Al The Plumber

#20101214: PLAY OR DEFEND OR? – Part II

I stayed up all night reading the answers and writing this. OK, maybe I’m psyching. Actually, I got so exhilarated that I fainted, and didn’t wake up for hours.

Anyway, I’ve got enough time only to get this started and at least give you what is probably the toughest part of the solution. I know that everyone is holding his or her breath for all of this stuff!

First, here is a link to the original problem (for your convenience).

The beginning of the solution: DEFEND! AND YOU MUST LEAD A SPADE, FOR STARTERS!

At least that is my opinion, which is never wrong unless it’s not right. So blast away if you think I’ve screwed up!

Sorry, but I don’t think that those who chose to PLAY or DEFEND but led a non-spade came up the winning approach. However, you have plenty of other company anyway. After the spade lead, the defense still has work to do. I’ll get into more detail later.

There were numerous replies including quite a few from leading national and international players. Some even wrote a Ph. D. bridge thesis on the problem! A significant percentage chose to defend, but it’s not so clear to me that anyone really had a correct, reasonably complete explanation(*). However, you can explain your case to the director — Unfortunately, I guess that’s me. Probably better for you is to appeal. So I’ll put your solution & case on here w/ or w/o your name. I’m sure everyone will agree that they are completely objective! J

I can also open the whole problem to a general discussion, if I can surmount some Comcast problems. Or maybe blog somewhere. More about that later.

(*) This is why:

1. Many who led a spade said they also would lead one at the next opportunity, regardless if they went into a lot of cases or not. However, I believe that can be shown to be incorrect in the case indicated below. Therefore, such replies don’t make it either.

2. Of the others who led a spade, quite a few went into some detail. However, most did not consider the case when declarer wins it in either hand, and then PLAYS A DIAMOND AT TRICK 2. Of those who did, NO ONE LED ANOTHER DIAMOND! I think the defense MUST do that.

I would have liked that those who more or less just said it was right to lead a spade w/o much detail to at least mention this case.

In problems that require a trump lead, often another is required when possible, but I don’t think so in this situation. In addition, there is the old saying, “When both sides lead the same suit, one side crazy!” I think these are some of the things that make this a good problem.


Sorry, that’s all for now. I’ve got to switch from bridge madness to other lunacies of the world! I hope to be back with more about the problem later tonight.

In the meantime for those who want to pursue it some more —

One of the main aspects mentioned in various replies is that in some variations declarer is trying to set up a heart-club squeeze on West. How does South try to do that, and how does the defense counter it? (i.e., such as #2 above. 🙂 )

See ya later!

Al, the Plumber of the Depths of Lunacy!


Linda LeeDecember 17th, 2010 at 5:22 am

This was the comment I sent in:


It’s a cute hand but doesn’t seem that tough double dummy unless I am missing something. The only lead to give South trouble is a trump. So West leads that. South wins and plays a club to the CK. (Double dummy you could win in hand and lead the CK if you want). West can duck or win the CA. I don’t think it matters. Either way West is on the CA and leads a trump again. Then declarer needs to unblock hearts to make the fourth heart in dummy. But East (and here is the trick) can foil this by throwing a club on the third heart. This prevents declarer from getting to dummy by ruffing a club (East overruffs) and so South cannot play the fourth top heart.

I looked at two other possibility. The first is straightforward. Suppose declarer plays hearts early. First if declarer wins the spade in hand and plays 3 rounds of hearts, East can ruff and then get to West’s hand for a ruff of the fourth heart.

An interesting possibility occurs if declarer wins the spade in dummy and plays three round of hearts. East could discard a club on the third heart and things will be similar to line 1. But if East ruffs the third heart it is still possible to defeat the hand (unlike line 1). East can return a diamond and West will win and the defence can ruff out the heart ace. When West gets in on a club she can return the last trump and prevent a second ruff in dummy.

There may be other lines but the first one seems how it would go at the table.

My partner Francine found a nice defense a couple of days ago that involved ducking an ace in an offsuit twice with only two in dummy. It isn’t the same but in some ways the theme is similar. Sometimes it is better to not take your winner. If you are interested in that deal:

Linda LeeDecember 17th, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Okay. I concede Al. The line I omitted where you have to return a diamond after declarer leads a diamond at trick two is very interesting!

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