X-Clubs Play 20

This deal, from a friendly social game, reminded me of similar ones that I have written about earlier, on the topic of unusual opening leads. For a long time now I have advocated adding into one's repertoire the opening lead of an ace against No Trump contracts to show specifically AQx as well as the more normal holdings of AKx or AKxx though with AKxx(x) and no outside entry the fourth highest is generally better. This deal was, unfortunately, not played at X-Clubs, so I have no indication that anyone else would have found the killing lead of the ace of hearts. Look at the full deal and see what would, and what could, happen in a fairly mundane 3NT by EW.

Board 1 Dealer North Nil Vul


East opens 1NT and West responds 2C. East rebids 2D and West raises to 3NT. What should South lead? The ‘book’ lead is the C7 (fourth highest of longest and strongest) and that is not unreasonable is it? However if we think about the bidding, North will, at best, have a four or five count. West has shown interest in the majors, and only by a miracle can we hope that partner has the king of clubs. West has shown interest in the majors but East hasn’t and I decided that the ace of hearts would still leave me the option of trying the club suit or looking for a spade trick in partner’s hand. It was unlikely that the lead of the heart ace was going to give declarer the ninth trick with the king if he had it, or in dummy if the clubs could have been developed in time. This was not my regular partner so I tried the ace of hearts, without any understanding about opening leads, other than that ace asked for attitude. North signalled that he was delighted with the lead and I continued with the queen, which held. The nine went to North’s king and ten and the obvious club switch from North (I should have cashed the ace before leading the third heart, just to make sure) gave me two club tricks for down two. A low club lead and declarer makes ten tricks.

But wait, there’s more! With my regular partner, I would have started with the heart ace and then when I continued with the queen he would have overtaken with the king, KNOWING that declarer had a doubleton jack! Also knowing that we needed a club trick to defeat 3NT, he would then switch to a club rather than cash his two hearts. Jack of clubs, king, ace. Now the third heart and North cashes up the hearts and another club through declarer, ten tricks for the defence instead of ten for declarer.

I don’t expect that this article will convince anyone, but don’t say I didn’t tell you! Replay by clicking here to see this defence is the only viable one.