Ted's Bridge World Problems

Red Shift

by George Coffin


South leads the 6.
East to make 6NT against any defense and distribution.

East wins the opening spade lead as west discards a red card — say, a diamond.  Declarer leads the 2.  If south follows low, west inserts the nine-spot, assuring five tricks in the suit.  Alternatively, if south plays an honor, declarer ducks, and he will know what to do next.  (Actually, declarer can afford to take either honor with the king and still prevail with careful play; but it's a whole lot easier just to play low, then place one's hand upon the table.)

If south shows out on the first heart lead, then the K is taken and attention is diverted to diamonds.  Dummy leads a low diamond, east trying the jack unless the queen appears.  This guarantees four diamond tricks unless south shows out, in which case the proven heart finesse yields three tricks in each suit.

The text of Sure Tricks fails us here, however, by claiming that the "normal" safety-play of laying down a red ace at trick two would lose the contract if north was dealt all the red cards.  That is not the case.

Let's try it.  At trick two, declarer lays down the A, and south shows out.  Now, when the 2 is led toward dummy, south shows out again.  Dummy's king is taken, followed by a finesse of the diamond jack.  Declarer cashes a winner in each black suit, to this position:


Careful, now!  It would be fatal to set up a black-suit winner in the north hand.  A second club must be played prior to the last spade winner.  Because north cannot afford to part with any red card, he is compelled to pitch down to just one black card irrespective of his original distribution.  Now the remaining black winners are safely cashed, leaving this ending:


Declarer plays off the ace of diamonds, then runs the heart jack to the queen, endplaying north for twelve tricks.


All that having been said, observe that the deal is not the minimal workable layout for illustrating Mr. Coffin's special play.  Although the symmetry of the red suits is attractive, in fact one of the red jacks could be swapped with the ten without changing the result:


About the only difference in the play now is that the A cannot be cashed at trick two, lest north hold all the red cards.  It remains okay, however, to cash the A.  The composer's suggested line remains more elegant, though.

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