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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

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

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.

Next: The Lead Against A Suit Declaration

Previous: How To Lead Against A No-trump

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