Opening Leads

Which Suit?

To Suit Contracts:

You usually want to make a "safe" opening lead that will set up tricks for your side without giving declarer extra tricks. Your general order of preference can be:

  1. A singleton (hoping partner can lead the suit back for you to trump).
  2. A suit partner has bid. Lead low if you have 3+ cards; lead high from 2 cards.
  3. A suit that offers a good attacking combination -- two or more touching honors (KQ10x, QJ10, AKxx, J109).
  4. Your longest suit. Lead low if you don't have touching honors.
  5. A suit the opponents have not bid.
  6. If there are no unbid suits, choose a suit that dummy has bid.
  7. Lead trumps if you have no other safe lead OR if declarer has shown a two-suited hand. This may prevent declarer from using dummy's trumps separately.

When leading to a suit contract, AVOID:

To Notrump Contracts:

You usually want to make an attacking opening lead to set up tricks in your long suit. Lead the fourth-best card (count down from the top) from your longest and strongest suit unless:

  1. Partner has bid a suit. You should then lead his suit.
  2. Your long suit is one the opponents have bid. You should choose your longest unbid suit or a suit dummy has bid.
  3. Your long suit has three or more touching honors (KQJx, QJ10x, AQJ10x, J109x, etc.). You should lead an honor to be sure you force declarer to win with the highest card possible.

When leading to a notrump contract, AVOID:

Which Card?


The opponents have bid 1S-3S-4S. What is your opening lead?

632   942   KQJ7   A43
King of Diamonds. Lead the top card from an attacking combination. Even if declarer has the ace, you'll set up tricks you can take later. Don't lead the club ace-that's more likely to set up tricks for declarer.
Q6   Q92   K104   J6543
4 of Clubs. When no other lead looks safe, lead from your longest suit (the 4th card down). Declarer may be short in this suit, so your lead is unlikely to help him.

Your LHO opens 1C, partner overcalls 1S and RHO bids 2H. LHO jumps to 4H. What is your lead?

1072   642   9843   KQ8
2 of spades. You should almost always lead the suit partner overcalls (with 3 or more, lead low). Although a KQ is sometimes a good attacking combination, it isn't here because you know clubs is LHO's suit.
K4   943   AJ8   87532
King of Spades. Since partner has shown strength in spades, leading an unprotected honor is safe. If your king holds the trick, you'll lead the spade 4 to partner's ace and be able to trump the third round. From your high-low leads, partner will know you have only 2 spades.
5432   A74   4   108543
4 of Diamonds. This is an exception to the rule about leading partner's suit. Partner will know you had a good reason for not leading spades. If he has the diamond ace, he'll lead one back for you to trump. If partner can't win the first diamond lead, you'll have another chance later. When you win the ace of trumps, you can try to get partner on lead with a spade.

The opponents have bid 1NT-3NT. What is your opening lead?

QJ1082   K43   A5   10543
Queen of Spades. You should plan to keep attacking spades whenever you're on lead. Even if declarer has the AK, there's a good chance you can set up and "run" your suit later.
AK8   854   75   KJ542
4 of Clubs. You have no sequence, so lead the 4th best card and hope partner has fillers. Resist the temptation to cash the spades. You'll need them as entries to run your club suit.
95   43   K10976   AQ102
Ten of Diamonds. Lead your longer suit, even though the clubs are stronger. To force out an honor, lead the top of an "interior" sequence.

Partner opens 1C, RHO bids 1H, you bid 1S. LHO bids 2H and all pass. What is your opening lead?

KJ43   843   AJ2   854
3 of Hearts. You could lead a club (partner's suit), but a trump is better for two reasons: (1) It's safe (partner didn't promise great honor strength in clubs, and a spade or diamond could give up a trick); (2) Your side has most of the high-cards, so declarer may have to trump losers in dummy to make his contract. A trump lead will take one of his trumps out of dummy right away.
AK743   86   J532   105
King of Spades. An AK is usually a good lead because it lets you look at dummy and decide what to do next. Here, you're hoping partner has only only one or two spades (a good possibility, since he didn't raise) and can trump the third round. Depending on dummy's spade holding and partner's signal (he'll play a high card if he has a doubleton, a low card if he has three), you can decide whether to continue with the spade ace or to switch suits. If you decide to switch to partner's suit (clubs), lead the 10 (the top card to show 2). If partner has the AK of clubs, you may get to trump the third round of that suit.

Copyright   Karen Walker