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CHARLES GOREN SAYS: DON'T LEAD WITH YOUR CHIN

Dec. 23, 1968
Dec. 23, 1968

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Dec. 23, 1968

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CHARLES GOREN SAYS: DON'T LEAD WITH YOUR CHIN

No single play does more to decide the fate of any hand than the opening lead. No single skill counts more in deciding whether you are a winning player. And the science of leading has progressed a long way from such simple guiding precepts as "fourth highest from your longest and strongest suit" or "top of touching honors." Study the bidding of these hands before selecting your lead. If you score below 50 you're too often leading with your chin, 50 to 60 means you're missing too many opportunities to get the jump on the opponents, 61 to 79 puts you on the plus side and 80 or better indicates you rate among bridgedom's leading ladies and gentlemen. As West in all but the last two deals, which card would you choose to lead?

This is an article from the Dec. 23, 1968 issue Original Layout

1

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
2 [Heart]
4 [Heart]

NORTH

2 [Diamond]
3 [Heart]
(All Pass)

What do you lead?

2

[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
1 N.T.
(All Pass)

NORTH

1 [Spade]
2 [Heart]

What do you lead?

3

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

SOUTH
1 [Heart]

WEST
DBL.

NORTH
(All Pass)

EAST

What do you lead?

4

[King of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 N.T.
3 N.T.

NORTH

2 N.T.
(All Pass)

What do you lead?

5

[Ace of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
3 [Club]
4 N.T.
6 [Spade]

NORTH

2 [Heart]
4 [Spade]
5 [Diamond]
(All Pass)

What do you lead?

6

[10 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[King Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

EAST
1 [Heart]

SOUTH
1 N.T.

WEST
(All Pass)

NORTH

What do you lead?

7

[Jack of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[8 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 N.T.
(All Pass)

NORTH
3 N.T.

What do you lead?

8

[Jack of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[6 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Diamond]
1 [Spade]
(All Pass)

NORTH

1 [Heart]
4 [Spade]

What do you lead?

9

[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
1 N.T.
3 N.T.
(All Pass)

WEST

PASS
PASS
PASS

NORTH

1 [Spade]
2 N.T.
PASS

EAST

PASS
PASS
DBL.

What do you lead?

10

[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]

WEST

4 [Heart]
(All Pass)

NORTH
DBL.

EAST
5 [Heart]

SOUTH
5 [Spade]

What do you lead?

11

[6 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

NORTH

1 [Club]
4 [Spade]

EAST

1 [Heart]
5 [Clubs]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
5 [Spade]

West

4 [Heart]
(All Pass)

What do you lead?

12

[Queen of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]

NORTH

1 [Diamond]
1 [Spade]
(All Pass)

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
2 [Heart]

What do you lead?

13

[Queen of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
6 [Heart]
(All Pass)

WEST

PASS
PASS

NORTH

3 [Heart]
PASS

EAST

PASS
DBL.

What do you lead?

14

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[10 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
2 [Diamond]
3 N.T.

NORTH

1 [Spade]
3 [Diamond]
(All Pass)

What do you lead?

15

[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[9 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
4 [Spade]

NORTH

2 [Spade]
(All Pass)

What do you lead?

16

[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Queens of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
2 [Heart]
4 [Heart]

NORTH

2 [Diamond]
3 [Heart]
(All Pass)

What do you lead?

17 Here you are East:

NORTH

[9 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[9 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

EAST

[King of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 N.T.
3 N.T.

NORTH

2 N.T.
(All Pass)

West leads the heart 6. Dummy plays the 5, you win with the ace and South plays the 4. What should you return?

18 Again you are East:

NORTH

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

EAST

[Ace of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Heart]
2 [Club]
4 [Heart]

NORTH

1 [Spade]
3 [Heart]
(All Pass)

West leads the spade 5. Dummy plays low, you win with the ace and South plays the jack. What should you return?

THE ANSWERS: HOW GOOD A LEADER ARE YOU?

1

[Heart] 5 or [Heart] 6-5
[Club] K-3
[Diamond] 7-1

Whenever declarer has bid two or more suits and dummy has expressed a decided preference for one of them, a trump lead should be strongly considered. Object: to reduce dummy's ruffing power. A club opening might let you collect some fast tricks before declarer can discard. A diamond just might lead to an early ruff.

2

[Heart] 4-5
[Diamond] K-2
[Club] Q-2

North's bidding has not shown any great strength, yet he prefers to play for eight tricks at hearts rather than only seven at no trump. Almost certainly he is short in one of the minors. The trump opening is designed to cut down dummy's ruffing ability and protect your potential tricks in the minor suits. Since either minor-suit lead might work out, each receives an identical award.

3

[Heart] 7-5
[Spade] K-2
[Club] K-1

When you have doubled for takeout, partner's election to play for penalties at the one level means that he must have at least as good a trump suit as declarer—especially the kind of trump holding that will be solid once declarer's high trumps are driven out, such as Q-J-10-9-8. His pass is a clear call for a trump opening to prevent declarer from scoring low trumps by ruffing. As for the black kings, the lead to develop a trick is preferable to the lead that may make it easier for declarer to start using his little trumps for ruffing.

4

[Heart] 3-5
[Club] 8-3
[Spade] 5-1

The heart opening gains if partner can produce any of three missing honors; the spade lead is more apt to give away a trick and will gain only when partner has the queen. If he has the ace there will probably be time to shift to that suit later on. The club lead is less apt to give away a trick and obliges declarer to develop his own winners, but it may cost valuable time.

5

[Diamond] 3-5
[Heart] 10-3

Having used Blackwood, the opponents know they have three aces and you can see the fourth. The only chance for your side to establish a trick is right now. The diamond lead may find partner with the king, establishing a diamond trick for your side before the ace of trumps is knocked out. I'm generous in awarding the "safe" heart lead three points; it is too likely to give declarer time to drive out the spade ace and set up a needed diamond discard.

6

[Diamond] 4-5
[Heart] 8-3
[Spade] 4-1

Failing to lead partner's suit indicates a strong suit of your own, and a diamond lead would seem to direct the defense toward its best chance. If you do not lead a diamond, partner might not find the right shift if he decides to look elsewhere. A heart lead shows some respect for partner and might turn out right. A spade lead is imaginative, because a not-rump bid over one major usually denies great interest in the other. Nevertheless, there is danger that a spade lead will present declarer with a vital trick.

7

[Spade] J-5
[Heart] 8 or [Heart] 5-3
[Diamond] 3 or [Club] J-1

The opponents' failure to use the Stay-man convention to locate a possible major-suit fit hints that responder probably does not have four cards in either major. This means that your partner probably does have at least four cards in spades. With a worthless hand, your best shot is to lead your shortest major. A heart lead offers similar chances. And who is to say that either a diamond or a club lead would never be right? So we give both some compensation.

8

[Club] Q-5
[Spade] 2-3
[Heart] 4-1

The lead of a singleton is rarely attractive when it is right into the suit declarer has bid; too often it destroys partner's holding in the suit and gives declarer valuable time. Therefore, the diamond lead goes unrewarded, while the club lead, which may collect two fast tricks, gets a top mark. A trump lead may cost time as well as reduce your own ruffing power. A heart lead gets a point because it is better than the diamond opening, but it may help declarer to discard club losers on dummy's heart suit.

9

[Spade] 4-5
[Club] 9-3
[Diamond] Q-2
[Diamond] 5-1

On this auction it is unlikely that the opponents are wide open for a big set. Nevertheless, partner's conventional double means he believes he has a chance to set the contract if you lead through dummy's first-bid suit. Additionally, he may be trying to warn against your "normal" lead as being least likely to succeed and most likely to cost both time and a trick. The diamond is most probably the lead he is warning against. Hence a club lead gets a higher award than a diamond. However, if you insist on opening a diamond, the queen offers a better chance than a low one.

10

[Heart] 2-5
[Diamond] J-3

If your side can win a trick in the heart suit, you want partner to win it, and you also want to tell him to return a club. He knows you have more than a four-card heart suit, so your lowest card must be a suit-preference signal. Chances are against winning a heart trick, however, so the diamond lead may be an attack in the right direction.

11

[Club] 10-5
[Club] 5-3
[Heart] K-1

After partner's cue-bid in clubs, showing the ace or a void, the only question really is which club should you lead. The 10 gets top award because it confirms that your strength is in the higher of the other side suits and that partner can afford to underlead the ace of hearts to put you back on lead. The 5 of clubs hints at the same message, but the 3 or deuce would strongly suggest to partner that you have a quick reentry in diamonds and therefore scores even lower than the stodgy lead of the king of hearts.

12

[Spade] 9-5
[Spade] 2-3
[Club] 2-2
[Diamond] 5-1

Ruling out the poorer leads in this nightmare choice, a trump gets zero because it may sacrifice a trick, especially since the opponents have not found a trump fit. A diamond lead, dummy's first-bid suit, is most unattractive, as well as dangerous. A club may find partner's strength at once—but it may be the suit in which declarer will have more losers if left to play it himself. That leaves spades, and the 9 gets a higher award because it is more deceptive. If declarer finds a possible finesse in the suit, he will probably refuse it, expecting the queen to be in your partner's hand.

13

[Club] 4-5
[Diamond] J-2
[Spade] 5-1

Partner's slam double requests an unusual lead and probably shows a void, which is most likely, of course, to be in your long suit. The diamond lead, a poor second choice, just might set up a trick for the defense. The award for the spade lead? Oh, well, at least it isn't out of turn, and it's better than a trump lead, which is unthinking and unthinkable.

14

[Spade] K-5
[Spade] 10-3
[Club] 5-2

North's bidding has warned partner of probable club weakness; yet South has announced that he is prepared to play no trump against the expected lead of the unbid suit. The cards seem to be well placed for declarer, but you may infer that he is short in spades. A spade lead, therefore, is suggested, and the king receives the top award because it just might trap a singleton queen or jack in declarer's hand. The 10 of spades has the virtue of unblocking the suit. The orthodox 5 of clubs probably won't do much harm, but neither is it likely to be very effective.

15

[Heart] 4-5
[Diamond] 9-2
[Club] J-1

Whenever you have some length in trumps, you should favor a forcing defense, hoping to establish your own suit before declarer can gain control. This hand has all the ingredients for such a forcing defense. If partner can contribute anything of value in hearts, repeated heart leads may force declarer out of trumps before he can gain control. A diamond lead serves only to reduce the potential of your trump holding, but might be effective if declarer chances to have heart strength. The club lead gets a point because it just might find partner with values there.

16

[Club] 3-5
[Spade] 4-3
[Diamond] 9-1

Yes, good old fourth highest of longest and strongest is best here. Any honor partner can produce in clubs is likely to get your defense off to a good start. A spade lead might find partner's strength but is far riskier. The "safe" diamond lead gets a generous point, in spite of the danger of its telling declarer exactly where the diamond honors are.

17

[Spade] 10-7
[Spade] 3-3
[Heart] 2-1

The rule of eleven (deducting partner's 6 from 11, telling you that there are five cards higher than the 6 missing from his hand) indicates that declarer still has three high hearts in his hand, so pursuit of the setting tricks in the heart suit is probably futile. Furthermore, the bidding reveals that partner cannot hold more than about five high-card points, and if these are all in hearts the situation is hopeless. Dummy's 9 of spades prompts you to shift to the 10 of that suit, hoping to find partner with the queen and to trap declarer's jack. That return wins you a bonus award because the unseen hands are:

WEST

[Queen of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[8 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

The return of the spade 10 limits South to a single stopper in that suit and defeats the contract. The low spade might succeed in some cases and gets a generous award. The point for returning partner's suit is a reward for touching faith and confidence.

18

[Club] J-7
[Spade] 2-3
any other [Spade]-1

You know your partner has a singleton spade (we assume that from 9-8-5 he would not have led the 5), but one ruff will not be enough to stop the game. You must try to pave the way for your side's fourth trick by returning your singleton club. You will step up with the ace on the first trump lead, then give partner his ruff and expect him to do the same for you. The return of the 2 of spades to suggest a club return after partner ruffs has some merit—but partner is unlikely to get in again or to be able to ruff another spade by the time you get back in. Any other spade gets a point because it may, at least, prevent an overtrick, and because I'm giving you one more opportunity to climb into a higher-scoring category.

The unseen hands:

WEST

[5 of Spades]
[8 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[9 of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

SOUTH

[Jack of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]

PHOTO