Opening Leads Chapter 12

The next opening lead problem received unanimous votes for the queen of hearts but there is a story to go with that, from a long time ago when I discovered a rule I have given myself and followed ever since this particular deal was played, when I was declarer and received that very same unanimous heart lead against a pathetic 1S contract bid exactly this way.

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


Your hand:

Your lead?

Consider this: does the bidding not sound to you like North has tried to squirm out of passing a 1C opening by partner? This bidding sounds very much like that. To pass opener’s rebid at the 1 level, while allowable within most bidding systems, is highly unusual, because even with 6+ HCP and four card support for the second suit, responder would raise to two. Or, with say 7-9 HCP and fewer than three cards in opener’s second suit, responder would now bid 1NT. So to PASS, responder, if the bidding is genuine, should have something like 3451 and a 4-6 count, looking for an out from 1C.

Opener of course could be quite strong, but most of the time declarer will be playing in 1S with opponents possibly having the balance of power. What, then, do you know? That opponents will be playing in a 4-3 spade fit with a misfit in the other suits. Given that, what is the recipe for the defence?

A TRUMP lead.

I sense that the reader is not convinced, so let me try and reproduce, as closely as I can, the deal that I am basing this chapter on. At the time I was the lucky East who played in 1S and received the lead of the queen of hearts, followed by friendly defence.

Dealer S NS Vul


Against my 1S, West started with the queen of hearts, the ‘textbook’ lead. I covered with the king and East won the ace. The defenders were programmed to do the ‘right thing’ and East cashed the diamond ace and led another heart. I ruffed. Then ace of clubs and a club ruff and a diamond to West’s jack. West then took the diamond king, East discarding a second heart but West was still not wanting to lead trumps, they never do, do they? Another heart and East of course discarded on it, why trump partner’s high card? I ruffed again and led a third club, which West ruffed with the jack. Still not wanting to lead trumps, West returned to hearts, which East allowed me to ruff with my second low trump. I was now able to ruff a club with the ten in dummy while East followed. Two more trumps, the ace and king were still left in my hand for a total of: Two heart ruffs, ace of clubs, two club ruffs, and AK of spades added to an “easy” seven tricks. No big deal. But +200 for EW would have given them a clear top. Was it possible to defeat 1S by TWO? That is your double dummy problem.

If you don’t believe that I always lead a trump against a 1 level contract bid this way, then try it for yourself. My challenge is: do it every time the bidding dies in 1H or 1S in such a sequence, no matter what cards you hold, and then see how the end result looks given any other opening lead. You’ll be surprised.