Competition Problem 123a
South to make five no-trumps. West leads either (a) a low spade or (b) a low club.
Successful solvers: Jean-Marc Bihl, Wing-Kai Hon, Radu Mihai, Sebastian Nowacki, Wim van der Zijden Tables
Promotions: Congratulations to Radu Mihai on passing 200 Master Points and 5 Start Points to become a Master Problemist, and to Wing-Kai Hon on achieving the norm (50 master points) to become a Problemist.
Even with the double finesse in hearts declarer has only nine tricks on top. The spade lead allows an extra trick to be made in that suit such that a simple squeeze against two of West’s guards will suffice if it can be engineered. On a club lead, however, declarer needs a two-trick squeeze. In either case two tricks need to be lost early on to rectify the count.
(a) On a spade lead, North plays low and East wins with the ♠J. East returns the ♣Q (best) but South ducks this one too. Assume East now leads a diamond to South’s ♦K, though a club comes to much the same thing. Then comes the ♠10, covered by ♠Q and ♠K, followed by the ♥J, covered by ♥Q and ♥K. The ♣A and ♠8 are cashed (the ♣A could alternatively have been cashed at trick 4) and North is entered on the ♣K to score the last spade winner, which forces East to unguard diamonds. South then takes the second heart finesse and cashes the top heart to squeeze West in clubs and diamonds.
(b) On a club lead, East’s ♣Q is allowed to hold and the club continuation is taken in North, who leads the ♥J to ♥Q and ♥K. South now plays the ♦K and another diamond. West rises with the ♦10 (best—otherwise East is allowed to win the trick) and North plays the ♦A followed by the ♦3, on which South must discard a spade. If East wins this trick, then a second heart finesse and the top heart start a repeated squeeze on West: whatever West discards, the established winner in that suit brings about a second squeeze (or North can make two extra winners if West unguards spades). If instead West overtakes to win the third diamond, then North’s ♦6 is established and play ends in a black suit squeeze on West.
Trap: If South discards a heart instead of a spade on the third diamond, the third round of spades is perforce won by South. Now the diamond threat is stranded and there is no second squeeze.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
Hugh Darwen, 2015