Bridge problems that change the way you look at a hand
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I remember the day I first saw the manuscript that eventually became There Must be a Way – the second book MPP ever published. It was a handwritten collection of bridge problems by a Toronto bridge player named Andrew Diosy – someone I didn’t know, despite the fact that I thought I knew all the good players in the area. Andrew, it turned out, was a medical doctor who had moved to Canada after the Hungarian uprising in 1956.
Ray asked me to turn the manuscript into a book, and I accepted the challenge happily. I loved Andrew’s problems. They were different from any I had seen before. They required you to think about the hands in new and interesting ways — practical ways too. The play was always logical but it did require lateral thinking and the use of the creative part of your brain. The solutions needed deeper thought, some consideration of the moves you could make and also of your opponents’ countermoves. Often the solution was quite simple (and always elegant) – just hard to spot.
So we devised a new format to present them. (I was flattered some years later when master problem creator Julian Pottage used the same format for two of his books.)
It occurred to me that what Andrew had created were not specifically declarer play or defense problems, but problems in analysis – can you make this hand, or should the defenders find a way to beat you? We decided to start by showing the reader each problem double-dummy, with the title of the problem providing a small hint to the solution. Then when you were ready, you could turn the page and see a discussion of the play and its issues, and often a hint or two. You were asked to think about it again before looking at the full solution which appeared later in the book.
I felt as I worked on the hands that the process was making me a better declarer. And I liked so many of the hands. Even then I knew that this book was a great gift for people who, like me, loved cardplay or for those who wanted to improve their ability to think deeply about a deal.
I wrote the book in Florida that winter. My parents were living in a condo a few floors below but I was basically there by myself, working in the morning and enjoying the Florida sunshine the rest of the day while Ray was home in the cold. I was punished for my happiness when I was given a work assignment in my real-life role as a computer consultant which required me to travel to Calgary and Edmonton and the -30 degree weather. My first stop in Calgary was at a store where I bought the wooliest gloves, hat and scarf I could find!
Here’s a typical problem from the book. It’s entitled
Lead: ♣ Q
Well, can 4hx be made on best defense? Try it for yourself before scrolling down to the two parts of the solution.
Solution Part 1
The problem on this hand is to avoid losing three diamond tricks: there is an inevitable trump loser so the diamond losers must be held to two. After winning the first trick with the ♣A, you must defer drawing trumps so that you can ruff a diamond if necessary. You start by leading a diamond to the nine: West must duck and East will win the ♦10. East will not return a trump, and it doesn’t matter whether you rise or duck, the defense will have an opportunity to remove dummy’s trumps, either immediately or when West gets in on the ♦A.
Is there a way to make this hand?
Solution Part 2
This hand can be made. The problem is to avoid losing three diamond tricks. The instinctive play is to lead a diamond from the closed hand towards dummy and finesse the ♦9 when West plays low, but that does not work on this hand. The key is to make sure that West wins the first diamond, and to do this you cross to dummy on the ♠A and lead the ♦9.
East cannot afford to rise on the ♦K because this will allow you to set up a diamond trick by force. The best East can do is to cover the ♦9 with the ♦10, but you counter by playing the ♦Q. West wins with the ♦A, but he cannot play trumps without losing the defense’s trump trick. Suppose West continues a club: you ruff in hand and lead another diamond, East’s king winning. When he returns a trump, you go up with the ace and ruff your third diamond in dummy.
I am going to give this book to my old friend Mike. He loves to play dummy. He is good at it but I know he will be a better declarer after reading this book. And next year I can give him the sequel, You Have to See This.