Monday, October 12, 2009
Hand Evaluation – Leads ( Active or Passive )
Opening leads are a bidding skill. Since the 1930’s right up to today , the Bridge World magazine has an opening lead problem mixed in with their bidding problems. The situation is the same as you read the opponents bidding instead of your own before you make your opening lead. Ask questions when you are not sure what their bidding means. Experts go one step further & translate the bidding into a hand pattern before they make an opening lead. Take some time before you make your lead as it is that important. The bidding tells you when to lead passive or actively , whether to lead trump & tells you what suit to lead. The card combinations or "4th best from longest; strongest" is when you are making blind leads. ( nothing to go on from the bidding ). ♠xxx ♥AJx ♦Jxx ♣KQxx; Partner opens 1♥ , they overcall 1NT which you doubled & all pass. Your lead ? A heart lead is out as declarer does not deserve that trick. Spades or diamonds need too much from partner. I would lead a club as partner has two chances to help you with the J or Ace of clubs or even a miss guess with partner holding the 10 with the jack on the dummy. Make a lead which helps partner count HCPs or clueing her in on the lay of the land for that particular deal. The club may not work out , but a spade or diamond is just a wild stab not necessarily passive as you give declarer timing or an undeserved entry. A club lead , we make 3NT on defense. A spade lead & you are -280.
Meckstroth & Rodwell get to more close 3NT games than anybody else on the planet. Since the games are close , a trick gained from the opening lead is quite often fatal for the defense. Meckwell always lead passive against blind 1NT - 3NT auctions unless holding a standout natural lead. Conversely when the opponents have something to spare, you should lead aggressively & pursue active defense. The opponents give you no information other than making a small slam try stropping in 5♠ . What do you lead with this hand ♠xx ♥J0xx ♦Jxxx ♣Qxx ? The most aggressive lead you can make is a club , which sets the contract. The heart Jack is a killer for the defense as they make 6 picking up the entire heart suit as you do not have the heart spots.
♠AKQxxxx ♥xxx ♦xx ♣x They surprise you by opening 1♠ to your right. LHO bids 1NT with opener bidding 2♦ so you back in with 2♠. LHO bids 3♦ which ends the auction so what do you lead ? The spades are 7-5-1-0 so this hand screams for a trump lead. Declarer may go down -200 with a trump lead but makes +110 with a spade lead as he establishes his spades with ruffing finesses. Again, no spade spots in your long suit.
In the battle of the partials , good opening leads are paramount. Opening leads are a time for thinking not automatic reflexes or rote rules. Normally not a good idea to believe the opponents but opening leads are an exception. When responder takes preference , they might be short in the first suit so lead a trump in a partial. Kantar being from the 60’s uses LSD as an acronym on whether to go active or passive with your leads or defense. L stands for length indicated on the dummy or in the bidding. This means they have a source of tricks so it’s important to go active with your leads. S stands for shortness announced on the bidding. This could mean either a trump lead or a tapping defence depending where the shortness has been indicated. The D in Kantars lingo means dead as in a 4-3-3-3 hand . These distributions are built for passive leads & defense. Do not get busy & give declarer entries she does not deserve or breaking suits to give her extra tricks. Let her work for her supper & allow her to play the hand . There is no hurry for the defense , so just wait.
Active or passive leads & defense are standard defense. There are situations that come up so often in Bridge that there are opening lead standards. Passive leads are mandatory in some auctions. Quantitative auctions to 6NT demand a passive lead. Why ? These auctions are bid on HCP totals where a finesse or breaking a suit combination or a lucky guess might be their 12 th trick. Defenders should not help declarer’s cause with their opening leads. Let them play the contract rather than you breaking like in the game of Blackjack against the house. One of the worst opening leaders in Western Canada was on lead with this hand ♠109x ♥Q10xxx ♦x ♣xxxx with a 2NT-P-6NT auction. Well passive leads against 6NT contracts are not a rule he lives by so he made an “active “ ♥ lead . -17 IMPS as this was the only lead to give declarer his 12 th trick. In a 1NT-P-3NT auction , I would not lead a heart as partner has all the HCP’s for the defense so I would try a ♠ lead. In a 1NT auction , I would not lead a ♥ as again partner has all the HCP’s & we will have time for a ♥ switch if its right. Yes an all or nothing gamble can justify a ♥ lead where it could be right. Bridge players do not make those kind of gambles against 6NT slams where -17 IMPS is riding on your decision. This is why books have been written saying that 6NT = passive leads.
Opening leads are the start of the defensive plan for your side. So look ( at the bidding ) before you leap. There are wrong opening leads in accordance with the bidding. You just do not follow rote rules or platitudes for opening leads unless you just learned Bridge recently. Opening leads are an important bidding skill.