Problem No. 31, 2007


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The problem

Bridge writer Barry Rigal has told me about this problem.

In a team game some years ago, Brian Senior from Great Britain picked up these nice cards:

    S 6
    H A Q 10 4
    D A K Q 8 4 3 2
    C 8

Both sides were vulnerable, and Brian opened the bidding first in hand with 1D. LHO overcalled 1S, Brian's partner Geoff Wolfarth bid 1NT, and RHO surprisingly bid 2H. What to do now is not clear, but Brian jumped to 3NT, reasonably enough, and expected it to make.
  Three passes followed. The bad news is that North led a club, which meant that 3NT was three down when 6 of a minor would have made.
  But there were good news on the deal too. What would your guess be as to the good news?


Solution

The deal looked like this (East dealer, both sides vulnerable):

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

At Brian's table, North unsportingly led a club, and even though the defense missed a trick (a low spade at trick two leads to at least four down), their seven tricks meant that the game was three down. But +300 was not a good result for North-South, since at the other table this happened:

SouthWestNorthEast
1 D
1 Spasspass2 H
3 C3 H4 D5 D
6 CDpasspass
pass

After West's 3 hearts bid, North had a great hand. He was almost sure that South had 5-5 or better in the black suits plus a void in hearts. The only question was whether to bid 6 clubs or "only" invite slam with a splinter bid of 4 diamonds...

South, Vladis Nikolov Isporski, didn't have any extra values, but the cards seemed to fit perfectly (nothing wasted in North's shortness), so he accepted North's slam try. After ruffing the second trick, he drew trumps and finessed the spade ten (that West had at least four spades was guaranteed, so the finesse was heavily odds-on). After that, he recorded +1540 and won 15 IMPs for his team.

An alternative plan is to cash one trump honor only, then cash the spade tops. When East, not so surprisingly, has 1-1 in the black suits, South can establish a third spade trick and then crossruff the rest. That plan fails (compared to the one chosen) if East has two clubs and one spade, but on the other hand it picks up East's queen singleton or doubleton.


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