How To Lead Against A No-trump

When the partner has not shown strength, the leader, against a

No-trump, should open his own long suit. If he have two long suits, he

should pick the stronger except when he has declared it, and has not

received support from his partner, in which case it is generally wise

to try the other. The possible exception to the lead of a long suit

against a No-trump is when that suit has been declared, has not been

helped by the partner, and the No-trump has been subsequently bid to

the right. In this situation, with a tenace in the long suit, it is

sometimes advisable to try, by leading another suit, to get the partner

in, so that he may lead through the Declarer's strength in the suit

called by the leader. This, however, is a dangerous expedient when the

partner has not declared. Should a suit be guessed which the partner

cannot win, one of his high cards is apt to be sacrificed, and not only

nothing gained, but the advantage of the lead transferred to the

adversary. If two high cards be missing from the tenace suit, as in the

case when it is headed by Ace, Queen, Ten, or King, Knave, Ten, and the

Declarer hold the missing honors and one small card, it will take two

leads to establish the suit. It is not likely that a partner without

sufficient strength to declare will be able to get in twice, and trying

to put him in once is most apt to establish a suit for the Declarer.

Therefore, as a general proposition, unless the partner have declared,

the tenace suit should be led. When, however, the partner has shown a

suit, opening it, in preference to a tenace, is elementary and


When the partner has declared, the leader should open the suit named

unless satisfied that his own affords a more potent weapon for the


There are only three conditions which justify the leader in assuming

this, viz.:--

(a) When the leader has called his suit and his partner has

advanced the declaration.

(b) When the leader's suit is headed by Ace, King, Queen, or

King, Queen, Knave.

(c) When the leader has only a singleton of his partner's

suit and has several reentries.

Innumerable tricks, games, and rubbers have been thrown away by a

leader who, considering solely his own hand, has started with his suit

in preference to that of his partner. There is some peculiar

characteristic in the composition of many players which magnifies the

value of their own cards, so that they seem of greater importance and

more desirable to establish than their partners'. Even experienced

players have been known to commit such an Auction absurdity as opening

a suit headed by a Knave, in preference to the suit named by the

partner, which, of necessity, contains the strength requisite for a

Trump declaration.

It is fair to estimate that ten tricks are lost by denying the

partner's declaration to one that escapes the player who leads his

partner's suit in preference to his own.

When the partner has declared, his suit can be counted upon for both

length and strength, and unless it be practically solid, his hand

contains at least one reentry. The leader by his opening can attack

only one-quarter of the No-trump fortification, and it is his duty to

pick out the spot which promises to be most vulnerable. A No-trump call

is very likely to spell game unless a suit can be established against

it. In order to accomplish this it is generally necessary to start with

the first card led. Therefore, making the right original opening is

probably the only opportunity to save the game. When the leader selects

his own suit in preference to his partner's, he should be able to say,

"In spite of the strength you have declared, I am reasonably sure that

we have a better chance to establish this suit than yours."

As a rule, however, the leader does not have sufficient strength to

support such a statement, and, therefore, his lead generally says,

"Partner, I know you have considerable strength, you may have declared

expressly for the purpose of asking me to lead your suit, but I

selfishly prefer to play my own hand rather than act for the benefit of

the partnership."

It is but a puerile excuse for a leader who does not open his partner's

suit to explain that the No-trump was called by the right-hand

adversary after the partner's declaration, and that the bid, having

been made with the anticipation that the suit named would be led, he

should surprise the Declarer. It is true that the Declarer expects that

suit, but it may be the only opening he fears. It is more than possible

that the suit is stopped but once, and that leading it will save the

game, even if it do not defeat the declaration. It is certainly a very

short-sighted or unduly sanguine player who selects a suit of his own,

which has not nearly the strength of his partner's, merely on the wild

chance that his partner, rather than the No-trump bidder, has the

missing high cards.

When the partner has declared two suits and the leader has length or

strength in one of them, he should open it, but when he cannot assist

either, he should open the suit named first, as it is probably the


As will be seen from the tables of leads against a No-trump

declaration, in some cases whether the leader has a reentry materially

affects the manner in which he should open his long suit. By a reentry

in this connection is meant either an Ace or King, unless the suit

containing the King have been bid by the adversary to the left of the

leader. In that case the King cannot be expected to win unless

accompanied by the Queen. A Queen, or even Queen, Knave, cannot be

considered a reentry, as the suit may not be led three times.

The reason for varying the lead, depending upon the presence of a

reentry, is that the sole thought of the leader against a No-trump is

to establish the suit led, and to insure so doing he opens his suit

exclusively with that end in view, regardless of whether it would

otherwise be the opening most apt to prove trick-winning. He knows that

the Declarer will, if possible, hold up a winning card until the Third

Hand is unable to return the suit. Therefore, if he be without a

reentry, he must do all in his power to force the winning card from the

adversary's hand as early in the play as possible. If he have a

reentry, he may play much more fearlessly. An example of this is a long

suit, headed by Ace, Queen, Knave. The most advantageous lead from this

combination is the Ace (as an adversary may hold an unguarded King),

and that would be the lead with a reentry; but the chances are that the

partner does not hold more than three cards of the suit, and, if it be

opened in the usual way, the King will be held up until the third

round. The leader without a reentry, therefore, is compelled to open

with the Queen, so as to establish the suit, while the partner, who

probably has a reentry, still retains a card of it.

Another important convention which applies to the opening of the

leader's suit against a No-trump declaration (but, of course, against a

No-trump declaration only) is that the original lead of an Ace calls

for the partner's highest card. An Ace, therefore, should be led from

such a combination as a suit headed by Ace, King, Knave, Ten, since the

drop of the Queen will permit the suit to be run without hesitation,

and the failure of the partner to play the Queen will permit the leader

to place its position positively, and to continue the suit or not, as

his judgment and the balance of his hand dictate. This doctrine is

extended to all cases of the original lead of an Ace against a No-trump


The Ace should not be led unless the partner's best card, regardless of

its size, be desired, and the partner should play it unhesitatingly, be

it King, Queen, or Knave, unless the Dummy convince him that meeting

the demand of the lead will be trick-sacrificing, in which case the

leader's command should be ignored.

In leading a partner's suit, the general rule of selecting the fourth

best, when opening with a small card, is not followed. The object in

leading that suit is to strengthen the partner, and it is more

important to do that and also to tell him what is the leader's highest

card than to post him regarding exact length. Holding either two,

three, or four of a partner's suit, the top, therefore, should be led,

followed on each succeeding trick by the next in order, the lowest

being retained until the last. This is sometimes called the "down and

out." The one exception to the lead of the top of the partner's suit is

when it consists of three or more headed by Ace or King, and the

right-hand adversary has called No-trump after the suit has been

declared. In that case, it may be that the stopper which the Declarer

thinks he has in the suit can be captured, and the lead, therefore,

should be a low card.

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