A well programmed lead by David Bird

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Plenty of books have been written on opening leads. Suppose you flip one open and the learned author tells you:

“The best lead against 4 Spades here is a low Club.”

Several reactions may spring to mind:

“Oh yeah, why?” or “A Heart lead looks better to me.”

The writer is giving you a personal opinion, one that may be difficult to explain logically. Computer analysis is necessary to give a scientific answer to the countless questions that arise on opening leads.

Taf Anthias and I, contemporary mathematics students at Cambridge University back in the 1960s, set out to investigate this approach.

How does computer simulation work?

You choose an auction, such as 1NT-3NT, and a particular West hand that is on lead. You fix the West hand and vary the North, East and South hands randomly.

From the very large number of resultant deals, sometimes over a million, you retain the first 5000 that match the chosen bidding.

The software then tests all 13 possible leads from the fixed West hand against each of the 5000 deals. It then announces which lead works best overall.

After bidding of 1NT-3NT, is it better to lead a major suit or a minor? We will fix this West hand: ♠QJ103 ♥K972 ♦QJ103 ♣5. Our computer software returns these results:

Identical holdings in Spades and Diamonds, but the Spade lead is a better prospect (both at IMPs and matchpoints).

Why is that? When North does not bid Stayman, his average suit length is 2.44 in each major and 4.06 in each minor. East (and West) have 3.59 in each major and 2.91 in each minor.

Lead tip #1

When the bidding is 1NT-3NT, or 2NT-3NT, prefer to lead a major rather than a minor.

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