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What’s on South?

Bud: Hey Lou! Suppose you’re South playing six clubs.
Lou: Huh? Most we ever played are three Miami clubs.

Bud: No, no. You are South in a contract of six clubs.
Lou: Do whatever you want, but I ain’t signing it!

Bud: Bridge, you twit! In clubs you need 12 tricks.
Lou: Who do I look like, The Amazing Kreskin?

Bud: Your club suit can be as long as you want.
Lou: Come on! I wear a 46 tuxedo, short.

Bud: An immediate heart attack is the only way to put you down.
Lou: I ain’t ready for the big one yet! Hey Ab-b-bott!

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
6 C by South  Dummy


 
S 9 3 2
H A J 9 8 7 6 5 3
D
C A 10
Table S J 7 5 4
H Q 10 4 2
D Q 10 9 7
C 8
Heart lead


 Declarer


Construct the North and South hands based on the dialogue. Multiple solutions exist, so a further objective is to divide the 26 N-S HCP as evenly as possible.

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Manuel Paulo Wins!

In January-February 2011 this puzzle was presented as a contest, with 71 participants from 30 locations. Thanks to those who entered, and congratulations to the 11 solvers who produced a layout consistent with the dialogue, i.e., such that only a heart lead will defeat 6 C. Only three found the optimal solution to split the N-S HCP 13 each. Everyone listed below equalized the N-S pip counts (107 each) so the ties among equivalent HCP splits are broken by date and time of entry.

Like my last contest, this was a European romp — and even more so, as they landed the top seven places. That’s OK. Next time I will require a U.S. Social Security No. to teach you guys a lesson. At least the winner is from a different country, Portugal (a place I’ve always wanted to visit so I could learn to speak Brazilian). Manuel Paulo has been a brilliant participant in my past polls and contests, and the winner of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” almost a decade ago.

RankNameLocationN-S HCP
1Manuel PauloPortugal13-13
2James LawrenceEngland13-13
3Jonathan MestelEngland13-13
4Jean-Baptiste CourtoisFrance15-11
5Dean PokornyCroatia15-11
6Tim BroekenNetherlands15-11
7John ReardonEngland15-11
8Jonathan WeinsteinIllinois15-11
9Charles BlairIllinois8-18
10Zla KhadgarOhio18-8
11Jim MundayCalifornia8-18

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Solution

Almost everyone who entered produced a layout where the H A lead would defeat 6 C; but in most cases, so would another suit lead. A common oversight was that the C A lead followed by the H A would be just as effective as the H A from the go. On the surface, it is hard to see how a heart lead could be required — the ace will be ruffed — but that’s what makes it a puzzle.

Before showing the optimal solution, let’s look at a few others. I was impressed by a cute angle presented by Charles Blair; but then, he’s a math professor and should know all about acute angles. Anyone can lead an ace, but even a low heart does the job on this layout:

6 C S A K 10 8 6
H
D J 8 6 5 4
C 4 3 2
Trick
1. W
2. S
3. W
Lead
H 3
C J
S 2
2nd
D 4
A
3rd
Q
2
4th
K
8
S 9 3 2
H A J 9 8 7 6 5 3
D
C A 10
Table S J 7 5 4
H Q 10 4 2
D Q 10 9 7
C 8
Charles Blair
Illinois

S Q
H K
D A K 3 2
C K Q J 9 7 6 5

Despite being gifted the H K, declarer can do no better than if the ace were led. After winning the C A, West must return a spade to break up a squeeze against his partner. Note that if West starts the C A, he cannot lead both a heart and a spade, as needed to ruin communication. Or if he starts a spade, that suit is unblocked while dummy has an entry (heart ruff).

A few respondents thought Charles’s anomaly was the object of the puzzle, i.e., to beat 6 C with any heart lead; but this was a misinterpretation. The dialogue, “An immediate heart attack…” means the opening lead of a heart, which is not the same as the opening lead of any heart. One could also infer that a low heart would hardly be called an attack but more aptly a surrender.

Jim Munday: Looks like the makings for a new feature in the ACBL Bulletin, “Bridge with the Ab-b-bott!” with apologies to David Bird.

Darn! I was aiming for a TV slot on Sesame Street with apologies to Big Bird.

Improving on the North-South HCP division was this entry from Conehead land:

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello
6 C S Q
H K
D A K 3 2
C Q J 9 6 5 4 3
Trick
1. W
2. S
3. N
4. N
5. W
Lead
H A
C 7
D A
C 3
S 2
2nd
K
10
7
H 4
3rd
2
J
4
K
4th
C 2
8
H 3
A
S 9 3 2
H A J 9 8 7 6 5 3
D
C A 10
Table S J 7 5 4
H Q 10 4 2
D Q 10 9 7
C 8
Jean-Baptiste Courtois
France

S A K 10 8 6
H
D J 8 6 5 4
C K 7 2

Jean-Baptiste Courtois: Nice puzzle. Only the H A lead attacks South’s entry before he has time to unblock spades.

In Jean’s layout West must duck when South leads the C 7 (optional if South leads the C K) and routinely refuse to ruff a high diamond. When given the C A, a spade return is essential to prevent East from being squeezed. Or as another solver eloquently put it:

Jonathan Weinstein: After the heart attack, Lou could be saved by compressions to the right ventricle (East), but a timely spade play from West prevents any such pressure.

Everyone placing 4-8 produced a deal identical to the above, excepting variations in the minor spot cards. Indeed, this would have been the winner if South were required to have three or more clubs. But no such stipulation was made, and Lou offered a subtle hint to the contrary:

“I wear a 46 tuxedo, short.”

Lou’s “size 46” might refer to South’s diamond and spade suit lengths, but that’s way too subtle. The key word is short. When Lou Costello performed in clubs he wore a short suit, which is “What’s on South” in the diagram below. Hats off to the three solvers who found the only layout with a 13-13 HCP split:

6 C S
H
D A K J 6 5
C K Q 9 7 6 5 4 2
Trick
1. W
2. N
3. N
Lead
H A
C K
D A
2nd
C 4
8
7
3rd
2
3
2
4th
K
10
H 3
S 9 3 2
H A J 9 8 7 6 5 3
D
C A 10
Table S J 7 5 4
H Q 10 4 2
D Q 10 9 7
C 8
Manuel Paulo
Portugal

S A K Q 10 8 6
H K
D 8 4 3 2
C J 3

After the H A lead, declarer is dead in the water, being unable to reach his hand. West of course ducks the C K and refuses to ruff the D A. In fact, declarer must next lead a low diamond, endplaying East, to escape for down one. Note that an opening lead in either black suit lets declarer reach his hand.

Jonathan Mestel: Bud: Look, Lou! Six clubs is a good save against five hearts, which makes by an endplay. Lou: End play? Does this mean I can go home now?

Please!

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Acknowledgments to and in memory of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
© 2011 Richard Pavlicek