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Make the best of a bad lot

Ace from ace-king (best of all), singleton, king from king-queen; these are the good opening leads. What happens when you don’t have such a lead?

Best now is to eliminate the really bad leads, then see what you have left. Let’s look at the approximate ratings - without bidding inferences - of the medium and poor leads:

Holding Rating
83 5
Trump 4
852 4
Q952 4
J4 3
K752 2
A1074 0

West had a choice of unsavoury options on this deal. What would you choose?

South Deals
None Vul
Q 9 7 2
8 5 2
Q 9 2
K 8 4
8 6 3
K J 4
A J 7 5
A 3 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
5
10 7 6 3
10 8 4 3
J 10 6 5
 
A K J 10 4
A Q 9
K 6
Q 9 7
East South West North
  1  Pass1 2 
Pass 4  All pass  
  1. Too flat to double.

 

What happened
West led a heart. Admittedly this was (slightly) wiser than a minor-suit, the dreaded lead away from an ace. But declarer was nonetheless now able to make his game. Beating East’s  10 with  Q, he drew trumps in three rounds, then led  A and  9. West won perforce, but (fatally) had to lead a minor (he chose a club). Declarer ran his  2 to  Q, and led towards  K. He just lost  A and  A. 10 tricks and game made.

What should have happened
The only lead to defeat the game is a passive trump. By giving nothing away, declarer cannot wring a tenth trick. Say he wins the trump and leads  K. West wins  A and leads a second trump. Declarer wins, plays  Q, and trumps  9, to eliminate the suit, then crosses to dummy with a third trump, in order to lead to  9. Declarer has played the deal well, and West is endplayed. But because West has avoided giving away a trick on opening lead, the endplay gives declarer a ninth trick not a tenth trick. Say West leads a club. Declarer wins  Q
and leads towards  K, but West grabs  A, exits safely with a third club to  K, and waits patiently to score  K. Down one.

If you remember one thing...
Consider a passive lead such as a trump, when all other options are worse.

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