Passion of The Game of Bridge

Opening Lead Mini Course: Lead Against Suit Contract – 2 of 4

Opening Lead Mini Course: Lead Against Suit Contract – 2 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 1, Part 3 and Part 4.

General Theme

The nature of defending suit contract is to cash/claim side suit winner (before ditched by declarer) or “steal” declarer trump trick (by ruffing the side suit). Therefore holding Ace or King while defending suit contract is much better than having Queen or Jack since by the third round of a suit, usually somebody already can use the trump card to win.

Remember: the guideline below is only for opening lead (trick #1) . The subsequent lead is unique for each hand depending on dummy, partner’s signal, declarer play, etc.

Not recommended

  1. Never underlead from Ace for opening lead (lead small from Axx+. If you really need to lead that suit, lead the Ace)
  2. Do not lead singleton trump suit (even declarer has 10 cards fit, partner can still have Kx)
  3. Do not lead declarer suit other than trump suit (if warranted)
  4. Do not lead doubleton with K,Q,J or 10 (Kx, Qx, Jx or even 10x)

Priority guideline

In order of priority:

  1. Lead according to specific bid (if any). For example: lead directing double, lightner double, etc
  2. AK doubleton (not trump suit)
    The plan is to cash the first two tricks. Partner need to give suit preference at 2nd trick. Switch to partner’s suit at trick#3, if this win, partner then can give a ruff.
  3. Lead long suit (4 card+) headed by AK
    Hoping partner to ruff .
  4. Lead Ace (not trump suit), only when:
    – singleton Ace
    – defend against 5 level contract, and the suit of the Ace is unbid suit
    – defend against slam in suit contract
    – declarer preempt (likely do not have many other point in side suit)
    – the suit is very long (7+ cards)
  5. If you have long trump (say 4+ card) and long side suit, lead your longest suit to force declarer to ruff and shorten his/her trump holding (forcing defense)
  6. Lead trump , only when:
    – opponent made sacrifice bid  (meaning your side have most of HCP, opponent trick will be mainly from trump, hence to avoid extra trick from ruffing, lead trump)
    – opponent avoid No Trump (obviously due to lack of HCP or stopper)
    – you have long and strong trump (to prevent declarer makes additional trick by ruffing in dummy)
    – if you are strong at declarer second suit
    – if declarer show 2 suiters, lead trump (For example: 1H – 1 S// 3C – 4H, which obviously shows that declarer have 5cards Heart and 5 cards Club: lead heart!)
    – defense against grand slam (unless singleton)
    – do not lead trump if you don’t have any reason above, especially if you have singleton trump.
  7. Singleton (you want to get a ruff, so you have to have some trump!)
    – only if partner can have entry (in the hope partner can return the suit and give you a ruff)
    – avoid singleton lead if your trump holding is strong enough (will give the same trick without ruffing)
  8. Suit with 2 or more touching honors (safe attacking suit)
  9. Partner’s suit (if partner bid, especially overcall)
    – if you hold AQx+ in partner suit and not sure if partner got the K do not lead (if partner has overcalled, he is sure to have the K)
  10. Lead opponent side suit if you have length and stopper (minimum QJ10+ or better) in that suit (giving partner a ruff without risking establishing the suit)
  11. Ace from doubleton
  12. Your longest suit with no honor
  13. Suit with honor  or broken honors (risky attacking suit)
  14. Unbid suit
  15. Dummy first suit

Example 1:

West North East-Declarer
Pass 1 2
2 pass 4 all pass
32 Dealer: North

Comment: Dummy will likely to hold about 6-8HCP and declarer at least has 16HCP for his jump to game. With 12 point on your hand, partner will have at most 4-6 HCP. So, going through the priority above, you will find that leading Q of Diamond (priority 8) is the best choice. This lead did not give away any trick (if oponent have A and K, they always get 2 tricks. If partner has K, declarer always got 1 trick only. If partner has A, declarer always got his trick, but if dummy has the K, the lead is excellent)

Example 2:

West North East-Declarer
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 All pass
10943 Dealer: West

Comment: Lead club (Priority 1 – Ace or King is up to your agreement with partner) and wait the preference signal from partner when you play the second trick of club. The other plus in leading this AK doubleton is you will be able to see the dummy without giving up any trick and you are still in the next lead.

Example 3:

West North East-Declarer
Pass 4 All pass
Q2 Dealer: West
Q32 Vul: NS

Comment: Declarer made preemptive call and everybody pass. So, lead the Ace (priority 4).  On other hand when you don’t have the Ace, lead Club (priority 13) as in general you need to be more aggressive if opponent makes preemptive call.

Next read: Lead against NT contract – part 3

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