Leading Questions Part 1

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When a capable defender chooses a lead, he reviews the bidding, visualizes the dummy and tries to anticipate declarer’s play.

Frank Stewart
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Source: 2005 ACBL Bulletins

Do you lead trumps?

The opening lead is the first step in the defenders’ campaign to defeat the contract or at Matchpoint scoring, to get all the tricks they’re due. When a capable defender chooses a lead, he reviews the bidding, visualizes the dummy and tries to anticipate declarer’s play.

The opening leader may try an aggressive lead from honors, hoping to cash or establish tricks in a hurry, or a passive lead, hoping to avoid helping declarer.

Try these opening lead problems and decide whether you would lead trumps as South. Assume matchpoint scoring. My solutions include a conjectural deal that shows how the lead I like might gain. Since opening leads are not an exact science, I could as easily present a deal in which my suggested lead is disastrous.

Lead a trump. West’s bidding shows a weak, shapely hand, so dummy’s only source of tricks will be ruffs.Only a trump lead and continuation defeat 3.

Lead a trump. Dummy will be weak and will almost surely have a singleton heart and a few clubs. Declarer has heart losers – you have good hearts – and be can dispose of them only by ruffing in dummy.

A trump opening lead holds East to just nine tricks – the best the defense can do.

This time you can see declarer won’t need to ruff spades in dummy: all his spades may be high. Prefer the normal sequential lead of the Q. You may start a successful forcing defense. To lead the A might cost a trump trick.The lead of the Q beats 2; the A lead lets East make it.

To lead a trump is clear when you have such good spades and dummy has advertised a limited hand with a probable singleton spade. To lead low from A- x- x is often correct to keep communication with partner for a second trump lead, but here you know North is unlikely to win 8 trick. Lead the A.

The A lead and a second heart beat the contract.

Trump leads appeal to experts more often than to less experienced defenders. A trump may give nothing away or may prevent declarer from scoring extra trump tricks.

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