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 County Conundrums by Ben Norton

County Conundrums

Here are five opening lead problems from recent county events in England. Try your hand in the South position.

Question 1

  Your Hand
 A K J 5
 Q 4
 A Q 8 7 4 3
Q: 1 - What do you think?

*3 showed a spade stopper, denying a diamond guard


 Your choice:
A: 3. Your side has the balance of power, so West must have bid on the strength of his distribution and a Diamond fit. Kick off with a trump, aiming to cut down dummy’s ruffing power.

On the actual hand, West had shape. Even a top Spade lead and trump shift wouldn’t be enough, for then declarer would have the tempo to ruff the Spades good.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 Q 7 3 2
 A K 6 4
 A 6 4 2
Q: 2 - The pressure’s on.


 Your choice:
A: A. Declarer is hoping to run the Diamonds, so he may well have nine quick tricks. It follows that you should aim to cash five winners straight off the bat. Kick off with the A, retaining the lead so you can decide how to continue at trick two, having got a look at dummy and a signal from partner.

Partner had Q J 8 on the deal and the defense needed to take four Hearts and a Club to set the contract. A low Heart lead would work just as well as it was, but would look very foolish if partner had two tricks of his own in Spades or if it just presented declarer with his game-going trick.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 10 3 2
 8 6 4 3
 K J 9 2
 10 5
Q: 3 - What’s your poison?

*2 was a Michaels cue-bid, showing a fair hand with Spades and a minor


 Your choice:
A: K. Partner must have Diamonds and would hardly bother showing a collection of small cards, so this lead rates to be safe. You’ll likely need at least one Diamond trick to set this, so don’t worry about giving a tempo away. It could be necessary to cash what Diamond winners you can before they disappear.

The card to lead is the K. If partner has the Ace, you’ll retain the lead and can decide what to do next, with the help of a count signal from across the table. It could be that a Spade shift is necessary, through dummy’s King, or you may need to play another Diamond. You’ll be in a much better position to judge at trick two.

At the table, a Diamond lead and continuation was needed. Partner would then score the K for the third defensive trick. A Spade lead would permit declarer to pitch a Diamond from dummy.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 J 10 8 7 3
 7 6 4 2
 Q 6 4
Q: 4 - Active or passive?

*2 was a transfer to Hearts


 Your choice:
A: 4. West’s jump to game, coupled with your poor Heart holding and lack of high cards sitting over the strong No-trump, indicates that an aggressive lead is in order.

A Spade is unlikely to do any good. Even if you set the suit up, you won’t get in to cash the long cards and there’s little chance of finding partner with four of them, given that East didn’t convert to 4. This suggests that declarer has two Hearts and thus at least three Spades.

A Diamond lead requires partner to have an awful lot. Even then, you won’t be able to continue the suit if the Q holds, so you’re left with Clubs. Yes, you can hope to find partner with five good Clubs and an outside entry.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 9 7 6 5
 K J 6 3
 9 7 6 2
Q: 5 - Let’s finish on a high.

*2 was fourth-suit-forcing, artificial and forcing to game


 Your choice:
A: 3. It’s often a good idea to construct the opponents’ hands before settling on an opening lead. East has shown five Hearts, four Diamonds and probably three Spades for his 2NT bid. Thus, he rates to have short Clubs. What’s more, partner didn’t Double 2 for the lead, suggesting your opponents will be strong in that suit.

Your best shot is to attack in Diamonds, despite them being declarer’s second suit. You hope to take some tricks before declarer can get his Diamonds away on the black suits. You’ll only need partner to have the A or Q for this to be profitable.

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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