Competition Problem 157a
South to make three no-trumps. West leads a heart.
Successful solvers: Michael Bazdarich, Ian Budden, Noer Imanzal, Ed Lawhon, Radu Mihai, Sebastian Nowacki, Zoran Sibinović, Rajeswar Tewari, Andries van der Vegt.
East wins the opening lead with the ♥K and returns the suit to South’s ♥Q. North wins a diamond finesse, cashes the ♦K, and leads a high diamond to South’s ♦A. East and West both discard hearts (best). South now leads the ♦5 in this position:
The diagram earlier showed East with three spades and a remaining heart, but it is better for East to delay the decision as to which black suit to discard from. Note that in line A below, declarer’s play is slightly imprecise but care is still needed, especially if North cashes both remaining red suit winners.
West is caught in an unusual see-saw squeeze.
A. If West discards another heart, North overtakes and cashes either the ♥A or the ♦4. South can discard from either black suit and West’s last heart is played.
1. If East has discarded a spade, North leads a spade. South keeps three spades so that the defenders can score only their three black suit top cards. In this line North can optionally cash the other red suit winner before leading the spade, in which case South must come down to three spades and two clubs.
2. If East keeps four spades, North leads any club, followed by another if West ducks. In this variation, if North has cashed both the ♥A and ♦4, then East is down to the singleton ♣J and South must play the ♣Q even if North leads the ♣K. (I have not penalised solvers who omitted this line, partly because I did so myself and partly because some solvers whose submissions I initially rejected for missing it said they were aggrieved because they thought it too trivial to be worth mentioning.)
B. If West discards a club or spade (spade is best), North plays low and South leads a club to the ♣K. On the ♦J East discards a spade, South a spade, and West is squeezed again.
1. If West bares the ♣A, North leads a club to set up South’s ♣Q for the ninth trick.
2. Otherwise, North cashes the ♥A. If East bares the ♣J, South discards a club and North can lead either a spade or the ♣2 to guarantee another trick; otherwise South discards a spade and North leads a spade. Whatever West played on the last diamond, all players will be down to two clubs at trick 12 and declarer will come to a club trick whichever defender is on lead.
If East plays low on the opening lead, declarer plays four rounds of diamonds, ending in hand. If West keeps more than two hearts, a club to the ♣K is followed by the last diamond and the ending is as in the main line with an extra heart loser. If West keeps only two hearts, North is instead entered on the ♥A and now has several options.
Trap: If declarer starts with a club to the ♣K and five rounds of diamonds, West discards hearts, keeping three spades and two clubs. If North now cashes the ♥A, then South is squeezed, whereas a spade from North allows other defender to win and then defenders have a choice of squeezes, one against South, the other against North.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
Hugh Darwen, 2018