Opening Leads vs Notrump Contracts

The fate of many NT contracts are determined by the opening lead.  Sometimes the opening lead is a killer, establishing the defensive suit for the setting tricks.  Other times the opening lead presents Declarer with the final trick they needed when they were one short.  It’s a defensive play made with the least information possible, but one has to try one’s best.  This lesson will give some guidelines that should work more often than not.

Bidding Sequences Where No Suits are Bid (e.g. 1NT-3NT)

Good defense starts with the auction, but what if their auction doesn’t reveal anything?  Usually you lead your longest suit, but what if you have a choice between equally long suits?

  1. When in doubt, prefer to lead a _________ over a __________ .
  2. If one suit has a much stronger holding (for example, a ___________ ) then that’s a good choice, even if another suit is a bit longer.

When They Use Stayman and End Up in NT

(Example: 1NT – 2C – 2H – 3NT)

  1. Avoid leading a major they have shown or implied unless you have a very _______ holding.
  2. With equal Clubs and Diamonds, prefer to lead a _______ because your partner could have made a lead directing double of the artificial 2C bid.

Note: In the auction 1NT – 2C – 2D – 2NT – (P or 3NT) you need to ascertain if Responder is guaranteeing a 4 card major.  Many players play 4 suit transfers, which means they have to detour through Stayman to invite in NT.  They are supposed to alert the 2NT bid but sometimes forget.  You can either ask or else you can look at their convention card NT section to see if they play 2NT as a transfer to Diamonds.

If Your Partner Has Bid a Suit or Made a Lead Directing Double

  1. Your default option should be “I’m leading my partner’s suit unless I have a very good reason not to.”
  2. The “Lead Directing Information Value Hierarchy (LDIVH)” (a term I just made up.  I don’t think Maslow needs to be worried about competition for naming hierarchies) is as follows:
    1. Lead Directing Double:  Lead this unless you are void or you don’t want to play with this partner any more.
    2. Overcall:  Very strong suggestion to lead this suit.
    3. Third Hand Opener:  If your partner opens in third seat and the opponents wind up in 3NT then often partner opened light.  Why?  To get you to _______ that suit.  Make them happy.
    4. First or Second Seat Major Suit Opener.
    5. First or Second Seat 1D opener if playing “short club”.
    6. First or Second Seat Minor Suit Opener playing Convenient Minors.
    7. First or Second Seat 1C opener playing “short club”.
  3. The higher you are on that hierarchy, the better the reason needs to be.
  4. Remember, if you lead your partner’s suit and it’s wrong ________ win the post-mortem.  If you don’t then you ________ the post-mortem.
  5. Exceptions:  A good reason not to lead partner’s suit against a NT contract is when you have a strong suit of your own and an outside ________ .

When Not to Lead “Fourth Best from Longest and Strongest”

  1. Your partner made a lead-directing ________ or an artificial bid (Stayman 2C, 2D or 2H transfers).  Also, other situations high on the hierarchy above.
  2. You have a strong 3 card major suit sequence and a weak four card minor, especially if they never bid or imply ________.
  3. If the opponents have a long running suit make ________ leads from shorter, stronger holdings.  Example:  2D – 3NT.  The opponents hope to run the Diamond suit and opener probably has a fitting honor in the suit.  Time to get busy and build some major suit tricks.
  4. If you have a weak hand and you think your partner has most of the defensive values try to find her suit, often a suit you are ________ in.
    1. Given a choice of suits, pick the one that partner could not have overcalled at the one level.
  5. If partner doubles the eventual NT contract even though she never bid she’s looking for you to find her suit.
    1. 1NT – 3NT.  She expects you to work out which suit (hint:  one you are short in and have no honors).
    2. If Dummy has bid one suit then partner is asking for a lead of that suit.
    3. If Dummy has bid two suits then partner is asking for one of those suits and hopes you’ll work it out.  If you’re not sure, try Dummy’s first bid suit.

Which Card To Lead

  1. If Partner has bid:
    1. If you haven’t raised her then lead ____ from 3 and ____ from 2.  You choose whether you lead high or low from a singleton.
    2. If you have raised then lead _______ from 3 rags and ________ from 3 or more to an _______.
  2. If Partner has not bid:
    1. With 4 or more to an honor, lead 4th best.
    2. With 4 or more to the 9 or 10, lead 2nd highest.  (e.g. from 9743 lead the ________ ).
    3. With 4 or more to the 8 or below then you have a choice that you need to work out with your partner.  You can either agree to lead the top card or you can agree to lead second highest.
  3. Honor Card Leads
    1. Leading an Ace shows something like AKx(x) and is often an attempt to set the contract straight away.
      1. Holding either the Queen or 5 cards third hand should ___________ by playing high.
    2. Leading a King is a very strong lead and shows _______ honor cards:  a suit headed by the AKQ, AKJ, KQJ, or KQTx.
      1. Third hand encourages holding the _________, ___________, or ________.
      2. Holding a doubleton honor, third hand plays the ___________ .
    3. Leading a Queen shows QJT, QJ9 (usually) and rarely something like AQJ or QJx, or KQT9.
      1. Partner encourages holding the ________, __________, or ___________ .
      2. Holding a doubleton honor, third hand plays the ___________ .
    4. Leads of the Jack
      1. If you are playing “Jack Denies” then the lead of the Jack denies any higher _______ and usually shows a holding headed by JT9 or JT8.  Don’t lead the Jack from 4 or more not headed by a _______.  Instead lead the _________ best.
      2. If you are not playing “Jack Denies” then the leader might have AJT, KJT, JT9, JT8.  Partner has to work out which.
    5. Leads of the Ten or Nine
      1. If you are playing “Coded 9s and 10s” then the lead of a 9 or T implies either two higher honors or no higher honors.  For example, one might lead the T from AJT, KJT, T98, T97.  If third hand can see the Jack then she knows it’s not from AJT or KJT.
      2. If you aren’t playing “Coded 9s and 10s” then the lead of 9 or T is either the top of a sequence or the top of an interior sequence.  (AT9, KT9, QT9, K98, T98, etc.).  It’s a bit harder to read for both the leader’s partner and the Declarer.