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 Extraordinary Eastbourne by Ben Norton

Extraordinary Eastbourne

The English Bridge Union’s Summer Meeting, held in the seaside town of Eastbourne every August, had to be played online this year. Still, the congress attracted its usual large attendance.

Try your hand at these five opening lead problems from the event.

Question 1

  Your Hand
 K Q 7 4
 J 9 2
 K Q 8 7 4
Q: 1 - Which one?

*2 was weak, showing six Spades

35All pass

 Your choice:
A: K. Partner hasn’t supported Clubs, but after West’s 1 overcall, the bulk of your tricks will surely have to come from Clubs. Partner has six Spades, so at most one trick will stand up there.

You’re going to need to attack Clubs at some point if you are to beat this, and the sooner the better, in case you have three Club tricks to cash on the go.

A Club lead was vital on the actual deal. Partner had A J doubleton and declarer could run lots of tricks outside. Partner would overtake your K and fire back the J to your queen. You would then supply a third-round ruff for the setting trick.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 9 2
 10 8 7 6 4 3
 J 6
 J 6 4
Q: 2 - What’s partner up to?

Pass5DbleAll pass

 Your choice:
A: 8. Partner can’t possibly have enough to double 5 for penalties on power. As is the case on most slam-going auctions, partner’s double is Lightner, asking for an unusual lead. He must be trying to divert your attention away from the Club suit, your natural lead.

The most likely reason for partner’s double is that he holds a side-suit void and a couple of tricks outside, and he’s trying for a ruff. Looking at your hand, partner’s void is surely in Hearts.

Partner had A K x and a Heart void, with no outside tricks. A Heart lead was necessary to set the hand.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 A 4
 K J 9 8 6 3
 9 4
 9 8 7
Q: 3 - An everyday situation. Will you lead your own suit?

All pass

 Your choice:
A: 8. The Diamond suit may well be running for declarer, in which case a Heart lead could give the ninth trick. If partner had honor-doubleton in your suit, he might have raised at the favorable vulnerability.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have enough time to knock out both of declarer’s Heart stoppers by yourself, so you should defend passively and give nothing away in Hearts. A Club from x x x is your safest bet.

A Heart lead would have given the contract on the actual layout. Dummy had seven Diamonds and A x, declarer the A and Q 10 x. Partner had the A and the K Q, so a Club lead, followed by a Heart shift when partner won the A, would leave declarer a trick short.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 K 8
 A Q 7
 K 7 3
 9 7 4 3 2
Q: 4 - What do you think?

All pass

 Your choice:
A: 7. Given your Diamond holding, which indicates the suit will run for declarer, it would be reasonable to attack in Hearts, hoping to cash three tricks on the go then sit back and wait for the K. However, that would only be necessary when declarer had three Hearts and two Diamonds, along with three quick Diamond tricks. That’s quite a parlay.

Your best shot is the normal-looking Club lead. This could set up a trick in partner’s hand, and you would much prefer him to attack Hearts from his side. If it turns out that partner doesn’t have a Club entry, you can try to cash three Heart tricks when you get in with the K.

The passive lead won out on the full hand. Partner had a Club entry and would shift to a Heart to secure two tricks in that suit. The K was the fourth defensive trick.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 J 10 6 3
 A 10 5 2
 10 9 5 4
Q: 5 - Another typical problem.

Pass3NTAll pass

 Your choice:
A: 3. It is rarely right to lead from Ace-fourth against 3NT. The reason is that if that lead is necessary, you’ll often have time to switch to the suit later, with your aim being to take five tricks. Unless you hit partner with five cards in your Ace-fourth suit, the lead is more likely to give away a trick than do any good.

Between the pointed suits, a Spade offers the best prospects of setting up tricks. Not only does dummy rate to have more Diamonds than Spades, having not used Stayman, but you need less from partner to set up Spade tricks than you do for Diamonds.

Having settled on Spades, you must decide which card to lead. Against a suit contract, where the focus is on quick tricks rather than slow ones, you would lead the Jack, so as to not give away a trick when dummy has the Queen and partner the King.

Against a No-trump contract, you are more concerned with the later rounds of the suit, and the J could easily block them, or crash an honor in partner’s hand, or just give up a trick outright (picture dummy with K x, partner with Q x x and declarer with A 9 8 x, for example). A low one does not carry these risks.

A Spade lead offered the only chance on the full hand, but the Jack would give away the position to declarer. He had A 9 8 facing Q x in dummy, and could cover to ensure two tricks in the suit. A low-card lead, on the other hand, would surely induce declarer to go up with the Queen, thus granting the defense three Spade tricks, which would be just enough to set the 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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