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
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@example.com. 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 www.bridgewebs.com/chiangmai.