Janet de Botton

Bridge | 18 December 2019

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For Christmas this year I am giving you a double-dummy problem. Too generous, I hear you cry — but better than another pair of socks.

DD problems are usually found in books: specially constructed deals where you get to see all the cards, and then have to work out how to make your contract against best defence. Occasionally they pop up in real life, like the hand below which occurred in a regular Monday night duplicate at Young Chelsea. Deep Finesse, the program that analyses the deals for the hand records, seemed to think that South could make 3NT but North could not. The first hurdle is to find out why that is so, the second to work out how to succeed from the South hand. If you like puzzles, cover up the solution, pour yourself a festive cuppa and try to solve it.

Good luck! (See diagram).

North can’t make 3NT because East leads a Heart and West covers South’s card to keep communication. If South is declaring, this is not possible. West may lead the Queen of Hearts, but it will hold the trick. A small Heart next would allow declarer to win in hand and take the Club finesse, so West can do no better than playing Ace and another Heart, losing his quick entry in the process.

In dummy with the King of Hearts at trick three, declarer needs to play the Jack of Clubs to his Ace followed by a Diamond towards dummy. West must split, and the Ace wins. Now, King and another Club puts East on lead. The sacrifice of the club trick is what chess players know as a ‘Gambit’. A highly unusual concept in bridge.

East can only play Diamonds at this point, so dummy wins a cheap trick in that suit with the eight or ten. One more Diamond is cashed in dummy, stripping East of everything but Spades.

Finally, Ace and another Spade ensures that declarer gets an entry to hand with the Queen of Spades.

Merry Christmas.