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Newbie Dilemma (Moved)
I am in first seat, and I pick up this


I saw 8 tricks and bid 50.

My opening lead was QS.
My plan was to get in again and lead another QS and pull trump.

1 Do you want to be -in- this game?
2 Do you want to defend or be my partner in this game?
3 Tell me how I did.
Rick Hall
Oh, HECK yes I'm playing this. 10 card suits are PLAY ME! Yes, partner might have 7 diamonds or 8 hearts, but that's unlikely. Meld's probably not an issue; runs are overrated when there's this much of a suit discrepancy.

As for the play, there are 2 plausible approaches. First, I'd cash the AH; I don't want to sandbag in a suit where I have no extra tricks.

#1: start trump immediately, ergo QS
#2: start diamonds you have 2 potential extra tricks. The TD is fairly likely, but with 6 diamonds, the 6th may become another.

The risk with #1 is that the opponents will find your club void, and attack, attack, attack your trump suit with repeated club leads. At that point, you can't both get trumps drawn AND get your diamonds established.

With #2, you get the diamonds started fast. If the play starts QD to LHO's AD, then AC forcing you to can play AD, JD with an eye towards using diamonds to force ruffs, OR get partner ruffing. Watch the spots in diamonds and decide whether to continue diamonds or start drawing trump.
Agree with TE. Well explained. I choose #1 every time devoid of any other information. Do you remember how the bidding went and what the meld looked like?
Except that I tried to suggest #2. #1 is much less flexible. If you start with trumps, you fundamentally rely on partner having very good diamonds (probably 2 aces) or opponents to cash diamond aces too soon. Granted, it might work; it's definitely not a clear mistake to start spades quickly, but I do think there are more ways to be successful by attacking diamonds first.

IMO most players want to play trump MUCH too early/too often, as declarer.
I should clarify. I agree with TE's assessment, but without any information I go the #1 route, because it feels safer to me.

Doesn't it really depend on the bidding, and meld shown? If you have no information, it seems to me to be a crap shoot based on what your partner has in aces to help you in either spades or diamonds.

I view the diamond route as high risk, high reward. It can work beautifully, but it also blow up in your face...but again, in a real scenario we are going to have some bidding and meld shown that gives us information about the other players hands that we can use to decide between option 1 and 2.

I hate hands like these. It's great if your partner or East has your trump suit, but when West has your suit it hurts. With the right card distribution it can work out really well, but with the wrong distribution you can get destroyed.

Is our long term expectation of this hand going to be better going the diamonds route or the trump route?
What I mean is, if you had this same hand one million times and the rest of the players had random hands, which lead is going to work out better on average? Give a guess, I know there is no way to prove it.
Insofar as the bidding and meld...very little about either will be useful. Certainly, no club or heart cards in the meld will matter. Aces around will matter...if it's partner, or better yet partner and RHO, I *absolutely* start, at trick 1, with QD. If he's in, *and leads a club*...I ruff, play AD, AH (looking for a signal), then most likely JD. I can't wait, I can't play to set up another diamond trick, so I use diamonds to force trump. If RHO melds aces, I'll play AH, AD, QD (absent a signal in hearts) to get the diamond strip going, while also giving me the best chance to get a signal from partner. If LHO melds aces, the trick-1 QS is appealing, as a misdirection play suggesting I'm NOT looking for ruffs from partner and therefore encouraging LHO to cash; I might take either approach.

I think the diamond play is actually safer...but if you want even more safety, start AH, AD, QD. That gets the 2 side aces banked, and the TD may still set up down the line...or possibly the KD will. This is the safest route to pulling 20, as your trump remain intact while you attempt to give partner diamond ruffs, OR attack opponents' trump holding via diamonds.

For others' information, richard is putting South as declarer, which is routine practice in bridge. So West would be his LHO.

I *love* hands like this. The suit length makes the risk that West will have a trump stack behind you, fairly low. You don't really need partner to have partner have support; any 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 distribution is fine. Even 5-3-2 with West having 5, still means you have 5 trump tricks. Sure, if he's got have a problem. But that's low frequency.

Starting with diamonds works when:
a) Partner has 2 or 3 diamonds, and 2-3 trump. OK, opponents may strip trump...but that means you're assured of your 5-6 trump tricks. Best route here is AD, QD.

b) Partner has 6-7 diamonds. Now you can foresee both opponents ruffing. Give West 6 trump, say ASASASTSQSJS...the kind of holding that worries you. He's ruffing diamonds now...with his natural trump tricks, primarily. Best route here is less clear; AD then QD avoids risk of an adverse ruff, but QD first leaves you with reasonably strong diamonds for later.

I'll amend an earlier comment. AH, AD, then QD is best...because you can't draw trump fast. Starting diamonds with the Q works if your TS's were AS's...if the hand calls for it, you can eliminate the risk that an opponent will ruff your diamond ace with a *low* trump, by playing your trump aces. Any ruffs now, are pretty much with trump tricks they'd have anyway.

I'd start diamonds with the QD if I absolutely needed 31.

Starting with trump works when:
c) Opponents' cashing order works in your favor...that is, they cash 1 or 2 diamonds before discovering your club void.

d) Partner has a short but strong spade holding like ASASJS, plus 4-5 diamonds with an ace. In this case, AH, AD, QS (and after a club ruff, another spade if necessary) will probably get him in to cash those aces. You can sit back and lead low diamonds every time you're in, trying to set up the TD.

e) Opponents are weak, and cash red aces rather than force you in clubs repeatedly.

To consider the diamond lead, it's probably better to examine it in a more pure hand that's also somewhat less extreme. So, let's give you


This is purer in the sense that those 4 low diamonds have basically NO chance of being tricks unless the outstanding diamonds are 5-5-4, AND you can maintain control of the trump suit. Don't hold your breath. Smile

Some players will mastermind, and lead QS at trick 1. I love it when their diamond aces get ruffed away. There is IMO NO POINT in sandbagging these diamond aces. There's no chance of a trick, so why take any unnecessary risk? If an opponent has a stiff or void diamond...nothing you can do about that. But that's rare. An opponent (or partner) having 3...that's fairly common, so the play can easily proceed where opponents cash 2 AD, and one of yours goes POOF. You won't get this trick back. start with AD, AD. What now? You've got 8 losers outside trump. Fine, you can play trumps and set up those 6 tricks...but where are any of your losers going to go? You may be ruffing partner's aces. Give partner 4 trump and 4 diamonds...a trump play may well mean that your partner's trumps will be stripped before his diamonds are gone. No ruffs available. Give partner 3 diamonds...and a trick-3 diamonds sets up ruffs immediately.

There's another reason: a matter of declarer's strategy. When I as declarer exit after going about my usual business, and assuming partner didn't signal to suggest a particular suit...*this is the suit I want played.* And I definitely want diamonds played unless partner has the 4th ace.
Me again. Thanks for letting me know my instincts were correct.

There was no meld that told me much; no run, no Aces. All the meld was faces.

Just how much real danger is there in holding up with AH ? The most likely distribution for that to happen would be 4-3-7-6, 4-2-7-7, or 4-2-8-6. I don't see much danger there.

When I don't have such an distributional hand, I cash aces.
I kept them because I want entries back to my hand so I can force out trump. (LHO and RHO each had an trump ace. Partner had 2 Aces.)
Rick Hall
There couldn't have been a run; you have all 4 JS. However, one can of course trivially tweak the hand, changing 1 JS to a QS. Now it's *possible* but not terribly likely that someone will have a run. If that does happen (note, I wouldn't wait up...this would be rather rare)...I think I'd start with a spade. If it's partner with the run, I hope to crash an opponent's ace. If it's an opponent...partner probably doesn't have enough trump to hunt for a diamond ruff. (There's only 5 missing, and the opponent with a run *can* have more. So partner's average length is probably 2.)

If West has the run (putting me South), I kinda hope the suit is
North Ax
East AAx

My second trump goes to North's ace, and crashes one of East's aces. SWEET.

If East has the run, I really have to hope the suit looks like
West xx
North AA

The killer with this hand pattern is the club VOID. Getting my partner in at trick 1 or 2 (after cashing the heart ace) is *not* that constructive, because so often his first play gets him right back *out* of the lead, as you ruff the club. When it's a trump, you're largely right back where you were are you going to get *back* to him, hopefully for some red-suit aces? The first 5 tricks...

QD to AD
AC, ruffed by you

I didn't say who won trick 3. If it was know West has a hole. If partner's got another AD you're through to him. If he doesn't, your side is playing off its losers. If it was West, diamonds are much more likely to reach partner now, than spades.

On bagging the AH...probably not that much, but WHY? You don't *need* entries; you'll have the lead slammed down your throat over and over with club ruffs. You're sounding like a bridge declarer...but here you don't control dummy. Smile So you can't use the entry when you want to. And 7-6-3 is not that unlikely for the heart suit...look how often you get dealt 7-6-4-3 hands.

BUT....say you get the trump out. Now what? The first several tricks might well go:
QS to West's AS
AC ruffed
QS to North's AS
AS by North
AD by North
AH by North (just for instance on these)
QH by North, KH, AH by you (East SHOULD duck)

Of course, by this time 20's in the bag, given all the help partner has. This is what you have left:


You have 1 more trump loser. After that: how are you going to manage the diamond suit, to win anything more than 1 trick?
A lot depends on the quality of opponent I guess too. If you are playing at the lower levels where players aren't thinking about what their opponents have, just what they have and they "have" to get their aces out, it is harder for you to make a big mistake. If you are playing with good or great players, they will hammer those clubs forcing declarer to ruff off his spades. That makes what TE is saying that much more important. What you can get away with weak players you will never get away with against the solid players.

TE I have a question: If you are North, and the declarer leads with trump, is that a communication that he is trying to get trump out and not to make him ruff? Conversely, if a declarer leads with an off suit, is that communicating that he would like you to try to make him ruff off his trump? I have always wondered about that. If that is true, then that really solidifies the case for leading with a diamond.

PS Got to start off with that heart ace. The risk of losing it far outweighs any benefit that you may gain from maybe getting the lead back without having to ruff.
And take advantage of bad players when you get them...but don't get into bad habits. If the reason you do something is *because* they're bad opponents, that's fine. The quality of the opponents is a factor in the overall situation, and you're making a reasoned decision to play to that.

rak: first, we're assuming that North never signalled, and that he doesn't have aces around (where a K exit from South strongly suggests the 3 missing aces) other words, South is exiting without any certainty of reaching North.

When South exits with a non-trump, it should show numerous losers. Yes, it'd be nice if North ruffs, but having (preferably) both opponents ruff that suit...that's fine too. Especially when North and South are playing non-points. There are thoughtless players who exit from their *short* suits...they think getting ruffs in, is a good thing. This is rarely the case.

Let's do some cases. Let's assume North opens 52, South bids 53 ending the auction. No one shows anything particularly interesting in the meld, like aces or a trump run (other than South). We'll just focus on South.


Considering the trump suit and the diamonds together: it's not worth playing for a 3rd diamond trick. So South should play AD, AD. At trick 3...why not play QD? Hey, South doesn't care WHO ruffs. Also, as a sidebar, this is actually the most likely suit in which to reach North. It's not *likely*...but it's far better than any other suit.


First 2 tricks are a no-brainer...the club and heart aces. Most players will now try QS at trick 3...but this hand is nothing but losers outside trump. 10 of em. Even if North wins a trump ace and cashes a couple side aces, where are you? You'll have all those losers left, and opponents can force ruffs, attack trump, or whatever their hands suggest. Weak hands with moderate (at best) trump suits DON'T want to attack trump. So what's left...a club or heart is awful. That largely leaves the QD. From South's perspective, it's less about "gosh, pard, I hope you can ruff some diamonds" and more about "I've got so many losers here, I need to get them started." It's about hoping to retain control of the hand...because if South's trumps get drawn, even with no bad trump break, his hand's dead.


After the AD, AD...what else is there but QD? The goal isn't ruffs; it's just getting out while trying to keep your trump suit intact as long as you can.

So when does one use a trump exit? I use it when I have nothing more constructive to do.


No good reason to sandbag, so the first 4 tricks are straightforward...side aces. Partner didn't signal on these (by our assumption), and the chance partner is ruffing any of our losers is rather low. But here I've gotten 4 tricks in the bag, and I have a trump suit that's fairly hard to attack. The only bad result of a trump lead would be if it goes QS, KS, JS, TS to East...ugh! West takes it...fine. North takes it...fine. QS, KS, TS, AS to East...not bad. I can get trump stripped fast by using TS to force the remaining ace.

A last point: this is how *I* play. I'm looking ahead in the hand. It's not so much about this trick as perhaps 6-8 tricks down the line. MANY declarers simply exit with a trump because "that's what the book says." Problem is, "the book" rarely seems to underscore its advice, with the underlying reasoning. If you work on the "why should I do this" of a particular situation, you do better than following generic advice because you know when it's wrong. (That first hand in the post above is one of the strongest examples...after cashing those 2 diamonds, the 3rd diamond is a massive standout.)

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