Tip #16 - Leading after a 1NT Overcall

Leading Partner’s Suit after 1NT Overcall.

Consider this bidding sequence:

W      N      E      S
  1NT    P      P

What should East Lead?
This sometimes can be a vexed question. Sometimes the lead can be into declarers strength (as can be expected) and hands them the contract, but on other occasions leading the suit is the only way to beat the contract. Some are adamant that opener’s suit should always be led. Others are equally adamant that leading it is only helping declarer. In my opinion there is no right and wrong answer. A lot depends on the opening leader’s hand.
Firstly, the case for not leading the suit.
If you have a suit of your own, eg KQJ54 it is probably better to try and establish that, particularly if you have a possible outside entry. This applies even if you have a doubleton in partners suit.
If you have a singleton of partner’s suit it is probably best not to lead it as declarer is probably very strong in that suit. Let declarer do the work to get the tricks in the suit.

You should lead partner’s suit where you do not have any other reasonable alternative, except possibly when you have a singleton.
Where you have a doubleton to an honour then the honour should be led. Where you have three cards of the suit then nearly always the suit should be led.

The meaning of ‘redouble’

W     N     E     S
   x     xx    P

After getting into a club non-making game West commented that they didn’t know what the redouble meant, thinking it was strong club support. This is certainly not the case. Usually a redouble in this situation is saying, “Partner I have 10 or more points and we have the balance of power.” Any further doubles by the side making the redouble bid are now for penalties. If you do happen to have strong support for the opener’s suit then this can be bid at the 3 level. A 2 level bid is usually fairly weak, 4 to 8 points. This can be fairly effective if the opening suit is spades.

Some Revision
I started Dale’s Tips to try and provide advice on some common play errors. Unfortunately some of these errors continue to occur.

Phantom finesses

One of the errors I am commonly seeing is where the A and Q of a suit are in different hands and the Q gets led towards the A when the J is not held. I observed this hand recently:

                                     North Q9743
West K10                                                               East J62
                                     South A85

To make the contract South had to play this suit for only one loser. They led the Q from the North hand and let it run, resulting in the loss of two tricks and the makeable contract down the drain. I call it a phantom finesse as it can’t win as both the J and the 10 are not held. The winning line is small to the A and small back, and when the K appears the suit has been played for the loss of only one trick.

Another “phantom finesse” situation is where Declarer is trying to get a defender to cover so that they don’t have to guess where the missing honours are located. Take this spade trump suit layout.

                                    North J8632

                                                                               East Q 9

Declarer leads the J, East routinely covers with the Q, declarer plays the K and West the A. East has just butchered the possibility of getting two trump tricks. If the J is not covered then declarer needs to guess whether to play the K from hand, and has a 50% chance of getting it wrong. So why should East know not to cover? The reason to cover is to promote a trick for yourself or possibly for partner. That is not likely to be the situation here. Partner has at the most 2 trumps, and very possibly only one. Partner is likely to hold either the A or the K, as surely if declarer held both they would lead one first to see if a singleton Q drops. The real danger is that partner holds the singleton K and if East covers with the Q, declarer’s Ace bags both the K and Q and therefore does not lose a trump trick. East needs to work this out early, as soon as dummy goes down, so that if the J is played they can follow smoothly, without hesitation, so that no clues are provided to declarer to assist with their guess.

Opening 2D with 19 point hands

Most of you will know that I dislike the 2 19 to 21 points opening bid. If I must play it I prefer to have 20 to 22 points and must have a five card or longer suit. Many got into trouble with this hand at a recent session, when they counted up their points and immediately bid 2D.


This hand does not qualify as 19 points. Firstly the singleton J should be discounted, it is no more value than a 2. Secondly 4,4,4,1 hands should deduct a point or two because of that distribution. This hand should be bid by opening 1S if playing 4 card majors, or 1D if playing five card majors. If you are lucky enough to get a bid out of partner then jump the bidding on the next round. EG if partner supports Spades or bids 1S jump to the spade game. If bids 1NT over 1 then bid 3. If bids 1NT over 1 then bid 3NT, as partner should not have a four card major and the J may now have some value.