A Nine-Card Suit and I have to Lead?

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 09/03/2009
Level: All Levels

In the 2009 Grand National Teams, our squad was upset in the Round of 16. David (from Minnesota) beat Goliath (from Florida). Our team had won the event in 2007 and 2008, but our opponents played well and a few freak deals went against us, none worse than this one:

Yes, that is a 9-card club suit (I suspect it won't fit on everyone's computer monitor). ?5 3
?A J 10 9 8 7 6 5 3

I held this hand as the dealer at favorable vulnerability. In general, I preempt on the 2-level with a 6-card suit, the 3-level with 7, the 4-level with 8, and the 5-level with 9.

So, I opened 5?.

This was passed around to RHO who balanced with 5?. LHO raised to 6?, the final contract.

There I was--what should I lead?

The choice was between the ?A and the singleton heart. The other two suits didn't make much sense.

If partner has an ace, maybe we can cash my ?A and then upon seeing dummy, I would know which major to switch to. On the other hand, if an opponent is void in clubs and my partner happens to have the ?A, I can lead my singleton and get a ruff.

Which will it be? I usually follow "Garozzo's rule," which says: "When in doubt, lead a singleton."  This has worked well for me over the years--ever since I read the tip from that great Italian legend, Benito Garozzo.

But, I decided that playing partner for specifically the ?A was putting all my eggs in one basket. Maybe by cashing the ?A (if it cashed), we would easily set the contract--partner might even have a trump trick.
So, I rejected Benito, and led Larry--the ?A. This was the full deal:

Vul: N-S
Dir: West
?10 7 6 4
?K Q J 4 2
?K 4 3
Larry (golden-arm)    
?5 3
?A J 10 9 8 7 6 5 3
  ?J 9 8 2
?A 10 6 5
?5 2
?Q 4 2
  ?A K Q
?9 8 7
?A Q J 10 9 7 6

Benito was right again. Had I led my singleton heart, partner would have won and given me a ruff. (At least, he better have!).

After my actual club lead, declarer claimed. She ruffed and drew trumps, losing only the ?A.

At the other table, the auction began the same way. Jeff Meckstroth balanced with 5?, but Eric Rodwell didn't raise to 6 with the North hand. I agree 100% with Eric. I like to give my partner some leeway--I always presume he is already figuring on me for some cards. The ?K looks wasted, so in effect, North has an aceless 9-count--nothing too special. Against 5?, West did lead his singleton heart to hold declarer to 11 tricks.

For -1370 and +600 our team lost 13 IMPs. Had I followed Benito, we would have been +100 and +600 to win 12.  My golden arm had cost our team 25 IMPs.