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 County Match by Ben Norton

County Match

These five opening lead problems are from a recent online teams match contested by eight counties from the Midlands of England.

Take the South seat and see if you can get the defense off to the best start.

Question 1

  Your Hand
 Q J 10 3
 A 8 7 5
 K 10 7 4
Q: 1 - Straight in at the deep end.

Pass6All pass

 Your choice:
A: Q. If you knew that you needed to establish a trick right away, you would probably plump for a Diamond lead, needing partner to hold the Q, less than the K that a Spade lead would require.

However, you can’t be sure that such hurried tactics are necessary. It could well be that declarer doesn’t have enough tricks, with your holding stoppers in each of the side-suits. That argues in favor of the safer Q lead, which combines active and passive aims instead of being an all-out gamble.

As it happens, it was necessary to set up a trick before the A was knocked out, but partner’s high card was in Spades, not Diamonds, so the virtuous Spade lead won out.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 10 7 4 2
 10 5
 J 7 6 3 2
 A 2
Q: 2 - Here’s an everyday situation.

All pass

 Your choice:
A: 7. This is a somewhat blind lead, and you can’t be sure what your aim is. You should therefore look to make a passive, non-committal move.

Trump leads should be reserved for when there either isn’t another safe option, or when it’s indicated. A trump would be rather dangerous here. The opponents may well be in a tenuous eight-card fit, when the 10 could come good if the suit is left alone, facing partner’s Q x x (with the Jack in dummy) or K J x (with the Queen on your left).

A Club lead would be a gamble that you shouldn’t be willing to make so early on in the piece, so it’s a choice of pointed suits. A Diamond is slightly more risky, being from an honor, and your slow winners are less likely to stand up in that suit than in Spades, so a Spade it is, specifically the 7, to show weakness.

On the actual deal, it was necessary to take a Club ruff on the go. A Spade lead to partner’s Ace would keep that in the picture, but a red-suit lead wouldn’t.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 A Q 9 6 5 2
 4 3 2
 Q 7 3
Q: 3 - The enemy have a bit of kit for this occasion.

*3 showed a good raise in Hearts

All pass

 Your choice:
A: A. Who knows what dummy will contain. It could have a source of tricks in one of the minors, in which case your tricks will come from Spades and the other minor.

To lead either a Club or a Diamond on the go would be a guess. Lay down the A to keep the lead and decide what to do when you have more information. Partner is likely to have the K for his 3 bid, but even if he doesn’t, that card rates to be in dummy, rather than with the weak-two bidder.

Your side had tricks to take in the pointed suits, so a Diamond or a Spade lead would do.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 Q 10 4
 Q 10 7 3
 K 2
 8 4 3 2
Q: 4 - Is this one obvious?

Pass3NTAll pass

 Your choice:
A: 4. It looks like neither red suit is lying well for declarer, so you should go passive with a Club lead from small cards. A Spade offensive isn’t attractive, bearing little reward, given that you don’t have length and partner didn’t overcall in the suit, for a great deal of risk.

A Club lead wasn’t successful on the layout as it picked up partner’s Queen for declarer in a two-way finesse position. The ultra-aggressive Spade lead would turn out to give nothing away as partner had K J x x. That’s how the cookie crumbles.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 Q 10 2
 6 5 4
 Q J 8 7 4 3
Q: 5 - Here’s a high-level deal to finish with.

*2 was a Lucas two, showing a weak hand with five Hearts and length in a minor, probably five Hearts and six Diamonds here

Pass5DbleAll pass

 Your choice:
A: Q. It might appeal to try and score Diamond ruffs, but your aim here isn’t just to defeat the contract, which you almost certainly have enough power to do in any case, but to take as big a penalty as possible, in order to compensate for the loss of your vulnerable game bonus.

Declarer’s plan will be to establish his long Diamonds whilst keeping trump control. To lead the Q and take a ruff would only be doing that work for him, shortening your trumps and potentially exposing partner’s Diamond holding.

You should plump for a forcing defense instead. You hope to make declarer ruff enough times so that he can no longer make use of his long Diamonds.

A Diamond lead would result in a quick two down, while tapping declarer with a black suit caused him to lose control and go four off, unless he guessed the Diamonds by dropping your singleton Queen, which would hold the loss to 300. In practice, he did not.

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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