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THE PUZZLE OF THE SLAMS

Dec. 22, 1969
Dec. 22, 1969

Table of Contents
Dec. 22, 1969

Yesterday
E-Rupption
The Bowls
Sportsman Of The Year
Television
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Departments

THE PUZZLE OF THE SLAMS

In my years at the table I have found—believe it or not—a few players who will admit that the cards they hold are almost as good as the next fellow's. But even they add that on slam bids they are dogged by misfortune, while Lady Luck smiles on the higher risks of their opponents. These slam puzzles are designed to test your play of the hand, not your card-holding luck, and you will either play each slam right or you won't, so there are no intermediate scoring credits. (Sometimes the puzzle is to discover what the problem can possibly be.) Count 10 points for each success and rate yourself according to this table:

This is an article from the Dec. 22, 1969 issue Original Layout

50-60—don't bid past game.
70-80—try an occasional slam.
90-100—you're a sure winner.
110-120—come join my team.

1

[Ace of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Spade]

West leads the 10 of hearts to his partner's ace and East returns the suit. How should you play trumps?

2

[King of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Spade]

West leads the jack of hearts. How should you plan your play?

3

[Queen of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

[King of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Club]

West cashes the ace of spades and leads a second round. How do you proceed?

4

[Ace of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Diamond]

West leads the jack of clubs. You win with the ace. What card should you lead to the second trick?

5

[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Spade]

West leads the 10 of hearts to your king. How can you assure your contract?

6

[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Heart]

West leads the 10 of spades. Plan your play.

7

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 7 [Heart]

In a burst of hope West leads the ace of spades. How can you capitalize on this to assure your grand slam?

8

[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Spade]

West leads the 8 of trumps, and East follows suit to dummy's deuce. How should you continue?

9

[Ace of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

[9 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Diamond]

West leads the jack of clubs. How should you play to give yourself the best chance?

10

[Ace of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

[King of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Diamond]

West leads the king of hearts. How do you play?

11

[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

[Ace of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Club]

West leads the club 4 and East's 8 forces your jack. You lead the club 3 and West discards a diamond. How do you continue?

12

[Queen of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]

[King of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

CONTRACT: 6 [Diamond]

West leads the 10 of hearts. Your play is...?

THE ANSWERS

1. The only threat is a 4-0 trump split, but you needn't let even that bad break, throw you. First, cash a trump honor from your hand. If both opponents follow suit, draw the remaining trumps and claim. If either defender shows out on the first trump lead, you can finesse against the other for the jack.

2. No doubt you've recognized this as similar to the first problem. Again you need puzzle only over how to avoid a trump loser. If you win the first trick in dummy and lead a low spade to the ace or queen, you will go down one. With your usual luck, you'll find West void of trumps. The key difference in this hand is that you do not have the 10 of trumps. You can prevent an opponent who holds all four trumps from winning a trick only if that opponent is East, so your first play is the king of spades from dummy. Now if West fails to follow suit, lead a low trump. If East plays low, your 8 will win; if East plays an honor, you win, reenter dummy with a club and lead another trump for the finesse against East's remaining honor.

3. All you have to do is pick up the queen of clubs. True, you can finesse either way. But the "right" play is to lead to dummy's king of trumps and take the finesse on the way back, unless the queen has appeared. The reason? Chances are equal that either opponent has the queen. But if it is thrice guarded, your only chance to pick it up is if East has it—unless you are willing to take a first-round finesse against West and give up the chance of dropping a singleton queen in East's hand.

4. The queen of spades. You might find that you have gone down in a "cold" contract if you first lead a diamond to the ace, and find the cards divided thus:

[King of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]

[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[—— of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

Find out whether you have a spade loser before you tackle the trumps. If the spade finesse loses, you will not be able to afford the luxury of a safety play in diamonds. But if the finesse wins, you can next lead a low trump from your hand and, if West follows low, play dummy's 8. If East produces a trump, the ace and king will later draw the rest. If West shows out on the first lead, rise with dummy's ace, return a trump and hold East to one trump trick.

5. It appears that nothing can defeat the slam, so the first impulse is to draw trumps. But a lot of points are at stake, and every extra precaution is worthwhile. The distribution that can wreck the slam is a singleton heart in one hand and the singleton ace of spades in the other, allowing one defender to win the ace of trumps and give his partner a heart ruff. Stop all chance of such shenanigans by overtaking your king of clubs with the ace and discarding your ace of hearts on the queen of clubs before touching trumps. This hand and the next one are favorites of the noted British author, Victor Mollo (SI, Jan. 6), who has produced a bookful of them (How Good Is Your Bridge? Hart $4.95).

6. Trumps must divide if the slam is to be made. You might plan to ruff all three spades in dummy, but this exposes you to a diamond ruff when you try to get back to your hand later to draw trumps. Nor can you draw two rounds of trumps after ruffing the first trick in dummy, for the defenders will surely gain the lead with the high trump to cash the spade ace before you can discard both your remaining spades. The most effective plan is to ruff the opening lead, then play a heart from dummy and a low one from your own hand. Dummy still has a trump to handle a spade return, and you can easily get back to your hand to draw the rest of the trumps, later discarding your spades on dummy's clubs.

7. At first glance it seems that you can afford to ruff, draw trumps and claim. But if trumps divide 3-0 and clubs 5-2 you will be left with two losing cards (a club and a diamond) and only one trump in dummy with which to ruff. However, the opening lead allows you to plan a dummy reversal—to make the dummy the master hand by ruffing four spades with trumps in the closed hand. You should ruff the opening lead and enter dummy with the 8 of trumps. If either defender fails to follow, you should ruff a second spade in your hand. Lead another trump to dummy and ruff a third spade. Now dummy's jack of clubs allows you to ruff a spade with your last trump. Your remaining low club is ruffed, and when the last trump is drawn by dummy's king you discard your low diamond. The diamond ace is the entry to the good clubs in your hand.

8. Where's the puzzle? You can make seven spades by ruffing a couple of clubs in dummy. But that is exactly the source of the problem. You need only assure 12 tricks, if you can, against nearly any distribution. The possible fly in the ointment is finding either player with a singleton club, having the king of clubs ruffed and another trump returned. Now you have three club losers and only two trumps in dummy. To guard against even this slim possibility, you should forget about setting up your club suit and instead play to ruff dummy's losers, as in the previous hand. The king and ace of diamonds are followed by a diamond ruff, and dummy is reentered with a heart. The fourth diamond is ruffed with the queen of trumps, and the high heart followed by a heart ruff with the ace leaves dummy with three high trumps and two clubs. If all goes well, you will make 13 tricks, but even if someone ruffs a high club, 12 tricks are assured.

9. Either a successful spade finesse or finding the ace of hearts with East gives you your contract. But you can increase your chances by combining two lines of play. After winning the club opening in dummy, cash the ace of spades and ruff a spade. Enter dummy with a trump and ruff another spade. If both defenders follow suit, the fifth spade can surely be established. You draw the remaining trumps ending in dummy, ruff out the last spade and discard two hearts on the black-suit winners. If West shows out on the third spade, a spade trick can be set up by means of the marked ruffing finesse against East. Finally, if East shows out on the third spade, abandon the suit. Now try for your 12th trick by leading a heart up to the king.

10. Although it may go against the grain to ruff high on this deal, ruffing low could prove a costly economy. You should win the first trick, cash the king of spades and the ace-king of clubs, then ruff a club in dummy with the king. If you make the mistake of ruffing with one of dummy's lower trumps and East overruffs, the defenders can cash a heart to defeat the slam. You next discard your heart on the ace of spades, ruff a heart and ruff your last club with the 9. Either defender might score the jack of trumps, but that's all.

11. You have a certain club loser, so your efforts should be directed at avoiding the heart finesse, if that is possible. Accordingly, you should put up dummy's king of clubs, cash the queen and ace of diamonds and ruff a diamond with dummy's 10. If East overruffs you will have to fall back on the heart finesse, but if he follows to the diamond you are home. You return to your hand with the ace of spades, cash the ace of clubs and play your high diamond. If East follows suit or discards he is next thrown in with his high club, forcing him to lead into one of dummy's major-suit ten-aces. And if he ruffs the high diamond the outcome is the same. Either way you wind up with 12 tricks.

12. This puzzler is by my friend Paul Lukacs, perhaps the greatest living composer of single-dummy problems. At first glance it seems the contract depends solely on the club finesse, and if it wins you will make your contract with an over-trick, discarding both spades on the long clubs. But it is wrong to put all of your eggs in one basket, for if West has the ace of spades you have an additional chance to land your slam. You should win with the ace of hearts, draw trumps and then lead the 9 of spades. If the queen loses to East's ace, you can still fall back on the club finesse. However, the slam is ironclad if West has the ace of spades. If he plays low, dummy's queen will win. You then discard the king of spades on the high heart, ruff a spade and take the club finesse for a possible overtrick. If West instead hops up with the ace of spades and returns a club (his best play) you put up dummy's ace, return to your hand with the king of spades, overtake the queen of hearts with dummy's king and discard clubs on the queen of spades and jack of hearts. Note that if for some reason you feel that East has the ace of spades, you can reverse the procedure by leading a spade from dummy toward your king early in the play.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION