Puzzle 8F11   Main

Worthless Venture

by Richard Pavlicek

How bad is bad? We all pick up bad hands from time to time, but there’s usually some hope of winning a trick. Even a Yarborough might be able to ruff something. Maybe so, but your hopes would dim quickly if you picked up the following collection, indeed the worst hand in bridge. Out of necessity I must give you a five-spot:

4-3-2 4-3-2 4-3-2 5-4-3-2

Now that is worthless. Or is it? Obviously, you could never win a trick in notrump, but it must be possible in a suit contract. For instance, with clubs trump that suit may split 3-3-3 around the table, so your fourth club can win a trick. In theory, it might be possible to win more than one trick, which brings me to the puzzle:

What is the most tricks the above hand could win in any contract?

Assume South holds the hand as declarer, though it doesn’t matter. This puzzle is not about tricks won by North-South but only by South. Tricks won by North do not count. Think about it and venture a guess.

 This is a fantasy puzzle. The opponents will not try to defeat you as usual.You dictate the play of all four hands, however absurd, to achieve the goal.You must obey the rules of bridge; i.e., no revokes, leads out of turn, etc.

Solution

Based on the logic that one trick is always possible if your longest suit is trumps, most people would guess two, or maybe three tricks. Would you believe more? Four tricks? Five? You’re getting warm! Believe it or not, a “worthless” hand can win six tricks.

One way to achieve the goal is for West, North and East to waste their trumps early on a crossruff binge:

 1. win 6in South hand A J 10 9 8 7 6 5 6 5 — 8 7 6 Trick1 W2 N3 W4 N5 W6 N7 W8 N9 S10 S11 S12 S13 S Lead Q J 5 10 6 5 9 9 5 4 3 4 3 2ndA 9 6 10 7 J 8 7 Q K A 7 8 3rdK3104J 4Q 2 5 6 6 7 8 4th2 Q2 K3 A 2 J 8 9 10 K A WonN1W1N2W2N3W3N4S1S2S3S4S5S6 Q A K Q J 9 8 7 6 5 A K Q K 10 9 8 7 A K Q J 10 J 10 9 West leads 4 3 2 4 3 2 4 3 2 5 4 3 2

Note how West overruffs his partner at Tricks 2, 4 and 6. Call it fantasy, or a moron’s delight, but anything goes if it’s legal. When South ruffs in at Trick 8, he leads his remaining trumps to obtain heart discards, then wins the rest with the 4-3 high.

The next example shows a different route to six tricks:

 2. win 6in South hand K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 — — J 8 7 6 Trick1 W2 E3 N4 N5 N6 S7 N8 S9 N10 S11 S12 S13 S Lead A 10 K Q J 2 10 3 9 4 3 2 4 2nd52 5 6 75 86 9 7 8 9 Q 3rd K934 3 6 4 7 5 6 7 8 8 4th2J 10 J Q10 KJ A Q K A A WonE1N1N2N3S1N4S2N5S3S4S5S6E2 A A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 Q 9 — 9 8 7 6 5 A K Q J 10 A K 10 West leads 4 3 2 4 3 2 4 3 2 5 4 3 2

South is donated ruffs at Tricks 5, 7 and 9, while East-West contrive to pitch all their hearts. Then South wins three more tricks with 4-3-2 as everyone refuses to ruff. Now, if I could only get my opponents to defend like that in real life!

 Puzzle 8F11   Main Top   Worthless Venture

Charles Brenner, California, submitted the next layout.

 3. win 6in South hand — 9 8 7 6 5 9 8 7 6 5 8 7 6 Trick1 W2 E3 W4 W5 W6 S7 W8 S9 W10 S11 S12 S13 S Lead A J K Q J 2 10 3 9 4 3 2 4 2nd 62 5 6 7 K 8 A 9 5 6 7 8 3rd 9Q 10 J Q5 K6 A 7 8 9 8 4th2734 310 4J 5 Q K A 10 WonE1W1W2W3S1W4S2W5S3S4S5S6E2 A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 — — A K Q — A K Q J 10 A K Q J 10 J 10 9 West leads 4 3 2 4 3 2 4 3 2 5 4 3 2

While completely different from Example 2, South succeeds by the same theme, ruffing three times and winning three hearts.

Nate Sheetz submitted an identically shaped deal with North and East switched:

 4. win 6in South hand — A K Q J 10 A K Q J 10 J 10 9 Trick1 W2 N3 W4 N5 W6 N7 W8 W9 S10 S11 S12 S13 S Lead A A K K Q Q J 10 5 4 3 4 3 2nd 95 106 J7 10 J 5 6 7 8 9 3rd 62 73 84 5 6 Q K A 10 J 4th2 Q3 K4 A 2 2 7 8 9 8 9 WonN1W1N2W2N3W3W4S1S2S3S4S5S6 A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 — — A K Q — 9 8 7 6 5 9 8 7 6 5 8 7 6 West leads 4 3 2 4 3 2 4 3 2 5 4 3 2

The play sequence shown is similar to my Example 1, as South wins the last six tricks.

Curiously, the high-card locations in Examples 3 and 4 are irrelevant, as long as West can win a club trick if clubs are led. This means the lines of play are interchangeable; either play works on either layout.

If you had any doubts about this being a fantasy puzzle, imagine sitting West on the last two examples and defending a club contract. Enough said. In fact, too much has been said already, as my title should have predicted.

Thanks to Witold Zarowski, Poland, for the idea for this puzzle.

 Puzzle 8F11   Main Top   Worthless Venture