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Which is worse?

The lead away from an ace is riskier than a lead away from a king. Why? Why, at Trick One to a trump contract, would you prefer to lead from say KJ42 than AJ42? The answer is that the lead from KJ42 will work well if partner has either the ace or the queen, whereas the lead from AJ42 will only work if partner holds the king.


(A)         Dummy
West        975        East
 KJ42                     Q106
              ♣ A83

(B)        Dummy
West       975         East
 AJ42                     Q106
             ♣ K83

In (A) your lead works well, forcing out  A, and setting up two defensive tricks. In (B), however, you have given declarer a trick with his  K, a card that was not destined to win, given that  A is sitting over it. Left to his own devices, declarer would lead from dummy to his  K, hoping East holds  A. Not this time.

Don’t get me wrong - the lead from a king is very dangerous, and will not work well unless partner holds either the queen of ace; but at least that’s double the chance of a lead from the ace working well.

West Deals
None Vul
K 7 3
K Q 10 9
9 5 4
9 8 2
Q 6
A 4 2
A 10 3 2
K 10 4 3
W   E
10 9
8 7 5
Q J 7 6
Q J 7 6
A J 8 5 4 2
J 6 3
K 8
A 5
West North East South
1 NT Pass Pass 2 
Pass 3 1 Pass 4 
All pass      
  1. Sporting.


What happened
Clearly West had a nightmare of a lead problem vs 4 , with nothing passive. He chose  2. Declarer beat  J with  K, cashed  AK, then led  K. West won  A and did his best, cashing  A and switching to  3. But declarer beat  J with  A, and led out three winning hearts, discarding  5. 11 tricks and game made plus one.

What should have happened
West should have led  3, hoping for either  Q or  A in partner’s hand. East’s  J (cheaper of touching cards) loses to declarer’s  A,  AK are cashed, then  K led. West wins  A, leads over to East’s marked  Q, and receives  Q through declarer’s  K. The defence score two diamonds and the game is down one. Note how much better the club lead works - and partner has identical holdings in both minors.

If you remember one thing...
Although it is still dangerous, prefer a lead away from a king to a lead away from an ace.

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