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Little Known Facts

 by Richard Pavlicek

This deal from the Montreal World Championships features Zia Mahmood, who is widely known as one of the shrewdest card players in the world. As the story goes, a lady once sat down to play bridge against Zia and picked up a hand with two aces. When the bidding was over, she had only one. “Damn, is he good!” she cursed.

Enough silliness. Zia became declarer in 6 NT on the auction shown. The response to 4 NT may seem strange, but it was the “1430” variation of Roman key-card Blackwood (clubs was the key suit) and 5 D showed zero or three key cards.

As West, what would you lead? If you chose the S 10, you’d have plenty of company.

North dealsS K 3 2WestNorthEastSouth
N-S vulH 7 31 CPass1 D
D A 4Pass3 CPass4 C
C A K Q 10 8 4Pass4 DPass4 NT
S 10 9 8 5 4TableS JPass5 DPass6 NT
H A J 10H Q 9 8 6 5All Pass
D J 10 8 2D Q 9 5
C 7C 9 6 3 2
S A Q 7 6
H K 4 2
D K 7 6 3
6 NT SouthC J 5

West led the S 10, which against Zia is like throwing raw meat into a shark tank. Zia captured the stiff jack with the ace, and promptly led back the six, ducked all around. Thank you very much; 12 tricks.

In the postmortem East admonished his partner for not covering the S 6 with the eight, but Zia had an answer to that as well. On the run of the clubs and top diamonds, Zia would come down to three cards, S Q-7 and H K. West is obliged to keep S 9-5 and H A, then Zia would exit with a heart for the endplay.

You might wonder about the title of this article, and I suspect you may learn something. If you look in the ACBL Bridge Encyclopedia under Opening Leads, it gives fourth-best as the proper lead from 10-9-8-x-x. In order to lead the 10, the suit must be at least 10-9-8-6-x. I’m not sure I buy this, but it would have sent Zia packing on this deal.

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© 2002 Richard Pavlicek