Toledo Blade – 11 Mar 2001 by Gene Benedict

Some hands look deceptively simple, but it is easy to overlook a precaution. If the opponents get off to the wrong lead, you don’t want to make it clear to them which suit to switch to. A good declarer tries to hide the location of his high-card strength. South was the dealer, East-West were vuinerable, at imp scoring.

Opening lead was the five of hearts. With hearts being led, it is unlikely that the suit is going to break three-three. This is not a difficuit hand; South needs to establish club tricks to make his contract.

The problem is that clubs are mathematically more likely to break three-one (50 percent) instead of two-two (40 percent). If they do break three-one, you don’t want the hand with the singleton to make a revealing signal.

When this hand came up, the declarer played poorly. He won the king of hearts at trick one and continued with the ace and another club. East had his finger on the ten of diamonds, but he changed his mind when he saw his partner’s discard of the two of diamonds.

East led a spade instead and the contract went down one trick. It is possible some East players might have switched to a spade anyway, but more players would usually switch to dummy’s weakness. When establishing a suit that has the ace and small cards, it is often best not to play the ace immediately.