Join Bridge Winners
Which Ace?
(Page of 8)

In a semi-final match in the Senior trials for USA2, you have a difficult opening lead to make.

E-W vul, West deals. As West, you hold:

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
98
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

1NT: 15-17

2 then 2NT: Implies 4 hearts

Your lead. Rusinow from 4 or more cards in suit. Attitude leads.

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
98
W
N
E
S
P
P
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
P
P

In the blind one tends to lead a major vs. 3NT. On this auction South has shown 5 spades and North presumably has 4 hearts, so neither major is particularly attractive.

Diamonds is your strongest suit. However, leading from a broken 4-card suit vs. 3NT is not attractive. A diamond lead may blow a diamond trick. Even if the lead strikes an honor in partner's hand, establishing the diamond suit by itself isn't going to produce 5 tricks unless your side has a couple of entries, and if you have those entries, there may be time to shift to a diamond.

A club lead is much safer. Partner's clubs probably aren't too strong, since he failed to double 2, but he could still have a 5-card club suit. Your club spots may help produce a trick or two in the club suit.

One final factor is your spade holding. The bidding indicates that declarer will be looking at spades for his source of tricks, and your Q9xx give you pretty good control of the suit. This along with the invitational sequence indicates that a passive approach will have a good chance to succeed.

You lead the 9.

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
98
North
108
QJ105
Q82
QJ64
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P

It goes queen, king, ace. You play standard attitude signals at trick 1 vs. notrump on honor leads. UDCA after trick 1.

At trick 2, declarer leads the 3. How do you defend?

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
8
North
108
QJ105
Q82
J64
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P

What do you know about this hand? Declarer's shape is presumably 5-3-3-2, but his doubleton could be anywhere. There are 20 high card points you can't see, so partner has one high card and that card could be anywhere.

The one thing you can be sure of is that partner has the 10. You know that partner has at least 4 clubs. If he didn't have the 10, he never would have covered the queen.

If partner's high card is the ace of diamonds, you can always defeat the contract with a diamond shift. Furthermore, there is no rush to find the shift. Even if you give declarer 3 heart tricks, he still has only 8 winners and will have to let you in with your queen of spades.

If partner's high card is the ace or king of spades, you should be in good shape. Partner will cover the 10 with that honor, which will limit declarer to 1 spade trick.

The most important scenario looks to be if partner has the ace of hearts. This is quite likely, since if declarer had that card he might be taking a heart finesse. If that is the case, your goal will be to take 2 heart tricks and 1 trick in every other suit before declarer can take his 9 tricks. It may look right to go up king of hearts and lead a club, but that isn't necessary. You can safely duck the heart. Partner will duck also, of course. You can afford to give declarer a heart trick, since even if he has AKJxx of spades that will give him only 1 heart, 4 spades, 2 clubs, and 1 diamond. He can eventually lead up to the queen of diamonds, but by then you will have your 5 tricks.

The danger with going up king of hearts is that this sets up 2 heart tricks for declarer immediately. By ducking, you not only make it more difficult for declarer to establish a second heart trick, you also force declarer to commit himself and tell you what he has.

You choose to win the king of hearts. Partner plays the 8. Partner's play is defined as regular Smith, unless he believes that count is more important.

What do you play now?

West
Q974
96
KJ104
8
North
108
QJ10
Q82
J64
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P

Even without partner's Smith signal, it is clear to continue clubs. You know partner has the 10, and this is a trick you must establish. If partner started with 5 clubs or K107x, that will be great. If declarer started with A7x of clubs declarer will be able to establish a third club trick which could be scary, but you have to live with that.

You lead the 8. Dummy wins the jack. Partner plays the 2 (standard current count if that is what he is intending), and declarer the 7.

Now declarer leads the 10 off dummy. Partner plays the 2, declarer the 3, and you win your queen. What do you lead?

West
974
96
KJ104
North
8
QJ10
Q82
64
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P

You now know that declarer started with AKJxx of spades, since if partner had a spade honor he would have played it on the 10. Partner must have a red ace. Which ace does partner have?

If partner has the ace of diamonds, you better shift to a diamond now. If you don't, declarer has 4 spade tricks, 3 heart tricks, and 2 club tricks.

If partner has the ace of hearts, you better not shift to a diamond. Declarer will go up queen, and if he has 3 hearts he will set up a heart trick and have 9 tricks. If declarer has a doubleton heart, you will still survive.

Suppose you do shift to a heart and partner has the ace. If he has Axx obviously he will duck, and declarer will be held to 8 tricks. If he has Axxx of hearts he won't know for sure whether you or declarer started with 3 hearts, but he can afford to duck anyway.

So, which ace does partner have? All the indications are that he has the heart ace. If he has the diamond ace he might not have been so anxious to make his Smith signal, since he knows that you know from trick 1 that he has the 10 so he doesn't have to tell you that. Also, consider declarer's line of play. If declarer had Axx of hearts and was wide open in diamonds, declarer might have taken a legitimate play to make by taking the heart finesse and then the spade finesse.

You lead the 9. Dummy's 10 holds. Declarer leads a spade to his ace, cashes the king of spades (partner discarding a heart), and leads the 5. Partner wins the 10, cashes his ace of hearts, and leads a diamond through. You get your king of diamonds for down 1. The full hand is:

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
98
North
108
QJ105
Q82
QJ64
East
52
A874
963
K1032
South
AKJ63
32
A75
A75
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
Q
K
A
3
1
0
3
K
5
8
0
1
1
8
J
2
7
1
2
1
10
2
3
Q
0
2
2
9
10
4
2
1
3
2
8
5
A
4
3
4
2
K
7
2
7
3
5
2
5
4
6
10
2
5
3
A
5
6
J
2
5
4
9
7
K
10

How was East's defense?

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
98
North
108
QJ105
Q82
QJ64
East
52
A874
963
K1032
South
AKJ63
32
A75
A75
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
Q
K
A
3
1
0
3
K
5
8
0
1
1
8
J
2
7
1
2
1
10
2
3
Q
0
2
2
9
10
4
2
1
3
2
8
5
A
4
3
4
2
K
7
2
7
3
5
2
5
4
6
10
2
5
3
A
5
6
J
2
5
4
9
7
K
10

Covering the queen of clubs looks wrong. This gives declarer a quick entry to dummy for the hearts. East might have been afraid that his 3 would be unreadable as encouraging, but he has to assume that his partner will work out the position. If East had ducked at trick 1, declarer wouldn't have had a chance.

East's duck of the second round of hearts is correct. It is necessary if declarer started with 3 hearts. If declarer started with a doubleton heart the duck gives declarer a heart trick he wouldn't immediately have otherwise, but declarer will still be a trick short.

Could declarer have done better?

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
98
North
108
QJ105
Q82
QJ64
East
52
A874
963
K1032
South
AKJ63
32
A75
A75
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
Q
K
A
3
1
0
3
K
5
8
0
1
1
8
J
2
7
1
2
1
10
2
3
Q
0
2
2
9
10
4
2
1
3
2
8
5
A
4
3
4
2
K
7
2
7
3
5
2
5
4
6
10
2
5
3
A
5
6
J
2
5
4
9
7
K
10

If declarer had known where the king of clubs was, he might have played small from dummy at trick 1. From his point of view the opening lead might have been from K109xx (Rusinow leads), so going up queen looks clear.

Going after hearts at trick 2 looks right.

On the actual layout, declarer could have made once West went up king of hearts. Instead of taking the spade finesse, he could have just set up the heart suit. With the queen of diamonds as a late entry, he could eventually have taken 3 clubs, 2 hearts, 2 spades, and 2 diamonds, never having to lose a spade trick. I think this could have been found. While East's play of the king of clubs at trick 1 was poor in all variations, it would really have been awful if East had not held the ace of hearts. Given that East has the ace of hearts he can't have both the queen of spades and the king of diamonds, which is pretty much what is needed for the spade finesse to be better than setting up the hearts. This illustrates why West should have ducked the heart trick. On a double-dummy basis, West had to play the 9 at trick 2. Interested readers can work out why this is the case.

What do you think of the N-S bidding? (N-S are playing Precision.)

West
Q974
K96
KJ104
98
North
108
QJ105
Q82
QJ64
East
52
A874
963
K1032
South
AKJ63
32
A75
A75
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
P
1N
P
2
P
2
P
2N
P
3
P
3N
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
9
Q
K
A
3
1
0
3
K
5
8
0
1
1
8
J
2
7
1
2
1
10
2
3
Q
0
2
2
9
10
4
2
1
3
2
8
5
A
4
3
4
2
K
7
2
7
3
5
2
5
4
6
10
2
5
3
A
5
6
J
2
5
4
9
7
K
10

South is clearly too strong to open a limited 1. However, he might have chosen to open 1. If North has a positive response South won't mind getting to game, and if North has a negative response at least South will be sure to get his spade suit in. Opening 1NT with this good spade suit and a worthless doubleton in hearts isn't attractive.

North was very optimistic moving towards game. He has 8 HCP, but they are all in queens and jacks which has to be worth a considerable downgrade. Even opposite a maximum, game figures to be thin.

At the other table, South opened a Standard 1, and chose to raise the 1NT response to 2NT. North obviously accepted. This got a club lead from the other side of the table, and declarer had no chance to make 9 tricks.

The aggressive vs. passive opening lead decision comes up often. There is no pat answer. Every hand must be analyzed on its own merits, taking into account the bidding and the holdings of the hand on lead.

14 Comments
Getting Comments... loading...
.

Bottom Home Top