Join Bridge Winners
Strike Gold
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In a round-robin match in the Open Trials, you have an unattractive opening lead to make.

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

West
K83
1087
J8654
J3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

1NT: Semi-forcing

Your lead. Attitude leads vs. notrump.

West
K83
1087
J8654
J3
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

It is often right to lead an unbid major on this sort of auction. The problem with a spade lead here is that it is partner who didn't bid the major. Partner will have to have a pretty good hand if you are to have a chance to defeat 1NT, so if he has 5 spades he would have had an overcall. You don't want to be leading away from an honor in a suit which neither you nor partner have a 5-card holding vs. 1NT, so a spade lead can be eliminated.

A heart is possible. Partner will have to have strength in hearts for you to have a chance, and he likely will need 4 hearts or the split will be too good for declarer. Also, if partner has 3 hearts along with his likely 4 spades and good hand he might have made a takeout double or overcalled 1NT. Still, hearts is the suit where you know the opponents have a 5-card holding. Also, you wouldn't be sure which heart to lead if you led a heart.

Since partner has some length in both majors, he isn't likely to have 5 clubs. That eliminates a club lead.

So, you are back to your 5-card diamond suit. It isn't a good suit, you are short on entries, and declarer is likely to have diamond length and strength since he didn't respond 1 or raise hearts. Still, a diamond lead looks like the best shot. You do have five of them, and as little as Qx in partner's hand may let you establish the suit.

Which diamond should you lead? Your diamond holding is weak. However, you probably want partner to continue diamonds when he gets in. Therefore, you should lead your smallest diamond, since you are playing attitude leads.

You lead the 4.

West
K83
1087
J8654
J3
North
Q62
K9642
Q7
A54
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

It goes 7, 9, 10. Declarer leads a diamond to dummy's queen, partner discarding the 3 (UDCA). Now declarer cashes dummy's ace of clubs (8 from partner), and leads a club to 6, 10, jack. Your play?

West
K83
1087
J85
North
Q62
K9642
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

If declarer has misguessed and partner has the king of clubs, the hand is almost certainly down. This doesn't look likely. Declarer wouldn't have risked cutting himself off from his hand this way. He would have won the opening lead in dummy with the queen of diamonds and attacked clubs while he still had an entry to his hand.

Assuming declarer has the king of clubs, you probably need to cash 7 tricks now. Declarer figures to have enough tricks in the minors to make the contract if he gets back in. You need to strike gold in one of the majors.

Partner can't have more than 4 spades, since he didn't overcall 1. That means partner needs theAQ of hearts. You will need to cash 4 tricks in one of the majors, which means partner needs one of the major-suit jacks.

It looks likely that partner started with 5 hearts. If he had 4 hearts, he probably wouldn't have discarded a heart. Also, the play in the club suit indicates that declarer has 5 clubs. Since declarer is known to have 3 spades from partner's failure to overcall 1, declarer's likely distribution is 3-0-5-5.

At any rate, it is clear to shift to the 10. If declarer is out of hearts, as expected, this will allow you to take 4 heart tricks due to your king of spades entry and nice heart spots. If it turns out that declarer started with the stiff jack of hearts, partner will win the queen and both of you will know that your only hope is in spades.

You shift to the 10. It holds, declarer discarding a diamond. Now what?

West
K83
87
J85
North
Q62
K964
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

Obviously you continue hearts. This guarantees your side can take at least 4 hearts and 2 spades. You still don't know who has the jack of spades.

You lead the 8 to the 9 and jack, declarer discarding a spade. Partner returns the 7 to your king, declarer playing the 4. What do you play now?

West
83
7
J85
North
Q6
K64
5
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P

You have a sure set by continuing hearts. A spade shift will defeat the contract 2 tricks if partner has the jack of spades, but will allow the contract to make if declarer has that card.

There is a solid clue that declarer has the jack of spades. Partner knows the hand as well as you do, and knows you have the king of spades. If partner had the jack of spades, he would have cashed his ace of hearts before underleading his spade to your king. This would force you to return a spade for the 2-trick set. Since partner didn't do this, he doesn't have the jack of spades. Playing a heart is clear.

You lead a heart. Partner takes 2 heart tricks and his ace of spades for down 1. The full hand is:

West
K83
1087
J8654
J3
North
Q62
K9642
Q7
A54
East
A1097
AQJ53
9
Q86
South
J54
AK1032
K10972
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
7
9
10
3
1
0
2
6
Q
3
1
2
0
A
8
2
3
1
3
0
4
6
10
J
0
3
1
10
2
5
3
0
3
2
8
9
J
4
2
3
3
7
4
K
2
0
3
4
7
8

How was East's defense?

West
K83
1087
J8654
J3
North
Q62
K9642
Q7
A54
East
A1097
AQJ53
9
Q86
South
J54
AK1032
K10972
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
7
9
10
3
1
0
2
6
Q
3
1
2
0
A
8
2
3
1
3
0
4
6
10
J
0
3
1
10
2
5
3
0
3
2
8
9
J
4
2
3
3
7
4
K
2
0
3
4
7
8

It looks accurate. From East's point of view he doesn't know whether the future is in spades or hearts, since West might have KJx of spades, so he must keep his spades. Naturally he encourages in hearts.

At the end, East returns a small spade which will produce a 2-trick set if West has KJx of spades and continues spades. East would not do this without the 10 of spades -- he would just cash ace of spades and play another spade, forcing West to lead a heart. East would know that West didn't have KJ10 (or KJ9) of spades, since if West had that West wouldn't have shifted to the 10 -- he would have shifted to the jack of spades. As discussed, if East has the jack of spades, he would have cashed the ace of hearts before leading a spade to West's king. Proper defense and partnership trust will always get the maximum number of tricks in this position.

What about declarer's line of play?

West
K83
1087
J8654
J3
North
Q62
K9642
Q7
A54
East
A1097
AQJ53
9
Q86
South
J54
AK1032
K10972
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
7
9
10
3
1
0
2
6
Q
3
1
2
0
A
8
2
3
1
3
0
4
6
10
J
0
3
1
10
2
5
3
0
3
2
8
9
J
4
2
3
3
7
4
K
2
0
3
4
7
8

It wasn't very good. Declarer should see that is is important to keep West off lead, since only West can lead the damaging heart. With that in mind, declarer should have passed the 9 at trick 2. It would now be impossible for the defense to take 7 tricks.

Declarer was correct to duck the 10. If he covers, he might find West with Q10x of hearts and East with AK of spades. The queen of hearts would then be an entry for another heart through dummy. By ducking the first heart lead and covering the next one, declarer holds the defense to 3 heart tricks if East has both spade honors.

Do you agree with East's silence in the auction?

West
K83
1087
J8654
J3
North
Q62
K9642
Q7
A54
East
A1097
AQJ53
9
Q86
South
J54
AK1032
K10972
W
N
E
S
1
P
1NT
P
P
P
D
1NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
4
7
9
10
3
1
0
2
6
Q
3
1
2
0
A
8
2
3
1
3
0
4
6
10
J
0
3
1
10
2
5
3
0
3
2
8
9
J
10
2
3
3
7
4
K
2
0
3
4
7
8

There are some hands which are right for a 4-card overcall, but this doesn't look like one of them. The spade suit is weak, and the hearts are good on defense. It looks better to wait and see.

A balancing double by East would be penalty-oriented, showing a good heart holding. That is tempting, but East won't like it if anybody bids 2, either the opponents or West. East knows he is probably going to get a diamond lead vs. 1NT, but maybe that can be survived or maybe E-W simply have no business in the auction.

It may seem odd to go into such a deep discussion about an opening lead which most players would think is trivial. It isn't always the case that fourth from your longest and strongest is right against an enemy notrump contract. It is important to analyze the bidding, look at your hand, and picture what is the likely way to defeat the contract rather than making a rote opening lead. It turns out on this hand that the routine diamond lead does appear to be the best shot, but that didn't have to be the case.

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