Monday, June 24, 2013

Opening Lead Signals

Drew commented on my bridge hand from Sunday saying he disagreed with my plan on partner's opening diamond lead. Ordinarily I would reply to his comment on that post but I was actually already planning a post about how my opening lead play was the right one. I really wanted partner to return a club, not another diamond, when he got back in. He fired back a second diamond and made me very sad.

It turns out partner can see 10 of the diamonds right off the hop between himself and dummy. He is missing the 8, the 7, and the 5. One of those cards remains hidden after declarer and I play a card. Could I have it?

It all comes down to what my signal means. There are three types of signals: attitude, count, and suit preference. Which one am I playing on this opening lead? The default is to play attitude on partner's lead. In that case, with a single diamond I would play the one I have. If I have two diamonds I would play the lower one since I don't want partner to play more diamonds. So if the card I play is higher than the missing card partner knows I started with 1. Otherwise I might or might not have both.

But dummy has a royal flush in the lead suit. Attitude in the suit may not be the right way to go. But then what does my signal become? If it becomes count I'd want to play my highest one from two, as Drew suggests. So if the card I play is lower than the missing one partner knows I started with 1. Otherwise I might or might not have both. But is this switch clear and correct?

If you assert leading this suit again is clearly wrong then my signal may well be suit preference. A high diamond would ask for a spade shift, a low diamond would ask for a club shift. Leading this suit again may be seen as clearly wrong when dummy has stiff ace for example, but maybe not with the 5 card suit?

Another problem stems from what happens when it isn't quite so clear. Where is the line when my card play switches from attitude to not-attitude?

This is a topic Philip Martin harped on a lot in his series of hands that inspired my initial series of hands. I dug one post up in particular where he rants a bit about it. His basic complaint is that you end up with the low card meaning different things depending on context and the two partners might end up disagreeing on what context it is since they see different things. So his basic premise is that whenever it's ambiguous you play reverse attitude for the 'obvious shift'. Want a shift to the 'obvious' suit? Play low to this suit. Want to avoid the obvious shift? Play high to this suit. This has the advantage that even when the two partners don't agree on the context the cards tend to mean the same thing. If I play a low diamond then either I don't want you to play another diamond or I do want you to play a club. Either one will likely accomplish the same thing. Maybe you end up playing a spade instead, it isn't perfect, but we're not in a state where I think high means play a diamond and you think low means play a diamond. This just seems safer to me, and therefore better. Especially if your partner is someone like Andrew or Byung and you're more likely to end up on different sides of the same 'obvious' situation.

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