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November 26, 1999
Opening Lead Quiz and Safety Has a Place
Opening Lead Quiz
How good are your opening leads?
Sitting West you hold:
This question and 19 more are now posted online. The quiz is automatically scored and the correct answers
Safety Has a Place
You and your favorite partner pick up the following hands. Playing in a rubber bridge game for a stake a little higher than you find comfortable, how do you play the hand? Would you play differently if your contract was a grand slam instead of a small slam?
Opening lead: J
In a small slam, your entire focus should be on taking 12 tricks. You should be willing to give up any chance of taking 13 if it increases your chances for 12!
Clearly you have all the tricks you need as long as you avoid 2 trump losers. If hearts are breaking 2-2 or 3-1 then the contract is assured irrespective of how you play the trump suit.
What if the heart suit is breaking 4-0?
If you attack the suit the normal way by first cashing the A and West started with all four missing hearts, then you will have two trump losers (West will hold Q108 behind your KJxx).
You need to maintain maximum potential by cashing a top honor and leaving an honor in each hand to lead towards, if needed.
The answer is to cash the K!
If both opponents follow suit, then the suit is either 3-1 or 2-2 and you will make the hand. If West shows out (East having all four), then cash the A next and lead small towards the J (holding your losers to one). If East shows out (West having all four), then lead the J next. West will cover (if not let the J) and you can win the A. Now return to the South hand and lead towards the 9 (holding your losers to one).
When faced with a contract that will make if things break normally, spend a little time to see if you can protect yourself if things break poorly. This combination is a good example.
The complete hand:
By the way, if you are in a grand slam, you have no choice but to play to avoid any
losers. Cash the A (in case West started with the singleton Q) and then lead towards the KJxx. If RHO
follows to the second round low, the odds slightly favor playing the K over
finessing the J. As the cards lie in the example you will go down two in the grand slam when
the small slam is a 100% guarantee! Grand slams are dangerous things indeed.