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Leading an unsupported ace vs. a suit contract

#1 User is offline   Wainfleet 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 00:06

My partner and I have had it drummed into is that you never lead away from an ace in a suit contract, and you very rarely lead an unsupported ace. In an Advanced level bridgecast from Andrew Robson last week the auction went 1 - (1)- 3 - (3) - 4 - all pass.
Opening leader had:



The commentary was "When you are leading your side's bid and supported suit you lead the ace rather than a 'low card"
This was a new one on me. In this auction the defenders have at least 9 spades so the odds are that spades will only run once without being ruffed. But what if advancer had bid 2 rather than 3. Would it still be right to lead the A rather than a small diamond, which I don't think is a good lead either.

Elsewhere Robson says that it can be right to do so vs a slam, particularly at pairs where there is a risk that if you don't take the ace at the off you might never win with it and the overtrick can be important.
Other references say that you should only do so when all other options are worse.
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#2 User is offline   smerriman 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 00:10

Quote

"When you are leading your side's bid and supported suit you lead the ace rather than a 'low card"

This doesn't mean "you should lead the ace of spades". It means if you are going to lead a spade, then it should be the Ace. Which shouldn't be new to you at all; it lines up perfectly with your first statement.
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#3 User is offline   Wainfleet 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 01:37

View Postsmerriman, on 2020-July-27, 00:10, said:

This doesn't mean "you should lead the ace of spades". It means if you are going to lead a spade, then it should be the Ace. Which shouldn't be new to you at all; it lines up perfectly with your first statement.


Yes, I should have asked a different question. What I really wanted to know was whether, given that you would rarely lead an unsupported ace, would you lead the ace here rather than a diamond?
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#4 User is offline   DavidKok 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 04:12

This hand is very tough to lead from. You're looking at 1, possibly 2 tricks and partner rates to not have much on this auction. I'd probably lead the ace of spades in the hopes of not giving anything away, a diamond lead might solve a problem for declarer if partner has the king.
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#5 User is offline   nige1 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 04:16

Wainfleet "My partner and I have had it drummed into is that you never lead away from an ace in a suit contract, and you very rarely lead an unsupported ace. In an Advanced level bridgecast from Andrew Robson.... the commentary was "When you are leading your side's bid and supported suit you lead the ace rather than a 'low card". This was a new one on me. In this auction the defenders have at least 9 spades so the odds are that spades will only run once without being ruffed. But what if advancer had bid 2 rather than 3. Would it still be right to lead the A rather than a small diamond, which I don't think is a good lead either. Elsewhere Robson says that it can be right to do so vs a slam, particularly at pairs where there is a risk that if you don't take the ace at the off you might never win with it and the overtrick can be important. Other references say that you should only do so when all other options are worse."
+++++++++++++++++++++
When partner has raised to the 2 or 3 level, I rank
1. A. In case declarer can discard losing s. Definitely lead this against a slam
2. 2 = Probably safe.
3. 2 = Agree with Wainfleet that this isn't necessarily safe..
4. J = Not necessarily safe either.
5. K = Ultra-aggressive.

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#6 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 04:17

I too would lead A before the mice get at it.
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones -- Albert Einstein
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#7 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 04:24

I think our possession of K makes the diamond lead reasonably safe. If they need to discard spades on clubs, we might get in first and can take A before it happens. Dummy made a weak jump and is therefore not so likely to have A.

But of course it's possible that they can discard spades on diamonds.
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#8 User is offline   FelicityR 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 06:51

Andrew Robson has been playing at the top level for many years so it goes without saying that questioning the reason behind it is acceptable but questioning the logic is perhaps not. He has played 100s, perhaps 1000s of similar hands and deduced that on a hand such as this the A is the safest.

That is not to say that the A might not work out well on certain distributions, but it will work out ok or better on the majority of distributions.

Leading an unsupported ace against an opponent's suit contract where your partner has supported your suit indicating a nine card fit suggests that the suit is only going to be good for one trick at the most. A 3-1 split is approximately 20% more likely than a 2-2 one, and you will not loose out on the 2-2 ones where partner has the K either.

The bonus of leading the A that holds (approximately 90%) allows you a chance to see dummy and plan the play from there. It also gives partner a chance to signal, too, which may be the key to defeating the contract.
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#9 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 08:25

View PostWainfleet, on 2020-July-27, 01:37, said:

Yes, I should have asked a different question. What I really wanted to know was whether, given that you would rarely lead an unsupported ace, would you lead the ace here rather than a diamond?


I don't see us beating this unless we attack - diamond is too passive - so at imps or rubber bridge I lead the Club king. At matchpoints, I would lead the spade Ace.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Black Lives Matter.
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#10 User is offline   crapdown4 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 19:44

View PostWinstonm, on 2020-July-27, 08:25, said:

I don't see us beating this unless we attack - diamond is too passive - so at imps or rubber bridge I lead the Club king. At matchpoints, I would lead the spade Ace.


I'm optimistic. Responder's 3H was weak, after all, so declarer isn't going to discard all his spades on dummy's AAAAAAKKKKKQQQQ of diamonds. If we have nine spades, it might be that when they're 3-1, dummy has the singleton...again, given the weak jump. I stop both minors. So I lead a trump, with the idea that when in with the spade A, I lead another...and in the best case scenario, declarer loses his third spade (or has to ruff it with a natural trump trick).

I don't see any real risk that my spade Ace is going away. Sometimes, it might. But that's counterbalanced by the times when leading the spade A turns out to be wrong, or at least unhelpful. (And let's not forget the times when declarer has Kx of spades opposite a small doubleton...ouch.)
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#11 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 21:06

And then sometimes you get these hands


Well, I haven't been playing that long but despite what the man that said "Don't bang down your Aces Son" said. Guess what I did.
non est deus ex machina; även maskiner behöver lite kärlek, J'ai toujours misé sur l'étrange gentillesse des robots.
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#12 User is offline   crapdown4 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 21:31

View Postpilowsky, on 2020-July-27, 21:06, said:

And then sometimes you get these hands


Well, I haven't been playing that long but despite what the man that said "Don't bang down your Aces Son" said. Guess what I did.


And then you banged down the spade Ace, dummy had Kx, declarer ruffed, played a trump to dummy's Ace, pitched his singleton club on the spade K...making four. And you went out and got drunk.
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#13 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2020-July-27, 22:04

I'll let you know in exactly 60 minutes, but at the moment I'm sitting on 61.1% for this hand, but 30.46% for the whole tourney. Sucks to be me.
30 minutes later.
Of course, I'm always wrong.
I should have doubled or bid 4.
Here's the full deal


Here's what happened


Here's the best contract
Turns out that the best option was to be Declarer.
non est deus ex machina; även maskiner behöver lite kärlek, J'ai toujours misé sur l'étrange gentillesse des robots.
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#14 User is offline   bluenikki 

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Posted 2020-July-28, 07:00

View Postsmerriman, on 2020-July-27, 00:10, said:

This doesn't mean "you should lead the ace of spades". It means if you are going to lead a spade, then it should be the Ace. Which shouldn't be new to you at all; it lines up perfectly with your first statement.


Not many commenters talked about the main risk of leading the ace: That your partner doesn't have the king. This is especially relevant when the opening bidder is on your right.
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#15 User is offline   miamijd 

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Posted 2020-July-28, 13:41

View PostWainfleet, on 2020-July-27, 00:06, said:

My partner and I have had it drummed into is that you never lead away from an ace in a suit contract, and you very rarely lead an unsupported ace. In an Advanced level bridgecast from Andrew Robson last week the auction went 1 - (1)- 3 - (3) - 4 - all pass.
Opening leader had:



The commentary was "When you are leading your side's bid and supported suit you lead the ace rather than a 'low card"
This was a new one on me. In this auction the defenders have at least 9 spades so the odds are that spades will only run once without being ruffed. But what if advancer had bid 2 rather than 3. Would it still be right to lead the A rather than a small diamond, which I don't think is a good lead either.

Elsewhere Robson says that it can be right to do so vs a slam, particularly at pairs where there is a risk that if you don't take the ace at the off you might never win with it and the overtrick can be important.
Other references say that you should only do so when all other options are worse.


Selecting an opening lead against suit contracts can be difficult, to be sure. You basically have to figure out what declarer's plan will be and then try to counteract it.

1. If you think declarer will try to set up a long suit in dummy (maybe dummy opened 1H, the opponents reached 4S, and you have Qxx of H under dummy), consider an attacking lead.

2. If you think declarer will try to ruff losers in the dummy (maybe dummy is marked with shortness in a suit where you have strength), consider a trump lead.

3. If you think dummy will be flat (no ruffs, no long suit), then consider a safe lead. Declarer will probably try to set up tricks by finesses, so you don't want to give him anything he isn't entitled to.

Generally, you only make a lead from category 1 or 2 if you know what the situation is. If there are no clues, then you just pick a safe lead, especially at MPs.

Generally, leading from longer suits is much safer than leading from shorter ones (if you lead from QTxxx and partner doesn't have anything, there is a decent chance that declarer could have ruffed the third round anyway; if you lead from QTx and partner has nothing, you probably have just kicked a trick). Leading from shorter suits headed by an honor is more attacking.

OK, so how does this translate to the hand you provided? We don't know a lot about the opponents' hands from the bidding. Dummy isn't marked with any shortness or long side suit. So we need to make a safe lead. Nothing is entirely safe here:

1. The As will boot a trick if declarer has Kx(x) and partner has QJx(x) or QTx(x) with xx(x) or Jx(x) in dummy.

2. The trump could solve declarer's problem if partner has Qxx or Kxx.

3. A diamond will often give a trick if partner has the unsupported A or K.

4. The club is obviously very dangerous.

To me, the logical lead is the As. Partner supported, so there is an excellent chance he has the K. If he doesn't, the King could well be in dummy (dummy is likely longer in spades than declarer, since it probably has fewer hearts). That might end up not costing a trick. Moreover, leading the As gives you a chance to get a peek at the dummy and a signal from partner as to what to do next.

This is very different from leading a random Ace in a suit your side hasn't bid. That is more dangerous, especially when you don't have great length, because you will often be setting up tricks for the opponents.

Leading against suit slams is a different story. Typically, the dummy in a suit slam will have a side source of tricks (a long suit that can be developed). Especially at MPs (but to an extent, in IMPs, too), if you have a side A, you generally should take it. If you don't take it, you may never get it (declarer will have enough discards on dummy's long suit). In addition, your best chance to defeat the slam could be that partner has a singleton in that suit or perhaps the King (if the opponents haven't been careful in their bidding).

Cheers,
Mike
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#16 User is offline   Huibertus 

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Posted 2020-July-28, 14:41

View PostWinstonm, on 2020-July-27, 08:25, said:

I don't see us beating this unless we attack - diamond is too passive - so at imps or rubber bridge I lead the Club king. At matchpoints, I would lead the spade Ace.


Exactly my thoughts.
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#17 User is offline   nullcorp 

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Posted 2020-August-26, 15:57

I agree as well, leading the lone Ace of your side's bid is usually okay. Particularly if you have a big fit, it's unlikely a guarded King (Kx, Kxx) is to your right. (If it's to your left, that's all you were ever getting, and you only do damage if your ace lead is trumped.)
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#18 User is offline   thepossum 

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Posted 2020-August-28, 23:20

Possum Sim reckons best chance of defeating the contract is the Ace (a diamond isnt bad). You don't have much chance but I was taught very early in bridge learning that if you are stuck, an Ace isnt the worst thing you can do, and its quite possibly the only chance you have of making it.

PS as an aside, possum sim showed second best chance of beating the contract was King of clubs. Not sure who agrees with that one

Disclaimer. Possums play in an old fashioned world where they dont care exactly how many tricks you make or lose. Its about making or defeating a contract, thats all
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