Double Dummy 17

This deal comes from the archives because I had a question from one of my regular readers, Sam, who asked about opening leads of singleton trumps. He has heard me say often enough that the lead of a singleton trump is one of the worst imaginable, because a) the first thing every declarer does when playing a hand is to draw trumps, so why do it for him and b) it is almost certain to solve any two way finesse problem if there is one. However, just to put it into context, I always add the proviso that there should always be a reason for doing what you do, especially when you make an opening lead, because the opening lead sets the scene for the rest of your defence, and the opening lead should tell your partner what you are hoping to achieve on defence. I then dug out this particular deal from my archives, a series I labelled “Ultimate Defence”. The reader may like to look at the deal and treat it as a double dummy problem before I continue the story in DD18.

Dealer West All Vul; Teams


This was the bidding in a teams match:


Can you see what the only defence is against what looks like a pretty good 5D contract? Yes, 3NT was a doddle but West had hopes of a slam when he forced to game and showed his values and shape. The unfortunate thing for West was that both North AND South were taking a great interest in the bidding. What is the ONLY way for the defence to defeat 5D and why should the defenders defend that way?

North had to make the crucial opening lead. Singleton trump leads are definitely not in the recommended category against any contract, but North had taken note of the bidding. West was clearly at least 5-5 in the minor suits and North had five clubs. That suggested that West would need club ruffs unless dummy's major suits provided enough tricks. If dummy did provide the required tricks, then there was little that North could do to prevent it, but because of the danger of club ruffs in dummy, North started with a trump, the only one he had, the two! Normally a horrible lead. Declarer ducked this to hand and immediately tried a spade towards dummy. When dummy's queen was played, South won the ace and, being well aware of the fact that partner had led a singleton trump, took stock and asked why. The only reason partner would lead a trump was clear enough: he had some hold in clubs and wanted to prevent ruffs in dummy if they were required by declarer.

North had followed in spades with the TWO, confirming declarer's count in that suit: singleton. Therefore declarer had either a singleton heart if 6511 or a doubleton heart if 5521. In either case, the defence seemed in need of a heart trick before it ran away on a spade. If declarer had the heart ace, South's king was a dead duck, so South did what seemed to be the unthinkable: he laid down the KING at trick three! When declarer followed with the six, it was up to North to tell partner what HE wanted to know. North followed to the king of hearts with the EIGHT. Was that to encourage another heart because North had the ace? No. North KNEW that SOUTH knew that North had the ace, so why the need to encourage? There could be need for only one thing, and that was for South to know how many hearts declarer held. Hence North followed with the EIGHT, which showed an even number of hearts.

Encouragement was not necessary, was it? South got the message loud and clear and returned, not another heart, but a trump! Declarer now had no way of ruffing out the last club loser, hence decided to 'believe' South's king of hearts switch. Who would switch to the king without the ace when he saw those hearts in dummy. Declarer ran the queen of hearts and North took the setting trick with the heart ace when declarer discarded his losing club. The defence needed to be card perfect from trick one to trick four: a trump, ace of spades, king of hearts, a second trump. Now, you might say this is highly improbable, but, friends, this story IS true even though it is over 20 years old. Why should things be any different today? Check it out by clicking here