Hand of the Week #22

What would you lead against 3NT holding this hand?

S J 9 7 4
H J 7 3 2
D A 6 5

With no other information, you'd probably choose a small spade, your best suit, hoping your partner has a high card in spades to go along with your J9xx and two aces. But your choice of lead may be different depending what the auction is. For instance, holding those same cards, what would you lead if you heard this auction?


You know from the bidding that declarer has a four-card heart suit, and dummy has a four-card spade suit (otherwise why would he bid Stayman?) and long clubs. Leading away from your jack in either major could easily give away an extra trick. Based on the bidding, your side's best suit is probably diamonds. Lead the D5.

This was the complete deal, board 10 from the Tuesday 12 August game:

Dealer East
Both vul
S K 6 2
H A Q 9 8
D K Q 3
C Q J 9
S 8 3
H K T 6 5 4
D J T 9 7
C 3 2
[table marker] S J 9 7 4
H J 7 3 2
D A 6 5
S A Q T 5
D 8 4 2
C K 8 7 6 5 4

A diamond lead is the only lead that gives declarer pause. If West has the CA and East led from an ace-high diamond suit, winning the first trick could lead to losing the whole diamond suit when West gets in and returns his partner's lead. (If East-West play fourth best leads, this still won't defeat 3NT -- but taking only nine tricks when other are taking ten or eleven is a matchpoint disaster.)

As the cards actually sit, East has both minor aces, so 3NT makes five if East leads a major, or if East leads a diamond and North guesses to win the first round. If North takes out insurance by holding up once in diamonds he'll make only four. (If West had had the CA and East had four diamonds, a major-suit lead still lets North make five, but a diamond lead leads to making three if North wins the first trick and four if he holds up.)

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This page last updated 13.08.08
©2008 Gordon Bower