X-Def 10

Now we have the second deal from Friday’s play, a mundane 2S contract to defend, but not every pair managed to get it right. With a basic opening lead structure and signals, there can be no excuse for not getting the maximum out of the defence, no matter what declarer does.

Board 26 from Friday 21-Mar 2023
Dealer East All Vul


The universal contract here should be 2S by East after East opens 1S and West responds 1NT. South’s obvious lead should be the nine of hearts. The possibility of a heart ruff should not be ignored: the bidding has told South that North will have some good cards, but to lead either ace would be to go against our rules: aces are made to beat kings and queens and not collect three ‘pips’. We also know not to underlead aces at trick one, and a trump lead is only going to help declarer. South’s best hope, therefore, is to lead the NINE of hearts (not the four!) which North should read to be the top of a doubleton (or even a singleton). The only other possibilty is the ‘top of nothing’ from three low cards, but that is a last resort lead, and seldom constructive. Therefore North should expect it to be from a doubleton. North therefore takes the king and ace and leads a third for South to ruff, very basic stuff. A good declarer will drop the jack under North’s second heart, just to try and persuade North that South had started with three hearts. That might persuade a gullible North in an unfamiliar partnership, so it’s worth trying if you’re declarer. But good defenders make good opening leads. North should believe that South had a reason for leading the nine of hearts, the reason being that it is either singleton or top of a doubleton.