More Defence: Opening Leads against Suit Contracts

The More Defence 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 you are considering the opening lead, you have to think about which suit to lead, and then what is the correct card of that suit. Then you can play and review the lesson hands. When defending suit contracts, you need to be more aggressive than in no trumps.

If you have more time to spare, you can also complete the second Defence lesson; Opening Leads against Suit Contracts.

Quick Tips (Thanks again Eddie Kantar)

  • The player on lead needs to be aware of, not only the bidding, but the significance of the bidding (slight difference… imagining what’s likely to appear in dummy is a start)

  • Is there going to be a long strong side suit in dummy?

  • Have the opponents avoided no trumps yet have bid three suits?

  • Did your partner have a chance to overcall and didn’t?

  • Does dummy figure to have trump support and a short suit (for trumping)?

  • Has your partner bid anything?

  • What would make you lead a short suit? (having something that will win in trumps eg Axx is a good reason for leading a doubleton or singleton)

  • Reason for this is that you’re sure to win a trump trick, and can hope to get partner in and you’ll hopefully then get a ruff in the short suit you led

  • It can be dangerous to lead a short suit, especially if it has been bid by the opponents

  • Often you’re not helping your side by leading your short suit (you’re helping declarer)

This week’s hand:

We are focusing on defence this week (and month), so our panel has been asked to watch this hand and then explain what they’d lead and why. It’s hand 4 in the hands to play above, and watch the review afterwards.

Which suit and card would you lead?

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David Appleton

Yes, a spade lead will keep partner happy. Which spade is by agreement. Should it be a high one (♠8) to say that we have no honour there, or perhaps the middle one (♠6) intending to play the ♠8 next to promise three or more cards? For most people, playing the low one there will confuse partner as we do not have an honour nor a singleton.

Both the possibilities have issues. Playing ♠8 may be mistaken for a doubleton, while playing ♠6 might be mistaken for a holding like ♠Q86.

I try to play the least confusing card for my partner, and, assuming that you have the agreement, the ♠6 followed by the ♠8 has a slight edge.

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GeO Tislevoll

This is agreement stuff, and any agreement may have some advantages (as is often the case). I lead my lowest from three cards in partner's suit to make sure he won't think I have a doubleton or singleton. Of course, an attitude lead will make it clear for him when you have an honor to lead from, but then you must lead the ♠8 or the ♠6 from this holding.
If you lead the ♠8, partner may/will get a guess if you have two or three, and if you lead the ♠6 and follow up with the ♠8, you might have one higher (an honor) than the ♠8.

(In my agreements, with most partners, we lead low as attitude if we have supported the suit.) 

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Matt Smith

I would lead the ♠4.My partnership agreement is to lead the 3rd highest in partner's unsupported suit. Our agreement distinguishes between a doubleton and three, and is easy to read.   
If I had supported partner's suit, I would lead the ♠8 which says "I don't have an honour."I don't like the middle card as it's often too hard for partner to read.
Unfortunately for me, because the 4♥️ bidder is more likely to have a singleton spade, it's more important to tell partner if you have an honour or not on this hand (which I can't do). 
On my ♠4 lead, my partner may finesse into declarer's singleton spade honour.  You have to pick a leading style that you personally like, and accept the good with the bad. 


Joan Butts

Most of us don’t think it’s so important which card we lead from a combination of three small cards eg ♠864, but it is, if partner is trying to work out what we’ve led from.
As the boys point out, the risk we run when leading from three small when partner has bid the suit is that playing a high card (the ♠8 or the ♠6 followed by a lower one, the ♠4) risks partner thinking we have a doubleton.
So these days it’s popular to show how many cards we have in the suit (even if no honour at the top), and to lead the ♠4.
But, if you had raised partner’s spade suit, the popular card to lead would be the ♠8, as partner would already know you had three cards and that this is the top one.

Related Workbook

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

Test your knowledge

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