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 Can You Do Better? by Ben Norton

Can You Do Better?

Take the South seat for these five hands and try to find the killing opening leads that weren’t found when they were played in real competitions.

Question 1

  Your Hand
 A 7 4
 Q 7 4 3
 K 7 4 2
 9 4
Q: 1 - What will you lead against 6?


 Your choice:
A: 4 - Trump leads against small slams are generally frowned upon, since there is often a need to set up the cashing trick while your side’s key card is still intact. However, looking at the rich veins of high cards that flow through your hand, it’s unlikely that partner can produce the K, and even if he can declarer’s losers in the suit will probably go on the Diamonds, with the K well-placed under dummy’s length.

It’s useful to have a plan in mind when leading against a slam, and to do that you should try to envisage how the play will go. It’s likely that declarer will try to ruff Spades in dummy, so your best shot is a trump, intending to play a second round when you get in with the A.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 K Q 8 7
 J 6 3
 7 5
 K J 9 7
Q: 2 - What are your thoughts?

*2=good Spade raise
**2NT=Scrambling, showing two places to play


 Your choice:
A: 7. A Club lead rates to give away a trick too often here, as does a trump from J x x. A sound defensive plan could be to lead the 7, hoping that partner can win the A and shift to Clubs. However, dummy is known to be very short in Spades on the auction. After all, he did force his side to the four-level with not so much as a peep from across the table. Thus a Spade lead rates to be ineffective. Try a Diamond, through dummy’s length. You might catch partner with some values there and eventually take a ruff, or even a trump promotion with the J.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 Q 9 8 3
 9 6 5 2
 A J 7 3
Q: 3 - What’s your choice against 5?


 Your choice:
A: A. When your opponents settle in a minor-suit game it’s often prudent to ask yourself why they didn’t opt for the cheaper No-trump game. A lot of the time it will be because they’re worried about a particular suit. This is a good example. West has shown the majors yet East didn’t bid 2NT, which he would have done holding a Diamond stopper. Therefore you can safely kick off with the A, expecting to be able to cash another trick in the suit. Otherwise declarer might get his Diamond losers away.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 Q J
 10 7 2
 A Q 10 9 6 3
 4 3
Q: 4 - You find yourself on lead against 3NT. What’s the plan?


 Your choice:
A: 10. There is very little reason to not lead your own suit. Yes you might be giving a trick away but it’s likely that you’ll be paving the way to cash the whole suit when partner gets in. The K is almost certainly on your right, but it may still be necessary to knock out the J, which make up declarer’s stopper. Suppose he has K J x or K x x opposite J x in dummy and only has to knock out one of partner’s high cards to come to nine tricks. If you don’t lead the suit the defense won’t have enough ammunition.

A Diamond lead might be disastrous when partner has a singleton, but that’s against the odds. To lead anything other than a Diamond would be too subtle.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 6 4 3
 9 3 2
 K 6
 A Q J 8 2
Q: 5 - A simple auction. Is it a simple lead?


 Your choice:
A: A. No, it’s not. A Club lead is normal but the seemingly-automatic Q should be your third choice. The strong hand is on your right and is very likely to hold the K. Therefore if you lead the Q you will likely be granting declarer a second stopper or blocking the suit when either he or dummy has four Clubs, regardless of whether partner has the ten. A low Club is slightly better, because there’s no risk of blocking the suit, but that could be embarrassing when the Clubs are 3-3-2 around the table and declarer has the King and ten.

You can expect the K to be an entry, so why not lead the A? Then you can get a look at dummy. If there are four Clubs on the table, as is fairly likely since West didn’t use Stayman to look for a major-suit fit, you will continue with a low one, hoping to fell East’s then bare K. If dummy has three or fewer Clubs though, you can proceed with the Queen. In this way you don’t have to guess whether to lead the Queen or a low one. You can see the dummy before deciding what to do.

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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