Best eBridge Defensive Opening Leads
This Guide shows how Defenders make suit leads and NT leads that conform to Audrey Grant (AG) and Best eBridge (BeB) systems. You may practice such leads at BeB. Most leads in this Guide would be the same whether made from AG’s Defense or BeB’s principles. You may receive a 1-month free BeB membership by registering with this link: https://bestebridge.com/?lps=70001234.
You may download this lesson: BeB Opening Leads for Blog v2
Common Leads: You must read BeB’s “CommonLeads—NT.pdf” to understand the logic behind its NT leads. To find this resource, go to Hand 1, click on Solution, and then click on “Click here.”
Signals: Part of Defense is the opening lead by LHO (left-hand opponent). Equally important to the defensive effort is the signal played on the opening lead by RHO (right-hand opponent). This signal may be delayed until the 2nd round if RHO must play 3rd-hand high (3hh) on the lead. RHO’s signals may show attitude, count, suit preference, or honor lead response. You may find BeB’s signals under the tabs Topics, Defense, Signals.
1st Lead by Left Hand Opponent (LHO)
- King: The lead of a King requests that RHO either play 3hh or give count. If RHO plays 3hh, then RHO will unblock by playing an honor on Round 1. On Round 2, RHO will give count. When giving count, RHO will report their current count at the instant before their play. For example, RHO is dealt Q93 so shows the starting tripleton on Round 1 by playing Lo-Hi with the 3, or the remaining doubleton on Round 2 by playing Hi-Lo with the Q or 9. See Hands 1, 25, 27.
- 3-Card Solid Honor Sequence: If LHO holds a long suit that is potentially runnable, LHO will lead the top card. RHO will give count. If RHO’s count signal reveals that Declarer is short, then LHO will run the suit. If RHO is short, then LHO will play passively, waiting for RHO to gain the lead and return LHO’s suit through Declarer’s strength. See Hands 2, 9, 21.
- 3-Card Broken Honor Sequence: LHO will lead the top of the sequence, such as Hhh where H is the highest honor. RHO will give count. See Hands 3, 4, 43.
- 3-Card Interior Honor Sequence: LHO will lead the 2nd highest card of the sequence, such as hHh where H is the highest touching honor. RHO will give count. See Hand 11.
- 4th Best: In most situations, LHO will lead the 4th card from their longest unbid holding. That is, LHO will not lead a long suit if that suit were bid by Declarer. If two suits have the same length, then LHO will lead the stronger suit (eg, one with a tenace). If the contract is NT and Declarer has not bid Stayman, then LHO should prefer a lead in a major suit. If the contract is slam, then LHO should not underlead a suit containing a single honor. See Hands 5, 6, 10, 17, 19, 20, 22, 26, 30, 32, 41.
- RHO: LHO will lead any suit requested by RHO. LHO will show count. During the bidding, RHO may have made a natural bid in this suit, or doubled an unnatural bid in this suit. During the play, RHO may have signaled suit preference when attitude and count were obvious. See Hands 8, 23, 35.
- LHO: If LHO can single-handedly set the contract, then LHO should do so. Nevertheless, LHO may not have sufficient QT on Round 1. If LHO has sufficient entries to develop the needed tricks, LHO should make a lead that promotes one of their slow tricks into a QT. See Hand 24.
- MUD: When playing passively, LHO will lead the Middle card from a tripleton. On the next round, LHO will play the Upper card. On the last round, LHO will play the Down card. LHO will play passively in a slam contract when LHO does not have sufficient QT to defeat the contract. Also, LHO will play passively when the development of LHO’s best suit requires a lead from RHO. See Hands 34, 44.
BeB Hands (You are always LHO. Declarer is either W or E.)
- Hand 1: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. LHO leads the K from a 3ch (3-card honor) solid sequence in a 5c (5 card) suit. RHO either signals count or unblocks an honor. In this case, RHO signals a doubleton Hi-Lo. LHO runs the suit while Declarer ducks. Declarer wins the 3rd round. LHO has a side-suit entry card. When LHO regains the lead with their entry card, they run the remainder of the lead suit.
- Hand 2: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. LHO leads the Q from a 3ch solid sequence in a 5c suit. RHO signals count. In this case, LHO has the side-suit entries to develop their long suit, so continues to lead the opening suit whenever regaining the lead.
- Hand 3: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. LHO leads the Q from a 3ch broken sequence in a 5c suit. RHO signals count. Whenever a Defender regains the lead, they lead the opening suit.
- Hand 4: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. LHO leads the Q from a 3ch broken sequence in a 5c suit. RHO signals count. Whenever a Defender regains the lead, they lead the opening suit. Since LHO needs some help from RHO, LHO plays 2nd hand low on all new suits opened by Declarer, hoping RHO can win an extra trick and return the lead suit.
- Hand 5: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. LHO leads 4th best from a 2ch sequence in a 5c suit. LHO needs help from RHO to set the contract. LHO does have side entries. RHO plays 3hh on the lead.
- Hand 6: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. LHO leads 4th best from a 2ch sequence in a 5c suit. LHO needs help from RHO to set the contract. LHO has no side entries. RHO plays 3hh on the lead.
- Hand 8: 3NT Contract. 1♦-1♠-X-2♠-P-P-3N. LHO leads hxx in RHO’s suit, showing count. A lead of the honor would be captured by Declarer if Declarer had a tenace in the suit.
- Hand 9: 3NT Contract. 1♠-1N-P-3N. LHO holds a 3ch solid sequence in a 5c suit. LHO has no side-suit entries. With no entries to hand, LHO prefers to lead RHO’s suit. LHO shows count.
- Hand 10: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-2♣-P-2♦-P-3N. LHO holds 3 QT. LHO begins by leading 4th best in a 5c suit w/ a 2ch sequence, because if this suit breaks unevenly, LHO will need help from RHO.
- Hand 11: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-2♣-P-2♦-P-3N. LHO leads 2nd best in a 5c suit w/ a 4ch interior sequence. Declarer almost certainly holds the gap card. The lead of 2nd best will drive out the missing honor, making the suit runnable whenever Defenders regain the lead.
- Hand 17: 3NT Contract. 1♠-P-2♦-P-3♦-P-3N. LHO leads 4th best from a 5ch suit headed by 2ch. LHO has no side-suit entries. RHO plays 3hh, returns the lead with count. From the count, LHO determines how best to run the suit.
- Hand 19: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-2♣-P-2♦-P-3N. LHO leads 4th best from a 5c suit headed by 2ch. RHO can’t play 3hh, so gives count. LHO has two entries. With the 1st entry, LHO ducks in the lead suit. With the 2nd entry, LHO runs the now developed lead suit.
- Hand 20: 3NT Contract. 1♦-P-1♠-P-2N-P-3N. LHO leads 4th best. RHO plays 3hh. Declarer tries to develop Dummy’s long suit, but LHO ducks and RHO gives count.
- Hand 21: 3NT Contract. 1♦-P-3N. LHO leads top of 3c solid sequence from a 5cM (5-card major). Declarer did not use Stayman so may not have length in the majors. RHO gives count.
- Hand 22: 3NT Contract. 1♦-P-1♥-P-2♣-P-2N-P-3N. LHO leads 4th best from an unbid major. Declarer did not use Stayman. LHO has a long major, but Declarer bid it, showing a 4cM. RHO wins as 3hh, and continues the lead suit to trap Declarer’s stopper.
- Hand 23: 2NT Contract. 1N-P-2♣-X-2♦-P-2N. RHO has asked for a ♣ lead. LHO leads RHO’s suit, showing count. When LHO wins in a side suit, LHO continues in the lead suit.
- Hand 24: 6NT Contract. 2N-P-4N-P-6♣-P-6N. LHO can set the contract if LHO promotes a second winner. LHO leads top of KQ sequence to drive out the A.
- Hand 25: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-2♣-P-2♦-P-3N. A major is a good lead as Declarer did not bid Stayman. LHO has a 5c major headed by 4ch. LHO leads the K to invite RHO to drop the missing honor, or give count. RHO gives count. LHO’s suit is not runnable, so LHO switches to any other side suit. Eventually, RHO wins a trick, and returns LHO’s lead to trap Declarer’s stopper.
- Hand 26: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. Declarer is in 3NT w/o bidding Stayman. LHO has two 4cM, with one containing a tenace. LHO leads the major with the tenace.
- Hand 27: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-2♣-P-2♦-P-3N. LHO holds a 5c suit with 4ch. LHO leads the K, demanding that RHO unblock or show count. RHO shows count. The suit is not runnable given RHO’s count, so LHO shifts to any other suit. Eventually, RHO wins a trick, and continues in LHO’s opening suit, trapping Declarer’s stopper.
- Hand 30: 3NT Contract. 2N-P-3N. LHO leads 4th best from a 5c suit. RHO plays 3hh, bottom of a sequence. Eventually, Defenders regain the lead to run their suit.
- Hand 32: 3NT Contract. 1♣-P-1♦-P-2N-3N. LHO leads 4th best from a weak 5c suit. RHO plays 3hh, top of a sequence. Normally, RHO would play the bottom of their sequence. Here, RHO is playing a doubleton as Hi-Lo. LHO signals suit preference. RHO continues in the preferred suit. LHO wins, then runs the lead suit.
- Hand 34: 6NT Contract. 1N-P-4N-6N. LHO should not lead away from a one-honor suit in 6NT. Instead, LHO leads MUD in a worthless suit. Eventually, the Defenders’ honors win tricks.
- Hand 35: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-2♣-X-P-2♦-P-3♣-P-3N. LHO leads a count signal in RHO’s suit. RHO forces out Declarer’s stopper. When LHO regains the lead, LHO returns RHO’s developed suit.
- Hand 41: 3NT Contract. 1♣-P-1♦-P-1N-P-3N. LHO will lead 4th best from their longest unbid suit, but if equal, will prefer a major. RHO plays 3hh to win, then gives count. LHO runs the suit until Declarer stops ducking. When LHO regains the lead, LHO plays all their QT to set the contract.
- Hand 43: 3NT Contract. 1N-P-3N. LHO leads top of a broken sequence in a 5cM. RHO signals count. RHO returns the lead suit whenever possible.
- Hand 44: 3NT Contract. 2N-P-6N. LHO leads passively when holding a 5c suit with a tenace. LHO leads MUD from any other suit. Eventually, Declarer tries a finesse in LHO’s suit. LHO wins the finesse, and takes one more trick in the suit.
Common Leads: BeB does not offer a pdf on suit leads. Instead, consider the pdf from the Porthcawl DBC called “Tutorial 12 — Opening Leads.” You can find a discussion of Audrey Grant standard leads in a paper written by David Lindrop, her husband, called “Leading Against Suit Contracts.”
1st Lead by Left Hand Opponent (LHO)
- RHO Has Bid a Suit: LHO’s preferred lead should be RHO’s suit. LHO shows count with their choice of Hi-Lo cards on the lead. If RHO plays 3hh, but not very high, then LHO may shift suits the next time LHO regains the lead. RHO’s suit might be implied rather than explicit, such as when RHO passes despite having sufficient points to bid; in this case, RHO probably has length in the suit that Dummy bid but Declarer did not support. See Hands 7, 39, 47.
- RHO May Have Shortage: Dummy and Declarer may have bid and supported two suits. LHO may have length in the suit not selected as trumps. RHO probably has extreme shortage in this side suit. LHO should lead high in this suit. RHO will either discard or play a singleton. When regaining the lead prior to Declarer pulling trumps, LHO should continue this suit for a ruff. See Hand 40.
- Declarer May Ruff: Declarer and Dummy have shown distributional hands suitable for ruffs and crossruffs. LHO should lead high in trumps, and continue to lead trumps at every opportunity. Declarer’s shape may have been disclosed in several ways: (1) Responder showed a 2c fit by bidding NT after Declarer’s opening, (2) Declarer and Dummy bid 3 suits while ignoring the 4th suit, or (3) Declarer and Dummy bid one suit in interference while LHO and RHO could not find a fit in the other 3 suits. See Hands 12, 13, 14, 29, 36, 37, 38, 46.
- Declarer is Strong: LHO and RHO are likely weak, with no honor sequences. Most side-suit leads will go up to a tenace in Declarer’s strong hand. LHO should lead passively in trumps or shortage, and show count. A more desperate option, holding an hxx tripleton, is to lead low, hoping that RHO will play 3hh and Declarer will cover to establish LHO’s honor. See Hands 28, 33, 45.
- Dummy Has Bid a Suit: LHO may lead Dummy’s suit if this suit were unsupported by Declarer. LHO should show count. RHO will show count whenever Declarer leads a suit. If LHO regains the lead, LHO should lead from a tenace, hoping that RHO has a ranking card and can return the suit through Declarer’s strength. See Hand 31.
- Declarer Leads a 3c Sequence: A good lead is always a 3c solid, broken, or interior sequence, playing the top of touching honors. See Hands 15, 42.
- Declarer Leads a 2c Sequence: In suit contracts but not NT contracts, a good lead includes 2c sequences. When the 2c sequence is AK, the lead of the A asks RHO to show an entry or attitude, while the lead of the K asks RHO to unblock or show count. Depending on the AK signal, LHO continues or switches suits. See Hands 16, 18.
BeB Hands (You are always LHO. Declarer is either W or E.)
- Hand 7: 4♥ Contract. 1♦-1♠-2♥-P-3♥-P-4♥. LHO leads a count-signal K from a doubleton in RHO’s suit. RHO wins the return and the third trick.
- Hand 12: 4♥ Contract. 1♠-P-1N-P-3♥-P-3♠-P-4♥. With 2c♠ in Dummy, Declarer is likely to ruff any ♠ losers. LHO attacks the implied ruffs by leading trumps at every opportunity.
- Hand 13: 4♥ Contract. 1♥-P-1♠-P-2♦-P-4♥. Declarer is likely to crossruff in the two side-suit bids. LHO attacks the implied ruffs by leading trumps at every opportunity. However, LHO plays low when Declarer plays high, as this promotes LHO’s QT for when Declarer or Dummy show out of trumps.
- Hand 14: 2♥ Contract. 1♠-P-2N-P-2♥. Declarer is likely to ruff in the suit that Dummy did not support. LHO attacks the implied ruffs by leading trumps at every opportunity. So does RHO.
- Hand 15: 4♠ Contract. 1♦-P-1♠-P-2♠-P-4♠. LHO has a broken sequence (KQT) and some 1-honor side suits. LHO leads top of the broken sequence. Eventually, LHO wins two tricks in the broken sequence.
- Hand 16: 4♠ Contract. 1♣-P-1♦-P-1♠-P-4♠. LHO has a 2ch sequence (AK). LHO leads top of the sequence. RHO discourages with a low attitude. Eventually, RHO wins a side-suit trick and returns the opening lead, trapping Declarer’s stopper.
- Hand 18: 6♥ Contract. 1♠-P-2♥-P-3♥-P-4N-P-5♥-P-6♥. Declarer in is slam. LHO holds a 2ch sequence (AK). LHO leads the Ace, asking for count. RHO signals that Declarer had a singleton. LHO continues passively, in any side suit.
- Hand 28: 4♠ Contract. 1♠-P-2♠-P-4♠. LHO has side suits with either a single honor or with a tenace. None is a good lead. LHO leads passively, in trumps showing count. RHO gives count in suits led by Declarer. Whenever regaining the lead, LHO plays passively, either trumps or a suit that cannot get a ruff/sluff based on RHO’s count.
- Hand 29: 4♠ Contract. 1♦-P-1♥-P-1♠-P-3♠-P-4♠. Dummy did not support ♦, so may be short. Declarer will ruff & sluff in ♦. LHO leads trumps at each opportunity, and so does RHO.
- Hand 31: 4♠ Contract. 3♦-P-3♠-P-4♠. LHO shows count in Dummy’s suit. Likewise, RHO gives count whenever Declarer opens a suit. When LHO regains the lead, LHO plays low in a suit that contains a tenace, hoping that RHO has an honor. If RHO does have a ranking card, RHO returns the suit to trap Declarer’s stopper.
- Hand 33: 4♠ Contract. 1N-P-2♣-P-2♠-P-4♠. LHO has two potential 4th-best leads. Declarer is stronger than Dummy. Any lead will go up to Declarer’s strength. Instead of 4th best, LHO leads a doubleton. RHO provides a ruff. After getting the ruff, LHO plays passively by continuing in trumps.
- Hand 36: 4♠ Contract. 1♥-P-1♠-P-2♦-P-3♠-P-4♠. Responder has skipped a suit in the bidding, so may be short. Declarer may try to ruff in that suit. LHO should lead trumps to prevent ruffing.
- Hand 37: 4♥X Contract. 1♦-1♥-1♠-2♥-3♣-3♦-3♠-4♥-P-P-X. Declarer and Dummy show a good fit in trumps. However, Defenders have control of the other 3 suits. LHO’s best lead is trumps, so that Declarer cannot ruff or crossruff. There is some urgency to remove trumps, so LHO plays high rather than taking the tiny chance that RHO might have a singleton ranking trump.
- Hand 38: 2♥ Contract. 1♠-P-1N-P-2♥. Declarer has showed 2 suits, but Dummy has not supported one. Declarer may ruff. LHO leads a low trump to show count (tripleton). At each opportunity, Opponents lead trumps. Declarer loses control as trumps are depleted.
- Hand 39: 4♥ Contract. 1♦-1♠-2♥-2♠-3♥-P-4♥. LHO leads RHO’s suit. However, RHO does not show strength in the suit, playing a Q to guarantee the J (ie, the AK are missing). When LHO regains the lead, LHO chooses the only possible side suit that shows promise. LHO leads low from hxx. RHO wins and returns the suit to LHO’s honor. LHO wins and returns the suit again, with RHO winning.
- Hand 40: 4♠ Contract. 1♠-P-2♦-P-3♦-P-4♠. Declarer and Dummy have a fit in two suits. LHO has one of these suits, and a ranking trump. RHO must be very short. LHO leads high in RHO’s shortage to win the trick, then continues for a ruff. When LHO regains the lead in trumps, LHO leads the short suit again for a 2nd ruff.
- Hand 42: 4♠ Contract. 1♠-P-2♠-P-4♠. A good lead is top of a sequence. This hand has an added feature in that LHO intends to trap the trump Q. LHO must prepare to play low on any non-Q trump led by Declarer.
- Hand 45: 6♥ Contract. 1♥-P-1♠-P-3♥-P-4N-P-5♣-P-6♥. LHO has one QT, needs another. In this case, LHO leads low from Qxx hoping for support from RHO. In fact, RHO plays 3hh and Declarer covers to establish the Q. When LHO regains the lead with the QT, they also play the established trick.
- Hand 46: 4♥X Contract. 1♦-1♥-1♠-2♥-3♣-4♥-X. RHO opened and LHO has points. Clearly Declarer and Dummy have bid on Distribution Points. LHO leads high in trumps, then continues with a low trump. Declarer has lost the ability to ruff.
- Hand 47: 3♠ Contract. 1♦-P-1♠-P-1N-P-3♠. Declarer has stopped short of game, so probably has 23 points. From the points, RHO must have an opening hand, but did not bid. This indicates that RHO holds Dummy’s suit. LHO leads Dummy’s suit. LHO holds Jxxx in trumps, guaranteeing one natural trump trick. LHO should never overtrump, as LHO is entitled to one trump trick anyway. LHO plays passively.