Monday, February 16, 2009

A Great Opening Lead that Won a Big Match

Dave Neuman and I were in the second round of a two-day Bracket 1 Regional KO this week. This is known as the "money round". If you win, you are guaranteed to win a bushel of master points, usually about 15. If you lose, you don't get much. The match was close, so there was a lot at stake.

Dave picked up, with both sides vulnerable, this unpromising collection:


The auction proceeds as follows (your side passes throughout:


1 Spade........2 Diamonds
2 Spades.......3 Spades
4 Clubs........4 Diamonds
4 Spades.......4 NT
5 Hearts.......6 Spades

What do you lead? Decide before reading on.

Chances for defeating the contract don’t look good. LHO showed a diamond suit, then made a slam try with 3 Spades, with which his partner cooperated. All the suits are controlled. Not only are the diamonds going to come in (your 4 small is a death holding), but if a club finesse is needed, it is going to work (RHO has the ace, so if partner has the king, it's in front of it). However, there is still some hope. The cue-bidding at the four level made it clear that declarer has two heart losers, since he bypassed 4 Hearts to bid 4 Spades. Still, his partner Blackwooded and bid the slam. So the heart king (or a singleton) must be in dummy. Nothing can be done if dummy has a singleton heart, but if dummy’s heart control is the king, a low heart lead might put declarer to a nasty guess at trick one. So Dave tossed out a low heart, underleading his ace! He was very pleased to see the following dummy:


Declarer thought for a moment, then called for dummy’s jack. I covered with the queen and, after I got over the shock of winning the trick, I returned a heart (smart play!) to defeat the slam. Declarer held:


Our teammates also reached the slam, but on a less revealing auction (they simply used Jacoby 2NT rather than showing the diamonds), received a club lead and made the contract. We won 17 IMPs and the match, which was decided by much less. Well done, Dave!

There are two key points to this hand.

1. Pay attention to the bidding. Sometimes you can end up a hero.

2. Don't give unneccesary information to your opponents. Look at LHO’s hand again. Once his partner made a control bid of 4 Clubs, there was no reason for him to bid 4 Diamonds. The 4 Club bid gave him all the information he needed to proceed directly to 4NT, since he knew that his side didn't have 2 fast losers in any suit. If his partner shows 2 keycards and the spade queen, he bids 6 Spades. If not, he stops in 5 Spades. So, all his 4 Damond bid accomplished was to reveal the heart situation to the defenders and guide the opening lead. If LHO had bid Blackwood directly over 4 clubs, Dave might still have found this lead, but the choice would not have been as clear (for example, a club lead might be the winner if partner has the KQ of clubs and declarer needs to knock out your heart ace).