ACES ON BRIDGE
“If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?”
Look only at the West cards and tune in to the auction to see if you can find the best lead.
South’s three-diamond call suggested a five-card suit. North set diamonds as trump and then asked for key-cards. Next, he inquired about the diamond queen and tried seven no-trump when he found it. It is your lead.
No doubt your opponents think the diamond suit is playing for five tricks. They would usually be right, but you know diamonds are splitting 5-0 or 4-0, so maybe partner has a stopper. If you were to make the normal safe club lead, declarer would soon find out about the diamond split and turn to his other chances, perhaps taking a heart finesse.
Since South bypassed a four-heart cuebid, you know the heart ace lies to your left. If the heart queen is there too, declarer’s finesse will work. You must force him to decide right away, before he knows the diamond break. So lead a heart.
Dutch international Louk Verhees found this deadly attack. Who can blame
South for rising with the heart ace and hoping the diamonds broke normally? Even if they did not, he could fall back on a red-suit squeeze for his contract, as long as East held the heart king.
Declarer could play for this same squeeze on a black-suit lead, but he would surely end up taking the odds-on heart finesse, having found out that West began with more hearts than his partner. Indeed, every other declarer who received a passive lead duly made their contract.
ANSWER: The lack of intermediates and duplication of values in spades makes this a downgrade for me. Open one notrump. If you swapped the spade queen and a low diamond, I would treat it as 18-19 and open one club, planning to rebid two no-trump unless partner showed hearts.