Tricky Answers (2)

You sit South for each hand and play at matchpoints:

1. Dealer E Nil Vul


East opens 1C, natural. You bid 2S (you play ‘intermediate jumps’ but West does not ask and doubles. Pass from North, 2NT from East, 3NT from West.
a) No questions asked, but do YOU think 2NT from East is 15-16?
b) What would you lead?

Firstly, let me address the question of whether East’s 2NT should be 15-16. That seems to be the consensus of the panel but I just can’t see the logic of it. West’s takeout double simply says that West is prepared for a three level contract, does it not? West PROBABLY has 4+ hearts but who knows, you get all sorts of people as OPPONENTS. If you ask East, East will probably not know, such is the general standard of players these days. But whatever the case, does it not seem that partner will have next to nothing and if
you can’t make use of your spades, nothing else will be of help. Without any spade tricks you can probably expect three tricks, so it seems logical to lead a spade and hope. But which spade to lead?

Why worry about losing to the jack if you lead a low one? Declarer will know how to handle that suit, unless the play AND the bidding are equally bad. Is there just ONE card that you can hope partner to hold? Yes, there is: the jack of spades. But how many spades is partner likely to hold? Given the bidding, possibly only one. What if it is the JACK? That is why I believe there is only one card to lead, and that is the queen of spades.

As it happened at the time, North did have a singleton spade, but it was the KING! Do you see that this is bad for the defence, even if the defence starts with a low spade? However declarer made a meal of it when North’s king appeared at trick one, on South’s queen, and the result was what the opening lead deserved, down 3! Thinking about what dummy might have, what declarer might have, and what PARTNER might have is what is necessary when you make the opening lead.

The next one proved to be an easy one for any pair that read my “Out of Left Field” articles on opening leads some fifteen years ago, and since. It seems that only one of our panelists has done that, or discussed opening leads with his partner. Let me quote him next.

2. Dealer W NS Vul


After two passes, East opens 1NT (12-14). You pass as does West and North.
a) What would you lead?

This is why you need to agree about opening leads with your partner. Don’t expect a casual partnership to find the sort of defence that panelist Bob has suggested: ACE OF SPADES. The ace asks for attitude. Hopefully partner will have at least four spades, and after dummy goes down, partner can signal accordingly. The ACE can be from AKx or AQx but not from four since we would lead the fourth one with that holding, therefore partner will encourage holding Jxxxx and discourage holding 10xxxx.

There is actually more to this than that, so I will show you all the hands as they were when the deal was played in an above average match point session.

From Tuesday 27/10/20
Dealer N EW Vul


When this was played, nearly all Souths opened 1NT and played there. What to lead? Against NT, lead ‘fourth highest of longest and strongest” which would be the D3 if you take the instruction literally, but with such a solid sequence, lead the TOP one, the five. But let’s get real. If you held AKx of spades, surely you would lead the SA to see what you get from partner and where you might go next? What is the real difference here? The lead of the ace might allow declarer’s king to make, but it will also help the defence to continue constructively if East knows that West will have exactly AKx or AQx. I could write a further two chapters on this but will leave it to the readers.

3. Dlr E NS Vul


East opens 1C. Pass from you, 1D from West, pass from North,1NT from East, all pass.
a) What would you lead?

When playing in an average field of match point players, don’t believe everything you hear or see. That is my tip. While East’s rebid of 1NT should deny four hearts or spades, so many players will rebid 1NT with 15-17 and hide their four card major. I would never do that myself because I want my partner to trust me, but why should that make any difference to what others do? This did not have a happy ending for me, because I chose to lead the four of spades. I hate to lead the third from the jack as a rule, but NS were a shifty looking pair so I did lead the S4. Dummy had A9 and partner contributed the queen, declarer the king. When I won the club king I had to decide whether to continue with the jack of spades and hope partner had the queen, or to try a heart. I did the latter and the result was not pretty.

My partner did say later that, because it was obvious to her that my lead was from a three card suit (she does know the rule of eleven!) she considered playing her TEN at trick one, holding Q10xxx. “Don’t finesse against partner” is what they say, but do you think this time it would have been justified? It certainly would have made South’s life much easier, laying down the jack would then have been a no-brainer.

Finally, the really sticky one. Apologies but the South cards are to the left and the North to the right - exigencies.
4. Dealer S Nil Vul


You open 1S, not everyone’s choice of an opening bid, but being the adventurous type, you do. 2H from partner, 2S from you. 3D from partner, and what can you do? You have no choice, and bid 3NT. West leads the ten of clubs. How would you play this, given that the defence is going to be sensible, or possibly even perfect. Any ideas?

I was surprised that nearly all our panel started with the queen of spades and then expected the defence to continue clubs after winning the ace on the second round. But why would they? I hope your defensive play is better than that, and you will do what NS should do, and after winning the second spade lock you in dummy for ever after, which would lead to five tricks for them. Given that the defence will be perfect, what, then, is your best legitimate chance of making 3NT? I believe it is to lead the two of spades to the jack in hand. This may trick North into winning the ace but hardly likely. But at least it gives you a certain entry to your hand. Using that certain entry, you can then play diamonds the best way you can to set up tricks in that suit, by either running then TEN or leading to the NINE. If the jack is with West, you can hope for four diamond tricks, one spade, one club, and three in some sort of end play in hearts and clubs.

But wait, there’s more, a stop press contribution from Russell, who would start the same way, spade to the jack, then a diamond, but put up the queen from dummy. If that holds, spade queen and overtake with SK just in case East started with SAxx and ducks again. Then a diamond towards the king in dummy and hope for the best. If defenders take second spade lead, play diamonds from the top when
they lock you in dummy with a heart.

In fact West had Axx and East Jx of diamonds, so I have to concede this one to superior declarer play, Russell’s play would have worked and mine didn’t. And on reflection, it makes a bit more sense.