Triumph of the Intermediates

by Matthew Kidd


This hand is from board 9 of the June 22, 2014 La Jolla Unit game. You’re on lead after hearing Pass 1 1♠ 4 (you); 4♠. It seems to be a choice between a heart and the stiff club. This time it will make a difference. What is your lead?

A heart lead fatally weakens the offensive trump holding. One of the heart ruffs in dummy comes at the expense of setting up a second trump trick for West. Trapped by East’s A control and West’s stiff club control, declarer is condemned to lose one heart before a place can be created to park it. Down one. It’s funny how often a trump KTx behind declarer can create a problem. Sometimes intermediate compression makes K9x good enough.

A club lead changes the timing. Double dummy, only one play works at trick two. Can you spot it?

Whether the club is won in dummy or in hand, a diamond must come next. This feels very unnatural when the K is led from declarer’s hand. East will win but it is too late for the defense. A heart or club continuation is best but declarer wins and runs the J for a ruffing finesse, returning to dummy with a second heart ruff to pitch his last heart.

When in with the A, West might try a trump return instead but this is worse. Declarer plays small and West can only come to one trump trick.

Should declarer find the diamond at trick two? Maybe. West is likely to be short somewhere for the preemptive 4 raise. The lead sure looks like a stiff, particularly because a heart lead is surely preferable to leading from a doubleton. West’s putative distribution makes it likely that the ♠K is behind declarer. There seem to be enough distributional clues to suggest setting up a diamond for a discard.