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Tales of Akarana


The problem was that there was an alternative, a very real one. Three small trumps and a side-suit singleton. That was enough for everyone to avoid a trump lead on the following:

Board 13
North Deals
Both Vul
K Q 9 3
J 9 5 4
10 6 3
J 10 7 6 4 2
4 3
7 6
K J 5
W   E
A 5
K Q 10 9 8 5
A K 8 2
7 6 2
Q 10 3
Q 9 8 7 4 2
West North East South
  1 NT Dbl Rdbl
Pass 2  3  Pass
3  Pass 4  All pass


South was running to clubs and although West did get to mention their spade suit, it was East’s hearts which won the day. With no expectation of any heart length or ruffing value in dummy, there seemed no reason to lead a trump but to hope that their partner held the ace of either major. They did but by the time North got in to play a second spade, East had disposed of their spade loser on the Club-smallK and ruffed both losing diamonds in dummy..well, South actually could ruff the fourth round of the suit before dummy. However, the defence could take only that ruff and the Heart-smallA, a meagre reward from what an initial trump lead and continuation would achieve. East's three side-suit losers would all remain losers…one down.

Not surprisingly, no-one defeated 4Heart-small. What though about this next board?

Board 6
East Deals
E-W Vul
K Q J 5
A K J 3
Q 8 5 4
K Q 4 3
8 7 3 2
Q 9 2
W   E
8 7 2
10 6 4
A 10 9 7 3 2
A 10 9 6 5
A 10 9 4
8 7 5


The popular contract was 4Heart-small played by either North or South. Reaching 4Heart-small would be a bit of a challenge against a third seat 4 card major 1Heart-small from West, though for the majority, West either did not open or opened 1 of a minor.

Thus, East would probably lead whichever minor West called and would certainly never (not in good company!) lead a singleton trump. Yet, were West on lead, a little trump might well be and indeed was by far the best lead for the defence. South will win in hand to play their club with West hopping up to play a second trump.

This happened at one table with South slipping up in the subsequent play. South needs to make 6 trump tricks (by ruffing two clubs) and make three diamond tricks and the Spade-smallA. So, three rounds of diamonds it has to be…and all is well for South with the 13th diamond even providing an overtrick.

However, the sky was the limit if the defence never attacked trumps. 12 tricks were made at two tables (8 trumps, 3 diamonds and Spade-smallA) with one pair having the audacity to bid and make the small slam. With declarer needing a very favourable diamond position, those defenders who led a trump deserved a better reward.

However, if there is no reason to lead a trump, and there is a valid alternative, leading a passive trump is not a good idea. One North player paid a heavy price for their trump lead on the following:

Board 19
South Deals
E-W Vul
10 3
10 7 6 2
K Q 10 5 2
A K 2
A J 9 3
K 9 7 5
6 4
W   E
Q J 8 7 6 4
5 4
10 3 2
A 8
9 5
K Q 8
J 8 6 4
J 9 7 3
West North East South
1 NT Pass 2  Pass
2  Pass 3  Pass
4  All pass    

 (2Heart-small showed spades)

We may all get sick of leading the king from the club holding above and see declarer have the ace and dummy Jxx. It happens. So, do bad trump breaks. This time, the defender who chose a passive trump lead was soon to write down -620 while those who made the “normal” club lead were recording +100.

Our North who led the trump might have survived had South ducked the first round of hearts smoothly. West had a losing option of finessing the Heart-small10. However, when South put up a high honour, West ducked. A diamond was played to the queen…and, too late the Club-smallK was played. Dummy’s club loser disappeared on the third round of hearts (after the marked finesse) and playing diamonds for just two losers did not prove too hard.

So, what’s the moral of all this? Lead a trump when it is right but not otherwise!  The normal lead may not always work but it did not work at the other tables, either.

Richard Solomon

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