This week we feature a terrific opening lead, found in real life by John Brady, of Jacksonville (known to some as Dr. Goodlead).
Imagine yourself as East, looking at the N-E hands. West, the good doctor, leads the 10♠. A strange-looking lead, don’t you think? It’s not fourth-best, not top of a sequence. Has the doctor’s legendary commonsense finally deserted him?
While you are puzzling over that bizarre opening lead, Dummy plays the Q♠ and you gleefully ruff. What next, Mr. East? West found a grand opening lead, and life would be even grander if only you could get back to West’s hand for a second ruff. If that is to happen, West must have A♦ or A♣. Any clues as to which?
The opening lead is your much-needed clue. West led an unnecessarily high Spade and is trying to tell you something. Yes, he is advertising the Ace in the higher-ranking side-suit! So, after ruffing, you shoot back a Diamond to West’s Ace and get your second Spade ruff. Down one!
Dr. G’s lead from ♠K, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2 was not without risk, but he saw no appealing alternative, and he reasonably concluded that East had no more than two Spades (due to non-support in the auction). He didn’t necessarily expect a void, but singleton was also a possibility (in which case West would later win the A♥ and give East a second-round Spade ruff).
What just happened was a suit-preference signal, whereby, in certain situations, the play of a high card says, “I have the higher-ranking suit,” vice-versa with a low card. This defensive signal is a rare bird on opening lead; it usually comes later in the hand and even then only in specialized situations. Dr. Goodlead gave us the caviar; we’ll have some meat-and-potatoes examples in later Bridge Bites.
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Contact Brian Howard, owner/director of the Bridge Center of Bradenton, at 795-8981.