Competition Problem 144a
to make four hearts. West leads the ♦Q.
Successful solvers: Steve Bloom, Ian Budden, Radu Mihai, Sebastian Nowacki, Zoran Sibinović Tables
Against the ♦Q lead East does best to play low. South does likewise! At first sight it might seem that declarer can aim for four trump tricks, three in spades and three in the minor suits, discarding a heart loser on a spade winner; but West’s trump holding proves too strong for that approach—declarer cannot draw trumps and score the long spade. Instead, the aim is to restrict the major suit losers to one, either by forcing a spade lead from West or by a smother play to avoid the seemingly inevitable trump loser.
So West wins the first trick and might as well switch to a club (continuing diamonds comes to much the same thing). North wins with the ♣K and leads a second diamond.
A. If East wins and returns the suit, South next leads the ♥Q.
1. If West ducks, a second heart follows, North finessing. After the ♥A, the ♣A and a club ruff West, down to the ♥K and ♠K76, is thrown in on the heart. Declarer gets three spade tricks.
2. If West covers, North wins and plays ♣A and another club, South ruffing. South leads the ♠Q, covered by West and North, who cashes the ♠J to give this:
East is thrown in with a spade and South ruffs the minor suit return with a higher heart. Whether West overruffs or underruffs, North and South take the last three tricks.
B. If East ducks the second diamond, South wins with the ♦K and leads the ♥Q.
1. If West ducks, a heart finesse follows and North leads the remaining diamond. Whoever wins this, play subsequently follows A.1.
2. If West covers, North wins and can either play a diamond immediately, or do so after cashing the ♣A, or North can play ♣A and another, South discarding the diamond. Thus declarer can play for either of the two endings already described.
To defeat the contract West must lead the ♦9 and East must overtake with the ♦10. When this is allowed to hold, East must return a spade.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
Hugh Darwen, 2017