Introduction: Some thoughts

Here are some things you may not know, or even have thought about, when you have begun on your wonderful journey in the game of bridge:

The game of bridge is, like any sport, about competition and scoring points against your opponents. In the bidding stage, there are two pairs bidding against each other to see which side will “buy the contract”. Bidding is, in itself, an art that has to be learnt and developed. We won’t discuss that now.

But when the bidding is over, one side becomes the ‘declaring’ side and the other the ‘defending’ side. The declaring side has only one of the partnership responsible for the play, but the defending side has both partners in active play, so it goes to reason that both partners are responsible for battling against declarer. So, two against one, as long as the two work with each other and not against each other. What one single element of the play of any one deal of the cards would you say is the most crucial?

Few of my readers will say: “The opening lead”, but to me, that is the most important, more than any other. Why? Because after the bidding has ended, the battle begins, and that battle hinges on the very first blow that is struck, and that blow is always struck by the defending pair, specifically the person who makes the opening lead. Does it not therefore make sense that the opening lead is so crucial, and dictates how the battle is to be fought?

What other things should we think about when we are the defenders and, in particular, the partner who has the advantage of striking the first blow?

In the play of any one deal, there are thirteen cards to play, and thirteen tricks that can be taken. It does not matter when the tricks are taken, but how many are taken by the time the hand is over. Therefore the defence must work to a plan that will yield as many tricks as possible, with the primary aim of defeating declarer in whatever contract declarer is playing, if that is possible.

There will be much more to discuss, with some tips that may help you to find the best (no, there is no such thing as ‘perfect’) opening lead whenever you have the advantage of making the first play, and how, with an equally understanding partner, you can make life as hard for declarer as possible. But, in the meantime, let’s take a look at some very normal situations where there should also be some very normal decisions to be made by the player making the opening lead.