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The honor roll of the American Contract Bridge League—the list of top winners of master points—has a new leading lady, Mary Jane (Mrs. Jules) Farell of Los Angeles, the personable bridge teacher who has long been rated one of the outstanding players on the Coast. Tournaments there are frequent, entry lists are huge, and each season's master-point harvest yields a bumper crop.
Mary Jane has won seven national championships, many regional titles and virtually every prize offered on the Coast. She took the master-point lead with a spurt of 45 points at the Rocky Mountain Regional tournament in Denver over Independence Day weekend. That put her over the 5,400 mark and just ahead of the former alltime leader and my favorite partner, Mrs. Helen Sobel. Helen had been leading lady since 1947, when she took over from another partner of mine, Sally Young. It detracts nothing from Mary Jane's accession to note that Helen's record of 32 national championships still stands. Indeed, it may never be equaled.
In addition to her charm and brilliant style, Mary Jane is capable of the smooth, steady performance a top-ranked player must always deliver. At the start of her reign, it is perhaps appropriate to illustrate her skill by the deal shown above in which the opening lead was decisive. Cover all the cards except West's until you have studied the bidding and decided on the lead that promises your best chance to defeat the opponent's no trump game.
South's opening bid of two clubs was artificial, showing a strong hand. But it is not forcing to game as it was when this bid was first introduced. Today most players agree that it is forcing only to the level of two no trump if partner's first response is the negative bid of two diamonds.
This change allows the higher no-trump opening bids to be even more precise than they were, reducing their range to two points. An opening bid of two no trump now shows 21-22 points, two clubs followed by two no trump shows 23-24; three no trump shows 25-26, two clubs followed by three no trump shows 27 or more. As you will see when you uncover the other three hands, North had more than enough to warrant going on to three no trump. Meanwhile, what would you lead from the West hand?
If you use point count as a guide only in your bidding, you are overlooking another important area in which it can be valuable: the count can also guide you in the play by telling you what your opponents are pretty sure to have and what your partner simply cannot have.
South's two-no-trump rebid makes it likely that he will hold the ace-queen of hearts. But if you are thinking of trying a waiting lead, count your points and reconsider. You have 10 points in your hand, so partner can't have much and getting him in in time to lead a heart through declarer does not look promising. An opening heart lead from you is necessary.
The standard lead, of course, is the heart jack. But in this situation there is no question who has the ace of hearts, so your hope of trapping the queen in dummy is nil. Furthermore, if partner happens to have the lone queen, all declarer has to do is duck the first trick. So your correct lead is the king of hearts, which enables you to defeat the contract if partner or dummy has the lone queen.
Mary Jane led the heart king. The lead smothered dummy's queen, and declarer could not make his contract. He took two diamonds, five clubs and a heart. But as soon as he led a spade, West had the spade ace and four good hearts to set the contract.