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When it’s safe to lead a trump (in defence)

Say you, on opening lead, have nothing very appealing such as a singleton or top of a sequence. In fact all your suits contain broken honour(s) such as Qxxx or KJxx. Yuk – these are very dangerous leads. It may be best, especially if dummy has shown weakness, to lead a trump, giving little away.

However, you must be careful you do not butcher you or partner’s trump holding by leading the suit. Say you are leading v 4. Which of the following trump leads are safe and which not?

  • a)    7 5 2
  • b)    A 5 2
  • c)     Q 5 2
  • d)     J 5 2
  • e)    2
  • a)  752 is pretty safe; you may pick up partner’s  Q4 but probably declarer would have picked up  Q for himself.
  • b)  A52 is also fairly safe, although a holding of  Jx in partner’s hand would likely be squashed.
  • c)  Q52 is most certainly not safe, for you would lose your protection for  Q. Don’t lead a trump, instead wait for declarer to cash  AK, promoting your  Q.
  • d) J52 will be safe if partner has no high card. However, it is not completely safe. Take this layout:
  • Dummy.

   K 9 4  
West   East
 J 5 2     Q 6
   A 10 8 7 3  
Left to his own devices, declarer will lose a trump trick. If you lead a trump, you’ll lose that trick. 2, 4, Q, A; then 3, 5, 9, 6; then K felling J.
  • e) 2 is not at all safe. Indeed this is much misunderstood, “Surely my 2 is worthless, so why not lead it?” I hear many say. But think of partner, who is likely to hold a useful holding such as Qxx, J10xx. Your trump lead will severely compromise partner’s holding. Make the lead of a singleton trump a very rare occurrence in your repertoire: it’s very, very dangerous. You could almost say, “never lead a singleton trump.”
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