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A way to break down deciding on a lead can be broken down into 3 separate parts:


1. Give the opponents likely hands based on the bidding.

2. Visualize how the play will go, or what will be declarer’s strategy, based on these reconstructions.

3. Picking a lead.


Here, your opponents have told you a lot of information. North has shown 4-5-0-4 shape with a good 15-16 HCPs. Why? Because East’s 4 bid denied slam interest, but North forced his side up to the five level anyways. What about South?


South hesitated then bid game in hearts, but signed off in 5 in tempo. You can make inferences about the opponents’ hesitations, but you do so at your own risk. Here you know South is usually a quick bidder. What does he have?


He bid game in hearts, so he has 3 or 4 hearts, maybe five. Probably not a lot of points, but hoped to scored enough trumps separately to make game. But he was not excited about the slam try. He has diamonds, likely lots of them. This is the only thing that makes sense.


So part 1 is over. Next what will declarer want to do? South may have 10 or more red cards. In all likelihood they will try a cross ruff of some sort, South ruffing clubs and spades and North’s hand ruffing diamonds.


If you got this far part 3 is easy breezy – lead a trump! The full deal:



♠Q 7 6 5 3 2
♦A K
♣K 9 5 2

♥Q 8 6 3
♦Q J 10 9 7 6 5 4 

Bridge deal

♠A J 9 4
♥A K 9 7 4
♣A 8 6 3


♠K 8
♥J 10 2
♦8 3 2
♣Q J 10 7 4



This hand took place at the Dec 30th Pairs game at the Tuxedo Bridge Club. If you are like 90% of players you look at AK and lead a diamond.  ILove leading from this combo as much as the next person. But this is a thinking game. If you play rotely you get what you deserve.


A very good player did just that and I made 7!! I ruffed with 4, playing 3 rounds of trumps, winning the third round with the Queen. I then played J, K, ruff with the last trump in dummy, ruff a club and ran the diamonds. I scored 5 hearts, 6 diamonds, and 2 aces. A trump lead deprives me of the needed extra entry to set up the diamonds.


Lessons to Learn


1.  You can never take advantage of your partner’s hesitations during the bidding and play, only the opponents.


2. It is unethical to hesitate when you know what you will bid or play to the trick. A bad habit of some players is they hold their card in the air, or just hesitate, but are actually thinking about the next trick(s).


3. It is a good habit to visualize hands and holdings as the bidding is going on. At first this may be difficult, but, like most things in life, it gets easier with practice. If someone opens a spade they have five of them.



  • If an opponent opens 1♠ and then bids 2 it shows 5-4 and usually an unbalanced hand. It also denies 4 hearts.
  • If the responder bids 1♠ over partner’s 1 opener, he denies 4 hearts, unless he has five or more spades.


In this way you will be able to do the three part analysis much quicker at the end of the bidding.