Welcome to Basement Bridge

Weekly updates from Kit Jackson offering hints and tips for the modern Bridge player. Enjoy!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Opening Leads – 17 March 2010

There’s no question defence is the hardest part of the game to get right. It helps a lot if the lead gets you off on the right foot. Rest assured no-one ever gets it right all the time. The basic idea is that you either: (a) try to establish tricks for your side or (b) try not to give away tricks to declarer.

As in all contracts if your partner has bid a suit it will most often be right to lead that suit. If partner hasn’t bid then you must decide from a combination of your own hand and the opposition bidding which SUIT will either be the best attacking lead OR the safest lead. First you decide which suit to lead. Then you must lead the “right” card from that suit, so that partner has a chance to work out what to do later in the play.

There are many other styles of leading, but below is a quick run down of what are known as Standard Leads. These Standard Leads tell you which card to lead once you have decided which suit.

  • top of a sequence or a broken sequence – K Q J 10; K Q 10 9; Q J 10 5; etc
  • top of an internal sequence – A J 10 x x; K J 10 9
  • fourth highest from a good suit without a 3-card sequence – Q 10 7 6 2. Note though that with some combinations, e.g. K Q 7 6 3, there is variation depending whether the lead is against NTs or a trump contract – see below for more guidance.
  • lowest from three to an honour – K 8 2
  • top of a doubleton – 8 5
  • MUD (middle, up, down) from three small cards – 9 6 3. Then play the top card (9) on the next round.
  • second highest from four small cards – 10 8 6 3. Then play your original fourth highest card on the next round.

Let’s look at the difference I mentioned when leading against Suit or NT contracts:

K Q 7 6 3

Against a suit contract lead the K but against a NT contract lead the 6. You want fast tricks in a suit contract, but slow tricks when defending NTs. KQ at least guarantees one trick against a suit contract when you have driven out ace but after that declarer will most probably be trumping. Against NT however you are aiming to win the 4th and 5th rounds with your long cards. Note that when you lead top of a sequence against NT contracts you will normally have three cards in the sequence, broken or otherwise – see (a) above. Lacking three, you will need help from partner so lead a small one and on a good day partner will be right there. Even if partner can’t help immediately at least you will have left your teammate with a card in your suit so they can renew the attack if they get the lead.

Sadly none of this Standard Lead wisdom helps you decide which actual suit to lead. All you can do is listen to the bidding and avoid leading their suits. Obviously you can’t do this if they bid everything (!) If declarer on your right has bid a suit and in that suit you hold: K x x x then it’s probably wrong to lead it, even if it’s your only 4 card suit. If there’s no obvious lead, then work backwards by deciding which suits you probably can’t lead and then lead the suit left!

Be warned: nothing works all the time. That is why Bridge is the fascinating game it is. In everything you do there is an element of risk and chance. The idea is simply to do the best you can with cards you have and the information given to you by the bidding.

Have fun!


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