The hand that stumped Martin Hoffman
Rubber bridge, ca. 1972 weak opponents, the bidding:
A top diamond was led, and the dummy's diamond shortness was a bit of
a surprise. What is going on here? One of the opponents had at least
six diamonds but bid some other suit instead. Since East apparently
had bid a five card suit, I placed him with only (!) five diamonds.
Therefore the cards seem to be
and the hand is double dummy at trick one.
|4H by South|
lead: D Ace
Frustrating! There must be a way to make it, but after a
reasonable amount of thought I hadn't seen it so I started pulling
cards. I figured I'd lead out some trumps and grind them into dust.1
Well, I said they were weak opponents, but they didn't have any
trouble beating me on this one. Down 1.
Two days later, having run over the hand repeatedly in my mind,
finally I saw how to make it. Arriving at the club I espied Martin
Hoffman, mentor and dummy player extraordinaire.
"Martin, I've got a hand for you," I said, and scribbled down the
hand on a scrap of paper. "Diamond Ace lead. How do you play it?"
"I discard!" Martin replied, slyly, instantaneously, and, I
suspect, facetiously. "C'mon," I complained, "they cross-ruff and you
Martin then gave it his serious attention. His brow furrowed and he thought.
A second passed, then another, and another.
I had never known Martin to hesitate for so long.2
After four seconds he finally spoke:
"I ruff, and lay down the ace of hearts. Who shows out?"
"They both follow."
"Oh well then!" Martin said, and gave the answer that had taken me
days to find.3
note 1 (addition in May 2018) Decades after creating this page I
learn, thanks to John Cox, that my initial impulse wasn't altogether wrong.
There are two fundamentally different solutions.
note 2 (added in 2018)
entertaining essay about his bridge career includes a drole anecdote about Martin in the same spirit.
note 3 I presume no one wants to be told the answer, as opposed to
working it out for themselves.
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