Problem No. 13, 2002


The problem

Serietävlingen is the name of the bidding contest in the Swedish magazine Bridgetidningen. Just like the Masters' Solvers Club in The Bridge World, one of the problems is an opening lead. And since I'm especially fond of such problems, I use to start every new issue of Bridgetidningen by browsing to the opening lead problem. In one of the latest issues, it looked like this:

S K 9 8 3    H K 10 8 4    D 10 8 6 5    C J

South West North East
1 C pass 1 D
pass 3 D pass 3 H
pass 3 S pass 4 D
pass 4 H pass 4 S
pass 5 D pass 6 D
pass pass pass

3 H/3 S/4 H/4 S = cue-bids

The majority vote in the panel was for a diamond, with the jack of clubs (which I myself consider the obvious choice) on second place. One of the experts who voted for the trump lead, had this to say:

"The opponents' never-ending cue-bids in the majors has fooled me into thinking they have ace opposite singleton in both suits. Then, you have to cut down on ruffs. You could argue that the only time they can take 12 tricks on a crossruff is when they have all remaining nine trumps and all the aces – but that is surely possible."

That comment (and the other ones recommending a trump lead) didn't make me change my mind, and I didn't think any more about it for a few days. But then I suddenly realized that this comment wasn't very convincing and that the conductor Johan Ebenius should have said something about it. Now the question is: What was it that I had realized?


The bidding has told us that West has four diamonds and that East has four or five diamonds. For declarer to get nine trump tricks, he has to ruff four cards in dummy. Those ruffs can only be in the majors, since West opened with 1 club. Suppose East plans to ruff four hearts in dummy. Then he has to have five hearts in his own hand. If he only has four, he can't ruff all of them since the ace of hearts will be played in one of the tricks. The same reasoning can be applied for spades, if that is the suit East plans to ruff in dummy.
   So for East to be able to ruff four cards in one of the majors, he has to have a five-card major. But would he have responded 1 diamond over 1 club with five diamonds and a five-card major? Hardly. So we can safely rule out that possibility.
   But if West is short in both majors, what happens then?
   Then, West has to be 1-1-4-7 and East something like 4-3-5-1, but even then he can't get the nine ruffs he needs. South has only club, remember, which means that he can overruff if East ruffs low; and if East ruffs high once or twice, South's ten-eight fourth of trumps will be promoted to one or two tricks.

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