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Bridge in Paradise: by Neil Robinson

When is it right to lead a trump as the opening lead? I sometimes hear the adage “when in doubt lead a trump”. There are some good reasons to lead a trump, but this is not one of them—this particular bridge adage is not worth following. So, what are the good reasons? I plan to cover them in the next few columns. The number one reason is to cut down dummy’s ruffing power. For dummy to ruff usefully, it must be short in a suit which declarer holds. How do you know that this is the case? The answer is that you listen to the bidding. Take this as an example, with South dealing and E-W vulnerable:

North accepted South’s second suit, so he must be short in the first suit, spades. The full deal is shown below:

Assume the defence stays away from leading trumps. Instead, West leads a club, one of the unbid suits. At first sight, it looks like a good lead. Assume dummy ducks and East wins the queen. East switches to the jack of hearts, ducked to dummy’s queen. Dummy leads a spade to the ace and a spade is led back to be ruffed on board. Now, dummy leads a heart to king and ace. West leads back a club to the ace. East tries another club. Declarer discards a spade and takes the club trick on board. At this point, declarer has four tricks and the defence has three. Dummy leads a third heart which is ruffed in hand while West follows helplessly. Now another spade is ruffed on board and another heart led back to be ruffed, and another spade led. Whatever the defence does, the cross ruff limits them to only four tricks—one heart, one diamond and two clubs. The contract makes with an overtrick.
Now consider what happens if West leads a low trump. Declarer can win, cash the ace of spades and ruff a spade. However, whatever dummy now leads, the defence can win and lead another trump. Now, dummy has no trumps left and few or no entries. Provided the defence play carefully, declarer is in a hopeless situation and is limited to only six tricks—one spade, a spade ruff, a heart and three diamonds. The contract goes down two, instead of making an overtrick.
I would like to hear from readers about their favourite hands—please do contact me at [email protected] Bridge Club of Chiang Mai welcomes all players. We have members from seventeen different countries already. For information on the Club go to the web site

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Bridge in Paradise