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Leading away from a King in a suit contract

#1 User is offline   Liversidge 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 08:30

Eddie Kantar says "There is no such rule as "never lead away from a King. Leading away from a King is safer than leading away from an Ace, Queen or Jack"

Bernard Magee says: DONíT LEAD AWAY FROM A KING AGAINST A SUIT CONTRACT.A lead away from any high honour against a suit contract is very risky, but
leading away from a king is especially dangerous, except if your partner has bid that suit.

These statements don't necessarily contradict one another. In what circumstances is it good or bad to lead away from a King with K754 defending a suit contract?
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#2 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 09:26

It is almost never safe but it is good if the alternatives are worse or if the chance of setting up a trick (which would otherwise go away) in the suit outweigh the risk.

Sorry, that wasn't so helpful :) Maybe more to the point:

If the auction suggests that declarer is weak in the suit then it is relatively safe and often necesarry to lead the suit. This can be the case if they seem to have explored 3NT but ended up in 3m (or 4M in what looks like a 7-card fit) because of a lack of stop in that suit. Also, if declarer has preempted it is relative safe as he tends not to have much outside trumps. Basically, you are hoping that he doesn't have the Ace and/or the Queen (unless partner has the other of those two cards).

It can also be good to lead from Kxx or even Kx if dummy has bid that suit - declarer might think you are leading a singleton and refrain from taking the finesse. If you don't lead the suit, he will probably draw trumps and take the finesse afterwards.

Note that this is less likely to work when you have Kxxx or longer as declarer will often be able to figure out that your lead isn't a singleton.

It also depends how much you think partner has in terms of honours. If you add your points to what declarer and dummy have shown and get a result close to 40, then you should not underlead an honour since partner won't have the supporting honour which you need (except when attempting the above mentioned sneeky plot).

Underleading a king is an "aggressive" lead - it can easily cost a trick and easily gain a trick. At teams, you should do it when declarer seems to be in a comfortable contract and it requires some luck to get it down. Do not do it if they have stretched or things seem to break badly for them. At pairs, it is more difficult to say, but the general advice is to be more hesistant with aggresive leads at pairs when declarer seems to be in a normal contract.
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#3 User is offline   wank 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 09:27

you have to be careful when it comes to reading stuff. being a good writer doesn't require being a good player; as such something can be well written rubbish. as to which of these figures to give more credence to, i'll point out that despite mr magee being british, i've never seen him playing in an international or even domestic english/british event.
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#4 User is offline   broze 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 09:37

View Postwank, on 2016-October-03, 09:27, said:

you have to be careful when it comes to reading stuff. being a good writer doesn't require being a good player; as such something can be well written rubbish. as to which of these figures to give more credence to, i'll point out that despite mr magee being british, i've never seen him playing in an international or even domestic english/british event.


I believe Tony Forrester has been quotes as saying that he never leads from kings. Oviously these sweeping statements should be taken with a pinch of salt - sometimes leading from a king is indicated particularly slams. I would say that based on personal experience I would say that it is at least as bad as leading from a queen but better than leading from the jack (on average).
'In an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.' - Douglas Adams
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#5 User is offline   Kaitlyn S 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 09:54

Eddie Kantar is a well known expert and I have never heard of Bernard Magee, so that would tell me something, but common sense brings me to the same conclusion.



Here is an instance where not leading away from your king is a dreadful mistake. You know from the bidding that declarer is likely to draw trump and run the diamond suit, and you must aggressively set up and get whatever tricks you having coming to you. It is unlikely that you have cost anything even if you have led into the H-AQ as declarer's heart losers are likely to go on dummy's dimaonds anyway, and it's unlikely that you can both get partner in and score your HK. I think your best chance to defeat 4S is to hope partner has something like H-QJ or Q10, C-A, D-K and that the hearts will all cash. Yes, partner could have C-AK D-K but that only helps if the weaker responder is the player with the HA.

Leading from a king is a bit dangerous blind but not nearly as dangerous as Mr. Magee allegedly points out. Unless you have length in the suit, the chances of you losing your king totally when you would have scored it aren't that great. And in an auction where there are two bid (or shown) suits and I don't have their side suit well stopped, I usually want to lead an unbid suit. Leading from Kxx is certainly preferable to Axx, and usually preferable to leading from Qxx or Jxx where it is more likely that your honor that might have taken a trick no longer will.

EDIT: I am aware that partner's hoped for DK in my initial example will probably be singleton, but declarer will lose it. More likely, partner's card to get in will be the SA or the offside SK.
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#6 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 10:05

What if you have something like



If you don't lead from a king, what do you lead?
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#7 User is offline   Tramticket 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 10:16

One tip that I learnt years ago, as a beginner playing with a much stronger partner, is that it can often be good tactics to lead away from a king against a small slam. You often need to be aggressive against a small slam (but listen to the bidding) and your king will often run away as declarer discards your suit. You are hoping that partner has the queen, or better still the ace, or possibly that dummy has the ace and declarer doesn't want to risk a finesse at trick 1 before trying other options. You are also hoping that partner has an ace or trump trick - and can lead back to your king after taking their trick.
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#8 User is offline   Tramticket 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 10:19

View Postjohnu, on 2016-October-03, 10:05, said:

What if you have something like



If you don't lead from a king, what do you lead?


I would probably lead trumps. Even if dummy scores the first trick with the queen, your king is still there if declarer has the ace of trumps. If you lead a side suit (and dummy holds the queen / declarer holds the ace) you will often find that the third round is ruffed and your king is lost.
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#9 User is offline   Phil 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 10:36

Other than advertisements on the back of the ACBL Bulletin for some rather expensive educational materials this is only the 2nd time I have heard of Bernard Magee.
Winner - BBO Challenge bracket #6 - February, 2017.
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#10 User is offline   Kaitlyn S 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 11:06

View PostPhil, on 2016-October-03, 10:36, said:

Other than advertisements on the back of the ACBL Bulletin for some rather expensive educational materials this is only the 2nd time I have heard of Bernard Magee.
If he truly said what the OP says he said (and I do understand that bridge educators get misquoted A LOT), I'm not sure I want to hear of him.

On the other hand, Eddie Kantar's material is in most cases excellent. While he likes those 10's and 9's leads that I also like but only if my opponents play them, in most cases what he says is correct. That comes with a caveat. He has lesson deals where he wants you to play some impossible contract, and the bidding he uses to reach that contract is often eccentric. I don't think he condones the bidding (he often says something like "You reached 6H and it's partner's fault") so if you see one of his lesson deals with bidding you think is strange, it's likely that he thinks it is strange also.
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#11 User is offline   ochinko 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 14:25

I think that most of the times when underleading a King is right, leading the King itself is even better. That assumes that you lead the suit you felt unguarded, and found the partner with the Ace. It serves two purposes: first, you get to see the dummy before playing for the second trick, and second - you save your partner from the dilemma of whether to return that suit or not.
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#12 User is offline   wank 

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Posted 2016-October-03, 19:07

View Postbroze, on 2016-October-03, 09:37, said:

I believe Tony Forrester has been quotes as saying that he never leads from kings. Oviously these sweeping statements should be taken with a pinch of salt - sometimes leading from a king is indicated particularly slams. I would say that based on personal experience I would say that it is at least as bad as leading from a queen but better than leading from the jack (on average).


as does david gold. it's totally an english thing. i don't like leading away from kings. i also don't like leading from aces. still, if i think the bidding calls for it i'll do either. a blanket approach is clearly excessive.
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#13 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2016-October-04, 02:37

View Postochinko, on 2016-October-03, 14:25, said:

I think that most of the times when underleading a King is right, leading the King itself is even better. That assumes that you lead the suit you felt unguarded, and found the partner with the Ace. It serves two purposes: first, you get to see the dummy before playing for the second trick, and second - you save your partner from the dilemma of whether to return that suit or not.

Yes but I think the arguments against leading an unsupported king outweigh this. If partner has the ace, leading the king can sometimes establish the queen for declarer. It also works poorly if partner has a stiff honour, or if declarer or dummy has a stiff ace. Of course it is great if declarer/dummy has the stiff queen.
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#14 User is offline   miamijd 

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Posted 2016-October-04, 12:17

Kantar is right, but that doesn't mean you should strain to lead away from a King.

At NT:

Here the only real decision is whether to (i) try to establish your suit; (ii) try to establish partner's suit; or (iii) play passively

Generally you lead fourth best from your best suit, but there are two exceptions:

1. If your hand is very weak, you should consider leading what you think might be partner's suit
2. If the opponents have crawled into game and you have a balanced hand (no 5-carder), consider defending passively

The particular strategy you elect to follow will dictate your lead, not whether you have Kxxx or Kxxxx somewhere.

At a suit contract, it's much the same story. The most important thing to do is to select your strategy. There are four main strategies on opening lead:

1. Establish / take tricks for your side
2. Set up a ruff for your side
3. Cut down on declarer's ruffing
4. Defend passively

Often, you'll have an obvious lead. If you have AK or KQJ or QJT somewhere, or if partner has opened 1M or overcalled, your troubles are generally over. But sometimes, you'll have to think, and here again, you have to use the bidding to decide what the best strategy will be.

#1 is appropriate where you think the dummy will have an outside source of tricks. #2 is good if you have a singleton, especially if you have trump control and even more so if you also have a way to reach partner. #3 calls for a trump lead; there are certain auctions that hint that declarer will try to ruff loses in the dummy (especially true if you are strong in declarer's first suit and the opponents end up in declarer's second suit instead). #4 works well if dummy is expected to have neither useful length nor useful shortness (you don't want to kick tricks on lead).

Determining which strategy you need to use will tell you whether it's safe to lead from a King or not. If #1 is called for, by all means lead away from a King. You'll hope partner has the A or at least the Q to set up a trick or two for the good guys. If the opposition has the A and Q between them and dummy has a long, strong side suit, you weren't going to score your K, anyway.

Alternatively, if you think #4 is called for, don't lead from a King if you can avoid it. This is especially true at MPs, where overtricks are key.

Everyone -- even the world champions -- sometimes makes opening leads that don't work out so well. But if you focus more on what the strategy should be, given the bidding, you'll have decent success coming up with a reasonable lead.
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#15 User is offline   aawk 

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Posted 2016-October-04, 12:39

To find the best lead there are a few steps you have to take.

Step 1 : Do we play for MPs or IMPs ? In MP play it is imported that the lead doesnít give a unnecessary overtrick. In MP play you try to find the lead which will give the best chance to set a contract and you donít worry about overtricks.

Step 2 : Is your hand better, about the same or worse than your partner ? This is important to make a choice between leading your own strength or to try to find your partner.

Step 3 : Which suits do you not lead ? These are the suits which would be helpful for opponents. This will increase the chance to find the best suit.

Step 4 : Which of the remaining suits are we going to lead ? For this decision step 1 and 2 are taken into account.

Step 5 : Which card do you lead from the suit ? For this decision step 2 is the most imported clue.

If following these steps means you have to lead trump and or under lead a ace, king or queen so be it and donít worry if it was wrong just analyze it with your partner if he agrees for the reasons why you lead that suit and build on your leading skills.

A tip for analyzing a board (for whatever decision during the game) is to wait for the session to be over you cannot chance the result and it will break the concentration you need for the remaining boards.
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#16 User is offline   billw55 

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Posted 2016-October-04, 12:56

A good rule of thumb is that there are no such absolute rules. "Never lead away from a king against a suit contract" is an absolute and hence, on its face, is almost surely unreliable, even before we start analyzing the matter. Not sure if the all caps was in the original, or was emphasis by the OP, but upping the level of absolutism only makes the statement more silly.

Obviously in real bridge, circumstances dictate action, and indeed a lead from a king may be the best or worst depending on the situation.

Also,

View Postochinko, on 2016-October-03, 14:25, said:

I think that most of the times when underleading a King is right, leading the King itself is even better. That assumes that you lead the suit you felt unguarded, and found the partner with the Ace. It serves two purposes: first, you get to see the dummy before playing for the second trick, and second - you save your partner from the dilemma of whether to return that suit or not.

This is bizarre. If partner has the ace, then your side will hold the lead a trick 2 either way, and there is no reason to suppose that partner's dilemma at trick 2 will be any worse than your own. Never mind the layouts where leading the king loses tricks outright, removes a guess, etc.
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#17 User is offline   johnu 

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Posted 2016-October-04, 13:36

View PostTramticket, on 2016-October-03, 10:19, said:

I would probably lead trumps. Even if dummy scores the first trick with the queen, your king is still there if declarer has the ace of trumps. If you lead a side suit (and dummy holds the queen / declarer holds the ace) you will often find that the third round is ruffed and your king is lost.


Still, that's leading away from a king which is against the "rules". Proper etiquette would be to

1) Concede all the tricks so you don't break this rule.
2) Lead a king, preferable the king of trump. This doesn't break a rule and I can confirm that I am terrified whenever GIB leads a singleton trump king into my AQ so I would be even more scared from K(x)(x)(x).
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#18 User is offline   Liversidge 

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Posted 2016-October-04, 13:49

View Postbillw55, on 2016-October-04, 12:56, said:


Not sure if the all caps was in the original, or was emphasis by the OP, but upping the level of absolutism only makes the statement more silly.



I did a cut and paste directly from his article. The bit in bold was the heading of the paragraph.
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#19 User is offline   RD350LC 

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Posted 2016-November-23, 15:23

I certainly have no problem in leading away from a king in a suit contract. Yes, there is some risk, and I take the bidding, and my overall hand into account.
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