Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
While most players would agree that defence is the most difficult part of bridge they would also likely be of the same mind that choosing the best opening lead is the most difficult part of defence! It can certainly be very hard to recover from a bad lead as declarer can immediately be in the driver’s seat in the battle for supremacy.
If West had been paying attention to the bidding in the illustrated hand played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club he might have avoided the one lead that helped declarer make her contract. South dealt and even though she had a balanced hand and 16 high card points she decided to open 1 heart due to the quality of the suit and the honour-less doubleton in diamonds.
Playing the popular 2/1 system, North responded with 1 No Trump which showed 5 to 12 high card points and requested South for a further description of her hand. South now bid 2 clubs which in their system could have been a three card suit (it was!)
North’s next bid of 3 hearts showed 10 to 12 dummy points and precisely 3 cards in the heart suit. After that it was easy for South, holding a non-minimum hand to bid the heart game.
Possibly to prevent declarer from ruffing too many losers in the dummy West promptly led his singleton trump but he had neglected to grasp the significance of the North-South exchange of information, South was very likely to hold exactly 5 hearts as she didn’t repeat the suit in her rebid which she would be expected to do holding 6 or more cards in the suit. Therefore, East probably held 4 trumps and the lead of a heart could expose his partner’s holding very quickly. And that was precisely what happened when East had to split her heart high cards and play the 10 in order to prevent South from winning with the heart 8!
South won the opening lead in hand with the queen and cashed the trump ace to discover that East held the other outstanding high heart. Now it was easy for declarer to enter the dummy with a diamond and finesse East out of her heart jack. Now, with a good guess in the club suit (cash the ace and run the nine if not covered) South managed to score 10 tricks and make her contract).
You may well ask: “Couldn’t declarer have played the same way without the trump lead” and the answer is: “Yes, of course but it would make no sense to do so as the natural way to play the heart suit with the actual holdings would have been to cash trumps from the top as the opponents’ hearts are much more likely to be divided 3 – 2 rather than 4 -1.” If declarer cashed the ace and king of hearts she would have an inevitable trump lose and no matter how well she played the other cards under her control would ultimately have gone down one.
The lesson here is for the defenders to avail of the information that has been provided during the auction before selecting an opening lead.
Column: Bridge by the Lake
Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge for more than 40 years. Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Ken has been living in the Toronto area since 1967. He and his wife and bridge partner Rosemarie have been wintering in Lakeside since 2006. Even after all these years of playing they find bridge to be a constant challenge and enjoy sharing some of their triumphs and mishaps with Ojo readers in each column.