♠ 10 2
♥ A 6 2
♦ Q 10 7 4 3 2
♣ 6 3
Q: 5 - Your opponents land in 5♠
after a short stunt on the cue-bidding roundabout.
Since the opponents have denied possession of a Heart control (else they would have bid a slam), a Heart lead is marked, but which card?
A: ♥2. It’s usually not a good idea to lead away from Aces against suit contracts, but here it cannot cost, and you stand to gain a lot if the layout is favourable.
The benefit of leading a low card is more of a deceptive one than a technical one. Partner could have K x and you’ll be able to give him a ruff, but that isn’t so likely. Say instead that dummy goes down with the ♥K J. Declarer will naturally place the Ace in partner’s hand and will insert the Jack, losing to partner’s Queen. If you lead the Ace you would give the game away and if you don’t lead a Heart at all declarer will either be able to shed his losing Hearts or he will come to the same guess later, but with more information.
Another interesting position that you stand to gain against is when partner has K J x (x), with x x x in dummy and Q 10 x in declarer’s hand. From a technical perspective declarer will always lose only two tricks in the suit, but if you lead a low card to partner’s King and he returns the suit, declarer will have a nasty guess to make. Either partner has A K x (x) or K J x (x). You might argue that partner won’t know enough about the hand to risk a low Heart return if he has the Ace and King, in case declarer started with Q x, but on the other hand how often will you lead away from the Ace? Declarer is bound to go wrong some of the time.
The stigma that’s attached to leading away from Aces against suit contracts is plentiful, and rightly so, because all manner of things can go wrong. Declarer could have an unsupported King, or K x x opposite Q x x on table, or one opponent could have a singleton and the other the King, or partner could withhold his high honor in fear of giving away a trick when declarer has the Ace. However because neither opponent can have a singleton Heart and declarer has denied having the Ace or King, there is very little danger of blowing a trick with a low Heart lead in this scenario. Also, partner heard declarer deny a Heart control, so he’ll know that you have the Ace and there’ll be no deceiving him.
It’s true that the layouts on which the lead of a small card gains are quite subtle and specific, but when there’s no downside you might as well recruit the upside to work in your favour, no matter how small, rather than giving up on the upside all together.
When considering which card to lead against suit contracts, be sure to think about the following factors:
- Your plan for the defense as a whole
- The impression your lead will convey to partner (or to a lesser extent, declarer)
- Which card rates to gain more often
Generally you should lead top of sequences, even with poor intermediate cards, and you should strive to lead accurately from other holdings, leading your fourth-highest from H x x x (x) and your second-highest from x x x (x) (x). But if you think the situation calls for it, you can always choose to veer away from these guidelines, for example if you want partner to switch or not to switch, or if you want partner to give you a specific kind of signal. Nevertheless you should always have a good reason in mind, and think about how likely it is that the position you’re playing for actually exists, and if your play is worth it.
Your result so far: