"If I had bid hearts, would you have led a diamond?"

    Colby Vernay, Lacon IL, finds a gutsy defense to overcome a disappointing opening lead.

No matter how dismal the developments during the play of a hand, good players never give up. Colby showed the value of maintaining your concentration on this deal from the Monday Swiss teams at the 2007 Memorial Day regional in Champaign IL.






 IMPs, none vulnerable






Pass 1C 1D 1S





   All Pass

 * Support double (3-card spade support)



Q lead         







Colby, East, overcalled 1D and got a raise from his partner as the opponents barreled into 4S. He was pretty happy about his chances for defeating the contract when he saw dummy, but then he took another look at partner's opening lead: the Q. This would have been an easy defense if partner had led the "obvious" diamond, but now Colby was going to have to work to keep declarer from endplaying him.

Declarer played low from dummy and won the A in his hand. He led a spade to dummy's K and Colby's A, and Colby exited safely with his last trump. Declarer won the Q in hand, partner pitching a heart, then cashed dummy's K and ruffed a heart in his hand.

Declarer now led the 2 to dummy's J. Partner followed with the 3, which showed an even number of clubs (upside-down count). The end position is below. How would you defend from here?













2 led




It's natural to feel the situation is hopeless and to blame it all on partner's opening lead. Some players would just accept the endplay by winning the A and giving partner a steely glare. Colby, though, stopped to think. 

Declarer has shown up with 7 spades and 2 hearts, and it appears he has one club and three diamonds (if partner had two clubs instead of four, that would give him five diamonds, which surely would have elicited more than a single raise). Colby decided to follow the old advice that if you don't want to be on lead, don't win the trick. Even though he was certain declarer had a singleton club, he played low and allowed dummy's J to win the trick.

That was declarer's ninth trick, but allowing him to win the first club trick was the only way to keep him from scoring ten. Declarer, who held

   Q1098632    A5   543   2

now had to lose three diamonds and go down one. At the table, he led dummy's K and Colby covered with the A, ruffed. Declarer now led a diamond to dummy's 8, but Colby had a safe exit with a club.

If declarer instead ruffs a low club to hand and leads toward the K, Colby's partner -- who will be looking for an opportunity to redeem himself -- will insert his J to save Colby's hand from that endplay.

So ... how awful was that opening lead? Colby understood the logic when he saw partner's hand:

   QJ1096    J62    Q653

If Colby had held the A instead of the two black aces, the heart might have been the only lead to beat the contract, allowing the defense to win two hearts and at least two diamonds.

As his partner commented after the hand, "Not my best opening lead, but then, you'd never have had a chance to be such a hero if I'd led a diamond."

Congratulations to Colby and his team-mates -- Hugh Williams of Carbondale IL, Jim O'Neill of Chicago and Colby's ignominious partner -- who scored 120 out of 140 possible victory points and won the event.

Copyright 2007 -- Karen Walker