Ted's Bridge World Problems

Trickle-Down Investment

by George Coffin


Opening lead: K.  South follows suit.
West to make 4.

In real life, west surely would not be allowed to declare at such as low level; also, the auction might provide clues to the opponents' distribution.  That, however, is composer's license; if the trump suit were changed from hearts to spades, the conditions would seem less improbable.

The key to a guarantee of the contract is a simple count of potential tricks.  One club and nine hearts are sufficient;  therefore, declarer wins the club lead, then ruffs a club with the A and a diamond with the K!  Now, another club ruff brings the trick total up to ten; any other line risks a possible overruff and a trump return.

Declarer is not out of the woods yet, however; for a potential uppercut exists if north holds all the trumps and is short in another suit.  The problem's composer seems to have overlooked this key point; but an eagle-eyed reader has brought it to my attention.

Let us say, for example, that north started life with all the trumps and a singleton diamond.  When a spade is led from dummy after the second club ruff, south wins and returns a diamond, ruffed high by declarer as north discards.  Now, when south wins the next club lead, another diamond play actually promotes north's six of hearts for the setting trick.

The solution is for declarer not to ruff anything until he must.  After any play from dummy at trick five, declarer simply dumps both of his remaining plain-suit losers, refusing to ruff until only trumps remain in his hand.  That way, south no longer can obtain the lead to effect a trump promotion.

Somewhere in Bridgeland today, a player will go set needlessly in a situation such as this.

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