Main     Puzzle 8N55 by Richard Pavlicek    

Reese’s Pieces

Terence Reese (1913-96) was a formidable player and renowned writer. Victor Mollo described him as “the best bridge player in the world — cold, aloof and dispassionate”; and his frequent partner Boris Shapiro emphasized “brilliant, tenacious and imaginative.” Perhaps another due description is mysterious, as the truth of a famous incident remains shrouded to this day.

When I began to play in the late ‘60s, I was enthralled by the book “Master Play,” in particular the three secondary* squeezes Reese dubbed the vice, winkle and stepping-stone. Something about those names just clung like a newborn puppy. I wonder: Did the Hershey Co. have them in mind for its trendy, tricolored candies? Probably not, as I reflect on old times…E.T. phone home! In any event, the enigmatic Mr. Reese would surely approve of his ‘pieces’ being part of a puzzle.

*meaning that declarer loses a trick after the squeeze, in contrast to ‘primary’ squeezes where declarer wins all the remaining tricks

On the following deal, South is declarer in 6 NT. Only the dummy is shown, a depressing sight with just one barren ace, but to lift your spirits I gave you three pieces of eight. Declarer can make his contract against any defense by availing one of Reese’s pieces!

6 NT South S A 6 5 4
H 8 3 2
D 8 3 2
C 8 3 2
S ?
H ?
D ?
C ?
Table S ?
H ?
D ?
C ?
West leads S ?
H ?
D ?
C ?

Complete the deal so that 6 NT can be made with a vice, winkle or stepping-stone squeeze.

Clarification: Only one of the three ‘pieces’ is required, and you may use whichever one you choose. Valid solutions must not be makable by any other means, unless the defense elects to allow it. In other words, the defense can force declarer to use one of these devices to succeed. Definitions as to what constitutes a vice, winkle or stepping-stone squeeze will adhere to my usage in Card Play Techniques.

As a further goal (tiebreakers for the June 2017 contest) make the South hand as weak as possible (judged by the sum of all card ranks) and secondarily for South to have the best poker hand possible.

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Dan Gheorghiu Wins!

In June 2017 this puzzle was presented as a challenge — with no help provided — inviting anyone who wished to submit a solution. Participation was about the same as last month, depressingly low yet adequate proof that I’m still mathematically defined. Thirty-five people gave it at least one try, but only nine succeeded with a valid vice, winkle or stepping-stone squeeze necessary to make 6 NT. As the successful solver list shows, the steppping-stone was the popular choice; a few went for the vice squad, but the winkle won out.

Congratulations to Dan Gheorghiu, British Columbia, who was the clear winner with a remarkably low rank sum of 116, topping my own best effort as well. This is Dan’s fifth puzzle contest win, including The Nonagon, Third Best Blues and The Case of the Four Aces in this series, and The Law of Total Trash in my old series (then under the pseudonym Dan Dang). Second place went to Jim Munday, Mississippi, without whom our country would be off the leaderboard. Jim also holds the unassailable record of winning my first puzzle contest, Toughest Beer in Bridge. Rounding out the medal group is Tina Denlee, Quebec, a two-time past winner, and arguably sane.

RankNameLocationSumPoker HandSqueeze Type
1Dan GheorghiuBritish Columbia116FH-AAAQQWinkle
2Jim MundayMississippi118FH-AAAKKStepping-stone
3Tina DenleeQuebec120FL-AKQ76Stepping-stone
4Nicholas GreerEngland123FH-AAAKKVice
5Charles BlairIllinois123FH-KKAAAVice
6Leif-Erik StabellZimbabwe127SF-AKQJTStepping-stone
7Adam DickisonScotland141FH-AAAQQStepping-stone
8Franco MasoeroItaly142SF-AKQJTStepping-stone
9Nils KvangravenNorway1524K-KKKKAStepping-stone

Solution

More than the usual submissions this month were off track, mostly because the contract was makable by some other means, and sometimes because the play did not fit my definition of a vice, winkle or stepping-stone squeeze, as stipulated in the clarification. Or to paraphrase the latter: If it didn’t walk like a duck, it wasn’t a duck — and I’m a quacker in that department, being the neighborhood duck master, with several broods of ducklings hatched right outside my window.

Call the vice squad

Despite having only a mediocre rank sum (123) I liked this construction by Nicholas Greer, England, because it combines a vice squeeze with a subsequent endplay and requires exact timing to execute.

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

Nicholas Greer: On a spade lead, declarer must win in hand, cash two top clubs, cross to dummy with the third, then take the diamond finesse. Two more clubs are cashed, as North discards a heart and a spade…

This leaves the ending shown below, which has a pitfall. If the last club is cashed immediately, West can pitch a diamond, and dummy will be squeezed before West has committed, allowing the defense to prevail. Try it.

Instead you must cash the D A first. Now the last club is crippling. If West pitches a heart, keep two hearts in dummy and lead the H Q to establish the suit.

If West pitches a spade, pitch a heart from dummy, and East is triple-squeezed: He must keep his spade-diamond stoppers, so his only hope is to accept the vice squeeze and pitch a heart. Finally, cross to the S A and lead a heart to the queen, king, endplaying West. The H 7 scores a trick thanks to the vice.
South
leads
S A 6
H 8 3
D 8 3
C
S Q 9
H K J 6
D J
C
Table S J 8
H 10 9
D K 9
C
S 2
H A Q 7
D A
C 5

Reese gone bananas

The next construction is about as fruity as its creator, though it clearly falls short, as our Canadian vixen stands alone atop any banana stand. Tina Denlee, Quebec, even supplies an auction, though it does little more than to justify my case.

Tina Denlee: West opens 2 D (both majors) and East bids the obvious 5 D. Expecting weak E-W hands, South tries 6 C, which is passed around to East, who makes a Lightner double (forbidding a diamond lead to ensure a major-suit ruff). South of course [works it all out] and corrects to 6 NT. [East doubles again dreaming of 2600.]

6 NT× South S A 6 5 4
H 8 3 2
D 8 3 2
C 8 3 2
Both Vul

West
2 D
Pass
Pass


North
Pass
Pass
Pass


East
5 D
Dbl
Dbl


South
6 C
6 NT!
All Pass
S Q 10 9 8 7 3 2
H K J 10 9 7 6
D
C
Table S
H
D A K Q J 10 9 7 6 5 4
C J 10 9
Lead: S 10 S K J
H A Q 5 4
D
C A K Q 7 6 5 4

After a spade lead to the jack and seven rounds of clubs, West must come down to five cards, two of which must be spades, else the S K is overtaken to enjoy two more spades. Whether West keeps two spades and three hearts or vice versa, declarer wins the S K and exits with a low heart to endplay West for the rest.

Tina Denlee: This qualifies as a stepping-stone squeeze because if West, on lead at Trick 11, could replace his spade with the H 9 he had to pitch, a heart return would beat the contract.

One small step

My good friend Jim Munday lives in Mississippi; but his hometown of Southhaven is like a suburb of Memphis, so he’s just a stepping-stone from Tennessee. Speaking of which, his layout easily tops Tina’s by reducing South’s rank sum to 118, besides being more realistic.

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

After the obvious club lead, declarer must win. (If you duck to rectify the count, you rectify your coffin instead.) Three rounds of diamonds give dummy the lead for a spade finesse, then diamonds are finished. The H A may be cashed anywhere along the way to reach a three-card ending. East must keep two spades (else you can overtake the king) so cash the S K and exit with a heart (stepping-stone) to force East to give dummy the last trick.

Jim Munday: Reaching 6 NT on these cards is a little trickier than making it. One small step for declarer…

…One giant leap for Mun-kind.

Low man on the totem pole

Jim’s construction can be reduced a notch by giving South D A-Q-9-7-6-5-4 (West J-10 and East a blank king). Based on this same diamond layout, I was also able to construct a vice and a winkle squeeze of 117, which I thought to be the minimum possible. Then toward the end of the month, along comes “Dan the man” to open my eyes. The following winkle squeeze by Dan Gheorghiu, British Columbia, reduces South’s rank sum to 116, which I suspect is unbeatable:

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

With the lucky lie in both majors and the D K onside, declarer appears to have 12 tricks, but there aren’t enough entries for all the finesses. After West finds the best lead of a club, a winkle saves the day, provided declarer wins the first trick. Dummy is entered with the S A to take the heart finesse, then with the third heart to finesse spades, and the following ending is reached:

On the last heart, a spade is pitched from dummy, and East is squeezed. Baring the D K is a clear loss, so suppose East pitches a club honor. Declarer now exits with a club, and the only way for West to stop the simple endplay is to crocodile the C K, but this establishes dummy’s eight-spot.

Either way, declarer wins all but one trick.
South
leads
S 6
H
D 8
C 8 3
S
H
D 10
C K 7 6
Table S
H
D K J
C Q J
S
H 5
D A Q
C 4

Little known Reese facts

Charles H. Goren insists that athletes are pacesetters in the amazing growth of bridge: “It used to be that ballplayers would rather be hit by a pitch than be caught playing bridge, but now they’re among our best players.” Goren rates Peewee Reese high on the list and recalls how he once played with Reese on a sad occasion, “It was in the locker room of the Brooklyn Dodgers on their final game at Ebbets Field. We played for two hours, and I was impressed with Peewee’s card style.” -Lubbock Texas Journal, March 1963.

In 1982 the Mars Company turned down an offer to include its M&M’s candies in Stephen Spielberg’s new movie, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The offer was then made to the Hershey Company and accepted, one of the smartest business coups ever, as the sales of its Reese’s Pieces skyrocketed with the film’s success.

Did I mention Terence?

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© 2017 Richard Pavlicek