Opening Leads Chapter 11

Two more opening lead problems, ones that I thought were easier this time, yet there were still different answers from the group. There is also a good bidding problem in the first problem, one that is worth addressing in some detail. I’m glad that I asked my panel to comment on the bidding as well!

1.The bidding has been:
Dealer South, All Vul


2C is a version of Precision, 11-15 and 6+ clubs or 5 clubs and 4 diamonds
Your hand:

Your lead?

I also asked a question about the bidding: “Would you a) have passed the first time and b) passed after partner’s double; and c) if not, what would you have bid?”

So let us address the bidding first, before we look at the opening lead. Clearly, our panel does not like to make opening leads because some would not have passed the first time, which I totally disagree with because if you double and (most likely) partner bids the inevitable 2S you now have to make the overbid of 2NT. So, let’s say West has made the sensible decision and passed the 2C opening and that has gone to East who has doubled. Opener of course passes and now it is decision time for West. What should be your considerations if you are in the West seat?

a) You are delighted when partner has entered the auction but just how strong should partner be? In this sequence many Easts would double with as little as 10 or so HCP but e.g. 4441 shape, or they could have a better hand.
b) What is your expectation if you pass for penalties? There can be little doubt that you will score at least +500 if you pass but will that be good enough if most pairs are scoring +620 in a heart game? What are the odds, and do you decide to bid game or hope for a clear top if you score +800. And what are the chances of game if partner is simply ‘protecting’ with a ten or eleven count that does not end up producing game?
c) if you do decide to go for game, how do you do it? There is only one way, you have to bid 3C. If partner then bids 3S you can settle for 3NT or hope that with 5-4 in the majors partner will now bid 4H. But you do need to know how to bid. As for those who suggested bidding 2NT when partner doubled, that will almost certainly end the auction, and +120 or +150 is not going to be great for your side. Nor is a jump to 3NT any better in my view, because it is unilateral and unless partner has a very distributional hand in the majors you will play in 3NT when 4H is a better contract. If you do bid 3NT the you better have faith in your great declarer play and the defenders’ poor defence.

So, with no certainties, do we now agree that passing partner’s reopening double is best? If we do, we can next look at the opening lead. The alternatives for an opening lead can be narrowed down to two: the king of spades and the three of hearts. There can be no doubt that the latter is much better. Why? Yes, you can be reasonably sure of a spade ruff but what if partner does not have the ace? A takeout double does not guarantee that, and you might have a smattering of egg on your face should, for instance, declarer have Ax and dummy Qx. No, that did not happen but a bit of sensible caution will tell you that there is no hurry for the spade play. You have two certain club tricks and a third most likely from a spade ruff, but if you start with a low heart, you will learn much more about how to proceed. If spade tricks and spade ruffs are available, they can come later.

I can’t imagine anyone opting for a diamond lead unless they have learnt as beginners that if they have an ace they lead it. Any trump lead would be surely out of the question unless there is some bribery involved. So, the three of hearts should win hands down.

Another interesting opening lead problem coming up in Chapter 12.