You have played the game of Bridge for a few years. You are familiar with bidding, the use of basic conventions and the optimum contract for a given hand. However, approximately half of the time the opponents will declare the hand and your side will be on the defense. It is very important to listen to the bidding, especially if the other team is going to play the hand. The opening lead is always made by the Eldest hand (person to the left of the declarer). Your choice of an opening lead will often decide the outcome of that hand, or maybe a game! In this article we will look at leads against No Trump contracts.
* Refer to the next article in my series (Lesson 12), which focuses on leads against suit contracts.
NO TRUMP LEADS
Against a no trump contract, your opening lead will attempt to establish winning cards in your longest or best suit. Another approach is to establish winners in your partner's hand. The card you select will be the first maneuver of your "game plan" for that hand.
SCENARIO A: YOUR PARTNER HAS BID A SUIT
If you have your own suit and if it is long or strong enough to establish (with a side entry), you should attack from your side of the table. However, if you do not have a decent suit of your own, you MUST lead the suit your partner has bid. If you hold only two cards in his suit, lead the TOP card. The same applies to three-card holding. If you hold certain combinations such as AJx, A10x, Axx, KJx, Kxx, Q10x or Qxx, the correct lead is the BOTTOM card. With four cards (a rare occurrence), lead the bottom card unless you have two or three top sequence cards.
SCENARIO B: PARTNER HAS NOT BID
If you have a decent four or five-card suit of your own, and it does not have a natural (connected) sequence of three middle/high cards, you should lead the FOURTH best from your suit. For example, If you hold: A J 9 5 2, lead the FIVE. If you hold K 10 8 2, lead the DEUCE. There are exceptions, and the most obvious case applies when either opponent has bid your suit. If you have a suit such as A J 10 x x, the best lead is the JACK, as it may allow you to trap an honor card.
SCENARIO C: PARTNER HAS NOT BID; YOUR HAND IS BALANCED
You must try to find partner's long suit. If the opponents have not mentioned a Major suit during the auction, the best attack may be a heart or spade. Always lead the "top of nothing" if your opening play is from a weak two or three-card suit. If the opponents reach a no trump game via 1 NT-3 NT, or 1 NT, 2NT, 3 NT, you will have to make an educated guess. A Stayman sequence by the opponents (1 NT-2 Clubs) may provide path for your side to explore the best opening lead.
LEADS AGAINST NO TRUMP
If partner has bid, lead his suit. Connected sequence leads from four or five-card suits are usually effective. Interior sequence leads (Jack from the holding of A J 10 x, or K J 10 x) are very strong. Neutral short suit leads are often a last resort and usually made with the top of nothing (10 x x, 9 x x, 8 x, and so on).
THE RULE OF 11
If we assume a fourth best lead (e.g. deuce from A 10 7 2), subtracting the numercial value of the opening lead from 11 determines the number of outstanding cards ABOVE the rank of the suit led. After viewing the dummy hand, the opening leader's partner and the Declarer can deduce the cards which are higher than the the rank of the opening lead. This may take some practice before you become comfortable with the calculations. The Rule of 11 is a very useful system.