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Little Known Facts

This deal from the Montreal World Championships features Zia Mahmood, who is widely known as one of the shrewdest players in the world. As the story goes, a lady once sat down to play against Zia and picked up a hand with three aces. When the bidding was over, she had only one. “Damn, is he good!” she cursed.

Enough silliness. Zia became declarer in 6 NT on the auction shown. The response to 4 NT may seem strange, but it was the “1430” variation of Roman key-card Blackwood (clubs was the key suit) and 5 D showed zero or three key cards.

As West, what would you lead? If you chose the S 10, you’d have plenty of company.

6 NT by South

N-S Vul
S K 3 2
H 7 3
D A 4
C A K Q 10 8 4
S 10 9 8 5 4
H A J 10
D J 10 8 2
C 7
TableS J
H Q 9 8 6 5
D Q 9 5
C 9 6 3 2
Lead: S 10S A Q 7 6
H K 4 2
D K 7 6 3
C J 5

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass
North
1 C
3 C
4 D
5 D
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
4 C
4 NT
6 NT

West led the S 10, which against Zia is like throwing raw meat into a shark tank. Zia captured the stiff jack with the ace, and promptly led back the six, ducked all around. Thank you very much; 12 tricks.

In the postmortem East admonished his partner for not covering the S 6 with the eight, but Zia had an answer to that as well. On the run of the clubs and top diamonds, Zia would come down to three cards, S Q-7 and H K. West is obliged to keep S 9-5 and H A, then Zia would exit with a heart for the endplay.

You might wonder about the title of this article, and I suspect you may learn something. If you look in the ACBL Bridge Encyclopedia under Opening Leads, it gives fourth-best as the proper lead from 10-9-8-x-x. In order to lead the 10, the suit must be at least 10-9-8-6-x. I’m not sure I buy this, but it would have sent Zia packing on this deal.

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek