Reading the Lead
One of Declarer's first jobs, as he tries to form a picture of the missing hands, is to read the opening lead correctly. Is it a singleton? Doubleton? Fourth best? And, just as important are the negative inferences, such as why was that lead made, why not another suit?
Related Play Problems Play Problem 59
There are 8-counts and then there are 8-counts, and Southís puny specimen is not one of those 8-counts which qualifies for a game invitation opposite a 15-17 1NT opening, on account of the square distribution, the alarming absence of Tens, and those isolated Jacks (which would be far better employed in suits containing other honors). In fact, a game invitation is not even close with that South hand.
Against 1NT, East leads the Diamond Ten and Declarer would be well advised to think long and hard about her play at Trick 1, and how she can best deal with a 5-2 Diamond break. What is East leading from?
- If itís from AQT9x, then the winning play is the ♦J, winning the trick (but even that wonít help if West has the ♣A).
- If itís from T9xxx, then the winning play is low from Dummy, securing two Diamond stoppers.
- If itís from QT9xx, then West will play the Ace and return one, and it matters not what Dummy plays.
- If itís from AT9xx (the actual case) then Declarer can do something very clever, the first part of which is to play low from Dummy.
So, on balance itís right to play low from Dummy at Trick 1. On the actual layout, West also plays low, and Declarer make the master play of winning the King immediately! This blocks the Diamond suit for the opponents, and leads to no fewer than 9 tricks! Southís 8-count wasnít so puny after all (but we should point out that non-Diamond leads hold Declarer to 8 tricks).
A minor suit lead from West will immediately donate to Declarer his 9th trick. A Heart opening lead makes life a lot tougher, but if that Heart is the top-of-nothing Seven, it will offer some clues to an alert Declarer. She will deduce that Westís Spades are even weaker than the Hearts, and will suspect that there is probably no third Spade trick. That being so, she wins the opening lead in hand and leads a Diamond towards the board. Now itís possible to score a trick in each minor suit, and 9 tricks in all.
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