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 Big Swings by Ben Norton

Big Swings

Here are five lead problems from the recent Schaprio Spring Foursomes, a tournament hosted in England which is attended by players from all over the world. On each deal a lot of IMPs hang in the balance. As South can you find the killing lead?

Question 1

  Your Hand
 A J 8 4
 K 8 4
 10 9 6 4 3
Q: 1 - What will you lead against 6?

*4=forcing raise


 Your choice:
A: 10. With known Spade length on your left, it’s between a Heart and a Club. A Heart will gain when partner has the Queen and declarer can set up dummy’s Spades for some discards, say if he has a singleton and the King and Queen are in dummy, but it could also just give declarer an undeserved trick. A Club lead through the known control in dummy (he wouldn’t have driven to slam without one) could well establish partner’s King, and if it doesn’t you won’t have given anything away.

On the actual hand declarer had shape with two small singletons and A Q x x. K Q x x were in dummy so if you led a Heart you’d let it through. Declarer would win trick one and play a Spade up. If you duck that’s your Spade trick gone, and if you win declarer has enough discards.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 Q 7 5 3 2
 8 2
 J 10 7 3 2
Q: 2 - What do you think?

**3=slam try agreeing Hearts


 Your choice:
A: J. It’s best to try your singleton Club here. It could be that partner has the Ace and you take a ruff, but more importantly it won’t give anything away. Also, declarer’s 4 cue-bid denied a Club control, so if partner has the K and a key card you’ll be establishing the setting trick. It’s true that a pointed suit lead could also set up a trick, but declarer will most likely have both of those suits controlled, plus you’re guessing as to which one to lead anyway.

On the hand a Club lead would have been best. Partner had the K and Q x x and declarer had a two-way trump guess. By leading the J, thereby showing you have shortness there, declarer would likely have played you for the long trump, finessing through your hand.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 10 7 5 3
 K J 7 5
 6 5 4 2
Q: 3 - What do you think?



 Your choice:
A: 2. East rates to have Heart length on the auction (why bother with Stayman otherwise?), so an active Heart lead would be very dangerous. Still, it could be that partner has the Q, and you could establish a trick there to cash when partner gets in with his presumed key card. There could be a source of tricks in Diamonds on dummy, giving declarer some discards, but there don’t rate to be enough winners there, plus 3 could well have been bid as a temporizing effort, showing a stopper before raising Clubs.

A passive pointed suit lead is best, and a Diamond from x x x x will never give a trick away by force, whereas a Spade could when partner has the Queen, say if there’s A J x in dummy opposite K 9 x in declarer’s hand. There’s one more small point to add. When leading against slams there’s no need to follow your opening lead agreements to the letter, since there’s nothing partner can really do with the information, but declarer could use your lead to place the cards. Therefore you should just lead your smallest Diamond.

A Heart lead is the only one to let the slam through, giving declarer his twelfth trick with the Q. A passive lead leaves declarer to rely on a favorable Heart layout, which he doesn’t get.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 8 6 5 4
 10 6 5 4
 6 5 3
 J 2
Q: 4 - Your thoughts?



 Your choice:
A: J. You know the opponents have at least twenty-eight points between them, so declarer will likely make his contract if left to his own devices. Thus you need to be active on lead, and the J, aiming to take a ruff later on or set up some tricks for partner, is best. Any other lead is too passive and declarer, with his extra strength, will get home.

On the hand partner had K 10 9 x over dummy’s Queen, along with both red suit Aces, so that’s enough to set up four tricks for the defense. By leading a Club you make the most of the one opportunity you have to lead through dummy. Any other lead allows declarer to make eleven tricks.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 J 9 6
 A 10 9 4
 Q J 5 2
 4 2
Q: 5 - It's your lead against 4...

*1=four or more Spades


 Your choice:
A: Q. You need to set up some tricks for the defense before declarer draws trumps and runs his Clubs, or he could even set up a Heart trick to get a Diamond away. A Diamond will give a trick away from time to time when there’s H 10 x on dummy, but that isn’t very likely. On auctions like this it’s often right to lead actively, even here where West is a Passed hand, indicating that this will be a touch-and-go affair. Your two-low in declarer’s suit is a very bad holding, because any finesses declarer takes in the suit will work. When cards are sitting well for your opponents you need to be active and set up your tricks.

On the hand partner had A x x and declarer K x x. By leading Diamonds you set up a fourth trick for the defense to go with the A and a trump (partner has Q x). If you don’t start on Diamonds straight away declarer has the tempo to set up a Heart trick to pitch a Diamond loser and make his contract.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Overall Results

Your results:   out of    Average: 

What next? You may enjoy playing our prepared hands series.
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