Work with your partner

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Do you sometimes forget to think about your partner’s hand or ignore the clues in the auction? You’re not alone – it is a common mistake.

Look at the hand above. You are on lead against 3NT. You would like to set up some heart tricks. Should you lead a heart and, if so, which heart? If not, what is your alternative?

Opening leads are often critical and you should give your choice careful thought. It is the only decision you make looking at 13 cards rather than 26. After the opening lead you will be able to see dummy as well as your own hand.

Mistake: Leading your long suit when you have no entry to your hand.

It is usually correct to lead your longest and strongest suit against notrump contracts. There is a very good reason for this. Notrump contracts are usually a race between declarer and defenders to see who can establish their long suits first. But, if your own hand is terrible, you should think again.

This hand is pretty bad. You would need partner to have great hearts in order for you to make some tricks in that suit. Most of the defence will be up to partner who must have close to an opening hand. You know this because you can be fairly accurate about the strength of the East and West hands from the auction.

Try then to work out what you think partner’s best suit is. This is not a science of course. You just need to make your best guess using the clues you have from the auction.

West did not use Stayman which usually signifies that the hand does not contain a 4-card major. You have only two spades so it seems logical to assume that partner has length in spades. If you lead a spade (the 8 as it is the top of your doubleton), you will have struck gold. Partner has an entry with the heart ace so you can establish four spade tricks before that ace is played.

If you have a very weak hand on lead, try and guess partner’s suit.

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