Source: ecatsbridge.com

Shortly after his miraculous escape from the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes, the world’s greatest consulting detective,spent some weeks recuperating in Italy. Many years later one such came to my attention in unusual circumstances. It was an unpromising start to the day. The fog still threw a thick overcoat across the streets of London and Holmes was irritated by the consequential delay in the arrival of the morning paper.

I on the other hand was still trying to solve a clue from the previous days crossword, ‘Laptop soon gone Sour’ (5-13). As so often, nothing obvious sprang to mind. I was aroused from my contemplation when I heard the unmistakable sound of Holmes opening his violin case. In a desperate attempt to divert him from the wretched instrument I called him over. ‘Holmes, my dear fellow, can you provide the solution to this problem?’

‘Perhaps dear fellow, for I detect the hand of the Greek compiler, but for the moment I am more interested in the tall, one legged, bearded Scottish gentleman who will shortly be joining us.’

At that moment Mrs. Hudson opened the door to the sitting room and ushered in a visitor who corresponded exactly with Holmes description.

‘Incredible Holmes!’ I exclaimed. ‘Elementary, my dear Watson’ he replied (not for the first time).

‘How could you possibly have known?’ I enquired.

‘As I crossed the room to assist you in your pitiful attempt to solve that absurd clue ‘I happened to glance out of the window. Our guest was ringing the bell of 221B and unless I am much mistaken the fact that he is wearing a kilt confirms my suspicions as to his country of origin.’

‘Hoots mon the noo Jimmy’ interjected our guest, confirming Holmes theory. ‘Do you no remember me Mr. Holmes? I met you in Italy some years ago, a small village called Santa Sofia.

‘Of course, the case of the exploding chairs.’

Before I could enquire as to the details of this strange sounding affair our guest produced a small piece of paper. ‘Do you remember this Mr.Holmes?’ he asked.

‘Of course.’ A glance at the paper revealed a familiar sight:

K Q 5
K 10 6
 A 2
 A Q 10 7 4
 10 7 3
 8 3
K 6 5
 J 9 8 6 3
 West  North  East  South
 Pass
 1  Dbl  2  3
3 5 All Pass

‘We played it in the Wednesday night speedball.’

‘Yes Mr. Holmes and you were the only declarer to succeed.’

‘I was aided by East’s bid of two clubs, which promised three card heart support, a singularly poor convention on this occasion.

Let us see if the good Doctor can bring home the contract. Come, Watson, West leads the ace of hearts and when East plays the seven, switches to the jack of diamonds’

I considered matters for a while but could see nothing better than the club finesse.

‘As so often Watson the clues are there, but you fail to use the means at your disposal to gather them in.’

‘How did you play the hand Holmes.’

‘I took the ace of diamonds, cashed the king of hearts and ruffed a heart. East produced the four and the two. I now knew West had all the heart honours, and since I could not afford the ace of spades to be with East I played a club to the ace with a gratifying result.’

This was the full deal:

K Q 5
K 10 6
 A 2
 A Q 10 7 4
 A J 8 2
 A Q J 9 5
 J 3
 5 2
 9 6 4
 7 4 2
 Q 10 9 8 7 4
 K
 10 7 3
 8 3
K 6 5
 J 9 8 6 3

‘So what is your problem, Mr. Kelsey.’

‘It is this fiendish hand, Mr. Holmes. Three days ago my daughter disappeared. The following day this arrived by special delivery. A note saying that my daughter had been kidnapped and would only be released upon payment of £10,000 or the solution to this problem accompanied it.’

‘I detect the hand of that arch villain Professor Moriarty here Watson. Bring me my tobacco, this may well prove to be a three-pipe problem.’ This was what confronted Holmes:

 Q 2
 A K 10 8 7
 A 6 5 3
 A 4
 A J 6 5 4 3
 9 3
 4
 K Q J 10

The contract is Seven Spades. West leads the queen of diamonds. How can it be made?

‘Why its impossible Holmes’ I cried. ‘You are bound to lose a trump trick.’

‘Perhaps, but let us not jump to conclusions.’

So determined was Holmes to solve the Professor’s problem that he even refused Mrs. Hudson’s breakfast.

Eventually he stirred himself. Come Watson, the games afoot.’ He proceeded to explain.

‘You win the opening lead and ruff a diamond. Using the ace and king of hearts and the ace of clubs as entries you ruff dummy’s remaining diamonds and a heart. Now you play three rounds of clubs, hoping West started with three clubs and so has to ruff the third round. You overuff with the queen of trumps and take the trump finesse.’

The full deal must look like this:

 Q 2
 A K 10 8 7
 A 6 5 3
 A 4
 10 8 7
 J 5 4
 Q J 10 8
 9 7 5
 K 9
 Q 6 2
 K 9 7 2
 8 6 3 2
 A J 6 5 4 3
 9 3
 4
 K Q J 10

‘Astounding Holmes!’

‘My dear fellow, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution.