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What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2017 6:30 pm
by Gustavo
1- You are FH and declarer is HH. Bidding went to 18, declarer is playing Spades. You hold Clubs K-Q-x-x, 2 trump, Hearts K-x, Diamonds Q-x. You don't have any short suits to lead, so what should you lead instead? I was told that leading a 2-card suit doesn't achieve anything as it doesn't make you void and can give your partner the impression that you are void. Should you lead the long suit in this case, risking to pull a full one from your partner that will be trumped by the declarer?

2- Similar to the above but having Clubs A-10-x-x. Should you lead the long suit?

3- Different situation, you are FH and declarer MH. Declarer is playing a Suit game. You have A-10-K-Q of a non-trump suit. Should you lead the Ace to make your opponent trump, or should you lead a lower card trying to achieve the same?

4- Similar to the above but having A-K-x-x of that suit instead. Should you lead a lower card to pull the trump, or should you lead the Ace to let your partner know his 10 is safe in case he has it?

Thanks in advance for sharing your wisdom!

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 6:58 pm
by Mike Tobias
One consideration when defending is whether you're strong or weak in Trumps: if strong, you want to use your big ones to draw declarer's trumps: if weak, you hope to save them to win tricks or smear on partner's winners.

In 3, I wouldn't lead low, but may lead the 10. Your partner will know you have the Ace when declarer doesn't play it, but the latter won't know whether you were playing a singleton 10.

In 4, you have another option, which is to play the King hoping to catch declarer with 10x or 10xx. Nick caught me with this ploy once in what would otherwise have been my first tournament win. I held 10xx, Nick led the King which I ducked, followed with the Ace, drawing a smear from his partner, then his Queen forced my 10 which was duly trumped. It's not something you can do all the time, but you may base the decision on whether you're strong or weak in Trumps.

1 and 2 is a lousy holding to lead from. In 2, I think I'd lead the Ace, in 1, probably low.

Any or all of these answers could be completely wrong.

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Mon May 22, 2017 10:19 pm
by Gustavo
Mike Tobias wrote:In 4, you have another option, which is to play the King hoping to catch declarer with 10x or 10xx. Nick caught me with this ploy once in what would otherwise have been my first tournament win. I held 10xx, Nick led the King which I ducked, followed with the Ace, drawing a smear from his partner, then his Queen forced my 10 which was duly trumped. It's not something you can do all the time, but you may base the decision on whether you're strong or weak in Trumps.


That seems to be quite a risky move. Not sure how he knew you had 10xx, otherwise he would have lost his Ace. The difference between the veterans and the newbies I guess...

Mike Tobias wrote:1 and 2 is a lousy holding to lead from. In 2, I think I'd lead the Ace, in 1, probably low.


So you would lead from the long suit in both cases, even being far from the declarer?

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 9:33 am
by Mike Tobias
Gustavo wrote:That seems to be quite a risky move. Not sure how he knew you had 10xx, otherwise he would have lost his Ace. The difference between the veterans and the newbies I guess...
He didn't know, he's taking a chance. He may indeed lose the Ace, or alternatively, the King may be trumped and he's saved his Ace for smearing. Some you win..........


So you would lead from the long suit in both cases, even being far from the declarer?
Long route, short suit etc doesn't mean that long long, short short are the worst options: a singleton lead against MH can be effective, and if you're strong in trumps against HH, underleading a 10 may be a better option than a singleton.

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 9:36 am
by Gustavo
Mike Tobias wrote:and if you're strong in trumps against HH, underleading a 10 may be a better option than a singleton.


Sorry, but could you please explain what you mean by "underleading"? Is it having 10xxx and leading a lower card, or having Kxx and leading something to make the 10 fall?

Thanks!

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 10:58 am
by Mike Tobias
Sorry, but could you please explain what you mean by "underleading"? Is it having 10xxx and leading a lower card

Yes, by underleading a 10, you're not risking your partner having 10x

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2017 11:49 am
by John McLeod
I think some of these may be controversial.

#1. I would lead low from the K Q x x. That's not because it's a particularly attractive lead but because all the alternatives are worse. You describe partner playing the ace and declarer trumping as a 'risk', but actually it's a pretty good outcome. Partner probably has several aces and tens since MH didn't play Grand, so we don't mind investing one of them to weaken declarer's trumps. Partner might have 4 trumps and declarer 5 for example. The worst possible outcome for this lead is if I lead the 8, partner having A-10-7 plays the 7 because he is afraid to have his ace trumped, and declarer throws away his singleton heart (say). leaving me on lead. FH should never do this - he must play the ace - but to be sure of avoiding it I will lead the 7 of clubs if it is one of my x's to be quite sure to get off lead.

#2. I would probably lead the ace of clubs. There is an argument for leading a small club, hoping to throw the ace and ten on partner's winners later, but since you have two cards of every suit it's not that likely you'll be able to save both that way. If you lead small partnershould overtake, as in #1.

#3. Normally I would lead the ace from A-10-K-Q, but it does depend what the rest of my hand is. (a) How strong are my trumps? (b) How many other aces and tens do I have? (c) Do I have a short suit on which I am likely to be able to save aces and tens? For example if I have no other aces or tens and only one trump I might well lead the king, hoping to be able to save my ace and ten on partner's trumps later. It would not have occurred to me to lead the 10, as Mike suggests.

#4. Sometimes lead the ace, sometimes lead the king. Letting your partner know his 10 is safe is not the issue - he will know by the end of the trick whatever card you lead. If the ace does not appear and declarer does not trump, partner will win with his 10. The main risk in leading the king is that a brave declarer, holding the 10, will win the trick with it. The reason you don't always lead the king is because if you get a reputation for doing this too often, decalrer will play his 10 in this situation, and might even sometimes keep a singleton 10 for the purpose!

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Fri May 26, 2017 11:19 pm
by Gustavo
Thank you for your input John.

It is interesting that, in examples 1 and 2, neither of you would lead from K-x or Q-x. Coincidentally, this week's video on Danie Schäfer's Youtube vlog is about leading in several situations. At 4:15, he presents a very similar situation to examples 1 and 2, and he suggests that leading the King in a K-x would be the best option:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbF94L7 ... q34g5lzz04

You can see in the comments of the video that he stands my this position after I questioned him about it. He refers to K-x and Q-x as "short suits," and thinks it is better to lead them than a long suit, even if that would mean making the Ace fall and put you in the lead of that suit with 10-D-x.

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 11:31 am
by John McLeod
I said this would be controversial. It will be interesting to discuss some of these things if we arrange a seminar with Thomas Kinback some time.

There is a popular tradition that FH should lead a short suit against a suit contract if declarer is in HH ('lange Weg, kurze Farbe') but I have the impression that many expert players nowadays disagree with this. Leading a short suit works best when FH has a singleton to lead and also has weak trumps.

I see that Daniel's idea is that leading the K from Kx will protect partner's 10 if HH has the ace. That's true - in this case your lead does not cost anything although partner's 10 would also have survived if HH eventually had to lead the suit himself. The outcome is not so good if your partner MH has the ace and HH has kept the 10 in his hand. Leading that king works particularly badly if HH has something like 10-Q-7, but I suppose that is not particularly likely, since HH chose a different suit as trumps.

I like Daniel's argument later in the video that MH should play the 10 from (say) 10-9 if FH leads the 7, since this indicates that FH has the ace. I have not been doing that, but it looks logical and I will try to do it in future. Therefore I would like to change my answer to your question #1. My preference is now to lead the king of clubs, to make sure that my partner does not play the 10 if he has it!

Re: What to lead as a defender - standards and variations

PostPosted: Tue May 30, 2017 11:26 pm
by Gustavo
John McLeod wrote:I like Daniel's argument later in the video that MH should play the 10 from (say) 10-9 if FH leads the 7, since this indicates that FH has the ace. I have not been doing that, but it looks logical and I will try to do it in future. Therefore I would like to change my answer to your question #1. My preference is now to lead the king of clubs, to make sure that my partner does not play the 10 if he has it!


I've been trying to implement this on Skat Palast this week, but people haven't been picking it up. I mean specifically when I have the Ace and lead a low card, people have been very reluctant to play their 10, obviously for a good reason. Likewise, I lost a couple of 10s to the opponents Aces when following a low lead, assuming partner had the Ace. It is definitely not as intuitive as the reverse example of K guarding the 10.