Competition Problem 179
by Stefan Ralescu
After a bidding mishap South is declarer in two hearts. How is the contract defeated?
Successful solvers: Sebastian Nowacki, Rajeswar Tewari. Very few submissions for this one. I know solvers don't care so much for defensive problems or low-level contracts but I couldn't resist putting this one on display, considering the unusual opening lead and the early triple-squeeze on North where West's next lead depends on North's discard.
West must lead the ♠Q! North does best to play high, but in any case East must duck. Winning with the ♠K, South leads the ♥K, on which West must play a middle card. North discards a low diamond.
A. If South follows with the ♥Q, this time West plays the ♥A—and watches North’s discard. If this is
1. a spade, West must lead that suit. East wins with the ♠A and returns a spade for West to ruff high. West can now play any minor suit card. When South plays the ♥J West will unblock again so that East can get in on the ♥7 to cash a master spade.
2. a diamond, West must lead that suit. North wins with the ♦J and runs the ♣J to West, who returns a spade to East’s ♠A, North again playing high (to limit East’s subsequent choices) as South preserves the ♠8. East now puts North back in with a diamond. If South comes to hand on the ♣A to continue trumps, West will eventually make a long trick in diamonds as well as two more in hearts. If instead declarer plays the ♠8 at trick ten (after cashing the ♥J), then West ruffs and puts North in with a diamond so that the defenders make their high trumps separately for the last two tricks.
3. a high club, West must lead that suit, followed by another when South lets the ♣K hold. North plays the three high clubs to retain a possible entry to South. Winning with the ♣A, South does best to play two more rounds of hearts, North discarding a high spade and a diamond (possibly the ♦J). West now leads the ♠7 for an avoidance play: if North plays high, then East ducks; otherwise East wins with the ♠A and returns the suit to North. In either case, West will ruff the third club and put North back in with a diamond (the ♦10 or ♦K if North has retained the ♦8). In the five-card ending North makes two diamond tricks and a spade but has to lose either two diamonds or a diamond and a spade, South going to bed with the club winners.
B. If South leads the ♦9 at trick three, West plays the ♦10. North does best to win with the ♦J and lead a high spade, but East takes this with the ♠A and gives West a spade ruff with a middle trump. West now returns a club, South (best) winning with the ♣A and returning the suit, North unblocking. West puts North back in with a diamond and declarer’s best hope is to sneak a trick with the ♥6 by playing two more rounds of diamonds. But East inserts the ♥7, forcing South to overruff high. Declarer’s last-ditch effort at trick eleven is a club, in the hope that West will have to ruff and lead away from the ♥A, but of course East can overruff West’s carefully preserved ♥2.
C. If South leads a spade at trick three, East wins with the ♠A and returns the suit to give West a ruff with a middle heart. West then returns either a club or the ♦10. West will lead a second diamond on regaining the lead and one or other of the previously described defences will defeat the contract. This defence also succeeds, among various alternatives, on other declarer plays in the first three tricks.
Against a non-spade opening lead declarer aims to play four rounds of trumps. Typically, West is on lead at the end with only diamonds and the last heart. North will make either three diamond tricks or two and one or more clubs.
Trap: If West starts with the ♠7 instead of the ♠Q, North plays the ♠6 and South wins with the ♠8. Play follows line A.3 but now there is no avoidance play available in spades and South gets the lead on the second or third round of that suit to take a diamond finesse.
See the solution to Competition Problem #4 for the recommended tabular format if you prefer not to write in English prose.
Hugh Darwen, 2020