Main   Puzzle 8F29 by Richard Pavlicek  

Game and Beer in Hand

Being an election year with incredibly weak candidates, it seems only fitting to offer a bridge puzzle about incredibly weak hands. The good news is that you can leave this page in less than four seconds. The bad news is that no matter who wins in November, we’ll be stuck for another four years. Sigh. At least bridge and politics blend well, as South would have to be a “Bid en” fool to declare no “Trump” on this deal:

3 NT South S 10 7 5 4
H 9 8 7 3
D J
C 8 7 6 4
Trick
1 W
2 W
3 W
4 W
5 W
Lead
S A
S K
S Q
S J
D 10
2nd
4
5
7
10
J
3rd
6
8
9
D A
Q
4th
2
3
H 2
C 2
K
Won
W
W
W
W
S
S A K Q J
H Q J 6 5
D 10
C K 10 5 3
Table S 9 8 6
H A K 10 4
D A Q
C A Q J 9
S 3 2
H 2
D K 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
C 2

Obviously East-West can win 13 tricks in any contract except diamonds, but this is Fantasy Land. With cooperation from East-West, it is possible for South to win nine tricks in notrump — and it can be done with flair, ending with the beer card. Game and beer in hand!

West cashes four spades, allowing East to dump the D A, while South pitches a heart and a club. West then exits with the D 10 (jack, queen, king) and South has the rest, carefully preserving the D 7 for last.

Easy game and thirst quencher, but the same could be achieved with a weaker hand, which brings me to the puzzle:

What is the weakest possible hand to win nine tricks in notrump and a beer?

Weakness is judged as the sum of South’s card ranks* so the above hand adds to 66. All N-S tricks must be won by South, and you can dictate the play of all four hands, however absurd. You must obey the rules of bridge; i.e., no revokes, leads out of turn, etc.

*Ace = 14, King = 13, Queen = 12, Jack = 11, etc.

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Jim Munday Wins

This puzzle contest ran from September 10 to Election Day (November 3) 2020. There were 150 entries from 88 persons (multiple entries were allowed from the same person, but only the latest one counted). Thanks to all who participated, and congratulations to the 45 listed below who found the optimal solution. Ranking is by date and time of submission.

Winner List
RankNameLocation
1Jim MundayMississippi
2Grant PeacockMaryland
3Andrew SpoonerAustralia
4Nick JacobNew Zealand
5Audrey KuehEngland
6Charles BlairIllinois
7Nicholas GreerEngland
8David WuCalifornia
9Jeff YutzlerVirginia
10Aurelien BoutinFrance
11Mads KrogsgaardDenmark
12David YatesNew York
13Jurijs BalasovsLatvia
14Gonzalo GodedSpain
15Krishna ChakravartulaIndia
16Kit WoolseyCalifornia
17Danny SprungNevada
18Peter FordhamAustralia
19Eric GettlemanMaryland
20John AdamsWashington
21Peter BoydMaryland
22Tom SlaterEngland
23Veljko VujcicSerbia
24Bjorn OhlssonSweden
25Jacco HopNetherlands
26Paul BardenEngland
27Eivind HansenNorway
28Roger PewickTexas
29Andrew YeckelMinnesota
30Cyrus HettleKentucky
31Thibault WolfFrance
32Mark JohnsonNew Mexico
33Bart BramleyTexas
34Klaus ClaassenSweden
35Dave WiltshireAustralia
36Mike GillMaryland
37Nadav TrumerIsrael
38John TorreyNorth Carolina
39Jasper VahkEstonia
40Karl-Markus PruulEstonia
41Martin MaasikEstonia
42Samuel PahkMassachusetts
43Don KerseyOntario
44Joel WooldridgeNew York
45John LeeEngland

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Solution

It is possible to reduce South’s rank sum to 46, and there are five different ways to do this (ignoring suit identity) as illustrated by the following selected entries.

The first to submit a 46-sum solution was Jim Munday of Mississippi, who is no stranger to puzzles, rarely missing a beat. In fact, bad hands are his specialty, as I can attest firsthand that he bids them with flair — of course everyone else just passes. Jim’s construction hinges on South having a transmundane (a word I just learned in his honor) entry in hearts.

3 NT South S
H A K Q J
D A K Q J 6
C A K Q J
Trick
1 W
2 W
3 W
4 W
5 W
6 S
7 S
8 S
9 S
10 S
11 S
12 S
13 S
Lead
S A
S K
S Q
S J
H 5
H 4
H 3
H 2
C 5
C 4
C 3
C 2
D 7
2nd
H A
H K
H Q
H J
C A
C 6
S 4
S 5
S 6
S 7
S 8
S 9
S 10
3rd
H 10
H 9
H 8
H 7
C 10
C K
C Q
C J
D A
D K
D Q
D J
6
4th
2
3
D 2
D 3
6
C 9
C 8
C 7
D 10
D 9
D 8
D 5
4
Won
W
W
W
W
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4
H 5
D
C 6
Table S
H 10 9 8 7
D 10 9 8 5 4
C 10 9 8 7
S 3 2
H 6 4 3 2
D 7 3 2
C 5 4 3 2

 

Jim Munday: Four rounds of spades, N-E unblock hearts, D 3-2 from South. Heart five to H 6 and H 4-3-2 as all pitch clubs, then C 5-4-3-2 as N-E pitch high diamonds. The D 7 wins last trick.


Runner-up, Grant Peacock of Maryland, spread his feathers with the same occult entry to South, but with a different hand pattern. Further, he offers a valid explanation for the bidding and play. Call it “52 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

3 NT South S
H A K Q J 9
D K Q J 9
C A K 9 7
Trick
1 W
2 W
3 W
4 W
5 W
6 S
7 S
8 S
9 S
10 S
11 S
12 S
13 S
Lead
S A
S K
S Q
S J
C 5
C 4
C 3
C 2
D 5
D 4
D 3
D 2
D 7
2nd
C 7
C 9
C K
C A
D 9
S 4
S 5
S 6
S 7
S 8
S 9
S 10
H 4
3rd
C 8
C 10
C J
C Q
D 6
D J
D Q
D K
H 9
H J
H Q
H K
H A
4th
2
3
H 2
H 3
6
D 8
D 10
D A
H 5
H 6
H 7
H 8
H 10
Won
W
W
W
W
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4
H 4
D
C 5
Table S
H 10 8 7 6 5
D A 10 8 6
C Q J 10 8
S 3 2
H 3 2
D 7 5 4 3 2
C 6 4 3 2

 

Grant Peacock: Absurd, you say? This all makes perfect sense. N-S are a new partnership on shaky ground with 2 C auctions. North deals: 2 C P 2 D (negative) P; 2 H P 2 NT (more negative) P; 3 NT. West decides that defending a vulnerable 3 NT should be a good result, so he stays silent and starts with four top spades, as declarer cleverly discards clubs from dummy and hearts from hand. East also pitches four clubs to keep length with dummy. West next does something silly; thinking the C 5 is high, he tries to cash it. On the run of the clubs, West, now a bit flustered, hangs onto his H 4. East now thinks he needs to guard hearts, so he copies North to pitch all four diamonds. Meanwhile, South is highly motivated for another beer — “If one of those bottles should happen to fall…”


Nicholas Greer, England, was the first to produce the variation where South’s link to beerdom is in the diamond suit itself. He also earns style points for the weakest possible North hand (rank-sum 91) let alone a surname that rhymes with beer.

3 NT South S 8 7 6 5 4
H 9 8 7 6
D 10 9 8
C 4
Trick
1 W
2 W
3 W
4 W
5 W
6 S
7 S
8 S
9 S
10 S
11 S
12 S
13 S
Lead
C A
C K
C Q
C J
D 5
D 4
D 3
D 2
H 5
H 4
H 3
H 2
D 7
2nd
4
D 10
D 9
D 8
H 9
H 10
S 9
C 5
C 6
C 7
C 8
C 9
C 10
3rd
D A
D K
D Q
D J
H A
H 8
H 7
H 6
S 4
S 5
S 6
S 7
S 8
4th
2
3
S 2
S 3
6
H K
H Q
H J
S 10
S J
S Q
S K
S A
Won
W
W
W
W
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S 9
H 10
D 5
C A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5
Table S A K Q J 10
H A K Q J
D A K Q J
C
S 3 2
H 5 4 3 2
D 7 6 4 3 2
C 3 2

 

Nicholas Greer: West cashes four clubs as all the diamonds are discarded by North and East (spades from South), then the D 5 goes to the six, and D 4-3-2 are cashed to remove all the hearts. Next come the hearts, and finally…

Jacco Hop: Such an amazing South hand deserves a beer!

I guess his family should know, named for a plant used in brewing.


Only two of the winners produced a dual-entry solution, i.e., South having clandestine entries in two suits and gaining the lead twice. One was from Gonzalo Goded, Spain, who gave South S 5-3-2 H 3-2 D 7-4-3-2 C 6-4-3-2; but the cleverest of all came from Nick Jacob, New Zealand, who found the only construction to give South flat distribution:

3 NT South S
H 10 9 8 7 6
D 10 9 8 5 4
C 8 7 6
Trick
1 W
2 S
3 W
4 W
5 W
6 W
7 S
8 S
9 S
10 S
11 S
12 S
13 S
Lead
S 4
S 2
S K
S Q
S J
H 4
H 3
H 2
C 5
C 4
C 3
C 2
D 7
2nd
H 10
A
H 8
H 7
H 6
C 8
C K
C A
S 6
S 7
S 8
S 9
S 10
3rd
H A
H 9
H Q
H J
C Q
C J
C 7
C 6
D 10
D 9
D 8
D 5
4
4th
5
H K
3
D 2
D 3
5
C 10
C 9
D A
D K
D Q
D J
6
Won
S
W
W
W
W
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S
S A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 4
H 4
D
C A K
Table S
H A K Q J
D A K Q J 6
C Q J 10 9
S 5 3 2
H 5 3 2
D 7 3 2
C 5 4 3 2

 

Nick Jacob: West leads the S 4 to the five, followed by four more spades, on which North throws five hearts, East four hearts and a club, and South the D 3-2. West exits with the H 4 to South for three rounds there, allowing West, North and East to unblock all their remaining clubs. Then four rounds of clubs for diamond unblocks and a well-deserved beer. Speaking of which…

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Final Notes

Beer for thought: Ten years ago Jim Munday won my Toughest Beer in Bridge contest.
Inquiring minds need to know: Between then and now, was he ever sober?

Audrey Kueh: No wonder partner passes my forcing bids when I bid like this.

The Donald: Why am I not on the winner list? I will challenge these results in court and intend to sue RPbridge and PavCo for running this fake contest.

Which brings us to Election Day. No surprises. Voting ran true to form, as predicted months ago:

2020 Election Results
RankNameElectoral Votes
1BeerToo many to count
2Joe BidenWho cares +1
3Donald TrumpWho cares -1

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© 2020 Richard Pavlicek