Wednesday Play at The Hutt (14)

What I thought was a very basic question resulting from Board 14 from Wednesday 24/3/21 turned out to be more complicated than I thought, at least for many readers. Let’s look again:

Against South’s 4S, let’s say you decide to lead the ace of clubs, not what I would recommend but what many players did lead. Here is what you see in dummy when you lead your club ace.

Dummy (North)


The West hand (yours)


When you lead the ace of clubs and dummy plays low, what do you play next if:
a) partner follows with the five of clubs and declarer the three?
b) partner follows with the two of clubs and declarer plays the five?

This should be a lesson in basic counting (primer ONE maths) as well as the more advanced but necessary signalling conventions (what you tell partner when partner leads a card). Your very simple maths should tell you that partner has either ONE or TWO clubs when both partner and declarer follow suit to the first trick. Everyone should be able to work that out!

If partner has a singleton club, when you continue with a second club, partner will ruff. If, on the other hand, it is declarer who has the singleton, if you continue with a second club, declarer will probably make the rest of the tricks after drawing all outstanding trumps and then making use of three more club tricks. Is there any way you can tell WHO has the singleton? That is where you need to have a basic understanding of how you play your cards. Normal practice is that if you either LEAD, or FOLLOW to partner’s lead, you play your HIGHER card if you have a DOUBLETON, and you play your LOWEST card if you have THREE cards in that suit. You can see how important that is in this case. If partner has followed with the TWO of clubs you absolutely know that it was a SINGLETON. If partner has followed with the FIVE, it is EITHER singleton or the TOP card of a DOUBLETON.

Sometimes, against less experienced players, you can tell by which card declarer plays. A good declarer will always false-card to muddy the picture for the opponents. It always seems natural to play your lowest card but TWOs are very telling. If declarer plays the THREE then there is still some doubt for the leader of the ace who has the TWO. Did declarer play the three because he had no choice or was he foxing? And then again, against very experienced thinking defence a good declarer would play the TWO because he knows his opponent would allow for him foxing IF there was a choice!

Now just alter the West and North hands a little bit: give West AK976 in clubs and dummy QJ105. This time West has a much easier, in fact obvious, opening lead decision: the ace of clubs. BUT...

How should West continue if partner follows with a) the TWO or b) the EIGHT of clubs?

Those who had trouble last time, please try again, there is more on this to come!