Source: 1996 World Bridge Championships in Rhodes, Greece

It was, as Holmes had often remarked, a perfect day for the criminal classes. The early morning fog hung thick in the air as the hansom cab which was returning him from his meeting with Inspector Lestrade drew to a halt outside Number 221B.

Mrs. Hudson was waiting to greet him and informed him that the doctor had already arrived. On reaching the top of the stairs, Holmes, the possessor of the finest brain in England, immediately realised that the door to the study was closed. For once Holmes decided on the obvious solution and his fingers closed around the handle.

As he entered the room, Holmes was at once taken by the fact that Watson made no attempt to greet him. Rather he remained seated at his desk in the corner where he was clearly involved in some important undertaking. ‘

Watson!’ exclaimed Holmes, ‘I hope you are not working on the story of The Giant Rat of Sumatra. I have frequently advised you that it is a story for which the world is not yet ready’. ‘My dear Holmes, nothing could be further from the truth!

I am merely trying to solve a singularly difficult clue in today’s Times crossword.’ ‘As I have already completed it whilst making the tiresome journey from Scotland Yard perhaps I can be of assistance. Which is it?’ ‘5 across’,Watson replied.‘ Staunton’s bad move is met by a wooden response, 5,4.’ ‘A lemon tree, my dear Watson.’ ‘No doubt, Holmes, but perhaps you would be kind enough to furnish me with the answer.’ ‘

As usual Watson, you look and listen, but you see and hear nothing.Howard Staunton,the chess correspondent of the Times, refers to a bad move as ‘a lemon’, and what could be more wooden than a tree.’ ‘

Astounding Holmes. Since you are in such brilliant form perhaps you would try this deal which arose in last night’s duplicate at the Bagatelle Club.

holmes mano 1

‘North led the king of clubs and as you can see Holmes, although declarer has no immediate losers, the double void in his hand gives rise to communication and suit establishment problems. I was able to ruff three of my clubs in dummy and discard two more on the pair of aces, but I had to lose a club and a heart’.

‘A gallant attempt my dear friend, but let me have a try. I ruff the opening lead, cash the ace of spades
and ruff a spade. I play the queen of clubs, forcing North to cover and ruff in dummy. I am hoping to
pin an honour in the South hand’.

‘Nothing useful appears’. ‘So I ruff another spade, ruff a third club with the king of hearts and ruff  another spade’. ‘They break 4-4’. ‘There are now two winners in dummy’.

‘Yes Holmes, but the absence of a diamond in declarer’s hand means they are stranded’. ‘I cash the ace of hearts and assuming the queen fails to appear I concede a trick to South’s queen.

With only diamonds left in his hand South will be forced to resurrect dummy and declarer’s losing
clubs are discarded on the ace of diamonds and the jack of spades. +1660!’

‘Brilliant, Holmes’. ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the solution’.

Here is the full deal:

holmes mano

(Knowledgeable readers will know that all the characters featured here later appeared in ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’).