Main     Puzzle 8K93 by Richard Pavlicek    

Ever More

With spades trump and South declarer, consider the following position with West on lead. Despite a variety of opportunities, with the three missing kings offside declarer can win only four tricks. You can trust me on this, as I have shown it to the members of my ward, and they all agree that with best defense declarer’s maximum is four. Quoth the ravin’ lunatics: Never more.

S South
win Max
S A J 2
H 4 3
D A 3 2
C K
Leader
1. W
2. E
3. E
Lead
C J
D 10!
H J!
2nd
K
4
3rd
A
9!
4th
Q
2
S
H K 10 9 7
D K J 9 6
C J
Table S K 4
H J 8
D 10 8 7
C A 4
West leads S Q 3
H A Q 2
D Q 5 4
C Q

After the obvious club lead, East must shift to the D 10, under which West must play the nine to avoid being endplayed. If declarer smartly ducks as shown, East must shift immediately to a heart. This defense frustrates declarer, who can win only his two natural trump tricks and two side aces. Never more.

At least as the cards lie. If declarer could move some N-S cards around, “never more” could easily be overcome, and that’s where you fit in. Are you ready to make the ‘N’ disappear? Ever more!

Rearrange the North-South cards so declarer can win more tricks.

Declarer’s tricks must be winnable against any lead and any defense. A further goal is to divide the North-South HCP and spot-card (2,3,4,5) totals as evenly as possible. Try it yourself before reading the winning solutions below.

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Grant Peacock Wins!

In February 2015 this puzzle was presented as a challenge, inviting anyone who wished to submit a solution. Forty-three brave souls were ravin’ mad enough to give it a try, of which the 16 listed below constructed a layout to win all nine tricks against any lead and any defense. Well done, and thanks to all who participated.

Congratulations to Grant Peacock of Baltimore, Maryland, who was the first of eight solvers to submit the ideal solution, not only to win nine tricks but to divide the HCP and spot cards exactly evenly. How fitting! Being an NFL Ravens fan makes the win Poe-litically correct. Grant is a longtime contributor, also winning my “Keep the Ship Afloat” play contest (April 2002) with a whopping 687 participants.

RankNameLocationTricksHCPSpots
1Grant PeacockMaryland912-1214-14
2Tim BroekenNetherlands912-1214-14
3Tom SlaterEngland912-1214-14
4Leigh MathesonAustralia912-1214-14
5Jean-Christophe ClementFrance912-1214-14
6Jamie PearsonOntario912-1214-14
7Nicholas GreerEngland912-1214-14
8Dan GheorghiuBritish Columbia912-1214-14
9Jon GreimanIllinois913-1112-16
10Charles BlairIllinois913-1112-16
11Jim MundayMississippi913-1112-16
12Peter BoydMaryland915-914-14
13Gareth BirdsallEngland915-914-14
14Paul BlumeFlorida917-710-18
15Michal StefanowEngland917-76-22
16Dan BakerTexas918-69-19

Solution

As the 16 correct solvers showed, it is possible to win all nine tricks with a favorable layout of the North-South cards. Obviously this must include a club void, and the S A behind the king. A straightforward solution is to give North the A-Q in both red suits, as shown below.

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

After ruffing out the C A, draw trumps and claim. Unfortunately this comes no where near an even HCP split (17-7). One improvement (15-9) is to give South the D Q, which loses the finessable trick but gains it back when West is eventually squeezed in the red suits.

Merci beau trump coup

Before showing the optimal solution, let’s look at this one submitted by three solvers (places 9-11). Splitting the HCP 13-11 is only one off the mark, and the play has a neat denouement.

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

No defense matters, so suppose West leads a diamond to attack dummy’s entries. Win cheaply, ruff out the C A, unblock the H A, cross in diamonds, discard a diamond on the good club, ruff a heart, and ruff your last diamond in dummy. The last two tricks then have South poised with S A-Q over East’s K-4 for a trump coup.

The perfect split

Eight solvers found the ideal solution, which is unique for distributional pattern and HCP placement. Spot cards allow some slight variations: The S 2 and S 3 can be swapped if compensated by swapping the H 2 and H 3, or the D 4 and D 5. The layout also requires two distinct play techniques, depending on whether West leads a club or a heart.

S win 9 S J 2
H A Q 4 3
D 5
C K Q
Leader
1. W
2. S
3. S
4. N
5. N
6. S
Lead
C J
D A
D 2
C K
S J
S A
2nd
Q
6
9
4
4
?
3rd
A
5
S 2
D 3
Q
4th
S 3
7
8
H 7
D J
S
H K 10 9 7
D K J 9 6
C J
Table S K 4
H J 8
D 10 8 7
C A 4
S A Q 3
H 2
D A Q 4 3 2
C

Leigh Matheson: On a club lead, take the ruffing club finesse; ruff one diamond, cash the club winner, then finesse and draw trumps to squeeze West. On a heart lead, ruff a diamond, take the ruffing club finesse, ruff another diamond, cash winners, then trump-coup East.

Nicholas Greer: On a club lead, ruffing one diamond leads to a red-suit squeeze against West. On a heart lead, a well-timed crossruff succeeds (ruff a diamond before taking the club finesse).

Tom Slater: A diamond lead is easy, giving me five side tricks plus a diamond ruff. On a club lead I have four side tricks, a diamond ruff, and a red-suit squeeze. A heart lead is trickier, but I can ruff two diamonds and establish four side winners, then finish with a trump coup. (I found some near solutions with North having both red tenaces to length and a void club, but West always had one killing lead.)

Jamie Pearson: It took me a long time to get that D A-Q into the South hand! At first I was trying to put clubs in South for ruffs, but the entries just didn’t work.

Tim Broeken: Sorry, no Hitchcockian knack this time, as I am pretty sure this is one of your intended solutions.

Apro-Poe thoughts

February is “black history” month, but this reason never occurred to me:

Charles Blair: I was disappointed that, in Murders in the Rue Morgue, Poe said that the astute whist player would attentively study his partner’s countenance.

Evidently active ethics were not a big thing back then. Of course nobody would ever question his integrity, because being cheated was a lot better than being dismembered.

I wonder… Are ravens and peacocks genetically linked? (Remind me to ask Gareth Birdsall.)

Grant Peacock:
Deep in-to this puzzle peering; long I sit here pleading, fearing,
Wondering why this hellish chore. Might I swap the queen and four?
Finesses, squeezes, one more ruff? Doth a coup bring tricks enough?
Taunt us, Richard, o’er and o’er. Might this fetch the winning score?
Quoth the solvers “Nevermore.”

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© 2015 Richard Pavlicek