Double Dummy 16

Most of the time, you shouldn’t need to be Deep Finesse to make the best opening lead. Nor should you have needed to have read some of my earlier articles stressing the need to have a full set of agreements with your partner as well a full repertoire of opening leads, including the opening lead of the ACE when holding specifically AKx or AQx against a No Trump contract.

Board 11 from Thursday 14/03/24
Dealer S EW Vul


Surely the bidding would have been much the same every time this deal was played: South opens 1D, North bids 2C, South 2NT and North raises to 3NT. What should West lead? Before deciding, West should try and assess both declarer’s and dummy’s point counts and possible distribution. Dummy will have 10+ HCP and clubs. Declarer will have 4+ diamonds and 15-16 HCP and a balanced hand. Should West make the early childhood recommended lead of “fourth highest of longest and strongest”? That is the four of diamonds, but that is also declarer’s only announced suit. Then, what about West’s other four card suit, spades? Yes, spades have not been mentioned by either declarer or dummy, but what are the chances that EAST has enough top spades to do any damage? And West’s Q10 of clubs are sitting in the pocket. Only one suit is left and everyone (except my two readers, both South this time) has had it drummed in to them never to open up a suit like AQx. But reason should tell us that the suit with any serious hope for the defence is the heart suit, and if not, West can find out by leading the ACE and seeing dummy and getting a SIGNAL from partner. That is what cooperative defence is all about, and a top pair of defenders does not need Deep Finesse to come up with the right answers, when these answers are based on logic and common sense.

Now let me give you some brief statistics, I may be one or two out in my counting.
17 Souths played in 3NT and made seven with the EIGHT of spades lead;
9 Souths made seven on the TWO of spades lead;
19 Wests led a low diamond and all declarers made seven.
However, 12 Wests did find a heart lead, but 10 of them led the EIGHT, thus blocking the suit, but did keep declarer to only one overtrick.

But the worst horror story must come from the West who was on lead against SIX No Trumps and did (understandably) lead the ace of hearts. He or she must have had second thoughts or got the wrong signal from East and switched. 6NT bid and made!