Opening Leads


        This section assumes that you have already decided which suit to lead, and explains which card to lead from the suit.


        Leads From Average Suits.    You should normally lead the lowest from a three card suit:

785          K96          QT4

With four or more cards in the suit, you should lead the fourth-highest:

KJ53          Q8642          T87532

Both of these rules have a variety of exceptions (outlined below).

        With a doubleton, you should always lead the high card:

85          Q9          KJ          AK

saving the low card for the second trick. This special high-low signal alerts your partner that you are out of the suit, in case he wants to give you a ruff.


        Three-Card Sequences.    Always lead the top of a three-card sequence headed by the K, Q, J, or T:

KQJ6          QJT92          JT9          T985

You should also lead high if you are missing the third card of a sequence, but you have the fourth:

KQT4          QJ932          JT8          T9732


        The remaining possibilities depend on whether you are defending against a trump contract or a notrump contract.



Trump Contracts


        Suits Headed by Aces.    The most important rule for opening leads is:

Never underlead an ace in a trump contract!

Hence, you should lead the ace from all of the following holdings:

A8532          AQJ2          AJ5          AQT72

        EXCEPTION:    In a suited headed by the ace-king, lead the king instead:

AKQ5          AK842          AKJT          AK6

However, you should lead the ace from an ace-king doubleton:



        Inside Sequences.    You should ususally lead the top card from an inside sequence:

KJT3          KT964          QT9

Of course, you should only apply this rule to an inside sequence headed by an honor:

K876          J98          T7642

Also, remember to not to underlead aces:

AQJ4        AJT        AT953


        Two-Card Sequences.    With a 3-card suit, you should lead the top of a two-card sequence headed by the K, Q, J, or T:

KQ5          QJ8          JT2          T96

With four or more cards, you should lead high from KQxx, and low from JTxx or T9xx:

KQ84          JT64          T9642

With QJxx, you have a choice between leading the queen and leading low.

        EXCEPTION:    Always lead the top of a two-card sequence in a suit which your partner has bid.



Notrump Contracts


        Inside Sequences.    Lead the top of any inside sequence headed by the Q, J, or T:

AQJ4          AJT86          AT9          KJT6          KT942          QT9643


        Two-Card Sequences.    With a three-card suit, you should lead the top of a two-card sequence headed by the K, Q, J, or T:

KQ9          QJ4          JT2          T95

With four or more cards, you should lead a spot:

KQ532          QJ64          JT7643          T952

EXCEPTION:    Alway lead the top of a two-card sequence in a suit which your partner has bid.


        Ace-King Combinations.    Lead the king whenever you have a third honor in the suit:

AKQ3          AKJ74          AKQ5

Without a third honor, you should lead the king from AKx and AKxx, and fourth-best from AKxxx or longer (so that you can run the suit when you regain the lead):

AK5          AK83          AK942


        Leading the Ace.    In a notrump contract, an opening lead of the ace shows a very good suit, and asks your partner to unblock by playing any honor he might have. Lacking an honor, your partner should give you a count signal (instead of an attitude signal), since his attitude is irrelevant.
        Normally, you should have four of the top five honors to lead an ace (or three of the top four and a six-card suit):

AKQJ4          AKQT          AKJT7          AQJT5          AKQ852          AKJ765          AQJ964


        Top of Nothing.    You can lead the top card from a worthless suit (headed by the 9 or lower) to discourage your partner from returning the suit:

953          654          8632


        •    You should usually only lead top of nothing from a three-card or four-card suit. Five-card suits are seldom worthless.

        •    When leading your partner's suit, only lead the top card from a doubleton. Three or more cards is a good holding. (If you have already shown three cards in the suit, however, lead top of nothing.)

        •    It is sometimes right to lead the second-highest card in a worthless suit, if the highest card might be useful. (This is especially true if the highest card is a 9.)

        •    You may sometimes want to lead a high spot card in a suit, even though you have an honor, to discourage partner from returning the suit. (For example, you might hold AJTxx in a side suit, and want partner to help you finesse declarer.)

        •    Finally, you may sometimes lead top of nothing in a trump contract if you have already promised three cards in the suit.


        Unblocking.    You should usually lead an honor from any three-card suit headed by two honors (to prevent he suit from becoming blocked):

KJ5          AQ5

However, it is usually a poor choice to lead such a suit in the first place.


        Leading from KQT9.    With KQT9 or KQTxxx, you want your partner to unblock if he holds the jack (so that you know it's safe to continue the suit). The standard solution is to lead the queen (instead of the king) from these holdings:

KQT9          KQT94          KQT752

If your partner holds the jack, he will be able to deduce your holding (since a lead of the queen normally promises the jack) and play the jack on the first trick.