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My Lead Was Worse Than My Hand

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal was No. 25 in the Epson Worldwide Bridge Contest held on June 8. As West, I was somewhat amused when I picked up my cards — OK, I can take a joke, now show me my real hand — but of course it was my real hand. A suppose I should be grateful I was not playing rubber bridge for money.

6 NT South
E-W Vul
S 9 4
H Q 7 4
D J 9 8
C A K 10 8 5


4 NT

2 NT
6 NT
S 8 6
H 6 5 3
D 7 6 5 4 3 2
C 4 3
TableS J 10 7 5 2
H A J 10 2
D Q 10
C 7 2

Lead: H 6
S A K Q 3
H K 9 8
C Q J 9 6

South opened two notrump (20 to 22 points) and North jumped to four notrump. This was not Blackwood but a quantitative invitation to slam based on point count (North considered his hand worth more than 10 points because of the good five-card club suit). South was on the top of his range so he went directly to six notrump.

All this was no surprise to me — they could make eight notrump as far as I was concerned — but I had to choose a lead. A diamond would be routine (longest suit); however, in an event where the goal is to beat thousands of other pairs, this seemed like a good time to try something different. For no particular reason, I led a heart.

Dummy came down. Declarer called for a small heart, and East (my son Rich) finessed the 10 to force the king. On the surface this looks like a good start for the defense. It would be if I regained the lead (now there’s a fantasy), but this time it sealed our fate for a dismal score.

Declarer cashed the ace-king of diamonds (bingo!) and ran the rest of his minor-suit winners. East had to hold the heart ace, so he could not keep his spade stopper, and declarer won all the tricks.

I wondered if my son should have realized the danger and taken his ace at trick one. Perhaps, but his play was certainly normal, as there may have been a chance to beat the contract. Then it dawned on me: The only person who did anything abnormal was me; the offbeat heart lead virtually played the hand for declarer.

C’est la vie. Last week I showed you how Harold and Madelyn Shibe topped North America. Now you see how Pavlicek and Son bottomed out the world.

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© 1990 Richard Pavlicek