OPENING LEADS AND MORE

Maritha Pottenger

Hands are from Adventures in Bridge, November 7, 2018.

Hand #21

East: AQ76 95 A643 J43

North (RHO) opens 1NT (15-17 HCP). You pass, as does South and West (your partner). What is your opening lead?

The auction tends to favor a major over a minor lead. In addition, leading from Axxx (your diamonds) is usually a bad lead. You have no spots to promote, and leading from an Ace often gives away a trick. The spades are also unappetizing. Leading from AQxxx is worthwhile in no trump, because length tricks will make up for perhaps giving up a trick on the lead. However, leading from AQxx usually gives up a trick that does NOT come back.

So, you conclude that a “top of nothing” heart will be best. This has two appeals: (1) your shorter major is apt to be partner's longer major; (2) due to your 9, partner will know you have made a top-of-nothing lead, and so will have no problem finding a shift if hearts don't work out.

Your heart lead will strike gold, hitting partner's AKQxx. Your side will take five hearts, two diamonds, and two spade tricks for down three.

Hand #22

North (Dummy): 10876 J6543 A9 Q8

West: Q9 K972 10754 AJ4

Partner (East) passes and South (RHO) opens 1. You pass and North bids 1. Partner passes again, and South rebids 1. North raises to 2, and all pass.

You lead a fourth-best diamond (unbid suit) and Declarer takes the A on Dummy, as partner signals encouragement. Declarer plays a the 10 to your Q. You return another diamond to partner's J and Declarer's K. Declarer ruffs a diamond on Dummy and plays a low spade to his J which wins. Next Declarer plays a low club to Dummy's Q, and your partner takes the K and returns the K to Declarer's A.

What is going on? Partner is removing Dummy's last trump, so she want to prevent more ruffs on Dummy. Declarer has gotten a diamond ruff, but partner clearly wants to prevent any club ruffs in Dummy. Now Declarer plays the 10. It is time to take stock.

Declarer is known to have started with four spades, and probably with four clubs. Declarer had exactly three diamonds. It looks very strongly like Declarer started with a doubleton heart—either Ace or Queen doubleton. Since Declarer has shown up with only 3 HCP in diamonds; zero HCP in clubs; 5 HCP in spades, she must have the A for her opening bid. (If she had the A and the Q with only three clubs, she would have set up Dummy's heart suit.) So, partner has the Queen doubleton of hearts, and you need to DUCK this trick.

Partner will take the Q and lead the Q. Now Declarer is forced to ruff with her last spade. She can cash the A, but your King does NOT fall. She will have to play clubs to you, and you will get two more club tricks AND your K, for down one.

Hand #24

This hand brought up bidding issues for both sides. North opened 1 and East doubled for take-out. South redoubled. Technically a redouble promises 10 or more HCP and it should imply a misfit hand. The South hand is a point short. More importantly, a redouble GUARANTEES another bid if partner passes. (Partner is encouraged to make a penalty double of the opponent's bids if she can.)

WEST CANNOT PASS THE REDOUBLE. A bid by West promises nothing in terms of HCPs. It simply says: “I have a 4-card suit, partner.” It is just taking a preference. The only time you can pass partner's take-out double after Responder's redouble is when you are PRECISELY 4-3-3-3, with your 4-card suit being the one opened on your left. (You are NOT passing for penalties; you are simply letting partner know that YOU do not have any 4-card suit other than what was opened.) The allows partner to bid her longest suit when the redouble gets back to her.

If West bids 1, the E/W pair can actually make 1 due to the favorable placement of the Q and the fall of the 10.

At our table, West passed and East bid 1. South then “broke system” by passing and North also passed. North should have doubled for penalties, but that did not happen.

If South had bid 1 (normal) originally—rather than redoubling—then N/S will play 1NT. Double-Dummy, East/West can beat that one trick. However, that requires a spade lead, ideally the A from AJ7 and a spade continuation (should be the J). When West gets in, she must find the CLUB switch which eventually creates four spade tricks; one heart and two clubs for E/W. Won't ever happen in real life.

N/S are much more likely to get a heart lead and roll up two or three no trumps.

Hand #18

West: Q853 8754 KQ A95

East: AKJ1064 A109873 K

Freak hands like the East one don't follow the usual rules. East opens 1 and hears a 2 overcall on her left. Partner bids 3, showing a limit raise (or better) in spades. Even if you play Exclusion Blackwood (allowing you to ask for Key Cards with partner NOT counting the A), that won't help with this hand. What you really want to know is if partner has good diamonds for you (or diamond shortness).

Fortunately we play Help Suit Game tries, so I bid 3—which partner will assume is asking for help in diamonds. With her wonderful diamond holding, she jumped to 4, and I jumped to 6. Her A was icing on the cake, so we actually made seven. Less than half of the field got to that slam.

If South does not overcall, partner will bid 3 which show a four card limit raise in the Two-Over-One system. I will bid 4 (showing first OR second round control of clubs). She will bid 4 (first OR second round control of diamonds). I will bid 4 and she will bid 5 (showing first or second round control of clubs). This will get us to 6 that way.