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