Competition Problem 176
to make six no-trumps. West leads the ♦J.
Successful solvers: To be announced in next update.
(a) South wins in hand and leads the ♦8, covered by the ♦9 and won by North, who then leads the ♠Q, followed by the ♠J when it holds. Assuming East ducks both honours, North now leads the ♥Q (if East covers either of the spade honours, South can win and play a low heart immediately or after the second spade, and the play is as described below).
A. If West ducks, South plays the remaining spades, North discarding low diamonds unless West unguards that suit. In the five-card ending West must keep two diamonds and two clubs, thus baring the ♥A. The ♣Q from South must be covered, after which it is a simple matter to throw West in with a heart after two rounds of clubs. North’s ♦K6 diamond tenace takes the last two tricks.
B. If West plays the ♥A and (best) returns the suit, South wins with the ♥K and plays the remaining spades, North discarding low diamonds unless West unguards that suit. West is forced to come down to two of each minor suit while East keeps three clubs and a heart. Now comes the ♣Q. West has to cover to keep declarer’s club tricks to two, but that sets up an entry back to South for East to be squeezed when North now advances the ♦K.
Trap: If South plays a low heart at trick 2, then West plays low, letting North’s singleton ♥Q win the trick. East then lets the ♠Q and ♠J both hold, preventing South from being on lead to play the ♦8 through West while still being able to return to hand on a spade. When the spades are played out West safely comes down to singleton ♥A, two clubs and three diamonds, having a safe exit on a high diamond.
(b) East must lead the ♦7.
C. If South wins with the ♦A, as in (a), then line A. above fails because North has no tenace in diamonds—West can either win the first heart and return a diamond or duck it and later safely bare the ♥A. Moreover, the trap mentioned in (a) still applies, should South try a low heart at trick two.
D. So declarer (North) tries a different tack, letting the trick run round to the ♦9 and ♦Q. The best try now is to play two rounds of spades followed by a heart, but East takes care to duck the ♠Q and ♠J (in case South plays a middle card on the first round so that North’s ♠5 would provide a re-entry card if East covers). North continues with the ♥Q as in (a) but now West can sink the contract by winning and returning the ♣K. North’s diamonds are stranded and South must lose a heart trick. Note: This defence fails if East covers the ♠Q or ♠J because North’s ♠5 then provides an entry to score the remaining diamond winner.
Trap: In line A, if North fails to unblock clubs as shown, then it is not possible to lose that second club trick while retaining control of hearts. The three-card ending then differs from Position A in that South holds the ♣8 instead of a diamond and East has a safe exit on the ♠5.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
Hugh Darwen, 2019