Why Me?

Playing in the finals of the Life Master pairs, we sit down against a top seed. They are a study in contrast. LHO is a friendly gregarious type, and RHO is quiet and reserved.

RHO deals and opens 1NT, 14-16. I look at

 S:A862 H:1063 D:AJ6 C:J32
Lovely. It gets worse. LHO bids Stayman, and RHO shows four spades. LHO bids 2NT, not alerted. RHO states that this promises four hearts. RHO bids 3NT, and I have to find a lead.

Leading a spade into the four-card suit seems awful. I'm not leading from a jack after an invitational notrump auction, so that leaves a heart. Leading through dummy's suit isn't so bad, and partner has either three or four hearts. If he has three, I might not blow a trick, and if he has four, hopefully I can lead the suit for him two more times. Yes, it is to be a heart. I'm about to lead the H:3 when I have an idea. If the heart suit is something like AK8x vs. Qxx, leading the ten might gain a trick if partner is aware enough to play the jack on the second round. After all, it's the card he's known to hold. Furthermore, if declarer has nine doubleton, a not unlikely case, the ten may gain a trick by force. So after a little bit of reflection, I lead the H:10.

The play is fast and simple; the whole hand turned out to be

S: 5
H: Q752
D: 9842
C: AK97
S: A862
H: 1063
D: AJ6
C: J32
S: 1094
H: AJ84
D: 1075
C: 654
S: KQJ73
H: K9
D: KQ3
C: Q108
The H:10 runs to declarer's king, and when I win my two aces, I finesse dummy in hearts twice to take five easy tricks.

Dummy is grinning and cheerful. He beams at me and says, "great lead!" Declarer just holds his head in his hands and mutters, "why me!"

As it turns out, any heart would have had the same effect, because I can continue with the ten on the second round, but if the H:7 and H:8 had been reversed, a low heart lets the contract make while the H:10 is still successful.

Copyright © 2009 Jeff Goldsmith