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When to lead a trump

Sometimes I ask a class, “What would you lead from such-and such a hand against Four Spades?” Is this a sensible question as it stands? Answer: No. The correct retort is “What was the auction?”

No lead can be made without reference to the auction, not merely the final contract. Look at West’s hand on our featured deal. What should he lead after each of the following auctions? (Bids by partner are in brackets).
(i) 1 -4 
(ii) 1 -1 -ª-4 
(iii) (1 )-1 -4 
(iv) (1 NT)-2 -4 

(i) § J. Little information, so opt for the relatively safe and potentially attacking §J.
(ii)  3. Unbid suit.
(iii)  4. Partner’s suit.
(iv)  5. The opponents do not have the high-card strength for game.  5 cuts down ruffing value and avoids giving away a trick.
Four different auctions, four different leads.

North Deals
None Vul
K J 7
J 9 4 2
A 9 8 3 2
9 8 5
Q 7 4
Q 10 3
J 10 7 5
W   E
3 2
A 10 6 3 2
K 8 5
K Q 4
A Q 10 6 4
K 9 8 5
A 7 6
West North East South
  1 NT1 2  Pass
4  All pass    
  1. Preferable to 1 , as it avoids the rebid


What happened
West led  J against auction (iv). Declarer won  A, and led  J. East won  A, and switched to  2, but it was too late. Declarer won in dummy, trumped  2, cashed  K, trumped  8, trumped  3, trumped  9, crossed to  A, and had to come to  AQ. 10 tricks and game made.

What should have happened
When the opponents bid to a contract on sub-par high-card strength (as you as West know they have here), they may well be relying on ruffs to make their contract. Lead  5 to cut down ruffing power.
Declarer cannot make 4  on  5 lead. He wins dummy’s  J and leads  J, but East hops up with  A to lead  3. Unable to ruff both his two losing hearts, he will eventually have to concede down one.

If you remember one thing...
Lead a trump when the opponents have bid to a contract on sub-par high-card strength.

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