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What does Partners lead mean?

Choosing which suit to lead is most of the battle for a defender. But don’t get careless and then lead the wrong card. Here are the four rules for which card to select to send the appropriate message:

(1) Lead top from a sequence of two+ touching high cards:
AK42, KQ3, J1052, KJ102

(2) Lead top from two cards:
97,  Q3, 104,  J7,

(3) Lead Low for Like:
KJ52, Q54, K103, Q964

(4) Lead High for Hate:
9752,  8732,  983,  7432

(try to lead second highest from rubbish, so that you can follow with the higher one next time, and so avoid the confusion with top from a doubleton).

Note that I am not necessarily recommending the above leads (indeed I have mentioned my general distaste for the top-of-a-doubleton lead on several occasions); merely I am telling you which card to lead, if you are to lead the suit.

When partner has led, you should make the following working assumptions:

  • (a) An honour lead (ace down to ten) shows the card immediately below and denies the card immediately above.
  • (b) A high spot card (nine down to five/six-ish) is from a suit that partner does not wish you to return.
  • (c) A low spot card (five/six-ish down to two) is from a suit partner does want you to lead back.

This East did not get the message...


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

 

What happened
West reasonably chose  8 as his opening lead. The one suit he couldn’t afford to lead from was a diamond - away from the ace - but because he was desperate for partner to switch to the suit and not return a heart, he made sure he led a high heart (“lead high for hate”). The message fell on deaf ears. East won  A and and returned  7. Declarer won, drew trumps, cashed  AK discarding  6, and claimed ten tricks. Game made.

What should have happened
East wins  A and, partner’s  8 being a clear high for hate lead, switches to  J (dummy’s weakness). This scoops up three quick tricks for the defence - down one.

If you remember one thing...
Do not return partner’s lead of a high spot card (unless you suspect it to be top from two cards).

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