Main   Puzzle 8S65 by Richard Pavlicek  

I Have a Dream…

… that one day, in the deep South, apartheid at the bridge table will be abolished; that experts and duffers alike will come together into a single championship; that flighted events will occur only aboard jumbo jets; that slow play and long tanks will be seen only in history books; that zero tolerance will only mean putting up with partner’s bottom boards; and of course, that RPbridge will become supreme ruler of all mankind. But just in case that doesn’t happen before the apocalypse, I will offer you a bridge puzzle, and it won’t cost you a dime! That’s right folks: Free at last!

Consider the following almost deal, which occurred in the days of segregation, when aces, kings and queens didn’t socialize with plebeian ranks. Even back then, nobody liked jacks, so they were strewn among the commoners. The location of each royal card was kept secretly in a safe, so a nobleman could reconstruct the deal for play. Alas, the safe was destroyed when Mississippi burned, so the complete deal is lost.

Plebeian
diagram
S J 9 6
H 10 8 7 2
D 5 3
C 4

Royal cards in hiding →
S 10 8 7 3
H 6 5
D 4
C J 9 2
Table S 4
H J 9 3
D 10 8 6 2
C 7 5
South is
declarer
S 5 2
H 4
D J 9 7
C 10 8 6 3

But wait! Hidden among South’s plebeian cards was a faded parchment with the barely discernible words:

With “test” in each suit South makes one of each with optimal counterplay

I take this to mean South can make 1 C, 1 D, 1 H and 1 S against best defense, which leads to the puzzle:

Distribute the aces, kings and queens so South can win exactly seven tricks with each suit trumps.

Each hand may receive any three royal cards. Multiple solutions exist, so the tiebreakers are (1) fewest North-South HCP, and (2) lowest deal freakness, in that order of priority.

Puzzle within a Puzzle: Why is the word “test” written in quotes on the parchment?

Try it now!

It’s fun, because you don’t have to analyze anything. Just place the royal cards, click “Check Me” and the analysis will be shown. It’s like playing a slot machine… you need four sevens to win. If you miss, keep trying — or quit and see if I care.


Plebeian
diagram
S J 9 6
H 10 8 7 2
D 5 3
C 4

Royal cards to place →
S 10 8 7 3
H 6 5
D 4
C J 9 2
Table S 4
H J 9 3
D 10 8 6 2
C 7 5
East will get
the remaining
three royals
S 5 2
H 4
D J 9 7
C 10 8 6 3


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Jean-Christophe Clement Wins

This contest ran from December 6 (2020) to January 20, 2021. Only six persons submitted a successful layout (South able to win exactly seven tricks with each suit trumps), ranked below by the tiebreakers, then date-time of entry. The puzzle format required a successful solution before it could be submitted, so I have no idea how many tried — but with the current trend I’d be lucky to get 20. Aha! I just thought of a way to increase participation. Next month I will offer a “free at last” bonus: Buy one puzzle; get another one shoved up your…

Congratulations to Jean-Christophe Clement, winner by a landslide. Jean-Christophe also won the recent Right-Sided Club Slam and has dozens of high placings in various challenges as far back as 2002.

Winner List
RankNameLocationN-S HCPFreakness
1Jean-Christophe ClementFrance1710
2Samuel PahkMassachusetts202
3Charles BlairIllinois202
4Nicholas GreerEngland202
5Tim BroekenNetherlands2017
6Audrey KuehEngland222

Solution

This contest was more of a guessing game than a bridge puzzle. No one wants to analyze the play in every suit on multiple deals; but of course I knew that, so all results were precalculated by computer.*

*There are 369,600 (12c3 × 9c3 × 6c3) possible distributions of the 12 royal cards, and each was double-dummy solved with South declaring each suit. Only 779 of the layouts (0.21 percent) were winners producing four sevens. I have an algorithm to map each layout to a unique index (0 to 369,599) so the double-dummy results could be stored in a lookup file of 739,200 bytes (four nibbles = two bytes per layout).

Three successful guessers, er solvers, discovered the following layout, which gives North-South half the HCP. The solution also bodes well in the secondary tiebreaker of low deal freakness.

HCP 20
Freakness 2
S J 9 6
H 10 8 7 2
D K 5 3
C A Q 4
S 10 8 7 3
H 6 5
D A Q 4
C K J 9 2
Table S A Q 4
H K J 9 3
D 10 8 6 2
C 7 5
1 of any suit
South
S K 5 2
H A Q 4
D J 9 7
C 10 8 6 3

Don’t bother to study the play; South is certified to win exactly seven tricks with any suit trumps. You can “believe me now or believe me later,” like the old Hans and Franz sketch on Saturday Night Live.

Samuel Pahk: Twenty HCP feels pretty minimal, as does the deal freakness of 2…


No solver discovered it, but a solution exists for the same number of HCP with freakness zero (each hand 4-3-3-3):

HCP 20
Freakness 0
S J 9 6
H 10 8 7 2
D K 5 3
C A K 4
S 10 8 7 3
H K 6 5
D A Q 4
C J 9 2
Table S A K 4
H J 9 3
D 10 8 6 2
C Q 7 5
1 of any suit
South
S Q 5 2
H A Q 4
D J 9 7
C 10 8 6 3

Again, trying to analyze it will make your head spin, so just believe Hans and Franz — or better yet, believe:

Mabel Pavlicek: I was reading a parchment today on Cloud 73 and found this deal with your name on it! [Yes, this writer dreams too.]


For interest sake, the North-South HCP can be lowered by a notch with freakness 2:

HCP 19
Freakness 2
S Q J 9 6
H 10 8 7 2
D 5 3
C A K 4
S 10 8 7 3
H K 6 5
D A K 4
C J 9 2
Table S A K 4
H J 9 3
D 10 8 6 2
C Q 7 5
1 of any suit
South
S 5 2
H A Q 4
D Q J 9 7
C 10 8 6 3

Or by two notches with freakness 3:

HCP 18
Freakness 3
S Q J 9 6
H 10 8 7 2
D K 5 3
C A 4
S 10 8 7 3
H A 6 5
D A Q 4
C J 9 2
Table S A K 4
H J 9 3
D 10 8 6 2
C K 7 5
1 of any suit
South
S 5 2
H K Q 4
D J 9 7
C Q 10 8 6 3

Both of the above layouts are unique for their minimal HCP:freakness.


Hail to the chief! With the main tiebreaker being HCP, one solver topped everyone else by an incredible 3 HCP. That’s right; North-South can win seven tricks in any suit against any defense with only 17 HCP:

HCP 17
Freakness 10
S Q J 9 6
H Q 10 8 7 2
D A 5 3
C 4
S 10 8 7 3
H A K 6 5
D K 4
C J 9 2
Table S A 4
H J 9 3
D 10 8 6 2
C A K 7 5
1 of any suit
South
S K 5 2
H 4
D Q J 9 7
C Q 10 8 6 3

Jean-Christophe Clement: I found two solutions with 17 HCP but exactly the same freakness.

Too smart! The other layout he refers to is obtained by swapping the S K and S Q.


Puzzle within a Puzzle

The parchment read: With “test” in each suit… So why the quotes? Only two solvers caught on to the deliberate choice of four-card suits in the Plebeian diagram: 10-8-7-3, 10-8-7-2, 10-8-6-3 and 10-8-6-2.

Samuel Pahk: “Test” is the first letters of each card in North’s hearts, South’s clubs, East’s diamonds and West’s spades.

Charles Blair: TEST = Ten, Eight, Seven (six), Three (two).

Final Notes

Audrey Kueh: Trial 72: failure… Trial 73: failure… Trial 74: success… Trial 75: failure… Wait! Trial 74 was a success! Trial 74 was a success!

Talk about having a dream:

Nicholas Greer: “T’est” might be French for something like “what is yours,” and I’m aware that parts of the southern U.S., possibly including Mississippi, were originally French.

I once ordered French toast in Biloxi. Does that count?

Evidently MLK had great foresight to proclaim “Free at last!” as we now end four years of embarrassment in the White House.

The Donald: You can impeach me now or impeach me later, but Rudy will clear me! And if that doesn’t work, I’ll be hiding out in Lilliput, which has no extradition treaties.

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© 2021 Richard Pavlicek