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 Swim The Channel by Ben Norton

Swim The Channel

Each year, the Channel Trophy pits the junior teams of Belgium, England, France and the Netherlands against each other in a double round-robin held just before Christmas.

These five opening lead problems are taken from this year’s event, held in Utrecht. The South chair awaits.

Question 1

  Your Hand
 A 8 4 3 2
 A 9 4 3
 8 4 2
Q: 1 - No easing you into it.

*4 was a Splinter, agreeing Hearts with short Clubs
*West’s double suggested a Club sacrifice, then partner’s 4 was natural

PassPassDbleAll Pass

 Your choice:
A: 2. Partner’s 4 was natural, not a cue-bid. He must have a good reason for mentioning them – to direct the lead, or to help you judge your side’s fit in a competitive decision. Either way, he has a good suit.

Your Diamond winners are more likely to stand up than those in Hearts, where the opponents rate to be short. Also, a Heart lead isn’t safe. The A might set up the K in declarer’s hand or dummy’s. You might even need the A as a re-entry to your hand, perhaps to give partner Spade ruffs (he does have length in both red suits and isn’t too likely to have short Clubs, given you have a singleton).

It would be too much to lead the A, though. Partner has shown Diamond strength, so table the 2, giving partner count in a suit he’s bid.

The Diamond lead was necessary to extract the full 500. Partner would win and shift to the Q from QJ doubleton, covered by the King and Ace. You could then unblock the Spades whilst remaining with the A as an entry to give partner a Spade ruff: a Heart, a Diamond and three Spades.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 A 8
 Q 10 7
 10 8
 10 9 8 6 5 2
Q: 2 - Which one?

All Pass

 Your choice:
A: 10. Partner’s Spades might not be anything to shout about, but his Diamonds should be. Why else would he bother mentioning them? He already entered the auction with his 1 overcall. For all he knew at that time, the deal could belong to your side. When you didn’t raise, he had no cause to bid on except with good distribution. His 2 call, in a misfit auction, should thus be based on a good five-bagger and your 10 x may be enough to fill the suit.

In any case, to lead the A would be to gift declarer a trick. He’s bound to have good Spades on the bidding. What’s more, by retaining the A as an entry back to your hand, you stand to lead Diamonds twice, which could be crucial in picking up an honor in dummy. The same can’t be said if you lay down the A at trick one.

Partner had QJxxx and AJ9xx. A Diamond lead was necessary to beat the game.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 A J 9 4 3
 K Q 6
 K J 4 3
Q: 3 - You did well to pass 3. Now it’s time to set them.

*3 asked for a Spade stopper

All Pass

 Your choice:
A: K. Partner can’t have very much and you don’t have many quick tricks. That doesn’t bode well when dummy is known to have long Diamonds. You must attack, and the Heart suit offers your best chance. If partner had a Spade honor, he would have doubled 3 for the lead. Thus, you should lead a top Heart, hoping partner has J x x x x and that declarer can only hold up the Ace once. A Club is out of the picture, with declarer’s having bid the suit.

If you lead the King for unblock against No-trumps (your ‘power’ lead), open the Q instead.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 9 6
 5 4 3 2
 K 10 7 6 4 3
Q: 4 - What do you make of partner’s double?

Pass4DbleAll Pass

 Your choice:
A: 7. Partner didn’t act over 3, yet now he’s doubled the final contract. Looking at your doubleton Spade, he’s unlikely to have a trump stack. No, this ‘out of the blue’ double can only be Lightner, asking for a specific lead. It can’t ask for a red suit, since you’d have no criteria for picking between the two. It should in fact be for the suit you opened, Clubs. Partner is probably void. Take your fingers off the singleton Heart and lead a suit preference 7 (the 10 might come in handy later).

Partner had: Axx KQxxxx K10xx Void. Only a Club lead could defeat the game: Club ruffed and a Heart switch, followed by the A, a Heart ruff and then a Club ruff.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 K 9 8 7 3
 J 8 6 5
 A 8
 J 6
Q: 5 - Not an everyday auction.

*4NT showed the minors… a lot of minors

All Pass

 Your choice:
A: 7. You might have thought that a Heart lead would make more sense than a Spade, Hearts being the shorter suit. Dummy would be more likely to follow. However, East’s bidding is suspicious. He passed originally, yet bid a slam opposite a distributional hand. He probably has West’s major-suit losers covered, and if he has both Aces, it’s unlikely that your lead will matter. He could have the Ace-King of one suit and nothing in the other, though. If that’s the case, you know his strength lies in Hearts, since you hold the K. That argues for a Spade lead.

The A is also a possibility, since you stand to keep the lead to get a look at dummy and decide what to do next. However, that might resolve a guess for declarer, or it might help him set dummy’s side-suit up. Partner is unlikely to have a singleton Diamond.

A Spade is your best shot. If East has taken a complete punt with, say, a Club filler and the A, this may even be necessary to establish the setting trick in Spades, should partner have the Q, before your A is knocked out.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Overall Results

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