Some Answers …
Let me now return to the readers’ problem set two weeks ago. No reader came up with all the answers I was hoping for, but let me answer my own questions first:
What is East’s best opening lead against 4H by North?
The best opening lead is a low heart. Or the ace. A low one is better because East can later play ace and another to clear the trump suit from dummy. Another reason for a low heart, imagine dropping partner’s singleton king! The lead of a low trump from Axx is a common enough one when there is evidence that you may want to cut down any ruffs in dummy. Starting with the ace won’t allow three rounds to be played when partner has the king and outside control.
How should declarer proceed after the opening lead?
On any other lead (low spade, diamond, or KC) declarer can immediately play on clubs and if East does not then play two rounds of hearts, declarer will make an overtrick.
What is the best defence following the opening lead?
If declarer falls into the trap of playing on clubs, East wins the second round and plays ace and another trump. Same if declarer plays a second trump immediately, as many might do automatically without thought.
How can 4H be made despite the best defence?
4H can always be made by what is known as a ‘dummy reversal’: you play to ruff losers in declarer’s hand, and if you ruff so many that dummy now has longer trumps than declarer, that creates an extra trick, as long as dummy’s trumps are big enough, as they are here. This hand is perfect for a dummy reversal: declarer can ruff two diamonds in hand, using spades to enter dummy, then ruff a spade after entering dummy with the club ace. East’s best defence is to overruff the diamond ruff with the ace and lead a second trump. Otherwise declarer can make an overtrick.
Two winners for great answers this week, both spotting the dummy reversal, Peter McLeod and Kevin Duggan, and a special mention for our esteemed moderator at X-Clubs Mike Neels. Mike found a very difficult squeeze after playing ace and another club and allowing the defence to clear trumps. He writes: Declarer’s only option would seem to be a squeeze on WEST! – the harmless-looking hand. It is not hard to arrive at this position with four cards left to play and the lead with North:
What can poor West throw upon the lead of the last trump?