Competition Problem 103b
West to lead and East-West to defeat South’s contract of two hearts.
Successful solvers: Steve Bloom, Radu Mihai. Steve Bloom asked me to add that he did have the slight advantage of having seen Barry Rigal's deal, sent privately by him to a small circle of correspondents, from which this problem originates. This problem turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. I hadn't realised that the trap of cashing both diamonds before switching to a black suit would be so alluring. Once you realise that doesn't work, of course, the solution is quite simple.
With just four obvious tricks in diamonds and the black suits, the defence must manoeuvre to score two of East’s trumps, or possibly a trump and a second spade trick. On the other hand, declarer is looking at four trump tricks and the black aces, with the ♦Q as an eventual seventh trick. An eighth might come from a spade ruff but then the trump suit is blocked. The situation does seem to favour the defence but care is needed, as we shall see, after West’s obvious opening lead of a low diamond.
On winning the first trick, East must return a spade. It makes little difference how declarer plays now so we will assume for simplicity that the ♠Q loses to the ♠K. West leads the other low diamond and this time East must switch to a lower club, West overtaking with the ♣10 when South plays low. Now West leads a third diamond, on which East must discard a club. Declarer’s best try is to win with the ♦Q, cash the black suit aces, then trump either a diamond or a club with the ♥Q. The position is now like this, with East still to play and defenders needing two more tricks:
East must resist the temptation to overruff, instead discarding a spade and then covering North’s trump lead. When South wins and North ruffs the third club, East completes the defence by overruffing and leading a spade, forcing South to ruff and lead away from the ♥AJ.
If South rises with the ace on the first round of either black suit, the play is essentially as above, as the best try is then to exit in the same suit, with the ♠Q at trick three or the ♣5 at trick five. In the first case we just have the above line with the ♠A winning at a different point in the play. In the second, West rises with the ♣10 and leads a diamond.
1. If East leads a club instead of a spade at trick two, declarer plays to give up a club trick, take the first spade with the ♠A, and reach the North hand by ruffing a club low. The position will then be like this, with North on lead and both sides having taken three tricks:
The lead of the ♥Q allows three rounds of trumps to be taken and then South exits in spades. Whether West leads a diamond or a spade, the ♦Q, South’s remaining top heart and North’s ♥8 must somehow score two of the last three tricks.
2. If East cashes a second diamond at trick two and then leads a club, South can (for example) win with the ♣A and play another club. West wins and leads a diamond, won by South's ♦Q as East discards a club. Now a minor suit card is ruffed with the ♥Q, then South takes a trump finesse and exits on a diamond. West is endplayed either now, if East discards, or later if East ruffs and returns a spade, South playing ♠A and ♠Q.
3. If East cashes a second diamond at trick two and then leads a spade, South can (for example) win with the ♠A and exit on the ♠Q. West wins and leads a diamond, won by South's ♦Q as East discards a club, but South exits on the fourth diamond, North and East both discarding clubs. The spade return is ruffed with the ♥2 and South plays the ♣A and another club. East can overruff North but then declarer takes the rest.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
© Hugh Darwen, 2013
Date last modified: 02 March, 2020