Opening Leads
                 Short Suit Leads
                 Trump Leads
        Suit Distribution
        Dumping Which Loser? 
        Morton's Fork

Playing in a suit contract has the added feature of trump. This double edged sword can be beneficial for either Declarer or Defender. The Defender uses trump as a weapon by trumping (ruffing) Declarer's winning tricks. That is why many a Defender will often lead a Short Suit; like a singleton or even from a doubleton. (It is very Zen to lead a void.) He hopes partner has some high cards in that suit and can give him an immediate ruff or a ruff at a later date. The date would not be sometime next Wednesday, but hopefully within the next 1/2 hour. 
        The Declarer counters this Short Suit lead by extracting trump as soon as possible. (Remember: extracting trump does not mean that you necessarily win the trick.) The caveat of leading the Short Suit is that it could finesse partner or set up Declarer's long suit for future discards. 
    Your Short Suit = Declarer's Long suit
This equation is very possible. 
        Trump in the hands of a skillful Declarer can be the very tool that enables the making of the contract. Trump is sometimes the last bastion against the Defender's long suit. The same hand played in No Trump would go down 3, but in a suit contract at the same level it makes. Playing in a suit contract is complementary to playing in No Trump. In a No Trump contract, count winners and try to create winners. In a suit contract, count losers and try to get rid of them. 
          The 3 ways to eliminate losers are DUMP, TRUMP and FINESSE. Other ways might be dropping them under the table; putting them in your pocket or giving them to family and friends. These latter methods are not generally accepted at the Bridge table.
        This month's hand will examine a problem that often occurs: which loser to eliminate? Not all losers are equal. Some losers are more equal than others. This decision, which loser to eliminate, should be postponed as long as possible. This will let the Declarer explore other avenues of play. 

North opens the bidding with her only four card suit: 
D. South responds 1H and North rebids 1 No Trump. The 1 No Trump rebid is not the same as a 1 No Trump opening. The rebid of 1 No Trump shows a MINIMUM opening of 12 - 14 points and denies four cards in Spades and four cards in Hearts. (North with four cards in Spades would rebid 1 S; and with four cards in Hearts would rebid 2 H.) 
         South has a great playing hand and can also   assume that her partner has two or three Hearts. With a singleton or a void in Hearts, North would have rebid a suit. 
        South jumps to 3 H and North with three good Hearts to the Queen happily goes to game at 4 H.

Contracts are often made or broken by the Opening Lead. West looks down at his hand and studies his cards. Hmmm. . . a tough one. Then he looks up at the ceiling for some divine inspiration. Nothing there either. Should he use the Rule of Thumb? (Lead the card that his thumb is on.) Sometimes that works; but sometimes it doesn't. 
         He remembers what his grandfather told him when he was a Little League Bridge Player: A good opening leader is like a good doctor; first do no harm. That eliminates the black suits. If Declarer has the A S and the Q S, then a Spades lead would burn a trick. And again, if Declarer has the A C, K C and J C then the Short Suit lead in that suit would be disastrous.
         Consider the red suits. A Diamond lead is not very appetizing. That leaves Hearts, which is trump. Maybe Declarer has some losers in her hand that she wants to ruff in Dummy? To counter this strategy, the Defense must remove Dummy's trump. That is not such a formidable task, since Dummy is known to have less than four Hearts.
         It's decided: lead a Heart. But which one? Dropping the A H on the table will enable West to get a peak at Dummy and maybe lead a second Heart or maybe something else. The downside of that lead is that Declarer gets total control of the hand once the Ace of trump is played. She can pull the rest of the trump and then run a long suit.
        A better lead for West is to lead a low Heart. He still has control of the hand with the A H and can even pull 2 rounds of trump later if needed by playing the A H then a small Heart. So the 2 H is put face up at Declarer's left. Let the play begin! 

TAKE ONE: South to her surprise wins the trick in her hand. But not before she counted losers. Without taking the count there cannot be an effective plan. She counted: 2 Hearts, 
1 Spade and 2 Clubs. 5 losers. Have to get rid of 2 losers. Not that difficult, she thinks. For the Defense made a boo-boo [boo-boo is a high tech Bridge term.] by not taking 2 Heart tricks off the top. This gives me the opportunity to DUMP a losing Spade on a Diamond winner. And for Clubs, either they will split 3/3 and I'll lose only one Club and the 4th Club will be a winner; or if no 3/3 split, I'll ruff the 4th Club in Dummy. I'll only lose 1 Spade, 1 Heart, and 1 Club. Making 4 Hearts.
           Declarer now believes she is on the road to victory. She plays a small Diamond to the Ace. And then on the K D she gleefully (it is bad form to appear too gleeful) DUMPS the losing 2 S from her hand.
       You guys sure missed out on that suit! Now for Clubs. The A C is followed by the King. The Q C appears at Declarer's left. Maybe West also has the J C, thinks South. The third Club is played; West shows out and East wins with the 9 C. The Dummy has 2 Hearts (Q H and 5 H) and is ready to ruff the 4th Club. However, East spoils South's plan by playing the 5 S. West wins with the K S and then bangs down the A H, then gleefully continues with the 4 H. (Again, not too gleeful.) Dummy is out of trump and Declarer will lose another Club (to East's J C). She has lost 2 Clubs, 1 Spade and 1 Heart for down 1. The road to victory has led to the avenue of defeat. 
TAKE 2. The same 5 losing tricks but a different Declarer (or the same Declarer on a different day). She thinks, there are still 2 trumps out [with Defenders] and they might not be split 1/1, but both can be in the same hand. If I give up the lead in Clubs, which I have to do eventually, the Defense will play the 2 trumps, removing all of Dummy's trump. Then I'll not be able to ruff a Club in Dummy. The problem is moot if Clubs split 3/3 and my 4th Club is a winner. But a 3/3 Club split is not good odds. [36%]
          Declarer can DUMP a Club on a Diamond, but will still lose 1 Club, 2 Spades and a trick to West's A H, for down 1. What to do? 
         A flash of light; a brilliant idea! I'll take the Diamond finesse. If the J D wins I can DUMP 2 Clubs on the A D and K D. But that is only a 50 % chance. [light dims]. But wait! What about the Spade suit? [light getting brighter.] If the outstanding Spade honors are split, [Ace in one hand; King in the other hand.], or both honors with West, then I can win a trick with my Queen or Jack of Spades. [Light very bright.]
         There are only 4 ways the Spade honors can be distributed between the East/West hands.
        POSSIBILITY        WEST         EAST
             1.                  AK            ---
             2.                  ---             AK
             3.                   A              K
             4.                   K              A
Both honors will be with East (possibility 2) 25 % of the time and the Q S and J S will be losers. But for the other 75%, the honors will be split or both with West (possibilities 1, 3 and 4) and either the Q S or J S will be a winner. A 75% chance is very acceptable. 
         If, however, East does have both A S and K S, the Declarer can always fall back on the Diamond finesse. Combining both maneuvers gives Declarer an 871/2% chance of making the contract: extremely acceptable.
PLAY: Win the 2 H in the closed hand. Now play the 
S toward the Queen/Jack of Spades. West plays small; the J S from the table; and East wins the trick with the 
S. East returns a Club. (As good a return as any.) South hops up with the A C and for the next trick drops the 3 S on the table.
         West is at a crossroad or a fork in the road. (This situation in Bridge is called MORTON'S FORK.) If West does not play the K S, then Dummy's Q S wins the trick and South is left with only 1 Spade loser (East's A S). With only 1 Spade loser and 1 Heart loser and 1 Club loser, 4 H makes.
          If West takes the other road and plays the K S, then Dummy's Q S becomes a winner and a losing Club can be DUMPED off on the Q S. Then Declarer will have no Club losers (a second Club is DUMPED on a Diamond). Thus with only 1 Heart loser and 2 Spade losers, 4 H makes.
          According to Morton, either road West takes will lead toward defeat. West is truly- watch the spelling- forked.

How would the play proceed if West's opening lead was the QC?


In TAKE 1, East under led the A S to get to partner's hand. This was done in order for West to clear trump from Dummy. Plays like this are what make Defense the most creative and imaginative part of Bridge.