Polling You #68, Bridge Defense, Broken Leads, Day 4


In this lesson, again we focus on the opening lead when the opponents work their way into a 3 Notrump contract.  As we’ve seen earlier in our Incredible Defender series when playing against Notrump contracts, sound opening leads include top of sequence leads, fourth best leads, leading partner’s bid suit, signaling count to partner, etc. 

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In this lesson, we turn our attention to leads from broken suits.  Among the most common lead opposite a Notrump contract is:

  1. Fourth best leads promising an honor – i.e., the bottom of “something.”
  2. Lead the top of a broken sequence – an honor sequence with 3 of 4, missing the third spot (as Queen from QJ9…). 
  3. Lead the top of an interior sequence – an honor sequence again with 3 of 4, missing the second spot (the Jack from KJ109…).
While we may have heard of these leads, perhaps we are not entirely convinced of their effectiveness to maximize our defensive trick taking ability.  Fair enough, few opening leads are guaranteed to work flawlessly under all conditions!   Indeed, aspiring Bridge players are still required to think.    In earlier lessons we’ve discussed inferences, pointing out the benefits of going far beyond looking at your 13 cards.  Listening to the bidding is critical.  Be an inquisitive Bridge player, asking yourself questions like:
  1. What were the opponents’ bids? 
  2. How high did they go and what are their estimated combined points? 
  3. What do you know about their hand shape?
  4. How many points does that leave for your partner?
  5. Did your partner bid? (or perhaps pass an opportunity to double opponents’ artificial bid)
  6. Did the opponents auction proceed smoothly or did they hesitate, make inadvertent gestures and the like (players must never deliberately signal their partner), make inaudible noises and the like?

On the first three hands, the opening leader West has identical cards.   So having given due diligence analyzing the bidding, you’re ready to table your opening lead from a broken sequence hoping for the best.  Okay, here we go…


Polling You 68, Lead 1

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ 7 6 5
K 4 2
A J 10 3 2
♣ 5 4
♠ 10 4
J 10 8 5 3
♣ A 9 3 2
♠ K 9 8 3 2
A Q 7
5 4
♣ 8 7 6
♠ A Q J
9 6
9 8 7 6
♣ K Q J 10
West North East South
1 ♣
Pass 1 Pass 1 N
All pass
Trick West North East South
1. W J 2 7 6
2. W 3 4 Q 9
3. E 5 K A 6
4. E ♣ A ♣ 4 ♣ 8 ♣ 10
5. W 10 ♠ 5 4 7
6. W 8 ♠ 6 ♣ 6 8
7. W K A 5 9
8. N ♠ 4 ♠ 7 ♠ 2 ♠ J
9. S ♣ 2 ♣ 5 ♣ 7 ♣ K
10. S ♣ 3 2 ♠ 3 ♣ Q
11. S ♣ 9 3 ♠ 8 ♣ J
12. S ♠ 10 10 ♠ 9 ♠ A
13. S Q J ♠ K ♠ Q

Lead #1 – With 13 High Card Points, South opens 1 Club – the stronger four card minor suit.  North descriptively bids 1 Diamond with 3 honors and a 5 card suit.  Looking for extra points in a Notrump contract, South rebids 1 Notrump.

The declarer’s side appears to hold 19-22 points, leaving 18-21 remaining points.  Holding 10 HCP, West deduces partner East may hold 8-11 points.  West attempt to pin a Heart honor in the dummy, lead the Heart Jack hoping to promote your Hearts before the opponents promote their long Diamond suit.  North holds the King back until the third trick.  While East no longer has an entry to West’s promoted Heart suit, East returns a Club to West’s Ace for 6 tricks.  Eventually, East’s Spade King takes the setting trick.

Polling You 68, Lead 2

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
♠ 7 6 5
A 7 6
♣ K Q J 10 8 7
♠ 10 4
J 10 8 5 3
♣ A 9 3 2
♠ K Q J 9 8 3 2
4 2
4 3 2
♣ 4
♠ A
A Q 9 7 6
J 10 9 8 5
♣ 6 5
West North East South
1 ♣ 1 ♠ 2
Pass 3 ♣ Pass 3
Pass 3 ♠ Dbl 3 N
All pass
Trick West North East South
1. W ♠ 10 ♠ 5 ♠ J ♠ A
2. S ♣ A ♣ 7 ♣ 4 ♣ 6
3. W ♠ 4 ♠ 6 ♠ 8 5
4. E ♣ 2 ♠ 7 ♠ K 6
5. E ♣ 3 6 ♠ Q 7
6. E ♣ 9 7 ♠ 9 8
7. E 3 ♣ 8 ♠ 3 9
8. E 5 ♣ 10 ♠ 2 9

Lead #2 – 

North bids 1 Club with 13 High Card Points plus a few more for the excellent Club suit minus one for the stiff Heart King.  With a 7 Losing Trick Count hand, East should be 1 Spade (too nice to preempt 3 Spades).  South responds 2 Heart, the higher of the two 5 card suits.  With an excellent 6 card Club suit, North rebids 3 Club.  South responds 3 Diamonds, using “picture bids” to fully describe South’s red-suited hand.  Unsure what to do next after South’s forcing bid, North cuebids East’s Spade suit at the 3 level.  East wastes no time doubling the artificial cuebid for lead direction and South rebids 3 Notrump.

When East expresses strong interest in the Spade suit (Spades bid and doubled opponents 3S cuebid), West cooperates with partner East, lacking a better plan.  While the opponents seem to have 25 distributional points, holding 10 points and an opportunity to help partner along with a re-entry (Club Ace or high Diamond), West leads the Spade 10 – the top of doubleton.   With West’s Spade re-entry, South is set 3 tricks.

Polling You 68, Lead 3

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
♠ A K Q J 9 8 7

♣ J 10 8 7 5
♠ 10 4
J 10 8 5
K Q 3
♣ A 9 3 2
♠ 6 5 3 2
3 2
9 8 7 6 5 4
♣ 4
♠ —
A K Q 9 7 6 4
A J 10
♣ K Q 6
West North East South
1 ♠ Pass 3
Pass 4 ♠ Pass 4 N
Pass 5 Pass 5
Pass 5 ♠ Pass 5 N
All pass
Trick West North East South
1. W K 2 4 A
2. S ♣ 2 ♣ 5 ♣ 4 ♣ Q
3. S ♣ 3 ♣ 7 5 ♣ K
4. S 5 ♠ 7 2 A
5. S 8 ♠ 8 3 K
6. S 10 ♠ 9 ♠ 2 Q
7. S ♣ A ♣ 8 ♠ 3 ♣ 6
8. W J ♠ J 6 4
9. W Q ♣ 10 7 10

Lead #3 – 

North opens 1 Spade with a fantastic Spade suit and a black handed 4 Losing Trick Count Hand, despite only holding 11 High Card Points.  With a huge 19 HCP hand and excellent Heart suit, South makes a strong jump shift to 3 Hearts.  From here the auction goes bad, North disregarding South’s assertion as captain, questionably jumping back to 4 Spades.  Befuddled, South bids 4 Notrump, both probably clueless whether the bid is “to play” or Ace asking.  Uncertain, North bids 5 Diamond showing 1 Ace.  South returns to 5 Heart, ostensibly to play but with a void North makes another questionable call balancing in 5 Notrump buying an overboard auction.

On defense, it’s clear the opponents have shown long major suits with a misfit.  At a lower contract level, West would lead the Heart Jack from a broken sequence.   But with South strongly bidding Hearts, try leading the Diamond King hoping to later win a Heart (or partner a Spade).  On play, West must not let North win a Club trick, holding back with the Club Ace.  After East shows out on the second Club trick, West knows the suit splits 5-4-3-1.  Incidentally, when opponents are in 6 Notrump (as opposed to 6 in a suit contract), we seldom lead away from a King or Queen – better to make the declarer guess finesses.

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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,



  1. richbria says:

    Interesting to note the not-classic bidding on Hand 3. It is probably impossible to defeat 6 Clubs on this hand – not so easy to bid it, but…….

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Rich,
      Yes, in the hypothetical auction, openers 4 Spade bid is VERY questionable. Regardless of support, many players would agree that responder’s 3 Heart strong jump shift definitely sets the trump suit with a nearly self-sustaining trump suit (with a suit like AQ10xxx, responder should simply bid 2H with 17-19 HCP). If so, then opener’s 4S bid does not seem to support partnership harmony. Certainly BridgeHands does not condone the bidding. We merely offered the hypothetical bidding as a diversion on our three hand (1-3) illustration to demonstrate how the opening lead can vary greatly depending on opponents auction and contract level.
      Cheers, Michael
  2. Jeff Holst says:

    I am sorry, but am I missing something in that last paragraph (that starts with “For those who block the suit”) ? The paragraph does not seem to go with that last hand. Have I missed something in the context?

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hear Jeff,
      You are absolutely correct! Sorry for the confusion – that paragraph inadvertently was transposed to the wrong hand. We will fix the error right away.
      Warm Regards,
  3. Charles Lawson says:

    Polling You 68, Lead 2 – I play that after the 1S overcall that a double of the 3S cuebid says “Partner DO NOT lead my suit, lead something else.”, since it would be normal for the partner to lead your suit.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Charles,
      Yes, most high level Bridge players agree to use the inverted meaning when RHO subsequently cuebids your suit (typically at the 3 level).
      (1C) – P – (1D) – 1H;
      (3C) – P – (3H) – X;
      ( ?)
      The benefit of passing RHOs cuebid for lead direction is to prevent the LHO access to two additional bids they otherwise would not enjoy (had the 1H bidder passed opponents 3H cuebid). If a player Doubles the cuebid for lead direction, ow the LHO can also Pass or Redouble at their turn to call.
      For instance, many advanced players agree that after the Double of a cuebid, the Redouble shows a first or second round control opponents suit (Hearts in the above example). Passing the Double may be used to show a half-stopper, general strength, uncertainty, waiting, etc.
      Bottom line – when playing against high level opponents, be mindful they may employ advanced bidding methods when you or partner Double their cuebids. That said, a large number of serious Duplicate Bridge players with several thousand masterpoints do not use these sophisticated agreements. At BridgeHands, from time to time we have mentioned advanced methods like this but generally try to stay focused on the lesson at hand.
      Good luck, Michael
  4. BridgeHands says:
    Looking back on Poll #68, we ask the question:
    Opponents are in a 3 Notrump contract and it’s your lead from a broken suit. Which of the following is NOT correct?
    Our pollsters results are:
    8 percent – Lead King from KQ1032
    9 percent – Lead 10 from Q10943
    13 percent – Both of the above
    46 percent – Lead Jack from J9874
    24 percent – All of the above
    Whenever we hold a sequence suit and find it our best lead, most agree our priority is:
    1. Lead the top of a sold sequence
    2. Lead the top of a broken sequence where the top two of four honors are connected
    3. Lead the top of a connected inner honor sequence where the bottom two of four honors are connected
    Perhaps the wording of our question was a bit tricky, asking which of the following was *** NOT *** correct (sort of a double negative).
    So indeed, leading a Jack from J9874 would not be a favorable lead. Doing so might cost the partnership one or even two tricks, particularly when the leader’s partner holds an unprotected King.
    For our regular subscribers and readers/viewers, you’ll appreciate how we regularly discount the worth of an isolated Jack in a side suit. And on this holding if we really need to lead this so-so suit, we’d prefer to lead the top of the inner sequence – the 9 (just in case the 10 resides in the dummy to our left). On the above three hands, each selected lead is the most favorable from that holding.
    Happy Bridge Trails,
  5. doriander says:

    in bws 1sp 2h 3cl is cosidered a HIGH REVERSE for which you need at least 15 points some say 16 or 17
    in an example hand you brought this bidding was adopted with 14 points
    of course if you play 2 over one there is no problem as 2h is gf and you can bid 3cl
    a weak minor 5 5 club spade bicolor is normally opened 1cl in standard bidding
    do you agree?

    • BridgeHands says:
      Yes, in fact in our recent system lesson on the 2/1 auction (and others), we discuss methods where some folks play the so-called “high-reverse” when responder first makes a 2 level response in a new suit and opener rebids a lower ranking suit at the 3 level as you mentioned:
      1S – 2H;
      That said, world-class professional Eric Rodwell recommends an ADDITIONAL treatment where responder may make a 3 level rebid (in a lower ranking suit) with less that 16+ points. The second situation where opener should be allowed to make a 3 level response is when holding a TWO-SUITED. This approach is reasonable since both instances show the nature of opener’s hand – overall strength or double suited length.
      To your second point about opening a 5=x=x=5 suit with a 1 Club bid and rebidding the Spade suit to show a two suiter, yes, some players feel strongly that this treatment allows the opener to elegantly rebid the Spade suit at a lower level, i.e., 2 Spades. However the downside to this philosophy is that when holding a two suiter, it’s quite likely the LHO will make a preemptive bid that will frustrate both the responders bid as well as the opener’s rebid. Thus, many players prefer to get off on the right foot by beginning the bidding with a 1 Spade bid and later rebid Clubs if appropriate. Bottom line, even Bridge teachers have varying views on how to bid a 5=x=x=5 hand.
      Happy Bridge trails, Michael

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