INTERMEDIATE BRIDGE COURSE
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE HAND
Leads Against Suit Contracts: Many of the guidelines for selection of the actual card to lead against a suit contract are the same as those for appropriate leads against a No Trump contract. When selecting the actual suit itself to lead, however, there are some new considerations. One’s attention, for example, is no longer focused entirely on long suits. After all, declarer has chosen to play in a trump suit specifically so that the defense could not enjoy winners in their long suits. The presence of a trump suit, thus has , not only a strong influence on how declarer proceeds to play the hand, but it, likewise, also influences the way the defenders attempt to defeat the contract. The focus of the defenders must now shift to the strength of their suits; i.e., the high cards they hold. They must attempt to secure the tricks to which they are entitled before declarer can trump or discard losers on winners in a side suit. Remember, declarer’s focus is upon losers and how he/she can eliminate them. Naturally, both sides can utilize these principals, and so the defenders, likewise, may attempt to trump declarer’s winners, and thus, short suits can become a source of tricks for the defending team as well.
1. Strength Versus Length: Against a No Trump contract, since you are attempting to establish a long suit in order to promote one or more small cards which can be developed, you gladly do so, even if you sacrifice a trick in the process, for you are likely to be compensated by the increased number of tricks which are subsequently developed. In a trump suit contract, however, leading a long suit, especially away from high cards within that suit, may cost a trick. In the following hands, notice the difference in leading each of the suits against a No Trump contract and against a suit contract (assuming another suit is trump). Look at the number of winners you are likely to develop versus the number of tricks you sacrifice. Would you normally lead the suit shown against a No Trump contract, a suit contract, or both, and if yes, which card would you lead?
1) DUMMY 2) DUMMY 3) DUMMY 4) DUMMY
YOU 754 PARTNER YOU 743 PARTNER YOU 985 PARTNER YOU K95 PARTNER
K10862 J93 KQJ 1065 AQ742 1063 QJ108 642
DECLARER DECLARER DECLARER DECLARER
AQ A982 KJ A73
Vs. NT 1)3;1;Yes(6) 2)2;0;No 3)4;1;Yes(4) 4)2;0;Yes(Q)
Vs. Suit 1)0;1;No 2)2;0;Yes(K) 3)1;1;No 4)1;0;Yes(Q)
Conclusion: Against a suit contract, the emphasis is upon developing tricks from your strong suits rather than long suits. In doing so, however, one would want to avoid leading a suit which sacrifices a trick. Since you cannot see your partner’s hand, if partner has not bid, suits in which you have a strong sequence are usually safe to lead.
2. Utilizing the Trump Suit: The defenders can often utilize their trumps by ruffing declarer’s winners. The lead of a singleton or doubleton by the defense, in order to establish a ruff involves some risk, especially if partner has not bid the suit. There are, however, certain conditions that increase the likelihood of making such a lead effective, and others in which such a lead offers a poor rate of success. In the following hands, defending against a 4 Spade contract, and with no other suits bid during the auction, should one attempt to establish a ruff or not?
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1) 865 2) QJ98 3) 86543 4) A74
J94 J942 J94 Q987
4 QJ109 AKQJ9 62
Q97643 6 3 J1096
1) Yes 2) No 3) No 4) Yes
Partner Marked Natural Trump You Have Long You Have a
With Honors Tricks Present Trumps and So Trump Control
Make Declarer Trump
Conclusion: Often, a Singleton or a Doubleton is an excellent lead against a suit contract. They are strongly likely to succeed if, (1) Partner has bid your short suit, (2) Partner likely marked with honors, (3) You have a trump control such that you can access partner on a second attempt, if necessary, even if declarer attempts to draw trumps. A singleton or doubleton leads are poor leads if none of the above three conditions exist or if you have a natural trump trick thereby negating the advantage of attempting to trump.
3. Leading Trumps: One often hears the maxim: “When in doubt, lead trumps”. In reality, the opposite is more likely to be true; i.e., one should avoid leading trumps unless one of two specific reasons is present making the lead of trumps a likely fruitful endeavor. The first is to diminish dummy’s trump holding so as to reduce or eliminate dummy’s ruffing capacity. The second reason for leading a trump is when all other suits appear to be unsafe. In most other circumstances one should avoid leading trump since declarer will usually begin by drawing trumps himself/herself before going about declarer’s business of taking winners and discarding losers. The sharp defender will fine tune his/her listening to the bidding of the opponents such that it will usually be clear when a trump lead id likely to be in order. In which of the following bidding sequences by the opponents would a trump lead be in order by the defense because of its likelihood of effectively reducing the ruffing capacity of dummy?
1) DECLARER DUMMY 2) DECLARER DUMMY 3) DECLARER DUMMY
P 1H 1D 1S 1S 2C
1NT 2D 2C 2H 3C 3S
P 3H 4H 4S P
YES YES NO
Conclusion: As you begin to pay increasing attention to the bidding of your opponents, you will start to recognize opportune circumstances for choosing to lead trumps to prevent declarer from ruffing losers. Otherwise, lead a trump only if everything else appears too dangerous. Try not to be “in doubt” when leading a trump. Note: Never lead from a JX, JXX, QX or QXX of trump since it will always forfeit a trick if your partner has the mirror holding; i.e., QXX, QX, JXX or JX.
4. Choosing the Suit To Lead: Clues about which suit to lead against a suit contract include, (1) the bidding by the opponents, (2) whether or not partner has entered the bidding, (3) an unbid suit, and (4) a suit with a strong sequence. All offer a strong chance to promote winners for the defense. Any of the above offers a better likelihood for success than leading away from an honor. If nothing else looks attractive, than lead a trump. You are on lead against a contract of 4H with the following hand. Which is the best suit and the preferred card to lead in each of the listed conditions?
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Q92 1) Your partner overcalled in Clubs during the auction.
863 2) The only suit bid during the auction was Hearts.
KQ82 3) The opponents bid all four suits during the auction.
Q72 4) The opponents bid both Hearts and Diamonds during the auction.
1) 2 Clubs 2) K Diamonds 3) 3 Hearts 4) 2 Clubs or 2 Spades
Conclusion: When leading against a suit contract, try and let the bidding help you as to the most likely preferred suit to lead. If partner has bid a suit, lead that. Otherwise you might choose an unbid suit, (preferably one with touching high cards), a singleton or doubleton, or even trumps, if appropriate.
5. Choosing the Card Within a Chosen Suit: Once you have chosen the best suit to lead, you are now in a position to select the actual card itself. There are two main differences when leading against a suit contract over that for a No Trump contract. Against a No Trump contract one leads the top of a 3-card sequence, otherwise fourth best. Against a suit contract, in contrast, you lead the top of a 2-card or longer sequence, and rarely away from an Ace or a King, If you must lead a suit headed by the Ace, lead the Ace itself. In each of the following holdings which would be the preferred choice for lead against both a No Trump contract and then against a suit contract with an identical holding?
1) DUMMY 2) DUMMY 3) DUMMY
YOU 753 PARTNER YOU 8 PARTNER YOU 64 PARTNER
AK842 106 AJ1093 7542 KQ973 105
DECLARER DECLARER DECLARER
QJ9 KQ6 AJ82
1) 4; KING 2) Jack; Ace 3) 7; King
Conclusion: When leading against a suit contract, choose the top card of a 2-card or longer sequence. If your suit selected is headed by the Ace, lead the Ace rather than away from it.
6. Putting it Together: When making an opening lead always review the auction to see if there are any clues available to guide you. In the absence of a suit bid by the defense, one usually selects an unbid suit. It then only remains to select the appropriate card within the chosen suit.
The Auction has proceeded as follows: North East South West
(Dummy) (Partner) (Declarer) (You)
Which card would you lead in each of the 1H P 1S P
following hands? 2S P 4S P
1) QJ4 2) J92 3) K8 4) A93 5) 864 6) 753
J83 J75 Q97 108532 J932 A105
QJ62 AJ975 Q10832 6 K5 AQ10
J108 Q4 Q54 J865 Q874 K1042
Conclusion: When leading, always use the information that the bidding affords you. Generally it is well to lead your partner’s suit and to avoid leading suits bid by the opponents. Favor strong sequences, with a singleton or trump leads being constructive alternatives. Remember that choosing the best card to lead is simply an educated guess, at best, all of the time.
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