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Opening Leads

This page contains selected queries to “Ask Richard” about opening leads, although discussion sometimes includes other topics. Presentation is reverse-chronological (most recent first). Queries and followups appear in this color, and Richard’s replies are in black. Names, greetings and personal messages have been removed to respect privacy and focus on bridge.

Leading edgeJanuary 13, 2012 (9S17)

West

Pass
North

3 NT
East

AP
South
1 NT
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
S A K 2
H 10 9 7 3
D J 9 8 2
C J 3
Table

3 NT South

What would you lead against 3 NT, and how strongly do you feel about it?

Not even close; the S K (or ace depending on agreements).

I once did a double-dummy simulation on almost the same situation, whether to lead from S A-K-x or H 10-9-8-7, and was surprised to see the S K win by a wide margin. The number of quick sets vastly outnumbered the tempo/trick losses allowing 3 NT to make. At matchpoints, judged by average tricks (ignoring make/set) it was close, but the S K still had a slight edge. Weakening the hearts to 10-9-7-3 should make the S K an even bigger winner.

This deal was played at four tables, and all defenders (including me) led the H 10. Partner had S Q-x-x-x-x, so the S K was indeed the winning lead. I was concerned about conceding a tempo when I decided against the S K.

Lightner mysteryJune 28, 2011 (9RA8)

West
1 D
4 D
Pass
Pass
AP
North
1 H
4 H
Pass
Pass
East
Pass
5 D
Dbl
7 D
South
2 D
6 S
Rdbl
7 S
IMPs
N-S Vul
 North
 
 
 
S 4
H K 6 2
D A K Q 8 5 4 3 2
C 4
Table

7 S South

What should West lead? And is it clear-cut?

Clear-cut? When was the last time your partner doubled six but passed when they went to seven? Nothing is clear on auctions like this. I suspect partner’s double was Lightner asking for a heart lead (dummy’s suit), but if void he would probably double 7 S to reaffirm it. Maybe he has the H A and the N-S hands are S x H Q-J-10-9-x-x D x C K-J-x-x-x opposite S A-K-Q-J-x-x-x-x H x C A-Q-x-x. Or maybe I’m dreaming, but I lead a heart.

I do not like West’s 4 D bid — too easy, as 95 percent of the time it’s just a transfer to the opponents’ comfortable home in four of a major. Much better is five diamonds to apply some pressure.

Manifest destinyMarch 23, 2011 (9R73)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
North
Pass
2 D
3 H
4 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 C
2 H
3 S
7 H
Total points
Both Vul
S A 8 6 2
H Q 10 4 3
D 9 7 4
C J 6
S 10 7
H 8 2
D Q 8 6 5
C K Q 7 4 2
TableS J 9 4 3
H 5
D J 10 2
C 10 9 8 5 3



7 H South
S K Q 5
H A K J 9 7 6
D A K 3
C A

What should West lead?

The C K is a standout, but I suppose a few experts might lead a trump. Either allows the grand to make. Only a diamond lead defeats it by breaking up the double squeeze, but I would be suspicious of anyone who chose that at the table.

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© 2012 Richard Pavlicek