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Trump leads

“If in doubt, lead a trump”. Hmmm.

Don’t get me wrong - I like trump leads; but not because I’m in doubt. Here are some occasions where an opening trump lead is called for:

  1. You suspect that dummy will have a ruffing value (i.e. a short side-suit). Dummy’s trumps must be removed.
  2. The opponents have bid beyond their high cards. They must be relying on ruffing tricks tomake up for that deficiency. Take out two of their trumps.
  3. The opponents have bid unconfidently. Avoid giving a trick on lead and you may well defeat them. A trump, from low cards, rates to be the most passive lead.
  4. Your honours look well placed (sitting over their bids). Stay passive and you may prevail.
  5. All your other suits look too dangerous to lead from.
North Deals
None Vul
8 7 3
A Q 8 7 5
A J 7 3
K 5 2
K 10 8 3
10 6
10 8 5 4
W   E
A 4
J 9 7 6 5
K J 9 2
9 6
Q J 10 9 6
A 4 2
4 3
K Q 2
West North East South
  1  Pass 1 
Pass 2  Pass 2 1
Pass 2 2 Pass 4 
Pass Pass Pass  
  1. Fourth Suit Forcing - “We’re going to game, more information please”.
  2. Implying a 3-1-5-4 shape (although he might be stuck with 2-2- 5-4).

What happened
Hearing three suits bid naturally, West led  3. Declarer won dummy’s  Q, crossed to  Q, ruffed  4, and led a trump. West beat declarer’s  Q with  K and switched to  10, but declarer, taking no chances, rose with  A, and led a second trump. East won  A and cashed  K (best), but declarer could ruff a third diamond (higher than West), draw West’s last trump, and claim his game.

What should have happened
West listens carefully to the bidding and, expecting dummy to table a singleton heart, leads  2. East wins  A, returns  4 to  K, and West leads his third trump. With dummy’s trumps removed, declarer has two losing hearts.
In practice declarer will win the third trump in hand and try  3 to  Q. East wins  K and switches to  6. Declarer wins  A, and leads  3 to  A and ruffs  5. He then cashes  K, leads  2 to  J, and ruffs  7. He overtakes  Q with  A (playing clubs in this manner to reach dummy twice), cashes the promoted  8, but has to concede the last trick,  7, to West’s  10.
Down one - and all because of West’s well-reasoned trump lead.

If you remember one thing...
When to lead trumps

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