In suit contracts, the defenders have to be careful to take their tricks before they disappear to the opponents’ trump suit.

Declarer has sneaky ways of avoiding losers (discarding them on other suits, for instance). The defenders’ main sources of tricks are high cards and possibly trump tricks scored by ruffs.

Little cards in long suits are not usually a source of tricks in trump suit contracts.

In No Trump contracts, the defenders can afford to be a bit more patient. They give declarer the tricks he deserves early and take more tricks themselves later.

Long suits are valuable because declarer has no trump to stop the defenders. In No Trump, the defenders’ main sources of tricks are their high cards and length.

Because of these differing philosophies, the same hand might choose different opening leads depending on whether it is played in No Trump or in a suit.

What are good leads in a suit contract?

Partner’s suit is almost always a good lead.

Listen to the bidding. When partner has not bid, it’s usually better to lead an unbid suit, even if it is not your longest suit; long suits are more important in No Trump.

Look at your own hand. Sequences of high cards are often good choices. If there is a trump suit, a sequence need only be two touching high cards (not three as in No Trump).

Short suits are sometimes a good lead. You hope to be able to trump (or ruff). But these leads are somewhat overrated. If you lead a short suit, you should have a reasonable expectation of getting a ruff before the trumps are drawn.

Trump can even be a good lead. After hearing the bidding, you might decide that it sounds as if the declarer is going to get extra tricks by trumping in the dummy; then you should lead trump to try to eliminate dummy’s trump holding before declarer can use them.

You might also choose a trump lead when any other lead seems dangerous.

Let’s practice.

What lead would you make in a suit contract with these cards?

1. J432

2. QT932

3. AKJT

4. KJ874

5. KQ87

Answers are below.

Kathie Walsh, accredited by ABTA, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club. kbwalsh@roadrunner.com