Main     Puzzle 8F11 by Richard Pavlicek    

Worthless Venture

How bad is bad? We all pick up worthless 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. Out of necessity I will give you a five-spot:

Table
S 4 3 2
H 4 3 2
D 4 3 2
C 5 4 3 2

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

What is the most tricks South could win in any contract?

Assume South is declarer, though it doesn’t matter for the solution. Note that tricks won by North do not count. Think about it and venture a guess.

For this fantasy puzzle the opponents are not trying to defeat you as usual. Instead you can dictate the play of all four hands however you please, no matter how absurd, to achieve your goal. All that’s required is to follow the rules of bridge; i.e., no revokes or leads out of turn, etc.

TopMain

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, the “worthless” South hand could win six tricks. Some examples follow.

1. Clubs win 6 in South hand

The essence of this deal is for West, North and East to waste their trumps early on a crossruff binge, West overruffing his partner three times. When South eventually ruffs in and leads trumps, the remaining hearts can be pitched to leave the South hand high. South wins the last six tricks.

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

Trick
1. W
2. N
3. W
4. N
5. W
6. N
7. W
8. N
9. S
10. S
11. S
Lead
S Q
S J
D 5
S 10
D 6
S 5
D 9
S 9
C 5
C 4
C 3
2nd
A
C 9
C 6
C 10
C 7
C J
C 8
H 7
H Q
H K
H A
3rd
K
3
10
4
J
D 4
Q
C 2
H 5
H 6
S 6
4th
2
C Q
2
C K
3
C A
H 2
H J
H 8
H 9
H 10
Win the rest

2. Clubs win 6 in South hand

On this layout South achieves the goal by ruffing three times, while East-West contrive to discard all their hearts. Then H 4-3-2 wins three more tricks, as everyone refuses to ruff.

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

Trick
1. W
2. E
3. N
4. N
5. N
6. S
7. N
8. S
9. N
10. S
11. S
12. S
Lead
S A
C 10
S K
S Q
S J
D 2
S 10
D 3
S 9
H 4
H 3
H 2
2nd
5
2
H 5
H 6
H 7
5
H 8
6
H 9
D 7
D 8
D 9
3rd
C K
9
3
4
C 3
C 6
C 4
C 7
C 5
S 6
S 7
S 8
4th
2
J
H 10
H J
H Q
10
H K
J
H A
D Q
D K
D A
Lose the last trick

3. Clubs win 6 in South hand

Charles Brenner (California) submitted the next layout. While completely different from my previous deal, South succeeds by the same theme, ruffing three times and winning three hearts.

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

Trick
1. W
2. E
3. W
4. W
5. W
6. S
7. W
8. S
9. W
10. S
11. S
12. S
Lead
S A
C J
S K
S Q
S J
D 2
S 10
D 3
S 9
H 4
H 3
H 2
2nd
C 6
2
H 5
H 6
H 7
C K
H 8
C A
H 9
S 5
S 6
S 7
3rd
C 9
Q
H 10
H J
H Q
5
H K
6
H A
D 7
D 8
D 9
4th
2
7
3
4
C 3
10
C 4
J
C 5
D Q
D K
D A
Lose the last trick

4. Clubs win 6 in South hand

Nate Sheetz submitted an identically shaped deal with North and East switched. The play sequence shown is similar to my Example 1, as South wins the last six tricks.

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

Trick
1. W
2. N
3. W
4. N
5. W
6. N
7. W
8. W
9. S
10. S
11. S
Lead
S A
D A
S K
D K
S Q
D Q
S J
S 10
C 5
C 4
C 3
2nd
C 9
5
C 10
6
C J
7
H 10
H J
S 5
S 6
S 7
3rd
C 6
2
C 7
3
C 8
4
H 5
H 6
H Q
H K
H A
4th
2
C Q
3
C K
4
C A
H 2
C 2
H 7
H 8
H 9
Win the rest

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 this puzzle idea.

TopMain

© 2010 Richard Pavlicek