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A refresher on opening leads
Charles Goren
May 18, 1959
This exercise is designed, so to speak, for the high-handicap player and is not apt to be troublesome to those who have mastered the art of putting backspin on their pitches to the green. So much stress on the subject of the opening lead may appear extravagant until it is pointed out that in my original treatise on the play of the cards, over 15,000 words were devoted to the subject of the opening lead alone.
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May 18, 1959

A Refresher On Opening Leads

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A BASIC TABLE FOR OPENING LEADS

HOLDING IN SUIT

AGAINST NO TRUMP

AGAINST TRUMP BIDS

AKQXXX

A

K

AKQXX

K

K

AKJX

K

K

AKJXX

X

K

AKJXXXX

A

K

AKXXXX

X

K

AKXXX

X

K

AQJXX

Q

A

KQ 10XX

K

K

KQ742

4

K

J108XX

J

J

AQ8742

7

A

AJ1082

J

A

A10972

10

A

KJ1072

J

J

K10972

10

10

This exercise is designed, so to speak, for the high-handicap player and is not apt to be troublesome to those who have mastered the art of putting backspin on their pitches to the green. So much stress on the subject of the opening lead may appear extravagant until it is pointed out that in my original treatise on the play of the cards, over 15,000 words were devoted to the subject of the opening lead alone.

Since it is difficult to offer a complete codification in anything smaller than a rather thick book, I shall attempt to reduce my advice to capsule form, setting forth a few of the pitfalls one is apt to encounter in this phase of the game.

A great many contracts hinge upon the proper choice of the opening salvo. The opening lead is not always a privilege; indeed, it can prove to be a burden, for example, when one leads away from an honor which is not part of a sequence. The old bromide "never lead away from a king" (more honored in the breach than the observance) applies with equal force to the queen or the jack. In other words the best lead is apt to be the top of a complete sequence.

Generally speaking, one should not waste a shot in the development of a hopeless hand. Suppose on lead against a no-trump contract you have the doubtful pleasure of holding:

[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[8 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

You may as well regard your hand as dead and, abandoning the spade suit, turn your thoughts toward contributing to partner's campaign. The best you can do is to provide some sort of launching pad for him by leading the 10 of hearts in the hope that this will give him a start in the race for tricks. The heart suit is selected because the 10 and 9 may prove useful whereas the diamond holding has less to offer.

LEADING PARTNER'S SUIT

A large segment of the bridge-playing public labors under the delusion that one must always lead the highest of partner's suit. This is not always sound advice. If you have two cards of the suit, lead the higher. From three worthless cards the practice is to lead the highest (although there is a school of players that leads low even from three worthless cards). My own recommendation is to lead the top of three worthless cards. Where you have a sequence you lead the top, but where you have four of your partner's suit the lowest is the proper opening.

Now take this situation:

[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

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