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Deep-and-Meaningfuls #17


Paul Brayshaw taps into the innermost thoughts of Deep Finesse®

Playing in your first event for quite a while - the South Perth winter congress teams - has so far been quite exhilarating. As you bask in the glow of your fourth-round victory, your attention is drawn to one particular deal on the hand record. You were relieved to discover earlier that your wonderful friend DF has produced the analyses for the hands in this tournament rather than that new-fangled Solvitt®, and her acute sense of card play is apparent on Board 2. A mere flat 450 in spades in your match, but DF has professed that 6NT is makeable in the EW direction:

Board 2
East Deals
N-S Vul
J
A 10 5 4
Q 7 6 3
9 4 3 2
Q 8 6 5
Q 6
K 5
A Q 10 8 7
N
WE
S
A K 7 4
K 9 3
A 8 4 2
K 5
10 9 3 2
J 8 7 2
J 10 9
J 6

With ten top tricks only, and an eleventh in H, your first thoughts are that you may be able to organise an endplay in S, but North has the HA, so that puts an end to that. A Morton's Fork on North in the H suit also looks possible, but there is nothing to be achieved by it, so you soon drop that notion. There must be some sort of squeeze, then, you think, but it looks far from simple. You decide to make it interesting.

"Prize for the first person to spot the correct squeeze for 6NT on Board 2!", you offer. Pens start scrawling on the back of used hand records, but no-one is able to find a solution for such a non-trivial hand in the five minutes between rounds. As a consequence, at the end of the tournament you dodge the sausage rolls and take the problem home unsolved.

"Right," you say to yourself once at home, armed with a hot drink in one hand and the hand record in the other. "There is no simple squeeze, and seemingly no double either, since both defenders are guarding the red suits. There is no squeeze without the count - we've managed to establish that, at least. How about that guard squeeze, then?"

Your partner had mentioned that a guard squeeze might be the way, but you were doubtful as there were too many opportunities for the opponents to destroy the intricate menaces required. However, as a starting point, it might be worthwhile to see if one is possible. A D lead is the best start by the opponents. This is taken with the king and the HQ offered to North, who must take it (or you could then lead a H to the king for the twelfth trick). Let's say North plays another H to remove the link in that particular menace. Aha! Yes, you recognise this sort of position. The ?AK must be cashed now, but not the queen. Four rounds of C follow, throwing a D and a ? from East:

10 5
Q 7
Q 8
5
8
N
WE
S
7
9
A 8
10 9
J
J

Yes, that works. You can now execute the double guard squeeze by playing the last C. You have that idle S to chuck from dummy, which is why you couldn't cash the queen earlier. North can part with the H5, but poor South is in the usual discard predicament - a S would be instant suicide, the DJ would magically create a finesse against North's D, and the HJ would expose North to a simple squeeze in the red suits when the SQ is played. As wonderful as this all sounds, however, North can simply return a D when in with HA to destroy the position, so this can't be the whole truth.

You sit and stare at the position after a second round of D from North, incredulous and unable to believe that this hand can beat you. Gradually, you grow drowsy and your eyesight starts to blur, the D and H blending into one red colour in the middle of each hand. Suddenly, you have a moment of clarity. Of course! The red suits are basically the same, as far as guard squeezes go. If they attack one menace, you can use the other. The play is basically identical. SAK first, then run the C. Ho, ho, ho, look at that!

10 5
Q 7
Q 8
6
8
N
WE
S
7
K 9
8
10 9
J
J

The NS cards are exactly the same, only the pain has changed. The D8 now becomes the menace against both opponents, and the H are the guard menace. The last club puts them into the blender feet first, as before. As it is impossible for North to break up both menaces when in with HA, you have a choice of double guard squeeze, depending on their continuation. How many hands could claim to have that feature??

The satisfaction of this outcome is still poor compensation for the disturbing news you heard today - that Solvitt now accounts for 50% of all tournament analyses world-wide. It sounds as though DF, rather than just having competition, is actually in danger of being phased out really soon. Fretting, and hoping against hope that this information was mere hyperbole, you have a restless night, but do eventually fall asleep. DF beckons you down to her mysterious world, but you know that something is wrong the moment you see her in the misty purple distance. She is pacing and appears agitated. When she sees you approach, she makes an attempt at a smile, but her flustered disposition remains plain to be seen. Oh no, not good, you think. Clearly, her workload has been dwindling rapidly. She confirms this when you ask her to tell you what's wrong.

"It's getting to the point where I'm spending large amounts of time completely idle," she complains, "which I find difficult to endure. I need to do what I do best, and that is analyse bridge deals. If I can't do that, I might as well not exist, and may indeed cease to exist."

It always upsets you when she is not herself, but her last clause fills you with the utmost alarm. You have not thus far conceived of the mortality of your dearest friend, whom you assumed would just exist forever in her peculiar little world. A bitter reality now dawns on you, that DF herself may simply disappear, at the moment of obsolescence of the software itself, in much the same way as she sprang into existence when it was first commissioned. She is so deeply entrenched in your life, now, that such an event would cause you immeasurable pain.

DF appears to read your thoughts. "It's that Solvitt, isn't it?", she asks in an accusative tone. "I've completely underestimated it. I couldn't imagine why people would want something new, when my work is 100% accurate and performed in such a short amount of time as to render any desire for greater performance fairly meaningless."

She waves her hands in the air while speaking with such animation, and you are once again mesmerised by the ever-changing displays of diamonds on her fingers. However, it is her heart that you are most concerned about at this point.

"It's not the algorithm, or the performance," you break gently, "it's merely the extra features, and the compatibility with modern computer systems. People want new things because they think they're better, not because they are. You are becoming a victim of your own success, as developers seek to capitalise on your popularity by creating non-vanilla versions of yourself."

"Why, why, why can't people let the beauty of the card play speak for itself, rather than getting spoon-fed the information?" she bemoans, calming down somewhat and seating herself. "For so long, I have been providing my analysis and opening players' eyes to possibilities that are beyond their immediate vision and, for many, completely beyond them full stop, as I have painfully observed. My work has allowed me to connect with a special person and give us the friendship we now enjoy. I like to think - I want to think - that I have made a difference. But I also want to just keep doing the work I love and provide an important service. I feel so helpless in the face of this Solvitt thing."

Your heart is wrenched by her unhappiness. A plan begins to form in your mind. "I'm going to do something about this", you promise to her suddenly. "I will do my best to ensure that you can continue to work indefinitely."

She is silent, but her face signals a thank-you and she gives you a hug. Shortly afterwards, you wake up, determined to follow through with your idea.

To be continued...



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