Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I know that if I am on lead against no-trump and my partner has doubled dummy's suit bid that I must lead that suit (unless I have a very good reason not to). However, say that I bid one heart over one club and LHO bids diamonds, RHO ending up in three no-trump, doubled by my partner. Does my partner's double demand that I lead diamonds, or does it show that he has something in hearts and thinks that we can set three no-trump? (I led a heart, and my partner didn't approve!)

Dick Deadeye, Marco Island, Fla.

Here is a simple rule: Double asks opening leader to lead his suit if the doubler has not had a chance to support cheaply. But if he did have a chance and didn't take it — as here — it demands an alternative lead. On the auction shown I'd guess diamonds, not spades.

In fourth chair I held ♠ Q-J-4,  Q-7-4,  10-9-2, ♣ A-10-8-7. My partner opened one heart. I chose to raise to two hearts, rather than bid one no-trump, but when my partner bid three diamonds I thought I had nothing extra and rebid three hearts, missing a game. Was I wrong?

Slow Developer, Toronto, Ontario

Your raise to two hearts looks right – support with support is a sound principle. Over three diamonds you might have tried three no-trump with your solid black-suit stops, but your actual choice of three hearts is reasonable too.

Can you please explain what you mean by "attitude" signals? How does this interact with what my friends call the obvious shift?

Last Call, Palm Springs, Calif.

Attitude signals mean that third hand plays a high card to encourage continuation of the suit (or to suggest NOT switching) and a low card to discourage or ask for the obvious shift. High says Ay, Low says No as English International Andrew Robson says..Defining the obvious shift is not as easy as it might sound, though…

I opened one diamond, holding ♠ J-7,  A-4,  A-K-8-4-3, ♣ Q-J-7-5, and my partner responded one spade. When I rebid two clubs, he supported me to two diamonds. Should I bid three diamonds, or two no-trump now, or explore with two hearts?

High Hopes, Boulder, Colorado

When partner gives preference to two diamonds, he typically has only two or three diamonds and 6-10 points. To my mind, passing two diamonds is the percentage action — any advance may get you uncomfortably high. But perhaps the diamond 10 might be enough to persuade me to make a slightly pushy game-try of two no-trump?

I notice that the lead in partner's suit is typically the smallest card in that side's bid suit. Many years ago when I learned to play I was 'taught' to always lead the highest card in my partner's bid suit, if for no other reason my partner 'would know where that card was' since it is our suit. Please help me understand what the downside is in leading my highest card in our suit on the opening lead.

Jungle Jim, Indianapolis, Indiana

The danger of leading high (especially the ace, king or queen) from three cards when your partner has five or six cards is that you give up an honor unnecessarily when declarer has length with a top honor and the jack such as K-J-x or A-J-x. Also, partner may think you have two cards only and switch prematurely, or try to give you a ruff and cost a trick or a tempo.

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RyanDecember 30th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Regarding Jungle Jim’s question, I had learned if you bid your partner’s suit or not determine’s how you lead it. If unbid, high from x-x and low from a three card suit. If you’ve bid it, then an honor might be acceptable since it’s not coming from a doubleton, for example the J from J-10-x-x. Thoughts?

ClarksburgDecember 30th, 2012 at 5:17 pm

To expand a bit on Ryan’s question:
Seems that what Ryan had learned was, in effect, that if you haven’t raised, your lead should give Partner the count.
I recall learning that when leading Partner’s suit, one should simply make the normal lead from your holding. Valid?
Regarding opening leads, is Mallon’s book still the key reference, or is there another more recent work?

bobbywolffDecember 30th, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Hi Ryan and Clarksburg,

While I would always lead the J from J10xx in partner’s suit whether I have supported it or not, it seems the only really important bridge logic to consider is from three small.

Lead high after supporting, since partner will (should) realize that once supported, the overcalling or opening bid partner will understand that his partner is trying to show his highest card since he will already be armed with the knowledge that his partner has at least 3 card length in the suit. However, if not supported, the opening leader should attempt to give count to partner by leading low from 3 and high, of course, from a doubeton.

Breaking it down from the beginnings of contract bridge (late 1920’s) it has always evolved to try and settle on methods which give partner the most important information available, communicated by the play in coordination with the bidding which has already transpired.

A major reason for leading low in partner’s suit from three to an honor (with the ace being a marked exception, except defending against NT) is the positioning it enables, to keep it behind certain likely declarer combinations such as KJx (the queen) and AJx (the king or queen).

Again, regarding opening leads, I apologize for not being familiar with Mr. Mallon’s book, but all complete and usual teaching books on contract bridge include sections on choice of opening leads, and by far the most important reason for it, to give the reader a real dose and therefore developed common sense about what is expected, concerning the logic of both bidding, defending and declaring and all the pros and cons connected.