Competition Problem 182
South to make three clubs. West leads the ♦Q.
Successful solvers: Franco Baseggio, Steve Bloom, Sebastian Nowacki, Rajeswar Tewari, Wim van der Zijden. These fiive were nearly unanimous in their DR estimates. Other solutions received were correct as far as they went but missed some of the required variations.
On the first trick North plays the ♦6.
A. If the ♦Q wins and West continues with
1. a red card, North wins, cashes the other red ace, then leads the ♥Q for a ruffing finesse through East, following with the ♥J if East ducks. East does best to cover the first or second heart. If, say, East covers the ♥Q, South ruffs, re-enters North with a diamond ruff, cashes a heart, throwing a spade from hand, ruffs the master heart, and leads a diamond in this position:
If West discards or ruffs low, North will score a cheap ruff with the ♣7 and declarer can then make the two top clubs separately; and if West ruffs with the ♣J, North overruffs with the ♣K and can make two more club tricks by finessing through East.
2. the ♣5, North plays the ♣2 and South beats the ♣Q with the ♣A. South continues by leading the ♠K (!) to Westís ♠A. The defence then has three main options:
(a) East unblocks the ♠Q, West cashes the ♠J and leads the ♠8, covered by North and ruffed by East. East exits with, say, a diamond. Declarer takes the two red aces, leads the ♥Q for a ruffing finesse, and when in the South hand leads the ♣10 to the ♣J and ♣K, pinning Eastís ♣9. Declarer then makes the rest.
(b) East plays the ♠9, West leads the ♠8 to Eastís ♠Q, and East leads a club. South plays low and North wins with the ♣K. North cashes the ♥A, then declarer takes a ruffing finesse in hearts, re-enters the North hand with the ♦A, cashes the remaining hearts, discarding spades from hand, ruffs Northís last spade with the ♣10, and makes a ninth trick with a diamond ruff. (Alternatively, the same tricks can be taken in a different order by cashing Northís ♦A before playing on hearts.)
(c) East plays the ♠9 and West leads the ♣6. South wins with the ♣10, plays a heart to the ♥A and takes the ruffing finesse in hearts. Assume East covers the first heart. Having ruffed out the ♥K, declarer exits on a spade to Eastís ♠Q. The diamond return (best) goes to Northís ♦A and this time South discards diamonds, not spades, on Northís heart winners. Westís remaining cards now are the three jacks. The ♠J wins trick eleven but then the ♦J lead gives South a ruff with the ♣4 as East follows suit, whereas the ♣J gives North the ♣K and a spade winner.
B. East can spoil the above line by overtaking the ♦Q and leading the ♠Q, covered by Southís ♠K. West wins two spades and leads the third for East to ruff. Now, after the ♦A, ♥A, ruffing finesse in hearts, diamond ruff, spade discard on a heart winner, and the fourth heart ruffed, we are left with this:
On the ♦5 from South the defendersí trumps are caught in the Devilís Coup.
C. Alternatively, having overtaken the ♦Q, East might lead a low club. In that case South must cover with the ♣10, forcing Westís ♣J. North wins with the ♣K, cashes the red aces, and leads a heart for the ruffing finesse. Now North can get two diamond ruffs, South ruffing the last heart as before. The ♣A is the ninth trick.
Hugh Darwen, 2020