Problem No. 33, 2008


The problem

The computers handle many of the boring things we earlier had to do ourselves, and they have given us possibilities we couldn't dream of only 20 or 30 years ago. But there is a downside to all progress. Personally, I've always loved to find out the truth about an interesting bridge deal: Could you make 4 spades against best defense? What happens if West leads a trump instead? Why not unblock the ace of clubs first? etc. Today, we can enter the deal in a good double dummy solver, and a few seconds later we have the answer. Nice, yes, but not as fun as trying to solve the problem all by yourself.

Some years ago I wrote up a fascinating 3 notrump deal in Pamela and Matthew Granovetter's magazine Bridge Today. The deal looked like this:

Sp J 4 2
Hj A 9 4 3
Ru 7 6 5
Kl K 9 8
Sp Q 10 6 5


Sp 9
Hj K 10 8Hj J 7 6 5
Ru Q 9Ru K 10 8 3 2
Kl A J 4 2Kl 10 7 5
Sp A K 8 7 3
Hj Q 2
Ru A J 4
Kl Q 6 3

Our team played a training session, and Lena K√§rrstrand, South, became declarer in 3 notrump after showing her five-card suit along the way. Johan Bennet, West, had a tricky opening lead and chose to start with the queen of diamonds. Lena let him hold the trick, won the next diamond, cashed the spade ace and led a low spade. Johan could win the queen and play another spade, but after a diamond to hand and two spade tricks, Johan couldn't keep all cards he needed, so the game was made.

In my analysis, I wrote that only a heart lead defeats 3 notrump. A club isn't enough, if South beats East's ten with the queen and immediately leads a low spade towards dummy. West has no way to stop declarer winning nine tricks.

Some years later, I aquired the excellent double dummy solver Deep Finesse. Just for fun, I entered this deal into the program. It confirmed that a heart lead was OK, but I was very surprised to learn that a low club is also OK. And so I learned that I had missed something in my analysis...


It is true that 3 notrump makes if South beats the club ten with the queen and leads a low spade towards the jack. But South won't have the chance to play like that if East withholds the ten of clubs at trick one, playing a low spot instead. If South wins the trick in dummy, he is in the wrong hand for playing spades optimally (a low spade to the ace and then low towards the jack won't work because of transportation problems), so the best she can do is to overtake with the queen and lead the spade three.

Then, it's West's turn to shine, by winning the spade queen and continuing with the club jack. The king wins the trick, and South cashes her spades. On the last one, West is in some trouble, but he solves them by discarding the club ace. Then, East gets an entry with the club ten to lead a heart through South's queen, which means South has to be content with eight tricks.

The net effect is that East-West don't gain any club tricks by leading the suit, but they create an entry to East's hand, and that is enough to defeat the contract. Unusual, indeed!

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