Opening lead: eight of diamonds
One of the principal pitfalls for a defender is the tendency to rely too closely on general rules. A far better approach is to be thoroughly versed in standard procedure, and to be ready to suspend normal practice when the situation calls for it.
Consider today’s deal, where East made what most would consider a highly unusual play to defeat South’s threenotrump contract. Following the bidding sequence shown, West led the eight of diamonds, a “top of nothing” lead in the one suit that had not been bid.
After dummy played low, East paused to take stock. East could tell from the diamond lead and declarer’s notrump bid that South had three or four diamonds headed by the Q-J. East had also heard South open with one heart and then support clubs. It was therefore a near certainty that South had at most one spade.
Having come this far, East now had to decide how to proceed. After some thought, he concluded that his best chance was that his partner had the ace of hearts.
Accordingly, East put up the ace of diamonds at trick one and shifted to a spade. But he did not lead just any spade. To cater to the possibility that South’s lone spade might be the queen, East returned the king!
This left declarer without recourse. He could take five clubs, two diamonds and a spade, but whenever he got around to playing hearts, the defenders would collect their remaining spades to defeat him.
Observe that if East had not taken the first diamond, declarer would win, establish hearts and finish with 11 tricks. The only way the contract could be defeated was to do exactly what East did, suspending standard procedure because on this deal, the circumstances dictated otherwise.
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