X-Def 02

Here are my recommendations for opening leads from certain holdings in your strongest suit. Note that it is not always best to attack your own ‘strongest’ suit, be it against No Trump or suit contracts. However this review will give you a start towards developing your opening lead skills.

a) Your lead against 3NT? b) Your lead against 4S? holding

  1. AQ972
  2. QJ97
  3. K972
  4. AJ763
  5. KQT2
  6. AK93
  7. QJ542
  8. AKT94
  9. J9432
  10. AJT32

Hand 1. This is a great suit to attack a No Trump contract. While it may depend on the bidding and whether the contract is 1NT, 2NT or 3NT, the correct lead is the SEVEN, fourth highest. You are hoping that partner will produce a high card and even if her highest is only the ten, if she later gains the lead and is able to lead a diamond through declarer’s king, you could still make four diamond tricks. Against a spade contract, do NOT lead this suit at all. While once in a hundred hands your ace may run away, the rest of the time you will do best to wait and keep the AQ as a tenace over declarer’s king if he has it.

Hand 2. Lead the QUEEN. This is a good holding and puts you immediately on the attack. The nine is a good card to go with the QJ. This is also an excellent lead against e.g. a spade contract, you can hope for two tricks in the suit because you have only four cards in it and this makes it more likely that you can set up two tricks in diamonds in time to be able to take them, the best you can hope for when spades are trumps and opponents have a good spade fit.

Hand 3. Lead the two, your lowest as well as fourth highest. You can hope for tricks against No Trumps as well as a suit contract if partner has either the ace or queen.

Hand 4. Another great hand to defend a No Trump contract. Lead the 6, your fourth highest. Even better than hand 1 because any honour card in partner’s hand will help establish five tricks in the suit for you. No guarantees but the theory is sound: you give away tricks to establish tricks. Partner is unlikely to have more than three, maybe only two diamonds, so keep the communication open by keeping your AJ and leading your low one. What would you lead against a spade contract? The worst possible lead is fourth highest. This will
almost certainly give a trick away and that trick may be the only one you could take in the diamond suit. Is there any merit in leading the ace? While I would always choose another suit to lead against a spade contract, the lead of the ace makes some sense, if you are hoping that partner has a singleton diamond and can ruff the second round.

Hand 5. The KING is a clear cut lead against No Trumps or a suit.

Hand 6. Against No Trumps, either the ace or the three could work out. Much would depend on the bidding and what you could expect in partner’s hand. If partner might have only two diamonds, then lead the three, hoping partner has the queen. If you start with the ace, you might block the suit. That is, against No Trumps. But against e.g. a spade contract, you have a 100% choice of lead. A well known
American player once said: “God didn’t deal you the AK in the same suit for you to lead any other suit”. So, the ace against a suit, waiting to see dummy and partner’s SIGNAL. Now that I have mentioned SIGNAL, we will need to talk soon about signals, because you just
cannot do without them. We will discuss signals later in the piece.

Hand 7. Definitely fourth highest against No Trumps, and I would also lead fourth highest against a suit, you don’t have any ‘stuffing’ to back up the QJ and your best hope is for any honour in partner’s hand; the lead of the queen might well block the suit if partner has e.g. Kx or Ax but of course the downside of it is that partner might have Ax and dummy Kx. But on balance, the fourth highest diamond will work out best against any contract, IF you decide to lead the suit.

Hand 8. A very easy one. Against No Trumps, a low one: lose a trick and hope to make four tricks later, when either you or partner get the lead. To save confusion and ensure that partner returns one, lead the FOUR, the 10 or 9 may not be clear enough to partner, who might think you have no honours in the suit. You can’t afford to give any tricks away against a suit contract, so of course you must lead the ace to see what partner has to say. Your hope, when you lead the ace from this holding, is that partner will have a doubleton and be able to ruff the third round.

Hand 9. A no brainer, lead the three, fourth highest. Leading from length headed by the jack is not a great lead against a suit contract. Against No Trumps it might be your only hope.

Hand 10. Against No Trumps, many might lead the TEN, this being an ‘interior sequence’, but fourth highest could work out better, either is OK as long as you do not lead the ace. Against a suit contract I would never lead this suit on the opening lead, there must surely be a better lead available! But if you are forced to lead diamonds at gunpoint, lead the ace.

In the next chapters we will talk about SIGNALLING, an indispensable part of defence, without which you just cannot defend effectively.