The lead makes a “small” dif­fer­ence

Cecil Whig - - & & - By Phillip Alder

Alan Ben­nett, an English play­wright and ac­tor, said, “We started try­ing to set up a small an­ar­chist com­mu­nity, but peo­ple wouldn’t obey the rules.”

The de­fend­ers have a much harder job than de­clarer. To try to bal­ance the books, the de­fend­ers make the open­ing lead. Of­ten that can make a dif­fer­ence of one trick, but oc­ca­sion­ally the num­ber is sur­pris­ingly high. Look only at the West hand. You open two spades, a weak two-bid. Af­ter two passes, South bal­ances with two no-trump, and North raises to three no-trump. What would you lead? We all know about fourth-high­est from the long­est and strong­est, and that might work well, if part­ner has two spades, gets in be­fore de­clarer has taken nine tricks and pushes his re­main­ing spade through de­clarer’s hold­ing.

Here, though, it is a dis­as­ter. South wins with his low spade, plays a di­a­mond to the board, takes two club fi­nesses and col­lects the first nine tricks via one spade, five di­a­monds and three clubs. Now let’s go back and have West de­duce that dummy does not have four or more hearts, be­cause he made no at­tempt to un­cover a heart fit. If West leads the heart five, how many tricks can EastWest take? A heart to the jack, a spade to the nine and 10, a heart through and a sec­ond spade at trick seven give the de­fend­ers five hearts and six spades for down seven!

Fi­nally, note that if East were in four hearts, af­ter South leads the di­a­mond ace, North should sig­nal with his queen. Then South con­tin­ues with a low di­a­mond for the killing club-queen shift.

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