Competition Problem 181
Successful solvers: Franco Baseggio, Steve Bloom, Ed Lawhon, Wim van der Zijden. Everybody saw the need for three rounds of trumps and most mentioned the careful defensive play in the minor suit but alas, several solvers misunderstood the wording of the second part and I'm very sorry about that.
On the hand as shown the defence prevails. To prevent the easy cross-ruff the defenders start with three rounds of spades, East overtaking Westís ♠Q for that purpose. Assume West discards a heart on the third spade (a high club also works). Declarerís best chance now is to play for a squeeze, but a trick must be conceded to rectify the count and a damaging heart return then needs to be avoided.
A. If South wins the third spade and leads a diamond, West must play high.
1. If North ducks, West returns a low heart and even though this can isolate the guard in West if North plays low to force Eastís ♥Q, there is no squeeze. If, instead, North wins the heart so that South can come to hand on the ♥A after ♣A, ♣K, and a club ruff, then West can safely discard the ♥J on the last trump, to keep a diamond guard while East retains the ♥Q and ♣Q.
2. If North wins and (best) leads a club, East must play high, keeping the ♣6. Whether South ducks, or wins and then gives up a club, East can win and return a heart to break the threatened double squeeze.
B. If South unblocks to let North win the third spade and lead a club, East plays high, again threatening to lead a heart. South does best to win, cross to North on a diamond, and lead another club, but West plays high on the first club and also on the diamond and then both defenders play high on the second club. Eastís ♦9 prevents the lead from being safely lost to West and the contract fails.
(a) If West plays the ♦8 in line A, North wins. After three rounds of clubs, North ruffing the third, a diamond is lost to West. Now a heart return goes to the ♥Q and ♥A and the last spade squeezes West before North in the red suits, whereas a diamond return lets South come to hand on a heart and play the spade for a double squeeze with hearts as pivot suit.
(b) If East plays the ♣6 in A.2, South plays the ♣7 and West wins. Now a heart return again gives a red suit squeeze against West, whereas a minor suit return gives rise to a double squeeze played from the North hand. For example, North wins a diamond continuation and leads another for South to ruff. South then cashes the tops clubs, North discarding a heart, and crosses to north on the ♥K to play the last trump.
Traps (a) and (b) both apply in similar fashion when North wins the third spade.
A single exchange to allow the contract to succeed can be made between East and West in any of the four suits. The most innocuous-looking exchanges in each case are, in ascending order of innocuity:
1. The ♠Q and ♠K. Now the defenders cannot start with three rounds of spades.
2. The ♥8 and ♥6. Now, after three rounds of diamonds, South ruffing the third, and three rounds of clubs, North ruffing the third, the fourth diamond, won by West, squeezes East. A club discard sets up Southís ♣7 and a heart discard allows South to capture the ♥Q with the ♥K and lead the ♥10 to pin Eastís remaining heart such that North makes the ♥K and ♥7 if West covers.
3. The ♦8 and ♦9 (of equal innocuity to number 2). Now declarer plays as in Trap (a).
4. The ♣6 and ♣4. Now declarer plays as in line B and when both defenders play high clubs on the first two rounds, Southís ♣7 and ♣5 are effective equals. South can exit on either the ♣7 to set up the ♣5 while North discards two losers, or the ♣5 to rectify the count if East lets Westís ♣6 win the trick.
Hugh Darwen, 2020