Wednesday Play at The Hutt (09)

This week, I want to talk more about opening leads.

There are two key things you should think about when making your opening lead: the SUIT you are going to lead and which CARD in that suit you should lead. For now, I want to focus on opening leads against a TRUMP contract.

Generally, you will either choose your own suit to lead, or you will lead another suit that has prospects of a ruff. Thus, a singleton lead is often a good idea, as long as your partner is aware that you are looking for a ruff. The lead of a doubleton is also made when you may be looking for a ruff, but not at trick two. Therefore it is very important that you adhere to a proper system of leading a) from length and b) from shortage. From length, you would lead fourth highest if you have one or more honour cards in the suit and expect partner to play their highest to help you establish tricks in your suit. But you only lead your low card if the suit does not have a sequence of touching cards at the top. Why?
Because leading your lowest card will risk declarer scoring a cheap trick with one of his low cards. When leading from a doubleton, you must always lead the HIGHER card, because if you lead the lower, your partner may assume that it is either a singleton or lowest from three or four to an honour. Making sure, when you can, that partner understands what you are doing is a huge part of defending. It does not help if your partner has no idea what it is that you are trying to do.

I looked at some opening leads made in Wednesday’s session (Wednesday 10/3/21). Here are some ‘not so good’ opening leads that were made by different players.

This was the heart suit. The contract was 5D and one defender led the eight! Declarer could have made the NINE if necessary. And another defender led the TEN, which of course only mattered if partner wanted to get any idea what the opening leader had. The QUEEN should have been the obvious lead.

Would you believe that two people led the QUEEN against a heart contract? One way to ensure that the queen was never going to take a trick. This time, fourth highest was best, imagine leading the queen and finding that partner had a singleton king! Not this time
but a terrible lead nevertheless.

Unbelievably, one player led the SEVEN against a 4S contract. And on the same board, with the diamond suit in the same hand being ¨ J7, three players led the SEVEN! With such a great heart suit the opening lead should be clear cut, but if you do decide to lead a diamond and look for that ruff, the JACK is the correct lead because if you lead the SEVEN partner will never believe that you have J7 doubleton, and is more likely to play you for singleton. Many defensive disasters happen when you have no set and proper system of ‘carding’, both on opening leads and in the follow up play.

These were the red cards that one defender held when on lead against a spade contract. The lead was the singleton heart. WHY, when you have apparent tricks in diamonds, two if declarer and dummy have two each, or a certain trick if the ace isn’t ruffed at trick one, PLUS the possibility of a heart ruff later, if that is needed.

Now for an opening lead against 3NT. The obvious SUIT to lead on the opening lead was CLUBS:
The obvious CARD to lead is the QUEEN, but there were leads of the TWO, the SIX, and the TEN. The six was I suppose understandable, being fourth highest, and the chances were that partner had one of three cards: the ace, king, or nine. But in that case, the lead of the queen would still work out, so why take the risk? The two was little different in effect to the six, but it would have told partner that you had only four clubs (‘fourth highest’!), and the ten would have come to no harm other than totally misleading partner, who would expect T98 instead of QJT!

Opponents have happily bid to 4S. Would you lead the ace of diamonds? Well, six Wednesday players did just that, making 4S so easy that declarer did not even raise a sweat. If you lead the ace (without the king in support) from a long suit you should have good evidence that partner will be able to ruff the second round. There would have been no such evidence that this was the case, and more evidence for the opening leader to think that declarer may have the king of diamonds, which was indeed the case.

Many years ago when I first played bridge at the Wellington club, there were a few players who would always lead their aces when on opening lead. Apart from the fact that these leads invariably helped declarer, we also made use of a secondary bit of information: if these people had not led an ace on their opening lead, we could be sure that they did not have one. How easy does that make declarer’s play?

And finally, to cap it all, against 4H, there were FOUR opening leads from AQJ8 of, wait for it....
yes, you guessed it, the eight of clubs!!!! With lots of sensible leads in all the other suits. Need I say more?