X-Clubs Play 30

This one is about opening leads and defence. Any partnership, and I stress PARTNERSHIP, that can develop a good understanding about opening leads, signals, and working on the plan that has been set in motion by the opening lead, will regularly score about 6% more than their counterparts in any one session. That is my estimate, based on the fact that you will be defending half the time (yes, the good, more aggressive pairs will be defending much less often!) and not all defensive situations will require more than very basic defence and no real thought or imagination. Is a regular score of 58% in your sessions better than 52%? You decide and if you have a partner you can work with, take defence more seriously and don’t just put it in the too hard basket.

Board 2 from Monday 19/09/22
Dealer East NS Vul


The final contract nearly all the time was 3NT, usually arrived at when South opened 1NT and North raised directly to 3NT. What should West lead?

The novice has learnt to ‘lead fourth highest of your longest and strongest’. So, a number of Wests did lead the heart seven. The more advanced players will see the danger of that lead, and with a good sequence at the top will lead the QUEEN. But, unfortunately for our experts, the lead of the queen tells declarer where the jack is, and with the ten in dummy, three heart tricks for declarer. But neither the queen nor the seven makes any difference in the long run, because declarer still has to play on clubs, and when East wins the ace, a switch to a spade is obvious. But, if East sees the ten in dummy, he will realise that a competent declarer will play low from hand, and West will be able to take only two spade tricks. A more competent East will therefore push through the jack of spades, which will give the defence three spade tricks but... unfortunately the spades are blocked and declarer still makes 3NT.

In viewing all the results, I saw most declarers made either 3NT exactly or with an overtrick. Only poor declarer play resulted in failure. Only one West had made the killing lead without knowing it was recommended by Deep Finesse. But that particular pair of defenders then continued to allow declarer to make TWO overtricks, so the lead of the spade ace could not have been by design. I have written more than one article about the necessity to build a basic structure of a partnership’s opening leads, and that one of a partnership’s BASIC opening lead repertoire should be the ACE from an exact holding of AQx against a NO TRUMP contract.

Clearly, nobody wants to know. Think about it and look at the West hand. Given the bidding, which opening lead makes more sense, the HQ or SA IF you know East will expect you to have the AQx of spades.