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 High-level Leads by Ben Norton

High-level Leads

When the auction has been very competitive, up to a high-level, it can be difficult to know what to lead. You can expect a much more wild distribution than normal, such that some of your tricks won’t be standing up. At times like these you should strive to form a plan for the defense from the offset.

As South on these five questions you’ll be on lead against a high-level contract after a competitive sequence. What will you lead?

Question 1

  Your Hand
 A K 8 7 5 2
 6 2
 9 7 4 3
Q: 1 - What’s your plan on lead to 6?


 Your choice:
A: 3. It’s unlikely that a Spade trick will stand up. Your partner probably has at least four of them (if he doesn’t then he’d have a stronger hand, worthy of Doubling 6), and East will have a good reason to bid on to 6. It’s most likely that East is void of Spades, so you should opt for a different plan of attack. Lead your singleton and hope that partner can win the Ace and give you a ruff.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 2

  Your Hand
 Q J 8 6 2
 K 10 9 7 6 2
 4 3
Q: 2 - Your thoughts?


 Your choice:
A: 2. You hope that a Spade trick will stand up. If it doesn’t then you most likely don’t have a great deal of hope unless partner has some stuffing in the Club suit. If partner can win trick one you’d like him to give you a Club ruff, so you should lead your smallest spot card as a suit preference signal, not the normal choice of the Queen. Hopefully partner will read this as an unusual lead. Even if he can’t work out that you’ve underled the Queen and Jack, you’re unlikely to have raised to 5 with only four of them, so the Two can’t be your fourth-highest.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 3

  Your Hand
 7 3
 K 9 6 2
 8 4 3
 A 10 6 5
Q: 3 - What will you lead against 5?


 Your choice:
A: K. You hope that a Heart trick will stand up so you can then take two minor suit tricks. However, if you lead a low one partner may well be unable to attack Diamonds from his side if he has the King, which would give declarer a tempo to set up the Club suit. With this in mind you should kick off with the K, so that you can keep the lead. Partner is free to overtake with the Ace and switch to Clubs if he wishes, either hoping to get a ruff or to cash two more quick tricks. If you retain the lead though, partner will give you a suit preference signal at trick one. Therefore with that information and the sight of dummy, you’ll know what to do next.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 4

  Your Hand
 5 3
 10 9 6 5 4 2
 K 9 7 3
Q: 4 - It’s your lead against 6X…


 Your choice:
A: 6. Partner has made a Lightner Double, asking for an unusual lead. He can’t have enough strength to make a penalty Double based on power when he’s pre-empted and you’ve done nothing. Thus you shouldn’t lead your singleton Club. Partner has a void in a red suit and wants a ruff, and from the look of your hand he’s more likely to have no Hearts than no Diamonds. Therefore you should kick off with a Heart.

When you give partner a ruff during the play you generally lead a suit preference card to advise him what to play next. It’s no different here, but you don’t have a particular preference for either side suit. It’s best to lead a middle Heart, showing no particular preference. Partner will then follow the natural line of defense and not try any funny business, like under-leading his A for another ruff. It’s likely that this is your only time on lead, so you must give partner his ruff.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Question 5

  Your Hand
 A 10 5 2
 J 9 8 6 3
 A 7 6 2
Q: 5 - It’s you to go after an auction you don’t see everyday…


 Your choice:
A: A. You can be almost certain that the A won’t stand up. Partner has at least seven, probably eight Clubs and the opponents have done a lot of bidding at unfavorable vulnerability missing two Aces. Your opponents rate to have all of the outstanding major suit values, so your best shot of beating this is to give partner a ruff. Therefore you should lead the A. It will depend on the look of dummy and partner’s card as to whether you try and give partner a Spade ruff or a Heart ruff.

When on lead against high-level contracts get into the habit of forming a plan for the defense. If both sides have done a lot of bidding then it’s likely that suits are breaking badly and if you have a big fit of your own one of the opponents will probably have a void there, as a general principle.

Your result so far:
Open Question

Overall Results

Your results:   out of    Average: 

What next? You may enjoy playing our prepared hands series.
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