My Lead? What's the Contract?

Pat Harrington

You hold this hand as West:
♠ 7 6 3   7 2   8 3 2   ♣ A K 7 6 3
What do you lead?
I hope you did not answer this question. They say there is no such thing as a blind opening lead — only a deaf opening leader. You have not heard the bidding, which makes it impossible to select a good opening
lead. Here are two possible auctions. After listening to each auction, decide on your plan for defending, and choose your opening lead.long suits that are headed by only two honors. Partner is not that likely to have the ♣Q, but your lead will probably preserve communications between your hand and partner’s. When partner gains the lead, a club return will most likely let you run the remaining clubs.
It could be disastrous to lead the same fourth-best ♣6 against 4 (Auction 2). Doing so risks allowing declarer to win a doubleton queen, a trick declarer doesn’t deserve, and gives the defense nothing in return. Let’s look at how the suggested opening leads work out.
Against 3NT, if the full deal was as follows, the ♣6 would be the killing lead.

♠ Q J 10
K J 8
A 9 5 4
♣ 8 5 4
♠ 7 6 3 ♠ A 8 5 4
7 2 9 5 3
8 3 2 Q J 10 6
♣ A K 7 6 3 ♣ 9 2
♠ K 9 2
A Q 10 6 4
K 7
♣ Q J 10

Declarer wins the club opening lead and can count seven additional tricks — five hearts and two diamonds. Declarer must turn to spades for the ninth trick. Declarer has to drive out the ♠A and hope the club suit won’t provide the defenders with enough tricks to defeat 3NT. As long as East wins the ♠A the first time spades are led and returns partner’s club lead, the defenders will win five tricks to defeat 3NT. Leading low from the ♣A K preserved the entry West needed to run the club suit. If West had led a high club at trick one, 3NT would make because West would have no entry to cash the long clubs.

You may be thinking that South made an error opening 1NT with a five-card major, but South’s hand meets the requirements for a 1NT opening bid — balanced with 15 high-card points. Choosing your opening bid with this hand is a matter of style. I suggest you find your style or you will have to guess every time you hold a hand like this. If your luck is like mine, you could end up making the wrong choice every time!

Despite the fact that we love majors, there are merits to ignoring the five-card heart suit and opening 1NT with this hand. If you don’t, you could have a problem on the next round of bidding. Over a 1 opening, finding a descriptive rebid is almost impossible after partner makes a minimal 1♠ or 1NT response. If opener rebids 1NT over 1♠, he understates the strength of the opener. If he jumps to 2NT over 1♠ or raises 1NT to 2NT, he has overstated his values. Rebidding in hearts shows extra length. You can avoid all these problems by simply opening 1NT with hands of this type.

Further, 4 with the North–South cards in the example deal will also go down. West leads two top clubs and gives East a ruff with the ♠A still to come.

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