Opening leads

When you are on defense there are several ways (called systems) you can communicate with your partner. Of course you can only communicate using the cards you put down, your partner needs to watch carefully and try to watch for your signals. These lessons cover a few of the more commonly used systems and are intended as general guides for players and are not intended to be rigid failsafe rules.

What is my first lead?


The opening lead is card first played after the contract has been bid. The player sitting to the left  of the declarer is the one who has the responsibility of choosing both the correct suit and the correct card in that suit. The purpose of opening lead ‘suggestions’ are to help defenders mount the strongest possible attack on the contract of  declarer.

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Opening Lead Suggestions

Your opening lead decision differs depending on whether the final contract is in No Trumps or in a suit. Review the auction and try to avoid leading a  suit that the opposition have bid as you may be giving them a ‘free’ trick. It is considered very good form to lead partner’s suit if they have bid one.

General Principles for Opening Leads

  • lead low from three rags with a single honor (Q or J )
  • lead the middle from three small cards; (known as MUD playing cards in order of middle – up – down) 
  • lead the suit that is strong for the next player towards weakness in the last person to play
  • lead suits that the player bidding after you has bid – where they have strength, if there are weaknesses in their suit maybe your partner can win with a low honor card
  • lead trumps if any other other suit leads will help declare get a ruff and discard
  • don’t lead away (by leading a low card) when you have an Ace or King sometimes its unavoidable but try not to 
  • do lead unbid major suits – especially if the opposition are in a minor suit contract.
  • do lead to remove declarer’s entries (high cards) from dummy.
  • lead the suits that dummy bid to get them won before declarer cross trumps

Leading to the Second Trick

Once the opening lead has been made and dummy has been tabled, both of the defenders will have more information. When your partner has led, the first question you should ask is, “What does partner’s lead tell me?” If you have won the first trick, you must decide whether to return partner’s lead or change suits.

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