Competition Problem 175
South to make three no-trumps. West leads the ♥3.
Successful solvers: Franco Baseggio, Steve Bloom, Ian Budden, Ed Lawhon, Steve McVea(*), Sebastian Nowacki, A.V. Ramana Rao, Wim van der Zijden. Thanks to all of these (and others) for their responses to my plea for guidance. They were of one voice in opting for DR4 and not insisting on spelling out the detail in line A.1 where the squeeze on East is delivered by West's lead rather than South's. The (*) for Steve McVea expresses my appreciation for attention to a detail that I really thought ought to be mentioned. After all, it's not often that a squeeze can be obtained by forcing a defender to lead to the squeeze card. That said, I note that my description of Position A did state unequivocally that South is on lead, cashing the ♣5, so I have to hang my head in shame.
Declarer aims for an endplay—either a squeeze (Position A) or a throw-in (Position B)—against East’s spade and diamond holdings. To rectify the count for the squeeze in Position A four tricks must be lost early on, one in hearts, one in diamonds, and two in clubs. East can create a difficulty by withholding the ♦A, but then declarer aims for Position B, having lost a heart trick and two club tricks.
In Position A South is on lead to cash the ♣5 (added after publication of the result: but see line A.1 below). In Position B East, who has been squeezed without the count at trick ten, is thrown in with a diamond and either South or North takes the last two depending on which spade East leads.
The first manoeuvre towards either of these two positions is easy—South ducks the opening heart lead in both hands. East does best now to play on diamonds.
A. If East plays ♦A and another, South wins the second and leads the ♠Q, covered (best) by West. North wins with the ♠A and advances the ♣J, covered (best again) by East. South wins with the ♣A and leads the ♣2.
1. If West ducks, North wins with the ♣10 and leads another club to West. If West now cashes the fourth club the count is right for the squeeze on East when the ♥A and ♥K follow in that order. So West tries a heart exit, but North simply wins with the ♥A and leads a spade to the ♠J so that South can give up a club and West’s heart return brings about Position A.
2. If West rises with the ♣Q, North unblocks the ♣10! West now does best (marginally) to lead the ♠10, but South wins and leads the ♣8, now being equals with the ♣5. (The ♥A can optionally be cashed instead, followed by the ♣6 overtaken.) If West wins, the ♥A (if still held), South’s ♥K and ♣5, the order depending on West’s return, inflict the squeeze; otherwise South exits on a club and the heart return does the squeeze.
B. If East leads a lower diamond at trick two, South wins with the ♦K and plays along similar lines to line A, starting with the ♠Q. Some variations in the order of play are possible, but play always ends in Position B. For example, at trick four North, having just won with the ♠A, can lead any club, South finessing the ♣8 if North chooses the ♣6 and East the ♣7.
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