The Opening Leads Quiz

Last issue we posed some lead problems. We award marks out of seven, and also awarded entries up to three marks for reasoning. Assume that equivalent honours or spot cards score the same.

1. Q1053 Q92 K108 AQ10 (Pairs)
1h-1s-1NT uncontested, showing 12-14.

Marks 7: Anything other than a heart.

This is a difficult problem, hence my generous marking. G. Woodruff points out that many pairs will have opened 1NT on the hand if it only has four hearts, thus one should keep with the field, and make what anyway may be the best lead of a low spade. A heart lead is the only thing which definitely seems to me a poor choice, as Qxx is not attractive as a lead at the best of times, and when declarer may have five, it seems pointless.

2. J53 J873 A1087 Q7 (Pairs, Unfav.) 1s-4s.

Marks 7: s3, 5: h3, 3: dA, cQ.

As V. Milman points out, with these defensive holdings, we should try to cut down ruffs. Any other lead may be right, but it certainly doesn't seem the time for an agressive lead, so second choice is a heart. Leading the ace of diamonds to look at dummy is not really appropriate here.

3. 43 K84 J74 J10974 (Pairs) 1s-2h, 3d-3s, 4d-4h, 4NT-5s, 5NT-6c, 6s. 3d alerted as possibly short, 4d cue, 5s shows three aces.

Marks 7: hx, 5: cJ, 3: dx.

J. Young opts for trying to get declarer to reject the finesse. When declarer is looking for a grand it seems less likely that this contract is going off, especially with things sitting well, and a heart was the popular choice. A club seems the most obvious teams shot.

4. Q73 QJ82 A1084 K4 (Pairs) 1h-1s, 3h.

Marks 7: s3, 5: dA.

Several opted for the diamond ace reasoning that nothing was safe, and it might be necessary to cash diamonds before they go away. I think without the spade bid most would lead a spade, and the spade bid really doesn't show that much other than the possession of four spades. Also, declarer rates to have most of the values here, so is a diamond ace really right? It wasn't!

5. xxx x xxxx AQ10xx (Pairs)
1h-2d, 2s-3h, 4h.

Marks 7: cA, 3: dx.

As C. Ashment says, the spades are sitting right for declarer, and partner only rates to have a couple of diamonds, so we'd better cash some tricks. A unanimous panel here, some suggesting that declarer might have bid 3NT or 4c with the king of clubs (though I don't really think this is so likely). I led the ace at the table, and it was the only lead to give the contract.

6. K10x K9865 QJ9x x (Teams)
1d-1h, 2c-2NT, 3NT.

Marks 7: hx, 5: sx.

Apologies - there was a misprint in the auction, though most people had the original one (those that didn't have been compensated!). This seems a straight choice between the majors (though there was the strange choice of a club, which seems neither passive nor active). Do we try to set up heart tricks, at the same time hoping not to give away too much. Or lead the unbid suit, knowing that declarer could easily have a stronger spade holding than heart holding? Most opted for a heart, though there were some votes for a spade.

7. KJ1087 5 8652 AK8 (Pairs)
1h-1s-2d-P, 3NT.

Marks 7: cA/K, 5: sK, 4: sJ.

I suspect some people thought they'd "seen this one before". As J.Foster says, there may be a stiff queen in dummy, hence it is better to lead the king rather than the jack of spades. (Though I always find partner has the ace and declarer Qxx if I do it!) Note the king is also right if dummy has Qx and declarer A9xx. Most chose to lead a top club, trying to avoid giving declarer a cheap spade trick, hoping that clubs was the most likely spot where tricks might come from, and wishing to see dummy before continuing. This may of course cost a tempo for setting up spades.

8. 854 J972 2 AKQJ2 (Unfav, pairs)
1s-P-2c-X, 3c-3d-4s-5d, 5s-P-P-6d, X.

Marks 7: s4, 5: cA/K.

The danger on this sort of auction is that opposition are going to cash a million red tricks if you let them, so you should try to cash yours as quickly as possible. J. Wightwick analyses the hand well, pointing out that partner is likely to have five good spades and five weak clubs for his five spade bid (with 6-4 he would likely have rebid spades), thus a spade is best. You should lead low to tell partner you have three (and denying the ace, king or queen which you should lead in these cash out situations). For those people trying to read a clever meaning into the double, I'm afraid this isn't the time for it.

Many thanks to the eleven people who submitted entries. The top three places were G. Woodruff with 56+22=78 marks, J. Wightwick with 54+23=77 marks, and J. Young 54+22=76 marks. Readers won't be able to award themselves reasoning marks, but anybody scoring 50 or more has done very well.