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Attack or Defence

Today’s problem is not just about an opening lead but it is an opening lead problem with which we left you, maybe a rather random problem because you neither have much nor have much information on which to base your decision. Take a look:

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North Deals
Both Vul
   
10 3 2
6 5
K 10 8 6 5
10 7 2
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
  Pass Pass 2 
Pass 2  Pass 2 
Pass 3  Pass 4 
Pass 6  All pass  

A staccato auction with 2Club-small not being a standard Game Force but a strong hand, Benjamin style, 8 playing tricks in any suit. 2Diamond-small was negative or just waiting but 3Diamond-small was natural. South seemed to want to play in game but North made them play a couple of levels higher!

One can try to make sense of an auction where an exchange of suits was followed by an ace ask. Certainly, cue-bidding can give you a clue as to which honours might be missing. Yet, when a passed hand leaps to slam after showing little life up to that point, it is harder to evaluate.

In trying to beat a 6-level trump contract, I like to try to do something positive. The most positive thing seemed to be this:

Stephen Blackstock “Spade-small2. With diamonds breaking badly, declarer may struggle. So, let’s try and remove one ruff in dummy. There’s no obvious hurry for anything else and a club is potentially dangerous. I am assuming 3Diamond-small was Game Force and 4Spade-small fast arrival but that could be wrong; it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference but at the table an explanation of these matters would at least have allowed me to know a fraction more.”

It's all we have, diamonds. Had our partner a diamond void and an outside ace, we would surely have heard “double” of 6Spade-small from the other side of the table. So, there will be no diamond lead…but leading a trump does appeal to cut down ruffs.

For me, the trump lead is positive. For Peter, it is also a safe option:

Peter Newell “Spade-small2: looks the safest lead and possibly may stop a ruff in dummy.  As my diamonds are good, I don’t see why I need to attack another suit which may well help declarer.  It could be right to lead a diamond in the hope of discouraging declarer from taking a diamond finesse if there is one, but there are too many ways this could be wrong this time for my taste. It’s not a very convincing auction. So, I will just do something that looks safe.

Kris Wooles “2Spade-small:  expecting North to probably have a doubleton spade and shortage in hearts or clubs. My diamonds suggest declarer won’t have many and the absence of a double suggests partner doesn’t have a void. Opening leads are one of the hardest parts of the game.”

Sounds very logical to me. There were some votes for a heart:

Nigel Kearney “Heart-small6:  Spades and diamonds don't look promising. Suppose partner has KQ of one rounded suit and A of the other. We need to lead the right one. As our clubs are longer, it is more likely that is declarer's singleton so setting up a trick there will not work.”

Michael Cornell “Heart-small6:  no reason to lead a pointed card. Just a guess re heart or club but I lead a heart as occasionally the club lead could cost.”

And not particularly liking the opponents’ auction:

Pam Livingston “Heart-small6: I don’t think this is a top pair. Anything could be right including a diamond. “
Any lead could cost or gain. A trump could gain but reasons for not leading a heart or a diamond are suggested by:

Bruce Anderson “Club-small2: on the face of it, South has shown not much more than an old fashioned strong two and only wants to play game, which makes North’s raise to slam either inspired or lunacy. The contract could be off AK, but which one?             

I am opting for a club lead as partner might have bid 2Heart-small over 2Diamond-small with a good heart suit. A diamond lead could be disastrous, running around to Jx; partner probably would have doubled with a diamond void.”

Let me add before all is revealed that Bruce was a good 1,000 kms away from the action when this deal was played, in real life at the table. North-South’s style of bidding left open many ways the contract could be defeated. It was not clear whether South’s leap to game had tried to end the auction. It was very unlikely that South had any kind of diamond fit with their partner.

A trump could work but if there was a choice between hearts or clubs, my vote has to go for a club lead for the reasons Bruce gave. The player under the spotlight now, therefore, is East:

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

 

There is a good case for bidding 3Club-small with those East cards (the lead would have been a lot quicker and the contract a likely two levels lower!). When 3Club-small is doubled (no worse than – 1100!), one could argue it was not such a good bid.frown It is possible but perhaps a bit naïve to suggest that North will end up as declarer in 3NT if East stays silent.

There is always a danger in bidding but it seems doubtful that South would really want to defend 3Club-small x without a trump honour. East would certainly have bid over 2Diamond-small had their suit been hearts.

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The spade lead at the table did not trouble South. Draw trumps, run the hearts with two clubs disappearing on the long heart and the Diamond-smallA. All one could say was that a small diamond lead would have been even worse!

 Easy as

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

 

You have reached game where you seem to have just two losers, maybe three on some days. You certainly do not want to find any more than that.

West leads Club-small7 which goes to your ace.

You play a diamond the king and East’s ace. East cashes Heart-smallA and then plays a trump with all following. However, on the second round of trumps, West discards a diamond. Plan the play.

Richard Solomon

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