Bridge Tips No 4
††††††††††† Choice of Opening Lead
In no-trump contracts the best ploy for the defenders is to lead their longest suit in the hope of dislodging declarerís high cards in the suit and developing their own small cards as winners.† If partner has bid a suit during the auction then,† provided the opening leader has at least 2 cards in the suit, he should lead that suit.† If partner has not bid a suit during the auction then the opening leader should normally lead his own longest suit.† However, a suit which has been bid by the declarerís side during the auction is unlikely to be the best choice and if this precludes the lead of your longest suit then lead a suit which you hope will be partnerís longest suit.
As far as the choice of card to lead is concerned it is best to stick rigidly to the recommendations given in the EBU Convention Card which can be summarised as follows:
The reason why one should stick rigidly to these recommendations is that, to defend well, it is essential that defenders exchange as much information as possible about the cards they hold.† This is primarily achieved by the specific cards played in various situations.† Nowhere is this more true than in the opening lead.† Note that if the above rules are adhered to, the lead of an honour or a low card which is clearly not the fourth highest denies the holding of the next higher card while the lead of a small card will be the fourth highest from a suit containing an honour or possibly two.† This latter convention allows the use of the so-called rule of eleven which says that if the number of the card led plus the number of cards higher than the card led held in your hand and dummy is subtracted from 11, the answer gives the number of cards in the declarerís hand which are higher than the card led, e.g.:†††
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♠ AT6
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♥ J62 † ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† W leads the H4 against Sís contract of 3NT.† His
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♦ 652† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† partner (E) subtracts 4 from 11 and arrives at the
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♣ A642†††††††††††††† ††††††††††† answer 7.† He can see 2 cards higher than the 4 in
♠ 73††††††††††††††† †††† N†††††††† ††††††††††† ♠ 98542† dummy (N) and has 2 himself so he knows that
♥ K9743††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♥ A8††† ††††††††††† declarer (S) has 3 cards higher than the 4.† If you
♦ 87††† ††††† W† ††††††††††† †† E††††††††††† ♦ KT94††††††††††† reconstitute the declarerís hand you will see that this
♣ Q983†††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♣ JT†††† ††††††††††† is true.
††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††† S††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† Of course, declarer can do the same and know,
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♠ ???†† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† therefore, that E has 2 cards higher than the 4.
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♥ ???†† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† This information is not always of immediate use but
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♦ ???? ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† sometimes it is of vital importance and should always
††††††††††† ††††††††††† ♣ ???†† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† be done.
Against trump contracts, long cards in a side-suit are of no value because, after the first or second lead of the suit, someone, usually the declarer, is able to ruff (i.e. trump) the suit so the aim in choosing a lead is quite different from no-trump contracts.† Firstly, the lead should be as safe as possible, i.e. it should not give away an unnecessary trick.† Secondly, it should if possible be in some way constructive for the defending side.† There are many more lead options against trump contracts.
a.†††††††† Top of a Sequence.† The top of a sequence or broken sequence of high cards is just as good a lead as it is against no-trump contracts and does not necessarily have to be from a long suit, e.g. the lead of the K from KQJ gives nothing away and establishes two potential winners immediately.† Because the third round of a side-suit is likely to be ruffed it would also be right to lead the A from AKx(x) or the K from KQx(x).
b.†††††††† Fourth Highest.† If leading from a broken suit, i.e. a suit with one or two honours but not two high honours in sequence, it is normal to lead the fourth highest for the reasons already explained.† However, it would not be right to lead the fourth highest from a suit headed by the ace because declarer might have the singleton king which would win unnecessarily and your ace could then be ruffed.† If you must lead from a suit headed by the ace, lead the ace but this is not a particularly safe lead and is best avoided if at all possible.
c.†††††††† Finding Partnerís Suit.† Exactly the same rules apply as for leads against no-trump contracts.
d.††††††††††† Singletons and Doubletons.† The lead of a singleton is made in the hope of obtaining a ruff before declarer has the opportunity to draw your trumps.† It is a gamble since, if you do not get your ruff, you are likely to have helped declarer to establish his long side-suit.† Note that ruffing with a holding such as QJx of trumps is pointless since you almost certainly have a natural trump trick anyway.† Also, with 12 points against a contract of 4 hearts, say, how will partner ever get the lead to give you a ruff?† Leading a doubleton is an even more chancy affair and should only be attempted with a trump holding such as Axx.
e.†††††††† Leading a Trump.† The lead of a small trump is often a safe, attacking lead.† It may be declarerís plan to make extra tricks by ruffing losers with dummyís trumps and the lead of a trump will certainly reduce that possibility.† The trump lead is best from three or four small cards because then there is less chance of damaging your partnerís trump holding.