to reach an ending of D A-9 C 7 opposite S 7 H 6 D 8, then the spade lead [effects a double squeeze]. …

Pieter Geerkens: The heart at trick three triple-squeezes West out of his third diamond, or he must shorten clubs or trumps. … If West ruffs, the count is rectified and entries exist for a double squeeze. …

Willem Mevius: The D K has to be right… I can’t play out trumps, as I will have to discard too many times from dummy; neither can I duck a spade, as I will have to draw trumps before I cash H A-K. I must play H A-K first, which squeezes West in three suits. [Play described].

I just spoke with a topology professor, who described your play as a Mevius Strip.

Charles Leong: East is marked with 0=8=5=0, and West with 5=0=3=5, clearly a double-squeeze position around diamonds. I need to draw trumps, rectify the count, unblock hearts, and find the diamond finesse right. … I believe Hugh Kelsey in “Adventures of Card Play” called this a knockout squeeze. West can discard a club with no difficulty, but he is squeezed on the next heart: A diamond discard allows me to lose a trump and squeeze East in the red suits; a club discard allows me to ruff the clubs good; therefore he must ruff, which leads to a prosaic double squeeze.

Sandy Barnes: I need a squeeze, and…it will be a double squeeze with diamonds the common suit. It does not help West to ruff a heart with his natural trump trick; and he cannot afford to pitch a club, or I will set up that suit with two ruffs.

Final Notes

I hope you enjoyed the contest, as well as my theme and quotes from Agatha Christie, whose works are the third most widely read in the world — surpassed only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Thanks to all who participated, and especially those who offered kind remarks about my web site.

Comments are selected from those above average (top 372 in this edition) and on each problem only those supporting the correct solution or close seconds. While this might be considered biased, I feel it’s the best way to ensure solid content and avoid potential embarrassment by publishing comments that are flawed. On this basis, I included over 60 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, assisted by comments received, has determined the best solutions in theory, but oversights are possible. Feedback is always welcome.

“Five people in one room — four of them absorbed in a game of bridge
and the fifth sitting quietly with a steel dagger in his heart…”

Well, I’d better move on before I get skewered by a knitting needle. Back, Jane, back!
I’ll leave you with these parting words from our detective bureau:

Jack Rhatigan: These problems all seem very difficult. Even Miss Marple would go down!

Bob Boudreau: Agatha would be proud of your devious schemes with so many twists and turns to follow. Some of the hands were a real mystery to me for a long time — maybe even longer than I thought.

Frances Hinden: Three double squeezes; two strip squeezes. One day the answer will be: Draw trumps; set up side suit!

Bill Powell: And I thought I got bad breaks!

Analyses 7X72 MainChallengeScoresTop Distribution Most Foul

Acknowledgments to Agatha Christie (1890-1976) and her Miss Marple character
Photos are Margaret Rutherford in Murder Most Foul (1964)
© 2004 Richard Pavlicek