Problem No. 5, 2000


The problem

Fifteen years ago my good friend Andreas Könyves told me about a cute deal, and his story which will our fifth problem. I hope you find it entertaining!
  In a IMP game, you bid to 7 hearts, vulnerable, which on a finesse. And at the other table, your oponents only play a small slam. Since the trump king is onside, the slam makes, just as the opponents', and you win IMPs on the board. So far, so good.
  But can you envision a situation where it would have been better for your side that the heart king had been offside?


The solution is remarkably simple. You played 7 hearts and your opponents played 6 hearts, but – and this is the first important thing – the contract was declared from different sides. At your table, you, South, was declarer, but at the other table North was the first to bid hearts, so he was declarer there.
  Most of the time, that wouldn't matter, but here it did. Your team mate who shouldn't make the opening lead, i.e. West at the other table, happened to be void in clubs and made a Lightner double to get his partner to make an unusual opening lead. The opponents considered him rude and redoubled, so the final contract was 6 hearts redoubled. That the contract wasn't undoubled at that table is the second point of importance.
  East had king-queen seventh of clubs and understood what his partner wanted. He led the club king and saw his partner ruff away dummy's ace. But that was the only trick they made, when the king of hearts was under the ace (with West); +2070 to North-South. Since you were +2210 i 7 hearts the difference was 150 points in your favor, or 4 IMPs.
  But suppose the heart king had been offside. Then, you would have been two down in your grand slam, for -200 (when East wins the trick with the heart king, he can give his partner a club ruff). And North at the other table had also been two down in his slam, because after winning the heart king, East has a club trick to cash. And two redoubled undertricks are +1000. Then, the difference is 800 points, or 13 IMPs. And it's surely better to win 13 IMPs than to win 4 IMPs...

Sometimes, losing a match can be to your advantage. Suppose Sweden has qualified for the Bermuda Bowl and is sure to reach the playoff when one match in the round robin is left (coming in second or third, no matter what happens). If they come second, they have to meet Italy in the first knock-out match, and since they lost to them heavily in the round robin, they start that match with a carry over of -20 IMPs, but if they are third they'll meet Romania, which they blitzed in the round robin (hence, gets a carry over of +25 IMPs). In such a situation, losing the last match is precisely what Sweden wants.
  If that is the case, one solver suggests you should hope the heart king is offside. Why? I wonder. If you really want to lose the match, why not lose to the heart king no matter who has it? And why 7 hearts? What not pass out the hand, or play 2 clubs on a 2-2 fit, or...

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