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Andrew Robson Bridge Club,
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The opening lead is the pivotal card in many defences. It’s a unique card too, the only card played without a sight of dummy. Because there’s no dummy to help you, you have to fall back on tried-and-tested winning formulae and versus notrumps, that’s generally leading the “fourth from the top of the longest and strongest suit”. The reason for leading your longest suit v notrumps is to exhaust the opponents of their cards of the suit, so you can win tricks with your small left-over cards.
So after an unrevealing 2NT-3NT auction by the opponents, lead ♥4 from:
it wouldn’t be a big deal to lead ♥2 rather than ♥4, but an aspiring partner would think “ah, if ♥2 is my partner’s fourth highest, he has only four hearts”. So stick with ♥4.
Change your hand to:
and now it would be a mistake to lead ♥4. This risks declarer winning cheaply with say ♥10. When your long suit is headed by three touching* honours, lead the top of the sequence. So lead ♥K. That way you’ll force out ♥A.
*Or near-touching: lead ♥K from ♥KQ1042.
When opener has opened or rebid notrumps, the strength and shape of his hand is known. Therefore responder will normally know whether or not the values for game (25 partnership points) are present. If they are, then the only outstanding issue is which game to play. The order of desirability is:
(a) 3 NT. No point in bidding more clubs. 5 ♣ is a long way away.
(b) 3 ♠. May still have a spade fit (partner would bid this way with 4 ♥s-4 ♠s and 15-16 balanced).
(c) 3 ♥. This delayed support shows three hearts (with four you would support immediately). Partner may have have five hearts in a 5332 shape, in which case he will raise to 4 ♥. With just four hearts, he will prefer 3 NT.
Declarer correctly rose with dummy’s ♦ Q on ♦ 6 lead. He then led ♥ QJ (ducked) and ♥ 7 to West’s ♥ A. On this trick East discarded ♠ 9 (“throw high means aye”), so West switched to ♠ J. East won ♠ A and led ♦ 10, crucially through declarer’s ♦ K. West now had to score♦ AJ93. Down two.
4 ♥ would make 10 tricks, losing just ♠ A, ♦ A and ♥ A. Game made.
If you remember just one thing...
Explore for eight-card major-suit fits until neither can exist.
After qualifying for the knockout stages [of the last World Championships for the Bermuda Bowl] by finishing 6th (out of 22) in the round-robin, the English Open Team drew the powerful Monaco squad in the quarterfinals. Sad to report, we lost. I certainly won’t blame bad luck, for we made too many costly mistakes. However there were a few moments where Lady Luck deserted us – take this marginal slam.
West (irritatingly) led a trump and the tall declarer surveyed his chances. Say I crossed to the ace of diamonds, ruffed a diamond, crossed to the queen of clubs and ruffed a third diamond. Probably no king of diamonds would have appeared (in the longer length). If I then crossed to the ace of clubs and ruffed the fourth diamond with my last trump, how would I cross to dummy to draw trumps and enjoy the long diamond? I couldn’t – the player without the king of diamonds would throw a club on the fourth diamond, his partner would then win the spade and give a club ruff.
So perhaps I should take the diamond finesse. But I was loath to go down at trick two (by seeing a diamond to the queen lose to the king).
I reverted to the first plan and sought an improvement. Aha! The penny dropped. Cross to the ace of diamonds, ruff a diamond, cross to the queen of clubs and ruff a diamond. If both opponents have followed to three diamonds but no king appeared, I now make the small change to my original plan of cashing the king of clubs before leading to dummy’s ace (key play).
If clubs split 3-3, I can now ruff a fourth diamond (with my last trump) and lead the long club throwing dummy’s spade. I succeed even on 4-1 trumps, as I must score the last four tricks in dummy withthe three trumps and the fifth diamond). I’ll make my slam if either the king of diamonds is trebleton or clubs are 3-3. (And experts love either-or lines of play).
Very disappointingly, though, after cashing the king of clubs and leading a third club to dummy, West ruffed. He led a second trump and I was soon conceding down two. There had been no way to win.
That expression causes endless confusion – and I’ve finally worked out why (I think). In Bridge players’ jargon, “overcalling 1NT” means “bidding 1NT as an overcall”.
To bid 1NT as an overcall, you should have 15-18 (or 19) points, balanced with a stopper in the suit opened.
After your right-hand opponent opens 1 ♠, you would bid 1NT as an overcall (“overcall 1NT”) with these hands:
Hand A: Bid 1NT
Hand B: Bid 1NT, a better description than 2♦.
Hand C: Double - for take-out. Do not bid 1NT as an overcall because you have no spade "stopper".
Hand distributions fall into four categories. Here are three of them:
(1). Balanced. 4432, 4333, 5332.
(2). Single-suited. e.g. 6322, 7321.
(3). Two-suited. e.g. 5431, 5521.
Note that some shapes - 6-4s - belong to both (2) and (3).
The fourth category is a lone distribution, the only unbalanced shape without a five(+) card suit...
(4). Three-suited. 4441.
There is no right or wrong way to treat this awkward shape (mercifully only the tenth most frequent). One approach is to open using the normal rules (i.e. higher ranking, but choosing hearts before spades when 4-4). Another is to open the “suit below the singleton” (preparing yourself for partner’s most likely response); or even opening your lowest-ranked suit (to keep things cheap). I’ll make a more formal suggestion next deal.
One thing is for sure. A 4441 shape is more suited to defence than play - you know that no suit will split well for an opposing declarer. So why not pass a marginal opener?
West cashed ♣ A against 2 ♥. East signalled encouragement with ♣ 7, so West continued with ♣ K and ♣ 10. East overtrumped dummy’s ♥ 7 with ♥ 8 and switched to ♦ 8. West won ♦ AQ and followed with ♣ J. Declarer trumped with dummy’s ♥ J (not best on the layout) and East overtrumped with ♥ K. He led ♦ 6, trumped by West, received ♠ 8 return to his ♠ A, then led ♦ 4. West trumped with ♥ 5 - too high for dummy - and the vulnerable part-score was down four.
What should have happened
E-W would have had tough decisions if South passes as dealer. West will likely open 1 ♣ and East will respond 1 ♠, all of West's rebids are compromised (1NT / 2 ♣ / 2 ♥ ) - You can see E-W getting in a mess..... They might escape if they stop low(1 NT, 2 ♣). More likely, they would get overboard.
If you remember just one thing...
Do not open a 12 point 4441.
Zia and I always try to seek each other out at the big tournaments. Some players like to rest between sessions. We love to talk through the boards and extract every last ounce out of the game we both love.
On this deal from the European Open Pairs in Ostend, where Zia and partner Jan Jansma finished second, Zia looks certain to fail in 4 ♥ doubled. As so often, he managed to throw a smokescreen over proceedings, totally hoodwinking his hapless opponents.
West led the ace of spades and declarer knew East held a singleton. Not only because West had bid and rebid spades; also because of East’s double of the final contract. Zia smoothly dropped his king under the ace (key play).
Now perhaps West should smell a rat, because it was unlikely his partner would have three spades and never support. But at the table West not unnaturally presumed Zia’s king was singleton. He switched to a diamond at trick two.
Declarer tried dummy’s king of diamonds, East winning the ace and returning a diamond. Declarer won the queen, ruffed a diamond (bringing down West’s jack) and cashed the ace-king of clubs, discarding his two spades (as East- West winced).
Needing to pick up hearts for one loser, declarer was confident West held no more than one card – East would not have singletons in both majors. The question was this: was West’s singleton heart the queen or the ace?
Can you see how declarer helped to resolve the issue? Instead of leading the normal low heart from dummy, he led the jack. Now any human East would cover with the queen holding ♥ Q10. So when East played the ten, declarer knew to rise with the king, playing East for ♥ A10. West’s queen was felled and the doubled game made.