Problem No. 26, 2006


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The problem

Marshall Miles from the United States is a reigning World champion for seniors, but he is also one of the world's best bridge authors. Recently I read his nice book Reisinger Challange for the second time. It was published in 1997 and is a collection of interesting play problems, taken from real life. One of the deals looks like this:

East dealer, North-Soth vulnerable

Sp
H J 7 5
D A K 10 9 8
C A K 8 7 3
opening lead: spade 3 Table
 
 
 
S A J 9
H K 9
D 6 4 2
C Q 10 9 6 2

South West North East
2 S
pass 3 S 4NT pass
5 C pass pass pass

West leads the three of spades. You discard a heart from dummy and win East's queen woth your ace. When you play a club to the ace and a club back to the queen, East discards a spade on the second club. How do you plan the play?

When we turn the page, Miles presents this solution:

"Your first thought was to play West for diamond length. With a 3-2 split you could give him a diamond trick with the intention of discarding one or more hearts on the good diamonds. Even four diamonds in West's hand would create no problems. You could establish at least one diamond trick. However East's singleton trump should persuade you to change your plans. With only a doubleton diamond he would have at least four hearts. Would East open a weak two bid with four of the other major? If his spades were very strong (KQJ10xx) he might. With just a mediocre spade suit, he probably would refrain from making a weak two-bid with four or more hearts. So your percentage play is to cash two top diamonds, strip the spades and lead a low heart to the nine. This works since the whole deal is as follows:"

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

For once I disagree with Marshall Miles. There is an error in his reasoning.


Solution

The plan is quite clever – if it could have been executed. But it is impossible after the three first tricks. If South ruffs a spade and cashes the ace and king of diamonds, the lead is in dummy. If there shall be an endplay, South has to ruff his last spade in dummy, and the only way back to his hand is in trumps. But after a club to the ten and the last spade ruffed, dummy has ran out of trumps. That means West can safely play any major suit when gets the lead.
  So if South wants to follow Miles' recommendation, he should have ruffed a spade already at trick two. Then, he can play club ace, club queen, spade ruff, diamond ace-king and a heart to the nine. But since he forgot to ruff a spade early, he no longer can make 5 clubs.


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