Competition Problem 185
by Hugh Darwen
With revised layout in hearts, suggested by Ian Budden:
South to make four spades. West leads the ♣9.
Successful solvers: Franco Baseggio, Steve Bloom, Ian Budden, Steve McVea, Sebastian Nowacki, A.V. Ramana Rao, Bruce Reed, Rajeswar Tewari, Wim van der Zijden. Suggested DRs ranged from "1-2" to 5, averaging at just over 3. The two false solutions mentioned below both had their takers.
Solution (on original layout)
Declarer easily has three tricks in spades, two in hearts, one in diamonds, and three in clubs, making nine. A diamond ruff in hand could provide the tenth but the defenders can prevent that, as follows.
Whoever wins the first trick, the second will be a diamond, West capturing Southís ♦K with the ♦A to lead a second club, threatening to give East a ruff in that suit. Suppose declarer now cashes the ♦Q, ruffs a diamond, and runs the ♠Q round to East. In that case East ducks and South can do no better than lead a second spade, North playing low. East wins with the ♠K and leads a diamond. Declarerís cause is now lost, whichever hand ruffs this. If South ruffs it, North cannot get the lead in time to draw trumps, whereas if North ruffs it Eastís fourth trump is bound to score.
Instead declarer must aim to draw trumps and obtain the extra trick in the end game. Careful timing and exploiting the significant pips in the major suits are the key to success.
The first few tricks depend on Eastís play at trick one:
A. If East plays low, North wins and leads a diamond to the ♦K and ♦A. South wins the club continuation and leads the ♠Q, North and East (best) playing low.
B. If East covers, South wins with the ♣A and leads the ♦K. West does best to win with the ♦A and return a club to North, who plays a low spade to Southís ♠Q.
In either case the position is now, with South on lead,
South plays a low spade to Northís ♠10. East does best to win with the ♠K. Now South will get a diamond ruff safely unless East leads a third trump. North wins with the ♠A and leads the ♠8 to Southís ♠9. West does best to discard clubs, leaving this:
South leads the ♥4. North wins with the ♥J and cashes the ♣Q. If West discards a heart, South can duck a round the set up two more heart tricks while North still has diamond control, whereas a diamond discard lets North cash the ♦Q and lead a heart. If West has parted with the ♥5, South plays low and wins the last two tricks with the ♥A and ♥Q; otherwise South plays the ♥Q and either this or the ♥6 will score in addition to the ♥A.
In the revised layout North has to unblock the ♥6 such that West's lead at the end is into the ♥A5. Sorry I didn't think of that nice extra touch, "gilding the lily" as Ian Budden put it. Steve Bloom made a similar suggestion.
Trap: If declarer leads a spade (from either hand) at trick two, East wins with the ♠K and leads a club and will get a ruff in that suit if West gets the lead before trumps are drawn. So trumps have to be drawn, but West keeps at least two clubs and has two entries with which to establish the suit and cash a winner in it.
Hugh Darwen, 2020