Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blindly following Garozzo's rule

Are you familiar with Garozzo's rule?  When partner, who has preempted during the auction, leads a side suit, it's a singleton.  There's another claimant to Garozzo's rule which applies to the opening leader himself: When a singleton is a reasonable lead against a suit contract, lead it.

Perhaps one is a corollary of the other.  But the first form of the rule was told to me by my friend Mike who had it straight from the great man himself.

So, holding this hand the other day (both sides vulnerable): ♠74 AK8 642 ♣KJ852, I listened to the following auction in second seat: pass, pass, 1, 2♠, 3, pass, 4, all pass.  My partner led the ♣7 and dummy was ♠Q98 Q643 KQ85 ♣43.  My first impression, following Garozzo's rule, was that the 7 was a singleton (according to the late Barry Crane, the 7 on opening lead is always a singleton).  However, we play 3/5 leads so that makes it slightly less likely that the 7 is a singleton, at least on the basis of Crane's rule.  Could declarer have five clubs?  Let's see.  I have 11 hcp, dummy has 9, declarer opened and my partner made a vulnerable jump overcall.  That doesn't give declarer much in the way of extras.  A decent second suit of clubs may be just what was needed to raise to the game.  I therefore followed with the 2.  Declarer, with A9, played the 9 with a bemused expression and quickly wrapped up 10 tricks, the only declarer in the room to do so.

Rewind!  I wasn't quite truthful there.  My LHO (declarer) didn't raise to 4 – the final contract was 3 like it was at pretty much every table.  So, there was less justification for me to assume declarer had five clubs – indeed, the failure to raise to game probably denied a good second suit.  In reality, I didn't give that aspect of the problem much thought.  I just assumed that partner's 7 was a singleton!

The moral(s) of the story?
  • there is no substitute for thinking at trick one;
  • all bridge rules are subject to exceptions;
  • there is no substitute for thinking at trick one;
  • when partner has made a pressure bid (opposite one's own passed hand), his hand will not be as one-dimensional as it might otherwise be: indeed it's possible for partner to have a second four- or five-card suit which he prefers to lead;
  • there is no substitute for thinking at trick one;
  • Garozzo's rule does not apply universally because it is essentially predicated on the notion that if a suit is good enough to preempt in, it's good enough to lead – but this suit was AJT532 which would generally not be a good lead unless one is trying for a second round ruff in partner's hand.
This board was just one of a disastrous session in which my partner and I, who seldom score below 50%, managed a whopping 38%! But, we were able to have a good laugh about it later :)

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