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Third and Fifth Opening Leads against Suit Contracts

#1 User is offline   lilboyman 

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Posted 2011-June-23, 08:43

What are the advantages and disadvantages of leading 3rd or fifth best against suit contracts and when does one lead 3rd best and when does one lead 5th best?
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#2 User is offline   semeai 

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    Counting modulo five

Posted 2011-June-23, 09:00

Two methods:

1) 3rd & 5th: Lead your 5th card in a suit if there is one. If not, lead your 3rd card in a suit if there is one. If not, lead your 1st card in the suit (i.e. high from a doubleton).

2) 3rd & low: Lead your 3rd card in a suit if you have an even number (bigger than 2) and your lowest card in the suit if you have an odd number.

They're similar (only differ on 7+ card on 6+ card suits (thanks Elianna)). Basically, playing high-low in the suit as leader shows an even number and playing low-high shows an odd number. This fits with how doubletons are played, and thus makes more sense from a count perspective than standard, which either has to lead low from 3, confusing it with 4, or middle from 3, confusing it with a doubleton.
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#3 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2011-June-23, 16:02

The advantage is that you can decipher partner's suit length on the very first round of the suit more frequently. If one instead lead 4th from both 4 and 5 cd suits, you often can't tell the difference especially if declarer conceals low spot cards.

The disadvantage is that if the third spot card is relatively high, on certain suit layouts you can lose a later round trick that could have been avoided by leading low.

Because of this, many play 3rd/low vs. suits, but not vs. notrump. Knowing count immediately is often more important vs. suits (need to know how many tricks can cash before declarer ruffs, whether a shift might be better, can count out declarer's hand sooner), and the spot card wasted leading to a 3rd/4th round lost trick matters less often since by then often somebody is ruffing.
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#4 User is offline   Elianna 

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Posted 2011-June-23, 16:46

View Postsemeai, on 2011-June-23, 09:00, said:

Two methods:

1) 3rd & 5th: Lead your 5th card in a suit if there is one. If not, lead your 3rd card in a suit if there is one. If not, lead your 1st card in the suit (i.e. high from a doubleton).

2) 3rd & low: Lead your 3rd card in a suit if you have an even number (bigger than 2) and your lowest card in the suit if you have an odd number.

They're similar (only differ on 7+ card suits). Basically, playing high-low in the suit as leader shows an even number and playing low-high shows an odd number. This fits with how doubletons are played, and thus makes more sense from a count perspective than standard, which either has to lead low from 3, confusing it with 4, or middle from 3, confusing it with a doubleton.


They're different on 6 card suits, too. (with your first you lead 5th best, with the second you lead 3rd best).
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#5 User is offline   MrAce 

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Posted 2011-June-23, 20:26

View Postlilboyman, on 2011-June-23, 08:43, said:

What are the advantages and disadvantages of leading 3rd or fifth best against suit contracts and when does one lead 3rd best and when does one lead 5th best?


As they explained it gives u better picture about the count.

For example if you played 4th best leads, you would lead the same card from both of those holdings

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#6 User is offline   Free 

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Posted 2011-June-24, 01:53

Against suit contracts you often want to lead a 3 card suit, while in NT people lead their longest (= 4+ card) suit more often.

Leading 4th highest (or 2nd) will require a lot of deviations when you have only a 3 card suit, and also, as a result partner can no longer count the hand with rule of 11 (see MrAce's example). So while 3/5 leads work similar to 2/4 leads, they avoid deviations from the agreement. Also I find that it's usually much easier to read the position when your partner leads his 3rd highest.

You also asked what to do with 5+ card suits. There are several ways to play it as mentioned by others. I'd suggest to experiment with the different approaches to find out what you prefer best.
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#7 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2011-June-24, 07:31

Note also this generalization of the rule of 11: subtract the position of the card led (3 for third highest, 4 for fourth highest, etc) from 15, and use that rule. So fourth highest leads is 15-4= rule of 11, 3rd is 15-3= rule of 12, 5th is 15-5= rule of 10, and so on.
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#8 User is offline   mb_dunedin 

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Posted 2011-June-25, 05:40

So the lead is purely count, and says nothing about an honour holding?

I can see that it's not ideal that partner doesn't know if you've led the 2 from K-7-2 or K-10-7-2. But does it not also create similar problems for partner if you'd lead the 6 from both K-8-6-4 and 9-8-6-4?
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#9 User is offline   whereagles 

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Posted 2011-June-25, 08:53

Yes, it's purely count. The idea is that vs suit contracts the count information is more important than attitude. This was argued by Jeff Rubens on his book "Journalist Leads".
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#10 User is offline   BunnyGo 

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Posted 2011-June-25, 10:47

However, when count is already known from the auction:

1H-(1S)-2H-(2S)
All pass

If you lead a heart, count is usually less important than attitude.
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#11 User is offline   Elianna 

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Posted 2011-June-25, 12:39

View PostBunnyGo, on 2011-June-25, 10:47, said:

However, when count is already known from the auction:

1H-(1S)-2H-(2S)
All pass

If you lead a heart, count is usually less important than attitude.


And in that case, many people have the agreement that you lead 3rd from an honor, and top of a bad suit (since you've supposedly already shown three).
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