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 Fearsome Foursomes by Ben Norton

Fearsome Foursomes

Here are five opening lead problems from the recent Spring Foursomes, a prestigious double elimination knock-out event held in Warwick, England. Take your seat in the South position.

Question 1

  Your Hand
 J 6 4 3 2
 A J 9 6
 J 7
 A 10
Q: 1 - A tricky one to start off with. What will you lead against 5?

*1NT is wide-ranging
*3 shows 11-15 with five cards in each black suit


 Your choice:
A: A. You don’t yet know which direction the defense should take for its third trick. It could be right to eventually give partner a Spade ruff, while on another day it could be necessary to cash two quick tricks in Hearts, before declarer gets one away on a Diamond. True, leading the A could concede a vital tempo, when declarer can pitch his second Diamond on dummy’s K, but that’s a very specific scenario. The A allows you to see the dummy while retaining most of your options.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 6 5
 Q J 6 4
 K 9 6
 9 7 3 2
Q: 2 - What about this 3NT?

*2 is weak, showing five Spades and a minor suit


 Your choice:
A: 7. Despite partner’s opening at unfavorable vulnerability, declarer rates to have the Spades under lock and key for his volunteered 2NT overcall. It’s best to try and find partner’s minor suit. While a Diamond could be right, it could be disastrous to broach the suit if partner doesn’t have length there, while a Club from small cards will probably be safe either way.

What’s more, if partner turns out to have Diamonds, where will declarer go for his tricks? You have a strong Heart guard and partner’s pointed-suit length will make life difficult for declarer. In this case a passive lead may work well, and if it turns out that partner has Clubs, all the better. You might strike gold and set the whole suit up.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 J 6 2
 A J 3
 K Q J 8
 Q 9 8
Q: 3 - What do you think?


 Your choice:
A: 3. This auction practically demands a trump lead. Dummy rates to have very short Spades and perhaps only a partial Heart fit, else West might have given preference to 2. Thus you can tell that declarer’s plan will be to ruff Spades in dummy, which you know will work well judging from your length in the suit. Try to cut down these ruffs by leading a low trump. Yes you might blow a trick, but it will come back with interest if you can draw trumps quickly.

If you had extreme Spade length, say five of them, then a trump lead would be unnecessary since partner could be able to over-ruff the dummy. However, that’s not the case here and you should ignore the safety of the K lead and the stigma surrounding a trump lead from a tenace, instead form a plan to beat the contract, which must involve reducing dummy’s ruffing potential. If you don’t lead a trump on these hands the way is often clear for declarer to play on a big cross-ruff.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 A 10 9 8 5 2
 A 10 6
 8 5 4
Q: 4 - Another difficult one.

*2 is natural and weak


 Your choice:
A: A. Who knows what’s coming down in dummy. West could have a source of tricks, a big trump fit or just general strength. It’s difficult to adopt a policy which covers all bases, but it’s usually best to establish and cash quick tricks for the defense. Declarer will be looking to get his side-suit losers away quickly. Therefore leading an Ace, so as to get a look at dummy and a signal from partner, while retaining the lead, is often best.

In addition, since a weak-two opening rarely contains much side-suit strength, the lead of an Ace rates to blow a trick less often than in other circumstances. Be wary that it’s better to kick off with an Ace from a long suit than a short suit though, due to the dual benefits of giving less away and perhaps enabling you to give partner a ruff.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 A Q 5
 Q 4
 A 3 2
 Q 9 5 3 2
Q: 5 - A lowly 1 contract to finish with.

*East/West are playing five-card majors and Better Minor


 Your choice:
A: 2. East needn’t have more than three Clubs and West needn’t have a fit, so you could easily have the majority of trumps. Thus you should aim to do what you would do if you were playing the contract – draw trumps. This will prevent declarer from eloping with ruffs in his own hand and dummy. Don’t worry about potentially giving a trick away. This is unlikely in itself, but even if it does happen the trick could return with interest, just as with the third hand.

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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