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.

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Frank Ste­wart

“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.

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