A Lead Problem

Today's Panelists: David Weiss, Barry Rigal, Walter Lee, David Caprera, Bob Johnson, Mark Bartusek, Bobby Bodenheimer
  1. MPs, favorable, you hold

     S:Q1087 H:J53 D:82 C:10872

    1C: 1S:
    2H: 4NT (key card for hearts)
    5S: 6NT

    What's your lead?

    I can't believe anyone can have great confidence as to knowing the right lead on this hand without seeing the entire deal. [I claimed confidence as to the "right" lead when presenting this problem to David. --Jeff] My choice is the heart jack, hoping that suit is distributed with AQ9x in dummy and Kx(x) in declarer's hand. I think the heart is least likely to blow a trick, and am hoping that passive defense, rather than the active lead of a spade, is the winner this time. I'm worried that I might get squeezed in the black suits, but hope declarer does not have enough top tricks to inflict that on me.
    H:J. I do not like either a club or spade and a diamond seems to be insulting the opponents!
    Small spade. I'm going to play righty to have some big balanced power hand, perhaps 4342 shape. In that case my most likely chance of setting the contract is to hope partner has C:Jx and S:K. Diamonds and hearts look to lay friendly for declarer so even I blow a spade trick, I think it's unlikely to matter.
    With this hand I am more afraid to blow a trick than I am to set one up. I lead the D:8.

    Just because the opps don't seem to fear a diamond lead, it doesn't mean it will give anything away.

    I lead the C:8.

    A lot of people will lead the D:8 thinking it's safe, but it could help declarer with the distribution. The C:8 could also win in alot of unexpected ways. [For instance? --Jeff]

    An interesting sequence since LHO has extra values but is still pretty unlimited, 16 to a strong opening, and RHO didn't investigate for a grand. They could be off a key card. It seems like a black suit stands a good chance of blowing a trick. My guess is a low heart. Dummy has the H:Q, and if pard's key card is in hearts it won't be blown. If it's not, no harm done.
    H:J. I led it in tempo and with a fair bit of confidence.

    All four suits are covered. Yay...good problem! I wonder...if I had given us the H:8, would we have had votes for each of the four 8s?

    Nothing, as usual. This one couldn't be beaten with a beat-it machine. Not only that, nothing can blow a trick; declarer loses the club hook and claims a million tricks after that.
    I was pretty sure I had it right at the table. Playing partner for a helper card and an entry seems hopeless. The best chance has to be to create a trick out of nothing, which the H:J has a fair chance of accomplishing. It could, however, blow an overtrick if dummy has AQxx and declarer K10 tight, but if dummy has the 9, that was declarer's trick anyway. Hearts could also be AKQx vs. 10x, but other than those two holdings, it's pretty likely that the H:J is a safe lead. And aggressive in that it may create a trick for partner's 10. All in all, I'm still confident it's right.

Jeff Goldsmith, jeff@gg.caltech.edu, Jul 29, 2004