Hand of the Week, Vol. 3 No. 8

This week we feature an opening lead problem faced by East at the Friday 02 April club game. Your right-hand opponent deals, and the opponents have a spirited auction:


(South's 2D was a transfer to hearts, and the jump to 4NT was natural, showing a 5-3-3-2 had worth about 16 or 17 points, enough for slam if opener has a maximum 1NT opener.) These are your cards:

H T 9 2
D J 9 8 6
C K J 7 3

Against a 3NT or 4H contract, a small club is reasonable. It's likely to be your side's only establishable suit if partner has the CQ or CA Against a slam bid on distributional values, an attacking lead is still a good choice. But this is a different situation. You have 6HCP, and your opponents bid a slam based primarily on high cards, not distribution. Your partner only has 1 or 2 HCP. It's a huge gamble to hope partner's one face card is the CQ Look for a safe lead that won't finesse you out of one of your own face cards. On this deal, that means a spade or a heart. I prefer the spade: if partner has the SQ we can set it up while if he has the HQ we might save declarer from a touch choice how to pull the trumps.

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

As it turns out South doesn't quite have his bid (I confess, I was the South who overbid.) If you find a safe spade or heart lead, North has only about a 50-50 chance at his contract. Three spades, five hearts, two diamonds, and a club add up to 11. A diamond ruff doesn't gain a trick, just trades the fifth heart for a third diamond. Most likely you'll play West for the CK, take a club finesse, and go down. (If you somehow knew East had the CK and four diamonds, you could still make six with an endplay, but at the table you won't know how diamonds break, so the finesse is the better line.)

D 7
C 8
S 9 6
C 2
[table marker] S
S 7
C A 9

I got lucky; my opponent chose the agressive club lead, and after the first trick went C3-6-T-Q we had our twelve winners in the bag. To add insult to injury, the CT that was removed from West's hand at trick one turned out to be a key card. East was now exposed to a squeeze in the minor suits.

Declarer won the CQ, pulled trump, cashed the DAK and ruffed a diamond, then cashed the three spade winners, ending in his hand. On the last spade, East was forced to throw away either a diamond making declarer's D7 good, or a club setting up dummy's CA9 Making seven instead of going down one -- all because of an unfortunate opening lead.

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This page last updated 09.04.10
©2009 Gordon Bower