How to Make The Opening Lead In Bridge (Lesson 12) Suit Contracts

By Joe Andrews
Choose Your Lead!

We continue this two-part series with opening leads against suit contracts. It is assumed that you know the basics of Bridge, and perhaps, you have played for a few years. The bidding is completed and the opponents have declared a suit. The opening lead is always made by the Eldest hand (the player to the left of the declarer). Now we are exploring the defense against suit contracts. It all starts with the first play. Your job is to get your side off to a good start, and hopefully, find the path to setting the opponent's contract.


Against a suit contract, your opening lead will attempt to cash your side's winners or weaken the opponent's trump suit. You may establish offsuit winners in your partner's hand. On occasion, a small trump will promote to the master position! The card you select to make the first lead will often decide the outcome of the hand.


These are the cards which win on the spot! If you have the Ace and King of an offsuit, you may be able to cash both of these immediately! You might hold K-Q-J of an offsuit. Leading the King (top of a sequence) will dislodge the enemy Ace, (if they hold this card) and set up the Queen and possibly the Jack as winners for your side. Leading your partner's suit (if he bidded during the auction) is usually a good approach. If you hold only two cards in his suit, lead your high one first, and then complete the "echo" with your small spot (preparing for third round "ruff").


There are card combinations which should be avoided when making the first lead. If you hold A-Q, Axxx, Kxx or Q xx of a side suit, you must select another lead. Otherwise, you may provide the declarer with a "gift" trick. Underleading Kings is especially a bad technique. A few exceptions may be made if your partner has bidded the suit that holds these combinations). Otherwise, your best course is to select a neutral suit (meaningless low cards) and wait for your partner to provide some direction for your side.


If the auction has indicated a real struggle on the opponents to reach their final suit contract, a trump lead can be very effective. (A typical auction of this type is the reply by an opponent of his own suit, rather than supporting his partner's trump bid). The idea is to reduce the ruffing or cross-trumping power of the hand. However, if you hold K x or Q xx of trump, you might want to reconsider a trump lead (perhaps partner has bid a suit of his own).


An effective lead is a lone card ("singleton") in a side suit. The idea is to have partner play THIS suit back to you if he obtains the lead (usually by a losing trump finesse). Now you will probably win a cheap trump trick with a ruff. Another good lead is a long suit with five or six-card length. The idea is to give partner a chance to ruff or to force the declarer to weaken his trump suit.