More Defence: Opening Leads against No Trumps

The lesson modules have been designed to build on the Online School Curriculum. They include some quick tips to help you focus on the topic. When considering the opening lead, decide first which suit to lead, and then the correct card. I’m grateful for some ideas from one of the funniest and best teachers of all time…US great, Eddie Kantar.
After you’ve completed the lesson, you can play and review the lesson hands. (NB: You might notice when you replay a hands that the robots are not defending the same way as the first time. Don’t worry, as the technicians are working on this, and the robots’ defence will be improved soon!)

If you have more time to spare, you can also complete the first Defence lesson; Opening Leads against No Trumps.

Quick Tips (Special thanks to Eddie Kantar)

  • With a choice for leading between an unbid major and a minor, prefer the major, because opponents rarely conceal major suit length, but they would conceal minor suit length when considering no trumps

  • If the opponents have used Stayman (and the answer was, say, hearts ) but they end up in no trumps, avoid leading the other major (say, spades) because one opponent will have length in spades to have asked about a major in the first place

  • If dummy is known to hold a long strong suit, make a more attacking lead (eg ♥️KQ4) than from a long weaker suit (eg ♦️J9843)

  • the idea is to get in and take tricks before they can run tricks in the known long suit

  • Consider another lead when holding a four card suit eg ♣AQJ3, because the strong hand may have the ♣K, and you’d only develop three tricks there anyway.

  • In this situation, if partner were to win a trick, they may be able to lead that suit later through declarer (you have to hope they think of it though!), and then you might take four tricks in the suit, not three


This week’s discussion hand:

We are focusing on defence this month, and you’re on lead against 3NT after the bidding shown. It’s Hand 4 in this lesson.

US teacher and author, Eddie Kantar has given us some good ideas for making opening leads. To buy Eddie’s excellent books on Defence and lots of other topics, go to

And the panel will give us their views on the best opening lead. What lead would you make?

David Appleton.jpg

David Appleton

♠K. Let's start with what not to lead. I'd suggest a club could hardly be productive. Next, a diamond will require partner have a very good suit there, and, if that is enough, they might have tried 3♦️.

This leaves either the J♥️ or the K♠. If the opponent's did not have a clear source of tricks (here clubs), then it is normal to lead your nice five card suit headed by the sequence. However, given they may have nine quick tricks when they get in, perhaps trying to cash our fast ones are a good plan.
So, the K♠ is possible. In any case, we will need to get lucky, and a spade needs less than a heart lead does, so I will try that, while acknowledging that a heart may also work.

GeO Tislevoll.jpeg

GeO Tislevoll

♠K. This will be my lead after this particular bidding which suggest we are in a hurry if we want to beat the contract. Under other circumstances the ♥️J is the clear lead. But for a heart lead to be the winning one here, partner must have something like ♥️AKx or ♥️AKxx and the declarer has made a gamble with, say, ♥️Qx. It is not for sure the declarer has absolute stoppers in both majors, but it is likely. ♠K can still beat the contract if partner has long spades and two Aces (♦️A and ♥️A) and the declarer has only eight tricks, in which case a heart lead will set up his ninth trick. Hoping for somthing like ♠Axx ♥️KQx ♦️Kxxx ♣Kxx in declarer's hand and they have only one spade and seven club tricks. The declarer's slight gamble might be with ♠Jxx or ♠10xxx, and we can perhaps cash five tricks. Anyway, a lead is a lead and it is never easy. If partner has five solid diamonds, so be it... 

Matt Smith.png

Matt Smith

♠K, hoping partner has ♠Axxxx, or ♠Jxxxx + an important card. My first assumption is that declarer will make 3NT if given time.  My second assumption is that their club suit is running. (if it isn't, then 3NT is very likely to go down anyway). 

A heart lead is very safe, and leading a five+card suit is always a good idea, but on this hand I don’t think a heart lead can beat it.  Leading a heart feels like it needs too much from partner to beat 3NT. We need partner to have ♥️AQx and play ♥️Q at trick one to force out declarer's ♥️K and keep a link with our hand. They also need an important card to now stop declarer running nine tricks. 
Heart lead needs: ♥️AQx + important card, or ♥️KQx + important card + ♥️Ax with declarer.    
Spade lead needs: ♠Axxxx, or ♠Jxxxx + important card.  Diamond lead needs: ♦️AKQxx, or ♦️KQTxx + important card.  The spade lead needs way less from partner to work. 

One last point, If partner happens to have ♣Ax somehow, and the 3♣ bidder has the A♠, leading the K♠ and Q♠ will force out the entry to dummy's club suit before it gets set up. 

Although this would be very rare (3♣ bidder has a six-card suit, or 3NT bidder only has a singleton club), it adds more value to the K♠ lead.


Joan Butts

David, GeO & Matt are in harmony about leading the shorter spade suit, and have explained that with the known long club suit to come down in dummy, nine tricks are likely unless an aggressive lead is found. Sometimes it’s fine to allow declarer to win an early trick, and then slowly set up your long suit tricks, but when the bidding here reveals that dummy’s long suit is likely to provide six or seven club tricks, you simply won’t have time for a “slower” lead.

Related Workbook

The Defence Workbook contains hands analysis and lesson tips and tricks.

Test your knowledge

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