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Suit preference on opening lead

David Birman ( Israel )

David Birman was born in 1948 in Poland but now lives in Tel Aviv. He is a consultant engineer in logistics and transport. His best bridge moments came in 1985 with a silver medal in the European Championships followed by a bronze in the Bermuda Bowl. He now spends much of his time helping youngsters, being chairman of the Israeli Youth Committee and captain and coach of the junior team. He has been editor of Israel's bridge magazine since 1983.

THERE are many situations where partner is going to win the first trick in a suit where declarer is likely to have a singleton, and partner's play to the next trick is critical. It can be important to use your first card (the lead) to help partner make the right decision. Most of the time the number of cards you hold in the suit is known from the bidding, or the number of cards in declarer's hand is known (when he has made a splinter-bid, for example).

In my opinion, suit-preference on lead (SPL) can be more important than just leading a systemic third or fourth highest.

 

MY first example is from the Israel v Poland match in the 1992 Junior European Championship.

 

 

West Dealer

Q J 3 2

 

 

 

Game All

 9 8 3

 

 

 

 

 9 5 2

 

 

 

 

 Q 9 5

 

 

 

 

 

             N

 

 

6

 

 

A 7 4

 K J 4 2

 

W                         E

A Q 10 7 6

 8 7 4

 

 

10 6 3

 A J 10 6 4

 

 

 8 3

 

 

 

              S

 

 

 

 

K 10 9 8 5

 

 

 

 

 5

 

 

 

 

 A K Q J

 

 

 

 

 K 7 2

 

 

                           

W

N

E

S

Pass

Pass

1

1♠

3♠

Dbl

4

4♠

 

All

Pass

 

 

 

 

 

 West led the four of hearts (third highest) and East, after winning the ace of hearts, switched to a diamond, playing partner for the queen of diamonds and king of clubs when this return would have been the winning play. The South hand might be:

K10985

5

AKQJ

  K72

Had West led the two of hearts, as a sui preference lead, East would win the ace hearts and switch to the eight of clubs, beating the contract.

The second deal is from the Israeli Pairs Championship.

 

West Dealer

K Q 8 6

 

 

 

Game All

 4 2

 

 

 

 

 A 7

 

 

 

 

 K 10 9 5 2

 

 

 

 

 

             N

 

 

A 2

 

 

5 4

 K J 8 6 3

 

W                         E

 A 10 9 7

 K J 4 3

 

 

 9 6 5 2

 8 6

 

 

 7 4 3

 

 

 

             S

 

 

 

 

J 10 9 7 3

 

 

 

 

 Q 5

 

 

 

 

 Q 10 8

 

 

 

 

 A Q J

 

 

W

N

E

S

1

Dbl

2

3♠

Pass

4♠

All

Pass

 

 

 

 

 

West was on lead and, in accordance with their agreed leading style, led the fourth-best six of hearts. East took the ace and continued with hearts as he was afraid declarer might be able to discard a heart from dummy on his diamonds. His hand might be:

J 10 9 7 3

Q 5

K Q 8

 Q J 6

in which case a heart return is essential to beat the contract.

Had East-West been playing suit-preference opening leads, West would have been able to lead the eight of hearts, showing interest in the higher of the two remaining suits - diamonds - in which case East, after winning with the ace of hearts, knows that there is no danger of an immediate discard. He will switch to a diamond and beat the contract

My BOLS bridge tip is: When your side has found a fit,or you know there is a singleton
in dummy or declarer's hand, your lead in that suit is suit-preference to help your partner findthe right continuation after winning the first trick.

In these situations, avoid using your normal methods, and lead instead the card that will show your partner which of the other two suits you prefer.

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