ACBL07 – Defense: Opening Leads           Ward Trumbull

                                                                                                                 Nov 6, 2011

                                                                                                                  Page 1 of 4


      Opening leads can be tough.  You may be a hero/heroin or a bum/bumess. Nobody says it will be easy......BUT if you follow some basic lead rules, you’ll cut down your losses.  The first rule of opening leads is:


                 REVIEW THE BIDDING


                       1.  What is the final contract?       A suit or notrump?

                       2.  Did our side bid a suit?            Did I support partner or

                                                                            vice versa?

                       3.  What suits did they bid?          What suits didn’t they bid?

                       4.  Did they use Stayman, a transfer, Gerber, Blackwood or

                            other conventions?


      The lead depends quite a bit on whether the final contract is in notrump or a suit.  Let’s start with notrump.




      When partner hasn’t bid a suit, there are four typical possible leads against a notrump contract, in order of effectiveness:


            Top of a 3 card sequence   ace from A K Q x            or

                                                         king from K Q J x,          or

                                                         queen from Q J 10 x,     or

                                                         jack from J 10 9 x


            Interior sequence                 queen from A Q J x,       or

                   (2nd card missing)          jack from K J 10 x,         or

                                                         ten from Q 10 9 x


            Top of nothing                      eight from 8 5 3      (hoping to hit

                                                                                         partner’s suit)


            Fourth longest and               seven from K J 8 7,       or            

                 strongest                         two from A J 6 2         See ACBL11                    

                    ACBL07 – Defense: Opening Leads             Nov 6, 2011

                                                                                                                   Page 2 of 4


NOTRUMP CONTRACT LEADS - Partner did bid suit


      When partner has bid a suit, you usually should lead that suit.  NOTE I did not say MUST lead that suit.  It is a judgment may have a good suit of your own to lead instead.  But if you do lead partner’s suit, these rules apply:


            Singleton                     No choice

            Doubleton                   Top honor or not

            3+ without an honor    Top card       (may be a ten)

            3+ with an honor         Bottom card (honor not a ten)


      NOTE: With something like A, A x  or A x x in partner’s suit and a

                  decent suit of you own, you might lead your suit and later pick

                  up declarer’s king with that ace.




      When your team hasn’t bid a suit, here are some guidelines:


            1. DON’T lead the ace from A x x           (i.e.,

                                                                              king with it)

            2. DON’T underlead the ace from A x x,  A x x x , etc.

            3. Lead the ace from A  or A x if:

                    a. Partner could have the king and give you a ruff,      or

                    b. You have a high trump and will get in again.


            4. Lead the top of a 2 card sequence from:


                    A K x x

                    K Q J x     or even  K Q x x

                    Q J x        or even  J 10 x x


                    If you lead a queen, partner has the ace and dummy does not

                    have the king, partner must take the trick with his/her ace.

                    Declarer may have a singleton or doubleton king.  

                    ACBL07 – Defense: Opening Leads              Nov 6, 2011

                                                                                                                     Page 3 of 4


SUIT CONTRACT LEADS – Partner Bid No Suit (continued)


        5. Lead a singleton in hopes partner can give you a later ruff.

            But not a singleton K, Q or J.


        6. Lead high from a doubleton to start a high/low signal for a possible

            ruff, but not from K x, Q x or J x.


        7. It is often good to start with a trump lead; however:

                 Never lead a singleton trump           and

                 Underleading K x x or Q x x is bad   but

                 Underleading A x x can be good.


        8. If you have 4-or-more good trump, lead another 4+ card suit to get

            declarer ruffing; so that you may end up with more trumps.


     *  9. Lead small from one face card such as: K x x, Q x x or J x x.


   * 10. Lead from top of nothing, i.e., a suit without an A,K,Q or J to:


                    a. either hit partner’s good suit, or

                    b. not give anything away from your hand.


   * See ACBL07C – Bidding: Bos Ton


      11. Lead from MUD (middle-up-down) in a 3/4 card suit.  

            Note: To lead the highest card implies a 2 card suit.

                      To lead the lowest card implies the suit has a K, Q or J.


SUIT CONTRACT LEADS – Partner Bid a Suit


      If your partner has bid a suit, you don’t always have to lead that suit.  If you don’t, the rules above still apply.  However, if you do, your lead in that suit depends on whether or not you supported that suit during the bidding.



                   ACBL07 – Defense: Opening Leads              Nov 6, 2011

                                                                                                                    Page 4 of 4


SUIT CONTRACT LEADS – Partner Bid a Suit (continued)


            You did support    - From doubleton lead the top card.


                                           From 3+ cards with 2+ touching honors lead the

                                           top honor.


                                           From 3+ cards without an A, K or Q lead the

                                           top card.


                                           From 3+ cards with Jack x x, lead the jack.


                                          Don’t miss this ….  From  A x or A x x, etc. lead

                                          the ace.


                                   **    From 3+ cards with K x x or Q x x, lead

                                          the smallest card.


           ** This is the only exception to leading the top card in the suit.


           You didn’t support   With an honor (A K Q J 10), lead the top card.


                                           That tells partner that any higher honor he/she

                                           can’t see (his/her hand or dummy), the declarer



                                           From 3+ cards without an honor lead MUD.

                                           That’s Middle Up Down.


                                           Example: From 8 7 3 lead the 7 first then play

                                                           the 8 next time.


                                           NOTE - A MUD sequence tells your partner

                                                        you have at least 3 cards in his/her