BRIDGE BY THE LAKE
By Ken Masson
One of the most common adages at bridge is: “Against a no trump contract, lead fourth best from your longest and strongest suit.” I would agree with that in principle but would add “with some exceptions”. One of those exceptions occurred in the illustrated hand.
North dealt and opened the bidding with one diamond. He would dearly have liked to hold another club so he could open 1 no trump but in the circumstances 1 diamond was the best he could do. Although East had a nice collection of cards, and 14 high card points, she correctly concluded that she did not have the right shape to enter the proceeding at this stage so she passed. This is a particularly important lesson for less experienced players who feel that they must get into the bidding with the equivalent of an opening bid regardless of their distribution.
With eight high card points and no four card major, South responded 1 no trump. North, holding an intermediate hand raised to 2 no trump and South carried on to game. Note that North was not too concerned about his singleton club as his partner’s failure to bid a major, or raise diamonds, strongly suggested he had some club length.
West was paying attention to the bidding and realized that his partner must have substantial values but just had nothing to say. Looking at his own miserable collection, he decided to forego the lead of a heart and instead try to find a suit that would accommodate his partner and so chose a spade. His decision was entirely based on logic: South was known not to have as many as 4 spades as he had bid no trump over his partner’s opening salvo. In turn, North was virtually guaranteed to have a maximum of 4 spades based on his bidding, therefore East was very likely to have 4 or more cards in that suit.
West led the spade 5 and met with spectacular success. Declarer called for the 4 and East played the 8, keeping her other cards “surrounding” the dummy. Declarer won with the queen in hand and took the diamond finesse which East ducked smoothly. It seemed to declarer that the diamond king was onside so he attempted to get back to his hand with a club and East made another good play by winning the Ace, for the defense’s first trick and effectively shutting South out of his own hand! East now cashed the spade Ace and continued with the Jack (on which West pitched the heart 7 to show a high card in that suit).
Declarer was now sunk. He was forced to cash the diamond ace and continue that suit which East won to cash her last spade. And now all that remained was to put declarer back on the table by playing the heart queen for West to eventually take the setting trick with his lone high card, the heart jack.
West and East had combined beautifully to defend this hand. The moral of the story is: when you are on lead and have a very weak hand try to lead the card that gives your side the best opportunity for success