Number-showing Leads





The lead in Auction is materially simplified by the fact that

number-showing is not nearly so important as in Whist, and really only

becomes of value when opening a small card against a No-trump

declaration. In that case the lowest should always be led with four in

the suit, because the partner, having the Dummy spread before him,

being able to count his own hand, and being informed by the lead

regarding the leader's length in the suit, can generally tell the exact

number held by the Declarer, and can, therefore, accurately determine

whether it is better to continue that suit or try some other. It

happens more frequently than would be supposed that when a four-card

suit is opened with a small card, the Dummy and Third Hand have only

four cards of it between them. The Third Hand can then, if the leader

have shown exactly four, mark it as the long suit of the Declarer, and

make an advantageous shift. This is the only method of giving this

warning. If the fourth-best lead be not adopted, the suit must, in most

cases, necessarily be continued to the great benefit of the Declarer.



Number-showing by the lead of a small card (one of the rudiments of

Whist) is doubtless thoroughly understood by most Auction players; it

consists in leading the fourth best, when the suit is not of such a

character as to demand a high card or intermediate sequence opening.

This informs the partner that the leader has exactly three cards in

that suit higher than the card led, and that he may or may not have any

smaller card.



For example: the leader has Queen, 7, 6, and 4; the Dummy, a singleton

(the 3); and the Third Hand, who wins the trick with the Ace, only two

others (the 8 and 2). The Third Hand can place the Declarer with five,

as the leader, having opened his lowest, can have had only four

originally.



Number-showing leads in high cards, so advantageous in Whist, are

absolutely unimportant in Auction, and only complicate the situation.

They are not given in the table of leads appended at the end of this

chapter, nor is their use permissible, even by the Whist-player of the

old school who is thoroughly familiar with their meaning. He must

realize that Auction is not a number-showing game, and must be content

to limit his skill in that respect to the fourth best, which is

advisable when it is not higher than the 7. The limitation of the

fourth-best lead to a 7 or lower card is a useful modern innovation.

When the 8 or a higher fourth best is led against a No-trump, the

Declarer, with his twenty-six cards at his command, and with great

strength in his own hand, is apt to receive information as to the exact

high cards held by the leader which will prove of greater value to him

than to the partner. Furthermore, the lead of an 8 or 9 as a fourth

best is bound at times to conflict with the valuable lead known as the

"top of an intermediate sequence."



The holdings from which the top of an intermediate sequence should be

led are shown in the tables, and while some of the leads in such cases,

which are absolutely conventional in Auction, may shock the

Whist-player, they have, nevertheless, been found to be advisable in

the present game. Trick-winning is far more important than giving

numerical information, and the top of an intermediate sequence often

succeeds in capturing a valuable card in the Dummy, does not give too

much information to the Declarer, helps to establish the suit, and

seldom interferes with the play of the partner.



Much has been written by those who contend that the fourth-best lead

against a No-trump gives the Declarer too much information, and,

therefore, should never be employed. The writers, however, do not

consider that practically the only cases in which the lead is

objectionable for the reason cited is when it is an 8 or higher card,

while the great advantage of the lead is the warning above mentioned.



There are also instances in which the Third Hand is at some time in the

play in doubt whether to return the original lead or try his own suit.

The knowledge of whether his partner holds three or more of the suit

first led may in such case be of the greatest value.



The idea of leading the fourth best only when it is a 7 or smaller card

eliminates the objection, yet in practically every case affords the

advantage.



A player who adopts this system may at times, as, for example, with

such a holding as Ace, Queen, 10, 8, 2, be obliged to open the 8, but

inasmuch as he would lead the same card from Ace, Queen, 8, 7, 2, the

Declarer cannot bank upon the 8 of such a leader showing three higher

cards of the suit in his hand, and, therefore, no harm is done.



If the leader have any such four-card combination as Ace, or any one

face card, accompanied by 9, 8, 2, or 8, 7, 2, showing that the lead is

from four only is more important than opening the top of a two-card

intermediate sequence. When, however, the intermediate is headed by a

Knave or 10, the opening of the top of it becomes advisable regardless

of the length of the suit. Of course, the 2, in the examples just

given, is used to represent any small card, and the fourth best should

be led if it be a 3, 4, or 5.





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