Bridge - The Scotsman 16/05/13

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“WHEN in doubt – lead trump” is a maxim that has probably cost more points than any other. This example comes from the National Pairs Semi-final. South opened a horrible weak no-trump, but playing that range there is no good alternative.

North transferred into his long suit, then leapt to game, promising at least six spades. What should West lead? With no particularly attractive choice West tried a trump.

Declarer reckoned that West was unlikely to lead away from the queen of trump. She banged out the ace and king, felling the queen. A the heart finesse lost to the king, dummy’s losing diamond disappeared on a heart, and 12 tricks were made.

The “safe” lead cost one trick when it persuaded declarer not to finesse in spades, and a second when declarer was able to get rid of her diamond loser. A more attacking lead in any other suit does not cost a trick. A heart can be won cheaply, but if declarer finesses in spades East can switch to a diamond before the king of hearts is dislodged. Similarly, the queen of clubs, a dangerous lead in principle, does not cost here A diamond sets up a second defensive trick immediately, and again declarer makes just ten tricks if she finesses spades.

A trump is an attacking lead, designed to cut down ruffs in the short hand, or to prevent a cross-ruff, or because anything else (leading into a strong hand) may cost a trick. It is not a safe lead, so, when in doubt – try something else.