Puzzle 8K71   Main

Right-Sided Spades

  by Richard Pavlicek

Skillful players are aware that some contracts must be right-sided to win the most tricks. Witness the following deal:

4 S South
S A K 8 7 6 5
H 8 7 3
D 8 7 3


4 H1

1 NT
4 S
S J 10 9
H A 6 4
D A 10 9 5
C 4 3 2
TableS 2
H Q J 10 9 5
D Q J 6
C 8 7 6 5
Lead: ? S Q 4 3
H K 2
D K 4 2
C A K J 10 9
1. Texas transfer

Four spades by South is a piece of cake; 11 cold tricks with any lead. But if North were declarer, the H Q lead, and D Q shift as soon as possible, limits declarer to eight tricks. In other words, playing spades from the right side produces a gain of three tricks. Besides being a testament to transfer bids, this brings to mind the following puzzle:

What is the greatest possible trick gain from a right-sided suit contract?

Construct a deal where South wins at least four more tricks than North in spades — the more the better. Winnable tricks are determined at double-dummy. A secondary goal (tiebreaker for the November contest) is to use the fewest North-South HCP.

Leigh Matheson Wins

In November 2011 this puzzle was presented as a contest, with 59 participants from 23 locations. Congratulations to the 26 who submitted valid solutions, ranked by greatest gain with ties broken by the fewest N-S HCP, and lastly by date-time of entry.

A new continent is heard from! While wondering whether Europe would return to form after a loss to North America, instead I will tie me kangaroo down. Hail to Leigh Matheson, whose elegant construction appears to be the optimal solution.

Winner List
1Leigh MathesonAustralia910
2John BurvilleBermuda913
3Jeffrey TsangOntario914
4Dan DangBritish Columbia916
5Wei Seng TanSingapore917
6James LawrenceEngland917
7Ray LiuOntario80
8David ZaiNew York80
9Pavel StrizCzech Republic80
10Hendrik NigulEstonia80
11Tim BroekenNetherlands84
12John R. MayneCalifornia85
13Vedat YetenerTurkey825
14David GraingerOregon710
15Richard SteinCalifornia727
16Charles BlairIllinois729
17Eddy ChoiHong Kong65
18Paul GilbertEngland617
19Jacco HopNetherlands621
20Manuel PauloPortugal626
21Tony NorrisMassachusetts50
22Antony LeeCalifornia516
23Jim MundayMississippi527
24Barry RigalNew York422
25Bozidar PutCroatia424
26Kevin LaneCalifornia425

Puzzle 8K71   MainTop   Right-Sided Spades


Exploring the dark side of bridge has led to some curious discoveries, and this month’s adventure is no exception. One might expect only moderate gains from a right-sided suit contract, like the introductory deal gaining three tricks, because trump winners cannot be denied. A deeper look, however, reveals a possible gain of nine tricks.

Right-sided gains in notrump can reach 13 tricks, because the lack of a trump suit means no predestined winners. The obvious extreme would be if declarer has 13 winners in three suits, while one opponent holds a 13-card suit. Better keep him off lead!

Deal constructions that swing nine tricks were based on three general themes. First let’s look at this entry from Wei Seng Tan, who has the West hand loaded for bear. Oddly enough it comes from the Far East (Singapore). Go figure.

7 S× SouthS 8 7 6 5TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 21 WH A23S 2
D 6 5 42 SC 2H 6A7
C A K Q J 63 ND 4710S 10
S A K Q 10TableS 94 WH KD 54S 3
H A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6H 5 4 35 SS 4Q59
DD K J 9 8 7Declarer wins 9 tricks
CC 10 9 8 7
S J 4 3 2
D A Q 10 3 2
Lead: H AC 5 4 3 2

With South declarer, West cannot draw trumps, so his best attack is a heart, ruffed in hand. Declarer then leads minor suits, finessing as necessary in diamonds, to maintain control and limit West to four trump tricks. If West ruffs and leads another heart as shown, declarer can simplify the play by ruffing in hand and leading a trump. Nine tricks!

But with North declarer, East leads his trump and West claims. Zero tricks!

A similar deal (but with the heart void in North) was sent by:

James Lawrence: If your example is a testament to transfer bids, this could be a testament to 7-level takeout doubles. If West is the dealer, the ideal auction is: 7 H Dbl P 7 S, which is a good sacrifice by South at any vulnerability.

Testament? The North-South bidding seems more like a testicle to lunacy, and West has the nuts to prove it.

Defense to global warming

The previous deal gave N-S 17 HCP. To reduce this to 14 we move from the Far East to the Great White North with this entry from Jeffrey Tsang, Ontario. Colder climates of course allow fewer points (but more beer).

7 S SouthS A K J 8TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 21 WC AD 32S 2
D 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 32 SS 39J4
C3 NS A5D 210
S Q 10 9TableS 7 6 5 44 NS K6H 3Q
HH K J5 NS 87H 4C 5
DD A K Q JDeclarer succeeds
C A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5C 4 3 2
S 3 2
H A Q 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3
D 2
Lead: C AC

With South declarer, West is helpless. Trumps are drawn, and South’s hearts win the rest for 13 tricks.

But with North declarer, a heart lead is devastating. West ruffs, and the defense simply leads trumps at each opportunity. Declarer wins only his four natural trump tricks.

Jeffrey Tsang: South also makes seven hearts, but there is a reason to bid 7 S: West himself has a good sacrifice in 7 S, down only five! With North on lead, a diamond goes to East and a heart is led, scissoring South. So North tries spades; but West leads clubs when he gets in, forcing North to ruff and lose trump control… then N-S get only three trumps and two hearts.

Good observation, and almost textbook for Canadian Canape. West or South bids his second longest suit first; then whenever he bids his 10-bagger, partner puts him back in spades.

Five solvers achieved the absolute minimum of zero HCP, but the gain is limited to eight tricks. The classic layout is a 4-4 spade fit that scores a complete crossruff without a trump lead (one defender has S A-K-Q-J-10).

I can name that tune in 10 notes

Well, almost. My construction of a 9-trick swing was actually 12 notes, I mean HCP, but based on the same theme as this gem from Leigh Matheson (Australia) which must be the ultimate solution with only 10 N-S HCP. Coming from “Down Under” it seems only fitting for South to sacrifice in 6 S after West bids the obvious slam in clubs.

6 S× SouthS 5 4 3 2TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H 4 3 21 WC AS 252
D A 6 5 4 3 22 NH 268C 7
C3 SC 38S 36
STableS A K Q J 94 NH 3710C 9
HH K J 9 7 65 SD 79A8
D K Q J 10 9D 86 NH 49QC 10
C A K Q J 10 9 8 7C 6 57 SH AD 10D 2J
S 10 8 7 68 SH 5C JS 4K
H A Q 10 8 5continued below…
D 7
Lead: C AC 4 3 2

With South declarer, assume West leads a club, ruffed in dummy. Declarer then finesses hearts three times, using a second club ruff and the D A as entries. (An original diamond lead just reorders the use of entries.) Next the top heart is cashed, and a heart is ruffed in dummy as East helplessly follows suit.

East is now trump-tight in this ending:

S win 1S 5TrickLead2nd3rd4th
H9 ND 3S JC 4J
D 6 5 4 3Declarer wins 9 tricks
STableS A K Q J 9
S 10 8 7 6
North leadsC 4

A diamond lead inflicts the final blow, as East must ruff high to stop an overruff, promoting the S 10 into declarer’s ninth trick.

If North were declarer, the defense runs the table; East draws trumps, and West scores all his clubs. Zero tricks!

Auf Wiedersehen

This edition completes the current puzzle series. Thanks to all who played along, and I hope you had as much fun as I did. If you learned anything useful, I apologize — accidents happen as I occasionally go through stages of temporary sanity. Next year I’ll probably come up with another participation scheme, so stay tuned. Happy holidays to all, and best wishes for 2012!

Puzzle 8K71   MainTop   Right-Sided Spades

© 2011 Richard Pavlicek