Main     Puzzle 7F10 by Richard Pavlicek    

Fourth Best

Against an enemy notrump contract, the basic rule is to lead the fourth best card from your longest suit. Or, as it often paraphrased, “Fourth from your longest and strongest.” While generally sound, this has many exceptions or extenuating circumstances, such that choosing the lead is not so clear-cut. On almost any given hand, even experts will disagree as to the best choice.

But what if we took away the mystery of the unseen hands? Anyone should be able to choose the best opening lead looking at all four hands. Right? Well, maybe. Test yourself on this deal, where the object is to defeat 6 NT — and to teach South a lesson for overbidding.

Problem
6 NT S A 9 8 7
H K Q 8
D K 2
C 6 5 4 3
Both Vul

West

Pass
Pass


North

3 C
6 NT


East

Pass
All Pass


South
2 NT?
3 D
S Q J 10
H J 10 9
D Q 10 8 6
C 10 9 8
Table S 4 3 2
H A 7 6 5 4
D 9 7 5 4
C 2
S K 6 5
H 3 2
D A J 3
C A K Q J 7

Which suit must West lead? And how should East plan the defense to defeat 6 NT?

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Solution

Before solving the defensive problem, let’s see how declarer is able to gain two tricks and make the contract if West makes a neutral lead, such as the S Q. Declarer wins in hand and leads a heart which East ducks (best), then four rounds of clubs.

Solution
6 NT S A 9 8 7
H K Q 8
D K 2
C 6 5 4 3
Trick
1. W
2. S
3. N
4. S
5. S
6. S
W 6 L 0
Lead
S Q?
H 2
C 3
C K
C Q
C J
2nd
7
9
2
9
10
D 6
3rd
2
Q
A
4
5
6
4th
K
4
8
H 5
H 6
S 3
S Q J 10
H J 10 9
D Q 10 8 6
C 10 9 8
Table S 4 3 2
H A 7 6 5 4
D 9 7 5 4
C 2
S K 6 5
H 3 2
D A J 3
C A K Q J 7

When the fifth club is led (see ending) West must abandon something, and he does best to unguard diamonds, as dummy and East part with a spade. Declarer next leads a spade to the ace, and East must give up his long diamond (else declarer can just duck a heart). Next comes three rounds of diamonds, and West is caught in a vice squeeze. He must keep his high spade, so when he throws a heart, declarer exits with a heart to the king-ace, then dummy’s H 8 wins the last trick. South
leads
S A 9 8
H K 8
D K 2
C
S J 10
H J 10
D Q 10 8
C
Table S 4
H A 7
D 9 7 5 4
C
S 6 5
H 3
D A J 3
C 7

So how can the defense stop this? I told you! Lead fourth best (or any diamond). This immediate sacrifice of a trick curiously prevents declarer from gaining any more with accurate defense.

If declarer accepts the diamond finesse, he loses communication in that suit, and East only needs to keep his long diamond to beat the contract. Suppose declarer refuses the finesse, winning the D K and H Q (ducked) followed by five rounds of clubs to reach the ending at right. If declarer next cashes two spades trying to make East part with a diamond, it won’t work. East simply pitches the H 7, since the threat of establishing the H K is gone with dummy now dead. South
leads
S A 9
H K 8
D 2
C
S Q J 10
H J 10
D Q
C
Table S 4
H A 7
D 9 7 5
C
S K 6 5
H 3
D A J
C

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© 1993 Richard Pavlicek