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Opening Lead: Versus Notrumps

The opening lead is the pivotal card in many defences. It’s a unique card too, the only card played without a sight of dummy. Because there’s no dummy to help you, you have to fall back on tried-and-tested winning formulae and versus notrumps, that’s generally leading the “fourth from the top of the longest and strongest suit”. The reason for leading your longest suit v notrumps is to exhaust the opponents of their cards of the suit, so you can win tricks with your small left-over cards.

So after an unrevealing 2NT-3NT auction by the opponents, lead 4 from:

  ♠ J 8 6 3
♥ K 10 6 4 2
A 3
9 7

it wouldn’t be a big deal to lead  2 rather than 4, but an aspiring partner would think “ah, if 2 is my partner’s fourth highest, he has only four hearts”. So stick with 4.

Change your hand to:

  ♠ J 8 6 3
♥ K Q J 4 2
A 3
9 7

and now it would be a mistake to lead 4. This risks declarer winning cheaply with say 10. When your long suit is headed by three touching* honours, lead the top of the sequence. So lead K. That way you’ll force out A.

*Or near-touching: lead K from KQ1042.

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