by Stefan Ralescu
How does South make three hearts when West leads the ♠K?
Successful solvers: Steve Bloom, Radu Mihai, Zoran Sibinović, Rajeswar Tewari, Wim van der Zijden Tables
South ducks the opening spade lead. If West now leads
A. another spade, South wins and exits on the ♣10!
1. If West wins and leads a diamond, the plays goes ♦A, ♣A, diamond ruff in North, club ruff in South, and ♠6. At this stage declarer has made five tricks. If West ruffs the ♠6, three more will easily come from the top hearts and a diamond ruff, after which North’s ♠J will either win a trick or, if West ruffs it, promote South’s last trump. So the ♠J wins trick 8, but now South can ruff both of North’s remaining black suit cards to ensure three more tricks in the trump suit even when West overruffs.
2. If West wins and leads a club, the play goes ♣A, ♦A, club ruff, ♠6, and the end result is much the same as in 1.
3. If West wins and leads the ♥Q, declarer has options. One line is ♥K, ♣A, ♦A, club ruff, diamond ruff, ♠J.
(a) If West ruffs and leads a diamond, North ruffs and cashes the ♥A, triple-squeezing East with three singletons! A black suit discard gives North a winner and the ♦K discard lets South ruff a the next trick and, when West overruffs, win the last trick with the ♦J.
(b) If West ruffs and leads either heart into the split tenace, declarer makes three of the last four tricks with two trump tricks and a ruff in one hand or the other.
(c) If West discards, North loses a black suit trick to East, bringing West down to just three hearts. West must ruff the next trick and lead into the split tenace.
4. If East wins, note that we now have a “ruffing guard menace” against West: if West discards a club, the ♣97 in North are set up for a ruffing finesse against East’s remaining honour. East does best to return a heart to North, who must now cash the ♦A before leading either a club to the ♣A (which we shall assume) or the ♠J—this choice affects only the order of play. A diamond ruff in North now leaves this position:
North leads the ♠J.
(a) If West ruffs and leads a heart, North plays the ♥A and East is triple-squeezed. A trick can be established in whichever suit East discards. For example, if East discards a diamond, South ruffs a club and North ruffs a diamond to set up the ♦J. At trick twelve West can overruff South but is left with a losing diamond.
(b) If West ruffs and leads a diamond, North ruffs and South ruffs a club. Now a heart to the ♥A squeezes East out of one of the three singletons. South’s ♦J either goes on a black suit winner or wins the last trick as in (a). A club lead from West comes to the same thing with the ruffs in a different order.
(c) If West discards a club, North leads one for the ruffing finesse. When East covers, South ruffs and West overruffs. When West now returns a diamond, North ruffs and South’s other diamond goes on the good club.
(d) If West discards a diamond, declarer can take the next three tricks with ruffs and the ♥A.
B. a diamond, North wins and this time South must win the ♣A before losing a trick in the suit. Whoever wins the second club, one or other of the variations of line A will come into play.
C. a heart or club, declarer has several ways of achieving a similar result.
To defeat the contract West must lead a diamond. Declarer will play on the black suits, conceding the lead twice in the process, but two more diamond leads, forcing North to use the two low trumps prematurely, leave declarer with no answer. For example, on a low club from North at trick two, East must play low. South tries the ♣10 but West wins and leads a diamond and does so again when declarer gives up a spade. South can get one ruff, in clubs, to go with North’s top hearts, but West’s trump holding holds declarer to eight tricks. Note the important presence of North’s ♥3 in many of the endings shown above.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
Hugh Darwen, 2017