J 10 8 2
A 10 8 2
9 7 6
K Q 7 3
K J 5 4
K 4 3
A 9 7 2
A Q J 8 5 2
A K 7 6 3
9 6 5 4
10 8 3
One of Gee’s countless innovations in bidding and play is Roman leads, his refinement and extension of Roman discards. I can do no better than to quote his definitive treatment of the subject:
At the first occurrence of play in a suit,
a) Lead of the Ace asks partner for a count in the suit (Standard or Upside Down as agreed by partnership…)
b) Lead of any other honor shows presence of at least 1 more honor in the suit and asks partner to play according to Roman carding or discard as the case may be. I recommend highest of touching honors.
a) Lead of an odd card encourages partner to return in the suit being led. It tends to show at least an honor in the suit being played.
b) Lead of an even discard discourages partner to return in the suit being led. It tends to show lack of honor in that suit. A relatively high even card suggests a shift to a higher-ranking suit other than the trump suit. A relatively low even card suggests a shift to a lower-ranking suit other than the trump suit.
Got all that? (The two-letter alphabet is in the original.) Now let’s watch Roman leads in action.
E/W can make ten tricks in clubs but have no legitimate game. West takes a flyer at 3NT after East rebids his club suit, and indeed 3NT would make on a low heart lead. North, to his credit, chooses a spade instead, but playing Roman leads, which one?
The deuce discourages, denies — “tends to show lack of,” as Gee elegantly phrases it — an honor, and asks for a diamond. (Presumably clubs are out.) The eight or ten discourages, denies an honor, and asks for a heart. The jack shows a second honor, although it’s not entirely clear to me which one. Not the queen, certainly, since you’re supposed to lead highest of touching. The ace? The king?
Mini-Gee finally selects the deuce, which asks for the wrong suit in return — not that there’s a right one — and blocks the suit into the bargain. Declarer ducks in dummy (I would fly the queen and hope), and Gee wins the SK. Let’s pause and think the hand out along with him. We can see seven tricks in dummy. West has shown a balanced near-opener, and any possible diamond finesse is on, so there must be at least eight tricks in the minors, if not nine. Everything indicates that the defense needs to cash out. The question is, which major? You can continue the one your partner has led (admittedly with a discouraging card), in which you hold AKxxx, or shift to the one declarer has bid, and your partner has not signaled for, in which you hold 9xxx.
The choice is clear. Gee shifts to the H6. Declarer plays low, and North wins the HA. To some defenders this might indicate that declarer has another heart honor or two. North’s subsequent return of the S8 — a not very informative spot, but still, it is a spade — might even confirm it.
Gee wins the SK and shifts back to a heart.
It may be some time yet before the pupil surpasses the master.