A Vital Opening Lead

Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 04/01/2007
Level: Intermediate

What would you lead against 6NT with this hand:

?J 6 4 3
?9 8 7 3 2
?10 4 2 ?


Oh, you want the auction? It was short and sweet. RHO opens 3NT, showing a solid minor with no outside "cards." LHO jumps to 6NT. You are playing IMPs (actually, it was IMP Pairs).

My partner, David Berkowitz, faced this situation in the National IMP Pairs in St. Louis. This was the full deal:

Vul: East-West
Dlr: East
?A K 10 7
?K 10
?8 4
?A K Q J 8
?J 6 4 3
?9 8 7 3 2
?10 4 2
  ?9 8 5
?A Q J
?7 6 5
?9 7 6 5
  ?Q 2
?6 5 4
?A K Q J 10 9 2
-- -- Pass 3NT (Gambling)
Pass 6NT All Pass  


Surely, at this form of scoring, North should have bid 6?. She knew her partner had solid diamonds and it was crucial to play from the North side where the ?K would be protected. If it were matchpoints, then the 6NT gamble would be reasonable (making the larger score whenever the ?A was right, or there was no heart lead, or partner held something helpful like the ?J or ?Q).

So, here they were in 6NT from the wrong side. What should David lead? We have a special agreement against "randomly bid slams." Whenever dummy jumps to a slam, and dummy hasn't shown a suit, a DOUBLE asks for the highest unbid suit. So, here, if I happened to want a spade lead, I'd have doubled. Knowing that I didn't want a spade lead, David tried a heart--and struck gold. I took the first 3 tricks, not even minding that they were blocked. We knew 100 would be worth a ton of IMPs (it was worth approximately 12 across the field).

You and your partner might want to consider adding such an agreement--this has come up several times already for us. Maybe this deal will make my next Favorite 52.