In the game of Duplicate Bridge the defence's leads, particularly the opening lead of a hand, are often critical. Here we explore some guidelines as to what suit to lead. Separately we explore the more straight-forward question: the choice of card once the suit has been chosen - see What card to lead.
The objectives are twofold: firstly to maximise the chances of gaining extra tricks (or avoiding the unnecessary loss of tricks), and secondly to give partner as much information as possible about the best strategy for the defence. Of course, declarer may also gain additional information from your choice of leads, but given declarer's advantages the information conveyed will (unless you expect your partner to never gain the lead) generally be of greater advantage to your partner, particularly if it concerns an active defence strategy (ie one that needs to be undertaken before an opportunity is lost).
1. Evaluate the hand
- Assess the bidding's implications (including lack of bidding) for both HCP and suit lengths in various hands leading to a postulated hand for partner
- Try to predict declarer's strategy and hinder rather than help it
- Revise this after dummy is tabled and as cards and declarer's strategy is revealed
2. Active Defence Strategies: When & What
An active or aggressive defence strategy generally leads to volatile results - both stunning defeats of contracts that appear rock solid and amazing vistories for declarer against all apparent odds. A slight difference in the assumed location of certain keycards or of the distribution of a suit can significantly affect the results. If you can suceed 75% of the time you attempt an active defence you are doing very well.
In competitive tournaments, declarers will generally find they need to make additional winners to make their contract and the best strategy for the defence will normally be a passive defence. Try to lead safely and not give away any tricks unnecessarily. Force declarer to make decisions with little or no information. Force declarer to open up suits.
However an active defence strategy is called for in some situations:
- When dummy has a long suit that is likely to be established and allow declarer to throw off his side-suit losers
- When your cards and declarer's apparent strategy suggest declarer is going to be successful
- When the revealing of other cards and declarer's apparent strategy allows you to place critical keycards with your partner
In these cases, make an attacking lead from a suit even holding broken honours.
3. Against NT
- Lead a long suit to try to develop tricks but...
- Consider likely entries in your and partner's hands as part of choosing a long suit to lead - do not lead a long suit if there are no entries to support it
- With no other information prefer an unbid major to a minor (as opponents more likely to bid length in a major)
4. Against trumps
- Lead a singleton only if partner likely to have entries
- Lead a long suit if you or partner has trump length (forcing defence)
- Lead trumps
- When opponents sacrificed (suggesting unbalanced hand with aim to ruff)
- When strong in declarer's second suit
- When strong in 3 side suits
- When long trumps vs opponents 4-4 split
- When opponents in 3rd or 4th suit
- When declarer has 2 suiter and dummy has given preference
- Do not lead a singleton trump where possible
- Do not lead from Axx(x) where possible