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Points Schmoints - CHAPTER 19
Opening Leads: Stop, Look, and Listen

© Marty Bergen


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Index   TOC

Prior Chapter:
THROW LOSERS, KEEP WINNERS                                                   169

Note: Only summaries are included below -
see book for details

Lead Trumps When You Are Not in Doubt                                             179

A Good Lead is All You Need                                                                  182

Watson, I Just Got a Lead                                                                       183

Nervous But Game                                                                                   186

Lead Trumps When You Are Not in Doubt

Everyone has heard the defensive maxim, “When in doubt, lead trumps.” This is about as valuable as most other generalizations.

It’s true you should sometimes lead trumps with unattractive holdings in the side suits. For example, with this hand and auction:


LHO          Partner       RHO          You
—              —              1
            P                4            All Pass

You would lead a trump.

After the opening lead, the defenders will usually be eager to lead trumps when dummy has a short side suit. Frequently, however, it will be too late. It would be nice if you could have seen dummy before leading. Although this is not part of the rules, on some hands the bidding does enable the defense to make an in-sight-ful opening lead.


Page 179
© Marty Bergen



Suitable and Stylish, Too

When it is not right to lead a trump, you will have three suits from which to choose. Two areas of confusion are leads in suits which include the ace and short-suit leads.

1.    Leads in suits which include the ace:

a)  Never underlead an ace against a suit contract at trick one.

b)  If you do not have the king, lead an ace only when:

§  You are defending against a slam (except 6NT).

§  Declarer preempted.

§  Your ace is singleton.

§  Your ace is in the only unbid suit against 5 or 5.

§  Your side promised length and strength in one suit.

§  You have a seven- or eight-card suit. (By the way, why aren't you declarer?).

c)  After trick one, lead the king from AK.

2.    Short-suit leads:

a)  Singletons are invariably good choices.

b)  Doubletons are overrated, especially with one honor.

c)  The best time to lead a short suit is with trump control, e.g., A63.

d)  Avoid a short-suit lead:

§   When you do not need a ruff; e.g., with trump holdings such as QJ9 and KQ10.

§   When you have trump length. With four trumps it is usually correct to lead a long suit to make declarer ruff. This is an example of the forcing game.

Page 181
© Marty Bergen

A Good Lead is All You Need

On every bridge deal, the play begins with the opening lead. The fate of most contracts is at stake. In selecting your lead, you must consider your hand as well as inferences from the bidding.

The advantage of the opening lead was designated to the defense to allow them to select the first suit played. These questions and answers are intended to help you make the most of that advantage.

1.    What are the most desirable leads?

a)  Partner's suit, especially if he promised five or six cards. The proper card to lead is the same one you would have led in any other suit. Therefore, lead low from Q63 or K852.

b)  Top of a three-card (or longer) sequence.

2.    Can you tell me more about sequences?

a)  It is better to lead top of a sequence than fourth-best.

b)  A sequence must contain an honor (remember, the 10 is an honor). A holding of 7654 is not a sequence, it is consecutive garbage.

c)  Against a suit contract, a sequence can be as short as two cards. Lead the king from KQ53, and the queen from QJ64. However, against a notrump contract, lead low from both those holdings.

3.    Partner has not bid and I do not have a sequence. What now?

Prefer to lead a suit the opponents have not shown. In general, try to lead from length against any contract. A lead from Q1074 is more attactive than one from Q107. By the way, it is acceptable to lead away from a king against a suit contract.

4.    What about leading dummy's suit?

Leading through strength is overrated. Lead dummy's suit only when partner is likely to have length and strength behind him.

Last, but definitely not least, no matter how badly partner's lead has worked out, do not sigh or make a face.

Page 182
© Marty Bergen

Watson, I Just Got a Lead

Like a detective, a bridge player must uncover all the evidence needed to solve a problem. Paying attention to everything that happens during the bidding and play of a bridge hand is the trademark of a good sleuth.

An experienced player continuously collects clues. Because both sides are communicating through their bidding and play, information is always available. Unfortunately, most players fail to notice all the clues. Even fewer can apply what they have seen and heard.

Good bridge players also observe what did not happen at the table. For example, if you open the bidding after three passes and eventually become declarer, what do you know?  Neither opponent has 13 points, nor is it likely that your RHO has 11 or 12; he would have opened light in third seat. If you need to locate an honor during the play, this information may be crucial.


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