” When, as a defender, you are about to attack from a holding such as J-x, Q-x or K-x, consider the possible advantage of leading a low card.”

Rixi (Rika “Rixi” Markus) wrote for the Guardian and the Evening Standard and is the author of several books.

Rixi Markus
Rixi Markus

When you, as a defender, you are about to attack a suit in wich you have a holding such as J-x, Q-x or K-x, do you invariably lead tghe high card? Most players always do, but this is sometimes quite a costly mistake.

My bridge tip is that when you have to open up such holding you consider the possible advantage of leadingthe low card. This may well work better when the hand on your left is marked with strength in this suit, and especially when you have no re-entry to your hand.

Suppose, for example, that at some point during the defence you lead the king for K-x and the next hand wins with the ace from A-J-x. Now, if you yourself cannot regain the lead, your partner will be stymied, even if his holding is as strong as, say, Q-10-9-x.

He will be unable to continue the suit except at the cost of a trick. Had you led low instead, the suit cold have been cleared. ( I am assuming, of course, that your partner is well endowed with entries.)

I was able to put this tip to good use in a recent rubber. South opened with a weak 1NT, showing 12 to 14 points, and finished in 3NT after the sequence below. What would you have led from the West hand?

Dealer: South. Neither Vunerable

Spade SuitA K 10
Heart Suit6
Diamond SuitK J 9 8 5
club suitQ 7 4 2
Spade SuitQ 2    
Heart Suit10 7 4 3 2
Diamond Suit6 4 3
club suit8 6 5
Spade SuitJ 9 7 6 5 4
Heart SuitA J 9
Diamond SuitA Q
club suit10 3
Spade Suit8 3
Heart SuitK Q 8 5
Diamond Suit10 7 2
club suitA K J 9

The Auction:

West North East South
1NT
Pass 2club suit 2Spade Suit Pass
Pass Dble Pass 3Heart Suit
Pass 3NT End

Contract: 3NT

As South was unwilling to pass his partner’s penalty double of two spades, it seemed clear that the spade strengh was likely to be in the dummy hand. Accordingly, in wiew of the absence of amy re-entry to my own hand, I decided to lead the Spade Suit2 rather than the queen.

Jaime Ortiz Patiño & Rixi Markus
Jaime Ortiz Patiño & Rixi Markus

As you can see, declarer could no longer cope with his task. He won with the ace, entered his hand with a club, and led a diamond, losing to my partner’s queen. Declarer ducked the spade return, allowing my queen to hold, but i was able to put partner in with the Heart SuitA to clear the spades. NOw South could take only eight tricks.

It is easy to see that if West leads the Spade SuitQ initially, declarer will win with the ace and make the contract, as East will be unable to attack spades effectively.

These situations occur quite frequently during the middle game, when it often pays to lead a small card from doubleton honour. This is especially so when you can see three or four cards smaller than your honour in dummy privided that your partner is an intelligent player who can interpret the meaning of your plan of action.

Think of this type of situation:

9 6 2

                 A J 7 4                                      10 5

K Q 8 3

East is on lead and the defence need two tricks from this suit. If East has no further entry he must lead the 5, not the 10, and West must read the situation; when he captures the queen with the ace he must steel himself to return the suit.

There is an excellent example of Rixi’s Bols Tip in her book, Aces and Places. She writes there:

Giorgio Belladonna & Rixi Markus
Giorgio Belladonna & Rixi Markus

” I am very ambitious about defence. With a good partner you can try and beat contracts which seem unbeatable;but you need co-operation, which you get only from a first class partner. Here is was Benito Garozzo who undestood my reason for an unorthodox but successfull attempt to beat four spades shich was made at every other table.

Dealer: East. N/S Vunerable

Spade SuitJ x
Heart Suitx x
Diamond SuitK 8 x x
club suitA K 9 x x
Spade SuitA Q x    
Heart SuitQ x x
Diamond SuitQ 9 x x
club suitx x x
Spade Suitx x
Heart SuitK J 10 9 x x
Diamond SuitJ x
club suitQ J 10
Spade SuitK 10 9 x x x
Heart SuitA x
Diamond SuitA 10 7 
club suitx x

After I had opened three hearts sitting East, South played in 4Spade Suit and West led the Heart SuitQ. I overtook with the king and declarer won with the ace.

He then crossed to dummy with a club and finessed a spade to Garozzo’s queen. I won the heart return, but what now?

It seemed to me that with the clubs breaking even I had to set up a diamond trick quickly, at the same time attacking dummy’s entry. You will see that if I lead the Diamond SuitJ West cannot continue the suit when if with the Spade SuitA. So i had to find the lead of a low diamond.