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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

TWO LEADS ONE THEME

Opening leads are at times pretty subjective affairs. Rules can be laid down, proven and then on the particular problem you have can be proven not to work. With that depressing thought somewhere in the back of your mind, try the following two opening lead problems. One thing we can tell you for sure is that each time you are West and you have an unbid (by your side) 6 card suit…and you are defending 3NT. No more hints!

South Deals
Both Vul
   
9 5
K 5
8 7 5
K 8 7 6 5 2
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
      1 
Pass 1  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  

 

1Club-small promised 3+ clubs and 2NT a balanced 18-19 hcp. Match-point (Pairs scoring)

2. Teams scoring.

South Deals
Both Vul
   
K 10 8 6
Q 10 7 5 3 2
K 10 7
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
      Pass
Pass 1  2  Dbl
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

Being very well brought up, you decline to open 2Heart-small or a Multi 2Diamond-small because of the presence of four good cards in the other major. 1Club-small was again 3+ clubs with your partner making a weak jump overcall. Double was on- going, take-out style and by the time the bidding came round to you for the second time, the idea of bidding your heart suit seemed very unattractive. So, your first positive contribution was to find a lead, with partner’s suit off the agenda!

The Solutions

So, do you need more time? Then, do not read on yet. So, to the first problem.

We have a six card suit headed by the king and a possible outside entry in the Heart-smallK. So, shall we go for it and try a low club? If you did, you will be recording a very poor result. Are you ready for all four hands? Be prepared for a shock!

South Deals
Both Vul
K 7 4 3 2
Q 10 7
A J 2
Q 9
9 5
K 5
8 7 5
K 8 7 6 5 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
J 6
J 9 8 6 3
Q 10 9 4
4 3
 
A Q 10 8
A 4 2
K 6 3
A J 10
West North East South
      1 
Pass 1  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3 NT All pass  

 

What are the opponents doing in 3NT with a 5-4 spade fit? South must have taken the view that 2NT was a better rebid with their pancake flat hand. At the table, West chose not to lead their club suit. West tried Diamond-small8 which was won by South’s king as dummy with East playing low. Declarer played a spade to dummy and took a losing club finesse. West continued diamonds, with declarer taking a losing finesse. Eventually, South took five spade tricks, two clubs, two diamonds and the Heart-smallA for 10 tricks. And on a small club lead? There would be no need for South to lose a club trick. Making 11 tricks (5 spades and 2 in each other suit) would outscore all those in 4Spade-small where 11 tricks could be made.

Why not lead a club to 3NT? West knew where at least 9 of the 13 clubs were…and because West’s own club suit was so poor, there was every chance South held some good clubs. Even if East held Club-smallQ (AQx would be well against the odds..and we are playing Pairs), there were still strong chances that South held a second club stop. So, try something neutral like the unbid diamond suit and restrict declarer to one overtrick and a poor score.

Problem 2

What we know from the bidding is that North has a strong hand with 3+ clubs and 4 spades. Meanwhile, South has enough to make a negative double and must have a diamond hold. Yet, it sounded, too, that South had four hearts. So, most of those missing hearts, the high ones, are likely to be with declarer. With diamonds out of the question, it came down to a choice of black suits..and you will be pleased to know that it did not matter which you chose. Either black suit beats 3NT while a heart lead gives declarer their ninth trick.

South Deals
Both Vul
A Q 5 3
K 8 4
A 8 7
A 5 2
K 10 8 6
Q 10 7 5 3 2
K 10 7
 
N
W   E
S
 
J 7 4
9
K J 10 6 4 3
Q 9 3
 
9 2
A J 6
Q 9 5 2
J 8 6 4
West North East South
      Pass
Pass 1  2  Dbl
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

So, South did not have four hearts but a third heart trick was what South needed to go with two in each of the other suits to make 3NT. (A spade switch would now be too late as after the heart lead, South can lose the lead twice in clubs and duck one round of spades even if the defence find that switch.)

There was enough evidence for West not to lead their long suit. My choice of black suits would be a spade and hope it was East who held the jack.

So, lots of the time we can lead fourth highest of our longest and strongest successfully but in these two cases, a combination of listening to the bidding and looking at the comparative poor quality of our suits should have caused us to look elsewhere.

Two hands, one theme.

Richard Solomon

 

 

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