Join Bridge Winners
Fundamental Principle
(Page of 9)

In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have a difficult opening lead to make.

Both vul, South deals. As West, you hold:

West
9
A1043
1075
Q8532
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

2NT: 17-19

Your lead. Attitude leads vs. notrump.

West
9
A1043
1075
Q8532
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Opening leads against 3NT are difficult enough. When the opponents have bid both of your suits, that makes them even more difficult. What are the possibilities?

A heart lead can't be right. Dummy has 4 hearts behind you, and declarer should have at least a doubleton for his 2NT call.

The opponents haven't found a 4-4 spade fit, which places 5 spades in partner's hand. Still, the opponents figure to have 7 spades between them, and a spade lead could pick up some holding in partner's hand. Partner didn't overcall 1 when he had the opportunity, so it is impossible that his spades can be strong enough to establish and run.

A diamond lead is possible. If you do choose to lead a diamond, you should lead the 10. Declarer doesn't figure to have 4 diamonds after his 1 opening bid, but dummy might have 4 diamonds. If dummy and partner each have 4 diamonds with declarer having a doubleton, leading the 10 will protect partner's holding in several layouts. If partner doesn't have 4 diamonds, a diamond lead won't work anyway. It isn't likely that partner has 5 diamonds. Unless the opponents have missed an 8-card major-suit fit, partner is marked with at least 5 spades and at least 2 hearts, so there isn't too much room in his hand for diamond length.

A club lead is into declarer's bid suit. Still, declarer doesn't have to have 4 clubs for the 1 opening. Partner could have 3 clubs if his distribution is 5-2-3-3. The big argument in favor of a club lead is that you are leading a 5-card suit. If the club lead strikes gold and establishes the suit, the long clubs will be the setting tricks. That isn't true with any of the other suits.

You lead the 2.

West
9
A1043
1075
Q8532
North
A87
QJ52
98632
K
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Dummy's club king wins, partner playing the 4 and declarer the 6. Partner's signal on the lead of a small card vs. notrump is defined as standard count. After trick 1, UDCA, regular Smith echo.

At trick 2, declarer leads the 2 off dummy. Partner plays the 7, and declarer the king. Do you win or duck?

West
9
A1043
1075
Q853
North
A87
QJ52
98632
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Partner's 7 is pretty ambiguous. It might be his highest heart spot, or it might be his lowest. In addition, it isn't clear what partner will be signaling here. Count could be important, considering dummy's heart holding. However, Smith echo could also be important. Partner's play at trick 1 is defined as count, so partner's heart play may be signaling attitude regarding the club lead. Even if that is the case, it isn't clear what signal partner would give if he holds the jack of clubs. If you have underled the queen he wants a club continuation, but if you have underled the ace he probably doesn't.

At any rate, it looks necessary to win this trick. If declarer has Kxx of hearts ducking is costly, since declarer will be able to lead up to dummy's QJ of hearts twice and get 3 heart tricks. Due to your terrible spot holding declarer can always get 3 heart tricks with Kxx of hearts if he reads the position, but that might not be easy for declarer.

You win the ace of hearts. Now what do you do?

West
9
1043
1075
Q853
North
A87
QJ5
98632
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

What can you say about the distribution? Assuming partner gave the proper count signal at trick 1, declarer started with 4 clubs. If declarer has only 3 spades partner might have been in the auction with his 6-card spade suit. If declarer has 3 diamonds, he might have used his dummy entry to take some diamond finesse rather than playing hearts first. This indicates that declarer's likely shape is 4-3-2-4.

What about declarer's high cards? Declarer is known to have the ace of clubs and the king of hearts. There are 16 HCP between you and dummy, leaving 24 outstanding. Partner has between 5 and 7 of these points, and declarer has the rest. These points could be pretty much anyplace. You don't have a clue about the spade and diamond holdings.

A club return is risky. Declarer might have the jack of clubs. Even if partner has that card, you don't have an entry to your clubs any more. Declarer can just duck the second round of clubs. Even if declarer wins the second round, the suit has to be blocked. You can forget about running the club suit.

A diamond shift might set up a couple of diamond tricks for your side. The problem is that diamonds are 3-3 even if declarer has 2 diamonds, and if that is the case declarer has 3 hearts and a lot of dummy entries. Declarer may simply fire diamonds back at you and set up dummy's diamonds.

A spade return looks scary. You expect declarer to have 4 spades, so leading a spade may scoop up partner's spade holding. The 9 is a nice pusher, but it might not be nice enough. Imagine declarer with KQ6x of spades, for example. If declarer believes your 9, he will win the ace and ram the 8 of spades through partner to take 4 spade tricks. Obviously declarer will never find this play if left to his own devices.

A heart return is pretty safe. Even if declarer started with K9x, how likely is he to let it ride to his 9? Not very likely. Of course declarer will be able to pick up the suit with a finesse on the third round since dummy's 5-spot beats your third highest heart, but there is nothing you can do about that. The heart return also has the advantage of ripping an entry off dummy.

Which heart should you return? The 3 is the proper card, but perhaps it is better to deceive declarer and return the 4. This would be your proper return from an initial holding of A43. Of course we are getting into head games here. However, many players holding A43 would reflexively return the 4, not realizing that it could make a difference since it wouldn't be obvious looking at dummy's heart spots that a third round heart finesse would be an option for declarer. Therefore, it is probably right to return the 4.

You choose to return the 9. Dummy wins the ace, partner playing the 3 and declarer the 4. Declarer leads a spade from dummy. Partner plays the jack, and declarer the king. Your default agreements about splitting are that you split with the highest card in a sequence.

You have a discard to make. What will it be?

West
1043
1075
Q853
North
87
QJ5
98632
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

Now you know a lot more about declarer's hand. He definitely started with KQxx of spades. That gives him 3 spade tricks, 2 heart tricks, and 2 club tricks. Partner is limited to 7 HCP and has shown up with the jack of spades, so he can't have AK of diamonds. That means that declarer will eventually take at least 1 diamond trick. You have to hope that partner has the 6 of spades, else declarer will have a marked finesse for 4 spade tricks. Partner should have this card, since without it he wouldn't have split when declarer led the spade off dummy. You also have to hope that partner has enough in clubs to prevent declarer from scoring a third club trick, and enough in diamonds to prevent declarer from scoring 2 diamond tricks.

Obviously you can't discard a heart. With the ace of spades gone from dummy you no longer have to fear declarer taking a third round heart finesse, since even if he does so the suit will be blocked and dummy won't have an entry to the good heart.

You can't know whether or not your 10 of diamonds is important. But it might be. You do know that your long club is of no value at all. Not only do you have no entry to it, but if 4 rounds of clubs get played either declarer will have scored a third club trick or your side will have scored 2 club tricks and probably defeated the contract. It is clear to discard a club.

You choose to discard the 5. Declarer leads the 9 from his hand. Do you cover?

West
1043
107
Q853
North
8
QJ5
98632
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

You must duck. If you cover, dummy's 5 is going to win the fourth round of hearts whether declarer started with a doubleton or tripleton heart. If declarer is up to riding the 9, there is nothing you can do about that.

You duck. Declarer wins the queen of hearts, and leads a diamond off dummy. Partner plays the king. Declarer wins the ace, and lays down the jack of diamonds squashing your 10. Partner ducks, but declarer now has 9 tricks. The full hand is:

West
9
A1043
1075
Q8532
North
A87
QJ52
98632
K
East
J10632
76
KQ4
J74
South
KQ54
K98
AJ
A1096
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
4
6
1
1
0
2
7
K
A
0
1
1
9
A
3
4
1
2
1
7
J
K
5
3
3
1
9
3
Q
6
1
4
1
2
K
A
7
3
5
1
J
10
3
4
3
6
1
7

If West had discarded a club on the second round of spades, there is a good chance that declarer would have go down. Declarer could no longer bang ace and jack of diamonds, since East would win and set up his spades. Declarer might judge to ride the 9, but that hasn't happened yet.

How was East's defense?

West
9
A1043
1075
Q8532
North
A87
QJ52
98632
K
East
J10632
76
KQ4
J74
South
KQ54
K98
AJ
A1096
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
4
6
1
1
0
2
7
K
A
0
1
1
9
A
3
4
1
2
1
7
J
K
5
3
3
1
9
3
Q
6
1
4
1
2
K
A
7
3
5
1
J
10
3
4
3
6
1
7

East's 4 play at trick 1 was expected by the partnership agreement of standard count at trick 1 when a low spot is led and third hand cannot attempt to win the trick. Whether this agreement is beneficial is debatable, but as long as there are no technical reasons to do otherwise, East should make the proper signal.

East chose to play his highest heart in order to show the jack of clubs. This could be wrong if West gets in and was leading from the ace. However, East could work out that if West has the ace of clubs he can't have another entry, so he was correct to echo in hearts.

East wanted to discourage in spades. However, he was alert to realize that the 6 was potentially an important spot, so he didn't mistakenly squander the 6 to discourage. East followed through by covering the spade lead from dummy, preventing declarer from stealing a spade trick.

East was right to split when declarer led a diamond off dummy. If declarer had the jack of diamonds, he was obviously planning on playing the jack if East played small, as that would be the only explanation for his crossing to dummy. East had seen West show out on the second round of spades, so East knew declarer had a doubleton diamond.

At the end, East had to duck the jack of diamonds in order to prevent the overtrick.

How was declarer's line of play?

West
9
A1043
1075
Q8532
North
A87
QJ52
98632
K
East
J10632
76
KQ4
J74
South
KQ54
K98
AJ
A1096
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
4
6
1
1
0
2
7
K
A
0
1
1
9
A
3
4
1
2
1
7
J
K
5
3
3
1
9
3
Q
6
1
4
1
2
K
A
7
3
5
1
J
10
3
4
3
6
1
7

Going after hearts right away seems correct. Declarer will need 2 heart tricks in any event, and that will get him up to 8 tricks. Heart to the king looks okay, since if West has the ace of hearts he will have to win it which makes the entry position more fluid.

Declarer was apparently playing West for 96 doubleton of spades or for East to fall asleep and not cover when the spade was led from dummy. While it is likely that the 9 is an honest card, this seems like a strange approach. It looks better to just blast away at diamonds. This will make if the diamonds are 3-3 or if the 10 is doubleton. Even if diamonds are bad the defense will have only 4 winners, and if the defense doesn't set up a club trick declarer will have the time and entries to establish the fifth diamond. If the defense does attack clubs, that may set up declarer's ninth trick in that suit.

Do you agree with the N-S auction?

West
9
A1043
1075
Q8532
North
A87
QJ52
98632
K
East
J10632
76
KQ4
J74
South
KQ54
K98
AJ
A1096
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
K
4
6
1
1
0
2
7
K
A
0
1
1
9
A
3
4
1
2
1
7
J
K
5
3
3
1
9
3
Q
6
1
4
1
2
K
A
7
3
5
1
J
10
3
4
3
6
1
7

In the context of a 14-16 1NT, South's opening bid is clear.

It is more efficient for North to respond 1 instead of 1, even though his diamonds are longer and North has more than a minimum response. Major suits and notrump are where the games are, and finding a 4-4 heart fit is North's number one priority.

Whether South should rebid 1 or 2NT is partly a matter of style. Assuming South is permitted to bypass a spade suit with this hand, the diamond holding screams for a 2NT rebid. Having a diamond led through AJ doubleton in 3NT could be a disaster.

North's 3NT call is clear. 3NT has to be the right contract. North doesn't have enough strength to be thinking about slam.

The fundamental principle of discarding is: Keep winners, discard losers. This may seem obvious, but many a contract has been allowed to make because a defender failed to follow this principle. This hand was a good example.

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