Competition Problem 160a
South to make three no-trumps. West leads the ♦5.
Successful solvers: Ed Lawhon, Zoran Sibinović, Rajeswar Tewari. The only DR suggestion from a successful solver was 4 but at least one unsuccessful solver suggested 6. In view of the two traps mentioned below and the paucity of submitted solutions, I've awarded DR7.
North wins the first trick with the ♦Q and leads the ♥Q. The defence must win this, and possibly a second heart, then switch to spades to establish tricks in that suit before declarer can set up club tricks in North (though see variation E below).
A. If West wins with the ♥K and plays a spade, South’s ♠A wins the second spade (see line D if East switches back to hearts) and North discards the ♣2. Declarer finesses the ♦10 and leads a heart from North.
1. If East plays low, South wins with the ♥J and leads the ♣J, which either holds the trick or is covered by the ♣K and ♣A. North then wins a diamond trick with the ♦A and exits on a heart. East can take two hearts but must then concede three clubs to North.
2. If East wins with the ♥A, a heart or club return leads to the endplay in line 1, so East leads a diamond to North’s ♦A. Declarer crosses to the ♥J, on which West must discard a spade, and cashes the ♦J, on which West must discard another spade. North and East discard clubs. South then leads the ♣J. If West plays low, the ♣J holds, and South throws West in with a spade, discarding a heart from North; and if instead West covers, then North wins with the ♣A and throws East in with a heart. The defender now on lead must now concede two club tricks.
B. If East wins with the ♥A and plays a spade, South wins the first spade with the ♠A and leads the ♣J, which either holds the trick or is covered by the ♣K and ♣A. Declarer then exits with a heart to West’s ♥K.
1. If West leads a low spade, won by East, North discards a low club. On East’s red suit return, declarer takes two diamonds and a heart, ending in North. East is then thrown in with a heart as in line A.1 and must concede three clubs.
2. If West leads a diamond, declarer takes two diamonds and a heart, ending in hand. West does best to discard a club. South then leads the ♠2. If West plays low and East wins, play reverts to line B.1, so West rises with the ♠K. If West now leads a low spade, South wins as cheaply as possible and can lead any card to ensure two more tricks. If instead West cashes the other top spade, North must come down to three clubs. West must then concede the remaining tricks to either North (on a club lead) or South (on a spade lead).
C. If the defenders win two heart tricks before attacking spades, South ducks the first spade. Now a black suit return gives one of the foregoing lines, so East leads a third heart. Winning this with the ♥J, South then leads the ♣J. West does best to cover but in any case North can throw West in by playing three rounds of clubs. If West leads a spade, North’s heart loser goes on the ♠A and a diamond finesse gives declarer the remaining tricks in the minor suits. A diamond return has much the same effect, giving South an entry on the ♦J to score the ♠A—so now we know why it was important to win the first trick with the ♦Q!
D. If West wins the first heart and East, having won the first spade, plays ♥A and another heart, declarer leads the ♣J and we have the eight card ending of line C. Much the same applies if East exits immediately on a low heart to South’s ♥J.
E. East might win the first heart and lead a diamond to North, putting declarer in the wrong hand for an immediate club attack. In that case North wins one or two diamonds and plays a heart to West. South then wins the first spade and the play effectively reverts to line B.2.
1. If South wins the opening in hand with the ♦J and leads a heart, West ducks and East captures North’s ♥Q. Now a heart to West’s ♥K and a spade back to East’s ♠Q sinks the contract. (Some solvers incorrectly assumed East would cash that ♠Q immediately).
2. In line A. above, if South wins the first spade, and takes diamond finesse to lead the second heart from North, then East can win with the ♥A and then lead from either red suit. (Ducking the second heart also works for the defence.) Again it is crucial for East to hang on to that spade winner.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
Hugh Darwen, 2018