The hand that stumped Martin Hoffman

Rubber bridge, ca. 1972 – weak opponents, the bidding:
North
Spades    A8xx
Hearts    109x
Diamonds  10x
Clubs     Q8xx
South
Spades    KJ9
Hearts    AKQxxx
Diamonds  –
Clubs     A7xx
South
1H
4H
West
1S
No bid
North
2H
No bid
East
3C
No bid
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
North
Spades    A8xx
Hearts    109x
Diamonds  10x
Clubs     Q8xx
West
Spades   Q10xxxx
Hearts   x
Diamonds AKxxxx
Clubs    –
4H by South
lead: D Ace
East
Spades   –
Hearts   Jxx
Diamonds QJxxx
Clubs    KJ109x
South
Spades    KJ9
Hearts    AKQxxx
Diamonds  –
Clubs     A7xx
and the hand is double dummy at trick one.

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. 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 are down."

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. 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.*


* I presume no one wants to be told the answer, as opposed to working it out for themselves.
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