Passion of The Game of Bridge

Opening Lead Mini Course: Understand What To Do – 1 of 4

Statistically in general, you will spend 25% of your game of bridge doing the opening lead. Most of the time the contract is not really sensitive to the opening lead. But with the bidding become more precise and aggressive where wrong opening lead can determine whether a slam or game is made, then to make sure the person across the table cannot whinge and to make you a more than average bridge player, for sure there are some good guideline or maybe rule of thumb when it comes to do opening lead. This is one of them…

This article is one out of three about Opening Lead. See: Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Choosing the opening lead should NEVER be automatic anymore. You should consider:

  1. What indication from the bidding ? What would be likely the theme of declarer play ? Should you attack or passively wait?
  2. Is it suit contract or No Trump Contract ? (They need to be defensed DIFFERENTLY)
  3. Which card to be pulled from your hand ?

So, (1) and (2) above are for choosing which suit to lead, and (3) is the easiest one as this is mostly what have you agreed with your partner (partnership agreement).

Passive Lead

Passive lead is a lead from suit with no honor that has 3 or longer cards. For trump suit, it’s from 2 or 3 card (not singleton) with no honor. The idea is not to give any extra trick for declarer. Of course there are occasions where this lead fail to work, for example: you lead from 3 rags and partner has doubleton Queen – without the lead declarer has to guess but with the lead you make it easier to declarer. But most of the time, passive lead will benefit your side, especially when the condition is one of below:

  1. Declarer have poor fit with dummy (reluctant fit by dummy)
  2. Minimum points (for example: partner takeout double and you still have 6HCP)
  3. Declarer has no side suit
  4. Dummy is weak
  5. Defending Grand slam contract
    On grand slam, good opponent will have most of the high card (or void in certain suit) – so just lead passively.
  6. Defending 6NT contract
    Especially with honor on other suit, you need to just wait the trick as partner usually doesn’t have or very minimum high card

Active or Attacking Lead

Active lead is a lead from suit with honor: sequence, broken or even only 1 honor with the intention of killing the contract as early as possible. This leads carry certain risk (giving declarer a trick otherwise cannot be get) and sometime depended on partner to support the attack. For example: leading from K432, this require partner to have at least 1 top honor (A or Q) in order to succeed. The risk is give away trick that declarer doesn’t deserve (Declarer may have Queen doubleton facing Ace with 2 small card – only 1 tricks without the lead)

  1. Dummy has long suit (which can be established as trick or to ditch loser)
  2. Opponent has shown extra value (for example: opponent try to go to slam)
  3. Against small slam in suit contract (6NT need to be defended passively on opening lead)
  4. If opponent (especially declarer) made pre-emptive bid (hence unlikely have too much strength on other suit)

Choosing The Lead

So, before making an opening lead, you should got the feel (use the guidance above) whether to do the attack or just passively wait for the trick. Based on that, if then decide which suit to lead.The next 2 articles will give you a picture regarding Lead against suit contract- part 2 or Lead against NT contract – part 3.

And as mention above, if you have chosen the suit that you want to lead, the easiest part is to choose which card on the suit to lead (This is discussed in9 Part 4)

By all means the list above is not exhaustive list. There are some other conditions that is not listed as well as there will be condition that suits neither. The good thing is that all player in the field (assuming you play duplicate) will most likely experience the same problem, the bad news is you still have to lead.

Just remember this: with bidding system is more and more precise, complicated and aggressive, there will be more and more contract that can be made or not depending on what is the opening lead.

So, you should always have a good reason for your choosing. Prepare the answer of “why you lead that?” from partner – every time !

Next read: Part 2- Lead against suit contract- part 2

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