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