Ross Taylor

Bid well, defend better

Regular partners of mine know I often find situations where an unsupported honour opening lead makes sense, and in fact is necessary. Not just the routine K from Kxx, but sometimes leads like Q from Q10xx or J from J9x or whatever. The point is, you have to listen to the auction; envision the layout of the cards, and effectively play that card combination on defense the same way you might if you were declaring a hand.

Reasons vary. Perhaps you wish to lead through known strength in dummy. Perhaps you wish to retain the lead, and guage the best ensuing defense while your hand is on play. Or maybe you wish to clarify your HCP to partner very quickly in situations where you are known (by him or her) to be weak.

My friend and sometime bridge partner, David Colbert, is at the Sarasota Regional this week, playing teams with Mike Cafferata. I get a daily report from Dave – as he loves to discuss and review hands as much as I do. The following couple of paragraphs are extracted from Saturday’s email. To paraphrase would not do it justice. I like it verbatim.


“Finally, I really liked this one, maybe even a blog-worthy hand.

All red: I had QJ753 xx xx K542   in the final. It went 1C from Mike, (1D) 1S from me. (2D) 3S from Mike. (4H) 4S from me. (5D) P (P) all in tempo to me. …???

This felt bad either way. His pass is not forcing and I hate the doubletons and and and…I bid 5 spades . It went P P 6D ! and Mike doubled. All pass. And Ross, across two oceans I could hear you calling in Scottish. You KNOW what I led. You absolutely know. I made the gorgeous RT lead of the king of clubs!!!!

And dummy was xxxx Jx  KJXX   JTx 

I know partner has 4 spades so I won and continued a club. We got the first 2 tricks for +200 and 13 imps in the KO final when partners made 5D at the other table.

Mike had something like AKxx Txxx  x  AQxx and 6D makes on a spade lead or shift, not that that is tempting but the principle is the thing.”


I had a big smile when I read that story. These types of play seem to come up for me more when I play with Dave – not sure why. I will keep an eye out for them and report good ones here in the blog as they arise. Perhaps some of you will add this play to your arsenal.


Richard PavlicekFebruary 21st, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Actual “principle” is that the SA won’t go away, which is obvious to either defender after a club lead.

I never make such leads (e.g., K from Kxxx) because I don’t think they gain often enough to compensate for the downside of costing a trick outright _or_ partner never being unable to rely on the lead. I’ve seen a number of accidents, like partner overtaking to shift to his singleton, only to discover the lead was untrue.

Entertaining article though!

ross taylorFebruary 22nd, 2010 at 12:18 am

Thank you Richard – I appreciate the feedback and the concern about what can go wrong is certainly valid. Perhaps I have been charmed to have escaped such disasters, thus nothing has heretofore curbed my enthusiasm for the ploy.

I am interested to hear what other players’ views are on this general topic. Folks, feel free to leave a comment.

Jim PriebeFebruary 24th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

There are hands where lead of an unsupported honor is vital in defeating a contract – a K, even a lowly J sometimes, allowing a look at dummy and finding a necessary switch which works only from leader’s side. This hand is not one of those – a 3rd or 4th best club (depending on agreements) does the job equally well. But hey, table results say it (almost) all.

Jim PriebeFebruary 25th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Short break for a commercial.

For anyone interested in delving further into the subject of leading unsupported honors, the book, MATCHPOINT DEFENSE contains a chapter on opening leads with a couple of hands where the lead of an unsupported honor is necessary. It so happens these hands are free of the pitfalls RP mentions – partner miscounting a suit or playing you for a “real” holding.

Chuck ArthurFebruary 28th, 2010 at 10:29 am

It is important to be right when leading an unsupported King. Of course we all want to be right all of the time, but what I really mean is it is important to know the conditions under which it might be right. Partner being insensitive to the fact that I MIGHT do it would be one good reason for not doing so.

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