A reader sent me an opening-lead problem. The opponents’ auction was 1NT-3NT. She had to lead from 54, K 10 9 6 2, K Q 10 5, 7 6.
“Should I lead a heart,” she asked, “or the king of diamonds?”
I replied that I would lead a heart at IMPS or party bridge. The heart suit offers the best chance to beat the contract. At matchpoints, I could make a case for leading the king of diamonds. A heart might give declarer a trick plus the timing to make overtricks. The king of diamonds might hold him to nine tricks.
Like many lead problems, this one was enigmatic; opening leads involve guesswork. But by analyzing the bidding, visualizing dummy and anticipating the play, expert defenders find leads that are consistently effective.
In today’s deal (at IMPS), West led the ten of hearts against 3NT, and East took the king and returned a heart. South forced out the ace of clubs and had nine tricks.
Was this a normal result? West’s lead was uninspired. West must assume that East has some strength, so West’s best chance is to find East’s long suit. But East didn’t enter the auction. If he had length in hearts, he might have overcalled or doubled (though even if East has four hearts, heart tricks may not suffice to beat the contract). But if East had diamonds but only a fair suit, he might have been reluctant to climb into the auction.
If West analyzes that far, he will lead the ten of diamonds. As it happens, the lead strikes gold: The defense gets four diamonds and the ace of clubs.