By Larry Cohen
Courtesy of LarryCo.com
Neither vulnerable, IMPs
Opening lead: ♠J. Plan the play
This hand is supposed to be a ‘confidence builder’. In order to get an A all you have to do is play a low spade from dummy and preserve the queen as a stopper in case East gets the lead. Since the diamond finesse is going into East, that seems to be a clever idea.
After the winning the ♠A, run the ♦8 (or the ♦J). As it happens it loses, but East cannot attack spades without surrendering a trick to dummy’s queen. In the meantime, you now have nine tricks: four diamonds, two hearts, two clubs and one spade. Playing the ♠Q at Trick 1 is an optical illusion. If West has led from the king, you can always take a second spade trick later and if East has the king, your now guarded queen protects you from a further spade attack.
The full deal:
THE BOTTOM LINE
Defensively, when the bidding goes 1NT-3NT, it is healthier to lead a major suit as opposed to a minor. If dummy had one or two four-card majors, 2♣ would usually have been the original response. In the absence of a 2♣ response, expect minor-suit length to hit the table.
When the opponents lead a jack against your notrump contract, find out if they are using the lead agreement ‘jack denies’. If they are, the jack is the opening leader’s highest card and there is not much point in playing the queen from dummy.
With Ax in hand facing Qxx in the dummy, it is usually right to win the opening lead with the ace, particularly if you plan to take a finesse into your right-hand opponent. However, if you absolutely need two quick tricks in the suit, play the queen.