Many books, including Goren, recommend leading K from both a AK (or AKQ) and also a KQ.

Why an ambiguous lead like this? Why not A from AK and K from KQ?

Consider a trump contract. Partner leads K from a non-trump suit. I have a void in that suit. Do I ruff assuming it's from a KQ or do I discard assuming it's from a AK?

3 Answers 3


The reason that K is traditionally lead from AK is because there are two important circumstances where a different signal is requested from partner (rather than attitude). The Ace lead is reserved for these particular circumstances because it is very important that there be no ambiguity in these circumstances:

The Ace lead against notrump signals a nearly running suit headed by at least AK, such as AKJT53, and requests partner to unblock an honour if he has one, else to give count.

The Ace lead indicates a desire to ruff, either in own hand or partner's, and requests a partner with length to show attitude and a partner with shortness to show count. This lead might be made from singleton A or doubleton Ace small, or from A empty fifth or sixth.

In the former case it should only be made by a defender without entries, because it is partner who must get in to generate the ruffing leads. In the latter case it must be made only by a partner with entries who can get in to eliminate declarer's tricks in the suit.

As partner of K opening lead in a suit contract:
When partner leads the King against a suit contract, the guideline is to show attitude unless you have two or more touching honours, in which case you play the highest of the touching honours. For example:

  • Play your highest card from a small doubleton;
  • Play your lowest card without an honour in hand;
  • Play low with precisely Qx;
  • Play low with Jx, or Tx - unless dummy has come down with precisely Queen third and you desire an immediate ruff;
  • Play the Q from QJ doubleton or longer;
  • Play the J holding JT9 doubleton or longer;
  • Play the T holding T98 or longer;
  • Play your second highest card from Qxx or longer.

Thus the play of an honour from third hand in this situation always denies the next higher honour, and shows either shortness or the next lower card (and possibly another).

Partner will almost always be able to read your card in order to play sensibly at the second trick.

As partner of A opening lead in a suit contract:
Only encourage holding length with either the K or a quick trump winner with which to provide partner with his ruff. Otherwise discourage so that partner will switch to another suit before declarer's tricks get established.

There are other Signalling agreements besides these standard ones, but if these suffice for repeat World Champion Bob Hamman they are certainly sufficient for casual partnerships and beginning players.


One reason to lead K from AK is that it's actually less ambiguous. Sometimes it is sensible to lead an unsupported ace to see dummy and partner's signal before deciding how to proceed with the defense. For instance, opening leader may have Ax in a side suit, trying to get a ruff if partner encourages to show the king. It's almost never right to lead from Kx when partner hasn't bid that suit since it it's much more likely to blow a trick.

Moreover, partner rarely has a void when you lead from KQxxx, and even if partner does have a void, it's almost never best defense for partner to ruff the K when it hasn't been covered by the A -- ruffing the K causes declarer to play low, so the Q hasn't been established as a winner.

  • How is it less ambiguous? You will always lead K from both AK & KQ. But leading an unsupported A is less common. Also, this is not from KQxxx, more like KQJxxxx in a minislam contract by the opposition. You aren't worried about establishing the Q. You are more worried about making 2 tricks to defeat the contract - and the ruff might be one of them.
    – user93353
    Aug 10, 2015 at 3:08
  • I've also often heard to always lead high card from a doubleton, and middle card from 3. So leading the K in AK incorrectly implies that there are three cards in that suit (AKx). And I've also heard that, in general, leading an Ace is bad unless it's from AK.
    – ryanyuyu
    Aug 10, 2015 at 14:06
  • @user93353 Leading an unsupported ace against a high-level contract is far more common than all of the following situations being true: (a) opening leader has a 7+ card suit, (b) partner has a void, (c) the suit might be headed by the AK or KQ, (d) it matters whether partner ruffs at trick 1, (e) the A is not in dummy.
    – ruds
    Aug 10, 2015 at 18:47
  • @ryanyuyu Rules of thumb for leading from an honor sequence are quite different from rules of thumb for leading from an unsupported honor or worthless suit.
    – ruds
    Aug 10, 2015 at 18:48
  • @ryanyuyu: Please, please, please don't play Middle-Up-Down opening leads from three small. The only possible exception is when your partnership defence is so atrocious that it is important to always find a reason as to why it is partner's fault rather than your own. I will play either high or low opening leads from three small to suit partner's preference, but if you insist on playing M.U.D. I will choose another partner. Aug 10, 2015 at 19:33

My preference is to lead a K from a "truncated" or "weaker" suit (as defined below) if I can, and an A from a stronger suit.

A suit without an A is a "truncated suit, by definition. So if I have KQJ or KQT, I will lead the king.

I will also lead the K from AK blank because the suit is "truncated" by having no lower cards. I don't fear your ruff in this instance, because if I have AK and you have a void, the opponents would have 11 cards in this suit, which would be their trump suit, instead of their actual one.

Unlike Goren, I would lead an A with AKx, and certainly with AKQ, because that's a nice strong suit. Here, I feel there's a chance of a ruff, but if you can ruff my x on the third round, that's what I want you to do. At times, you might even want to ruff my queen if you can, to gain the lead for e.g. a finesse through declarer.

Another answerer pointed out that some people reserve the ace leads for only the strongest holdings, either a long one, like AKJT etc. or a "ruffing" one like Ax, or Axxxx. Depending on what else I held, I might lead the A, then the x from Ax, but I want to differentiate AK (lead the king) from AKx (lead the A).

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