Passion of The Game of Bridge

Opening Lead Mini Course: Lead Against NT Contract – 3 of 4

Opening Lead Mini Course: Lead Against NT Contract – 3 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 2 and Part 4.

General Theme

The nature of No Trump defense is to race against declarer in establishing tricks from the long suit and/or high card. Defenders has advantage as they are the one doing the first opening lead. Therefore, timing is everything. If you have long suit but it will takes 3 tricks to established, then probably declarer will already have his needed trick. Holding Queen, Jack or 10 is often more valuable than just Ace (QJ9x [possible 2 tricks] is more defensively valuable than Axxx [just 1 trick] )

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. Lead Ace without having the King (unless it’s partner’s suit)
  2. Declarer/dummy long suit (unless you have very strong and long suit)
  3. Lead singleton/doubleton (unless strong indication partner could have this suit)

Priority guideline

In order of priority:

  1. Lead according to specific bid (if any). For example: lead directing double, lightner double, etc
  2. Your own strong and long suit (4+ more cards with at least 2 touching honors), only if you have side entry
  3. Partner suit (if partner has bid)
  4. Your long suit that opponent has bid (but your suit has to be very strong, at least 3 honors sequence, i.e:KQJ9x)
  5. Any suit with at least 3 top sequence, e.g: 9872, J1098 – this lead will not likely to give away tricks to opponent
  6. Long suit with at least 1 honor and 4+cards – risky attacking lead if only 4 cards, but the longer the safer, more honor the safer.
    Lead with only 1 honor or broken sequence (KJxx+ or AQxx+) will only be successful if partner has honor or length on the led suit. That’s why it’s risky.
    Do not lead this against 6NT or 7NT. But prefer this lead after opponent preemptive.
  7. Unbid major suit (choose longer and/or stronger one) – in the hope that this is partner long suit.
    Major suit got more priority because usually declarer will fall into NT contract once they cannot find fit in Major. Meaning usually they don’t have the most major holding on the table.
  8. Unbid minor suit(choose longer and/or stronger one)- in the hope that this is partner long suit
  9. Dummy second suit , if not: dummy first suit.
    In case opponent bid all the suit, leading dummy suit is better than declarer suit as usually declarer will have stronger hand. Dummy second suit is preferred as it is usually the weaker one.

Example 1:

West North East-Declarer
1 1 1NT Pass
3NT All Pass
32 Dealer: West
9876 Vul: NS

Comment: The distribution of point is roughly known: West has around 19 HCP where East have at least 6 HCP , since you have 9 HCP then partner will have maximum of 6HCP. Looking at your hand, you have 5 tricks already if K of Club can take a trick and become the entry of your strong diamond. So, instead of leading partner suit, just lead  Diamond. with this scenario, partner know your strength and you can still lead partner suit later on (Priority 2).

Example 2:

West North East-Declarer
Pass 1NT Pass
2 Pass 2 Pass
3NT All Pass
QJ542 Dealer: North
104 Vul: NS

Comment: With declarer has at least 15HCP and West has around 10HCP, then partner will have around 9HCP. You don’t have really a strong suit, declarer has Heart and dummy has Spade so, the long suit that you lead should be the Diamond. (Priority 6)

Example 3:

West North East-Declarer
1 1NT All Pass
KJ87 Dealer: North
T92 Vul: EW

Comment: East has around 16HCP, partner at least 12, and West will have max 7 HCP. You don’t have strong suit, just lead partner’s suit. Heart. (Priority 3)

Next read: Part 4 – Which Card to Lead?

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