(Updated Jan 20, 2020 - Diego Brenner pointed out a winning line for the 2nd hand, even after the best defense)
I am not playing in the Trials this year, having moved to the US last July. But I am still following the results closely, and I ask my colleagues there for interesting hands. These are their first two hands.
Diego Brenner gave me the following play problem in 6 Hearts from North, with the Ten of diamonds lead:
My best shot is to establish diamonds in dummy, pitching the club loser in the spades. I'll need to avoid losing a trump and favorable diamonds. There are extra chances (such as a singleton club Queen), but it is important not to risk the main chances while pursuing unlikely positions.
In any case we should begin with a spade. West wins the Ace and leads the 6 of hearts. You cover with the 7, and West follows with the 2.
You will always go down if trumps are 4-1, so this trick is a bit of a trap. You need to keep on ruffing diamonds. So I said I would win in dummy, ruff a diamond, and if nothing weird happened, lead a club to dummy (picking up a singleton Queen), ruff the 3rd diamond, and draw trumps, pitching one or two losers from dummy on the spades first (depending on whether diamonds are established or not).
The Queen of diamonds shows up in the 2nd round of the suit, and so the hand makes easily:
Everything was so favorable (even the club Queen falls doubleton, in front of the AK!), that any sensible line wins the contract. One interesting variation is if, on West's trump lead, East plays the Jack. You should probably follow the same line, since trumps 4-1 are very hard to handle. Win in dummy, ruff a diamond, etc.
Marcelo Branco gave me this one:
South has a very tough bidding problem in the first round, after partner's (Gabriel Chagas) natural weak-two opening... Branco picked the right choice when he bid 3 Spades (many players passed), and now he was at the helm in 4 Spades. The lead was the 4 of clubs. East won with the King, and played the Jack of hearts.
When I was given the problem, I figured that the best chance was to establish diamonds, with some extra chances on the side (the hand might become a crossruff). The plan I announced to Marcelo was to win with the Ace, play Ace of diamonds, diamond ruff, and then play a club, pitching a heart. East would win and, if he had the heart King all along, he would be a bit stuck for a return. (Note that I would not be able to make this club play if the heart finesse lost). He would probably play back a club, or perhaps a trump, both of them being good for me. (If he played a heart and my Queen lost to the King, there was nothing I could do anyway).
I was rewarded by the actual lie of the cards:
Once the diamond King shows up at the 2nd round of the suit, the hand becomes easy.
Marcelo tried the finesse. It is always hard to eschew a finesse. Hard to second-guess such a great declarer, who was at the table. In any case if Marcos Thoma had played a club back he would have to play the cards in the right order (check Diego Brenner's comment below!) to make the contract. When he instead played a 2nd heart, Marcelo was able to make the hand without breaking a sweat.
So far my armchair playing has been OK... but these players have a knack for finding difficult problems. We will post other interesting hands as they come along.