Sunday, August 21, 2011

Choosing a suit and card to lead when defending no trump

In  a previous article I wrote the rules for choosing which suit to lead when defending no trump and partner doubles. Recently a hand arose that exemplified something very important that I did not mention in that column, something that applies with or without a double by partner. Here's your hand as dealer:

♠ KT83
♥ T9
♦ Q5
♣ AQJ64

The auction:

You     LHO    Pard     RHO
1C       P          1D       P
1N       P          P          Dbl
P          2H       P          2N
P          P          P

As a preliminary that has nothing to do with the point of this article, your first rebid should be 1S, not 1NT, but that's the way this hand was bid, so that's the way I'm writing about it.

Question: What do you lead? I was your partner in this deal. I haven't supported your suit, Clubs; I bid diamonds. I did not double the 2N contract, which might suggest a lead (although it would be pretty ambiguous; would a double ask for her suit or mine, or would it just say "I think we can defeat this contract; I'm not suggesting a lead?"). But with this hand it does not matter what your partner might suggest as a lead. Even if partner doubles for a different lead, you have only one lead. This brings up the first basic rule in defending no trump. All the other rules are subservient to this. No matter what partner has done, if you have a better lead than what partner suggests in your own hand, lead it.

Here are all four hands:

                        North
                        ♠ QJ95
                        ♥ J54
                        ♦ KJ93
                        ♣ KT


West (Me)                              East
♠ 2                                           ♠ KT83
♥ A863                                    ♥ T9
♦ A7642                                  ♦ Q5
♣ 952                                      ♣ AQJ64

                        South
                        ♠ A764
                        ♥ KQ72
                        ♦ T8
                        ♣ 873

Unfortunately, my partner thought she should lead my suit, so she led the Diamond Queen. Her lead had the deleterious consequence of me returning a diamond when I got in since I had no idea of her Club holding. She could have four little clubs with her points elsewhere. Then it's too late for the Clubs because Declarer's three diamonds set up. 

It doesn't matter what I hold here in determining what to lead. If she leads the Club Queen, Declarer must take the King. When I get in with one of my Aces, I then know to shoot back a Club and Declarer is history. We get four club tricks and my two aces, minimum, for down one. Plus, her KT of spades is well situated for another trick for down 2. Dreaming further, Declarer might mis-guess the Diamond Queen since I bid Diamonds for down 3.

Here are the rules for leading against no trump. The card you should lead is in bold face:

AKJX              AQJx
AJT9               AT9x
KQT9

Here are the reasons. If you lead, for example, the Jack from AJT9 and declarer takes the king or queen in his hand and the other isn't on the board, when partner gets in she will lead your suit back through the remaining honor in declarer's hand and you have a very good chance of taking three (or four if you have a five card suit) tricks unless declarer started with four cards in the suit.

If you are leading the Queen from KQT9, partner must drop the jack if she has it. Why? Because a savvy declarer who has AJx will hold up on your queen lead and if you continue, will take two tricks. So partner must drop the jack if she has it if you lead the queen on opening lead. That allows you to continue leading the suit without worrying about giving declarer an extra trick. In fact, with most of these leads, if you have an honor, you should play it on her lead, for the same reason. It sets up the rest of her hand and allows her to continue the suit if Declarer ducks.

Another thing to remember about these leads is that if partner leads the Queen and you have the Jack, you know what she's got. Similarly, if she leads the King and you have the Queen, you know that she should be holding AKJx. In both cases, you can freely play your honor on her lead without concern that you're giving up a trick. If, however, partner leads the Ace and you have the Queen, don't drop it because she should be denying AKJ.

No comments:

Post a Comment