Polling You 67, Bridge Defense, Opening Leads Matter – Part 3

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In this lesson, we focus on the opening lead when the opponents work their way into a 3 Notrump contract.  As we’ve seen earlier in our Incredible Defender series when playing against Notrump contracts, sound opening leads include top of sequence leads, top of inner-sequence leads, fourth best leads, leading partner’s bid suit, etc.  We also learned the importance of being a good communicator with partner, providing card signals to share information about like-dislike suit continuation attitude, suit count and even suit preference signals. 

Click here to view Part 1 of the video commentary 

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Let’s combine these factors with another key factor – using our deductive skills to make inferences when making an opening lead.  Focusing on the essentials, in this segment for each hand we will have the opener begin with a 1 Notrump contract.  The responder will begin with either a 2 Club Stayman bid showing a 4 card major suit or make a Jacoby transfer bid to Spades (bidding 2 Hearts).  After opener’s rebid, the responder will make a 2 Notrump rebid with the opener denying a major suit fit but accepting a 3 Notrump game.

Inferences – In these classic bidding situations, both defenders know a great deal about the opponent’s assets, both High Card Points and suit hand shape.

-  The opener has a balanced hand with 16-17 points (accepting responder’s invitational bid).

-  The responder has at least one 4 cards major suit when bidding Stayman, or a 5 card suit when making a Jacoby Transfer bid.  And making an invitational 2 Notrump rebid, the responder has 8-9 points – just short the partnership 25 points to make a 3 Notrump contract. 

Building on this information, both defenders are able to make their initial assessment of the declarer and dummy assets before the opening lead is tabled.  Better yet, with a bit of basic detective work the defenders can make a sound initial assessment of their partner’s remaining points and probable hand shape.  As we will see, the opening leader can make good use of this information to make well-reasoned lead on trick one.

Polling You 67, Hand 1

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ K Q 7 6
10 7
K 10 7
♣ J 10 9 7
♠ 4 3
A K J 4 2
J 9 6 4
♣ 6 2
N
W E
S
♠ J 10 9 8 2
9 3
8 3 2
♣ A 8 3
♠ A 5
Q 8 6 5
A Q 5
♣ K Q 5 4

West North East South
1 N
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 2 N Pass 3 N
All pass

Trick West North East South
1. W 4 10 9 6
2. N ♣ 2 ♣ 7 ♣ A ♣ 4
3. E J 7 3 5

South opens 1 Notrump with a strong balanced 17 High Card Point hand.  While West would like to get into the action with a bid, it’s usually better to defend with no more than a 5 card major suit and a poor 4 card side suit.  After North’s 2 Club Stayman call, South responds 2 Heart, North invites with 2 Notrump and 9 HCP.  Without thought, South accepts the 3 Notrump contract.  At this point, the opponents are aware South has 4 Hearts but not 4 Spades and a balanced 16-17 point hand.  Also inferred from the bidding, North has 8-9 HCP and with 4 Spades (justified by the 2C Stayman major suit ask) and less than 4 Heart.

Holding 9 HCP, West can deduce partner East has 4-5 HCP – hopefully a high honor to help promote West’s Heart suit.  Thus, West begins with the fourth-best Heart 4 hoping East holds the Queen and that neither opponent held a Queen doubleton.  Using the Rule of 11 to calculate the remaining holdings, 11 minus 4 (lead card) yields 7 remaining cards above the 4 in the remaining hands.  Between North-South, declarer counts 6 cards above the 4, leaving 1 with East so declarer goes up with the Heart 10.  East signals count, the Heart 9 show a high-low doubleton.  Despite South’s Heart 6 slight falsecard, West assumes the suit splits 5-4-2-2.  With no opportunity to promote, finesse, endplay or squeeze the opponents, South tries promoting Clubs in hopes West holds the Ace.  Unfortunately East holds the critical honor and dutifully returns the singleton Heart to West’s  Ace-King-Jack-2 over South’s Queen-8-5, setting the declarer by 1 trick (four Heart and the Club Ace). 

Note: had West lead a high Heart here (without the 10), South can duck the Heart return and West must play a high Heart to avoid the dummy 10 from scoring a trick; now East lacks a Heart entry and the declarer can win 3 Spades, 3 Clubs, 3 Diamonds and 1 Heart for an overtrick.

Polling You 67, Hand 2

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ K Q 7 6
10 7
K 10 7
♣ J 10 9 7
♠ 4 3
A K J 4 2
J 9 6 4
♣ A 6
N
W E
S
♠ J 10 9 8 2
9 3
8 3 2
♣ 8 3 2
♠ A 5
Q 8 6 5
A Q 5
♣ K Q 5 4

West North East South
1 N
Pass 2 ♣ Pass 2
Pass 2 N Pass 3 N
All pass

Trick West North East South
1. W 4 10 9 8
2. N ♣ A ♣ 7 ♣ 2 ♣ K
3. W A 7 3 5
4. W K ♠ 6 2 6
5. W 2 ♣ 9 ♣ 3 Q

South opens 1 Notrump with a strong balanced 17 High Card Point hand.  While West would like to get into the action with a bid, it’s usually better to defend with no more than a 5 card major suit and a poor 4 card side suit.  After North’s 2 Club Stayman call, South responds 2 Heart, North invites with 2 Notrump and 9 HCP.  Without thought, South accepts the 3 Notrump contract.  At this point, the opponents are aware South has 4 Hearts but not 4 Spades and a balanced 16-17 point hand.  Also inferred from the bidding, North has 8-9 HCP and with 4 Spades (justified by the 2C Stayman major suit ask) and less than 4 Heart.

Holding 13 HCP, West can deduce partner East is limited to 1-2 HCP.  West begins with the fourth-best Heart 4 hoping East holds the Queen and that neither opponent held a Queen doubleton.  Using the Rule of 11 to calculate the remaining holdings, 11 minus 4 (lead card) yields 7 remaining cards above the 4 in the remaining hands.  Between North-South, declarer counts 6 cards above the 4, leaving 1 with East so declarer goes up with the Heart 10 (failure to win the Heart 10 leads to contract failure).  East signals count, the Heart 9 shows a high-low doubleton.   With no opportunity to promote, finesse, endplay or squeeze the opponents, South tries promoting Clubs in hopes West holds the Ace.  Indeed, this time West holds the Ace.  In desperation, West continues with the Heart Ace-King praying that East either misplayed the suit count or perhaps held a 4 card suit.   Unfortunately, East held a doubleton so South’s Queen wins over West’s fourth Heart.  So this time the declarer can win 3 Spades, 3 Clubs, 3 Diamonds and 1 Heart for an overtrick.  Note: When East holds the Club Ace, the declarer can be set 1 trick since East has a critical winner and can return Heart to pin South’s tenaces.   Yet on this hand, South must immediately go up with the Heart 10 to win the critical first trick – using the Rule of 11 here works great.  Otherwise East wins the Heart 9, West wins all 5 Hearts and the Clubs Ace, setting the declarer 2 tricks.

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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,

BridgeHands 

Comments

  1. BridgeHands says:
    Greetings, Bridge Pollsters,
    .
    In our third installment on Bridge Defense, we further explore how opening leads truly matter – particularly when partner in third seat is cooperative and provides us meaningful signals. In this episode, we explore the situation when the declarer begins with a 1 Notrump contract, ultimately accepting responder’s 2 Notrump inivtational bid to wind up in a 3 Notrump contract. Here’s the polling question and responses to date:
    .
    The opponents bid:
    1N – 2C;
    2D – 2N;
    3N.
    On opening lead with a 5 card broken suit (not a sequence suit), what should you lead?
    9 percent – From A-K-J-5-3 and no side suit entries, lead the 5
    23 percent – From A-K-J-10-3 and side suit entry, lead the Ace
    53 percent – Both of the above
    9 percent – Always lead the fourth best
    6 percent – Always lead the highest card
    .
    So slightly more than one-half of our respondents agreed to lead fourth best from a broken suit without a side suit, yet lead the Ace from A-K-J-10 with a side suit entry (i.e., an Ace or King). In our video instruction, we offer several examples where indeed this tactic can maximize the tricks won by the defenders. That said, in the first situation when leading from A-K-J-x-x and no side suit entry, when partner in the third seat cannot win by playing “third hand high” it is often important to signal count on partner’s suit (high-low doubleton, etc.) when opponents are in a Notrump contract. Naturally, opposite a suit contract the opening leader would not underlead an Ace and advanced partners may choose to indicate third hand play shows SUIT PREFERENCE when unable to beat the dummy. Ah, the importance of effective communications with your Bridge partner. Certainly no one who takes their Bridge seriously would say it’s a dull game!
    .
    Happy Bridge Trails,
    Michael

  2. warrenwolff says:

    The lead of the fourth best card has been abandoned by about 55% of good players nowadays, selecting 3/5 best leads instead. Removes lots of ambiguity; adds just a bid. Another ambiguity is with the holding A J 10 x x, the lead of the jack as the top of an interior sequence is plain horrible. The player in the 3rd seat is oblivious to whether or not there is an honor above your jack.

    • BridgeHands says:
      BridgeHands Blog Notice:
      .
      When posting on our blog, please follow the same guidelines you would follow for Bridge Law 74, Conduct and Etiquette:
      http://www.bridgehands.com/Laws/ACBL/Duplicate/Proprieties.htm#law74
      A. Proper Attitude
      1. Courtesy
      A player should maintain a courteous attitude at all times.
      2. Etiquette of Word and Action
      A player should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game.
      .
      Thank you,
      BridgeHands

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