Play Hands Based On No-Trump Leads
From Better Bridge (9/3/14)

9 Dealer NORTH: E-W vulnerable

♠J6542♠Q 9 7
♥AK5♥10 8 4 3 2
♦8 ♦K 4
♣Q 7 5 4 ♣10 9 8
♠A K 10
♦10 9 3
♣A K 6 2
3 ♦pass 3NT
all pass

Lead: ♥K (or ace). Against a pre-empt, prefer a strong short suit to a weakish long suit. On a spade or a club lead, South wins, takes the diamond finesse and makes at least ten tricks.

Play: East encourages the lead (♥8 — standard high signal). West continues with ♥A (or king) and a third heart South wins and leads the ♦10, finessing. When the finesse loses, East cashes two more hearts for one down.

Notes: (1) 3NT over a minor pre-empt shows a strong, balanced hand with the missing suits held. 3NT is far better than 5♦ and makes on a black suit lead. On a heart lead, it succeeds if hearts are 4-4 or the ♦K is onside.
(2) If East disliked hearts and discouraged the heart lead, West would still be able to switch to a black suit at trick 2.
(3) The normal play is to take the diamond finesse, particularly as North has no outside entry. If West is known or expected to hold the remaining hearts, the diamond finesse is vital to keep West off lead. However, if declarer reads the position that East has the remaining hearts, it is slightly superior to reject the diamond finesse. Playing ♦A is a safety play guarding against the clanger hand East holding ♦K singleton. It will allow 3NT to make if West has ♦K doubleton or East has the ♦K singleton. Nevertheless, this play could cost the contract. If West holds all three missing diamonds: West would hold off on the second diamond. After the third diamond declarer would have to hope that West has the ♣Q and that the ♣J is an entry to dummy.

10 : Dealer East: Both vulnerable

♥10 4 3
♠K 10 7 ♠9854
♥A98 ♥Q6
♦AQJ5 ♦10 7 42
♣QJ5♣10 8 4
♣A K 9 2
pass 1 ♥
1NTDoubleall pass

Lead: Partner's suit Bottom from three to an honour.

Play: If dummy plays the queen, South covers with the king, else South plays the jack. West wins and leads ♦A, ♦Q, hoping to use dummy's ♦10 as an entry for a possible spade finesse later. North wins ♦K. If the ♥Q was played at trick 1, North can continue with ♥10 and another heart. If trick 1 was 6 — J — A, North plays ♥4 — Q — K. South should then cash ♣K to show South's entry before playing the third heart. North wins ♥10 and leads a club to South. After two hearts, South shifts to the ♠J. The defence takes 2 spades, 4 hearts, 1 diamond 2 clubs, +800.

Notes: (1) The double of lNT is for penalties, not a negative double. Double the 1NT overcall when your side holds more than 20 HCP (unless you have great support for partner and want to try for game).
(2) South knows that North began with 10-x-x or 10-x-x-x (or a singleton, which is not likely). North's three of hearts, the lowest, promises an honour. Since West presumably holds the ace for the 1 NT bid North has the 10.
(3) If trick 1 goes ♥3 — Q — K — low, South can cash the ♣K (to show the entry) before continuing hearts.
(4) If trick 1 goes ♥3 — 6 — jack — low, South continues with ♥K. If West plays low again, South should then cash the ♣K before playing the third heart. If West takes the second heart, North must not unblock the ♥10. When North later cashes ♥10, South plays the two, showing the entry is in clubs (lowest card = low suit).
(5) NOTE that if North's initial lead is the ten of hearts (error), declarer can score an extra trick. After ♥10 — queen — king — ace, declarer's 9-8 are sure to produce a second heart trick. From 10-x-x, the standard lead (and working out best most of the time) is the low card. Do not squander the honour.

11 Dealer SOUTH: Nil vulnerable

♠A K J 2
♦K Q 8 4
♣Q 10 7
♠10 9 7♠865
♥97♥K 1064 3
♦A7 652
♣A 9 4♣K8632
♦J 10 9 3
Pass 1 NTpass 2 ♣
Pass 2♠pass 3NT
all pass

Lead: ♣3. Had the bidding been INT: 3NT, East would lead the ♥4 (prefer the major to the minor) but declarer makes 3 NT with ease here on a heart lead. On this auction, South's 2♣ was exploring a major suit contract. As spades were rejected, logically South will turn up with four hearts. As it it undesirable to lead a suit in which the opposition hold length, East should choose the club lead

Play: After ♣A, West returns the ♣9, top from a remaining doubleton. East should recognise that North began with three clubs and therefore has a stopper (the ♣9 denies the 10 or higher). East should duck the second club. When declarer plays diamonds, West wins ♦A and returns a third club. East cashes out the clubs.

Notes: (1) With a 4-card major and game values, South should explore the possible heart fit via 2♣ Stayman.
(2) If declarer cleverly plays the queen of clubs at trick 2, pretending to hold Q-7 doubleton, East should read the position and still duck. As West's nine denies the 10, North still has the 10. Trust partner, not declarer.
(3) If declarer were tackling A-x-x opposite K-x-x-x-x, the natural play is to duck one round. When East leads to the ace and ducks the second round the defence is doing exactly what declarer would do.
(4) If North cashes spades before touching diamonds, East should throw a heart on the fourth spade, not a club.

12 Dealer West :N-S vulnerable

♥J97 ♥AKQ6
♣Q963♣A J 10 8
♥8 3
♦K 6 4 3 2
pass pass 1 NT pass
2♣pass 2♥ pass
3NTall pass

Lead: 3♦. On most auctions, South would lead a spade (prefer a major to a minor and prefer a suit with two honours to a suit with only one). However, as West's bidding implies spades, South should not choose the suit where an opponent holds length.

Play: North wins the ace of diamonds and should return the jack of diamonds to unblock the suit. Trick 2 is ♦J—Q—K—8. North wins the third diamond with the 9 and returns the ♦5 which South must overtake with the ♦6 to cash the fifth diamond.

Notes: (1) With four spades and enough for game, West uses 2♣ Stayman. When East does not show shades at once, West rebids 3NT. East would bid 4♠ over 3NT with both majors. West's bidding — Stayman and then reject hearts to rebid in no-trumps — implies four spades (If in doubt, ask for an explanation.) 4♥ is superior but very hard to reach.
(2) On any lead but a diamond 3 NT will succeed. Declarer takes repeated club finesses for 4 clubs, 4 hearts and 2 spades. The technique for the clubs is to run the 9 first, then run the queen, then low to the A-J.
(3) If North wins ♦A and returns ♦5, the diamonds are blocked. The defence then can take only four diamond tricks and this allows declarer to make 3 NT.
(4) North must not play the ♦J at trick 1. When dummy has only low cards, play third hand high. To do otherwise is the error known as 'finessing against partner'. If North plays the ♦J, East wins ♦Q and can come to eleven tricks.
(5) After ♦A, then ♦J to the king, South should return the ♦2 at trick 3, not the 6 of diamonds which would again block the suit
(6) After ♦ A, ♦J to the king, ♦2 to the 9, South must overtake ♦5 with the 6 at trick 4. Otherwise North is left on lead with no more diamonds.

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