Neither side vulnerable at rubber, South opens one spade. (He claims to subscribe to five card majors, three card minors, and strong 1NT but not "Flannery." He's also probably capable of "psyching.")

I (West) pass with (s)JT8xx (h) Kxx (d) Kxx (c) Kx. (All x's are 7 or lower.)

North bids three spades. South alerts "Bergen raise." That means that North has exactly four spades, but has less than six points non-vulnerable. He may have zero. (If he had six, he would have raised to two spades.) All pass. East does not have the 12 hcps he needs for a takeout double, nor the good six card suit he needs for an overcall.

South and North clearly aren't 5-4 in spades, and I believe that South is bidding "Bergen" style; that is treating AKQx as better than a weak five card suit (e.g. Qxxxx) because of his high sequence. This would also imply more than minimum values (15+ hcps). Put another way, I have no reason to believe that North doesn't have four spades and that South has five.

My inclination is to lead the J of spades, because South has fewer spades than his bidding implied (and was unlucky to run into a 5-0 split). Does such a lead make sense?

  • 2
    1) Form of scoring? 2) What would partner have doubled 3S (presumably for takeout) on? What would they have overcalled over 3S on? Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 17:40
  • @AlexanderWoo: 1) Rubber. 2) 12+hcps and suitable distribution. 3) Good six card suit or better.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 18:23
  • 1
    Please edit all clarifications of the question into the question body - comments being ephemeral and subject to arbitrary deletion at any time, and questions being required to be self sufficient and independent of comments. Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 14:22
  • Also, please provide a more complete outline of Opponents bidding system: Weak or Strong NT has huge inferences on the types of hand South may hold for his opening, and whether I prefer to lead Club K or a small Heart/Diamond as an alternative to the Spade J. What is their Minor opening style, as this again affects the type of hands South may hold for his Spade shortness bid. These inferences are the key to strong Opening Leads. Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 14:27
  • Are Opponents playing Flannery? Are they they inclined to believe that AKQx is a better trump suit than Qxxxx? Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 14:35

2 Answers 2


Assuming no psych bid: South has a balanced hand with 12+ to 14 HCP presumed to include Spade AKQ for his 4-card holding. That leaves very little room for additional values in his hand. With a presumed (23) or (33) holding in the minors the likely reason to have not opened one of those, planning a rebid in NT, is that they are both bare of high cards.

It's Rubber Bridge so I'm leading the Club K expecting to find partner with a good (45) or (53) holding in the minors with at least 4 Clubs. We will strip South of his side suit exits and make him give me my two Spade tricks. I'm looking for a 2 or 3 trick set here, and at dinner Partner and I will discuss the value of voids in Opener's suit, and why we didn't get 500 or 800 on this hand.

I can only ever lead Spades from my hand safely once; and I need to save that in case I get endplayed later in the hand. So I'm not leading Spades on Trick One.

  • 1
    South's bidding style is something like the following: He would open 1s with (s) AQxxx (h)x (d) Qxxx (c) Axx, that is 12 hcp (maybe 11 because of the singleton h). He would also substitute Ks for xx of s. But he would need 11-12 hcps over and above (not counting) the Ks for his four card 1s bid, that is (s) AKQx (h)x (d)Qxxx (c) Axxx. He actually had Kxxx of d instead of Qxxx.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 17:29
  • @TomAu: If South had a 4144 hand with a minor high honour he's both a cheat and a fool. He's playing 4-card majors and claiming to play 5-card majors. He's also creating endless bidding and play problems for his partner. Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 17:37
  • @TomAu: He's also created giant ethical problems for a partner (who may or may not be in on the scam, but will soon enough infer it if not) who must pretend to be playing 5-card majors while actually playing 4-carad majors. There's simply no tactical reason to be opening 1 Spade here, instead of the better minor, in first seat. Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 17:43
  • 1
    This strikes me as "foolish," to say the least. With three good four card suits to choose from, there is no reason for South to "lock" the partnership into spades. For instance, one minor, one heart might lead to a good NT contract. With four spades and 6+ hcps, partner would respond one spade. And if partner has less than four spades, there does not seem to be any reason to bid a spade contract. There was even less reason to encourage "Bergen" bidding from partner when he only had 3 hcps. Thanks for your help.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 17:59

The misbid is irrelevant here. The question is simply, given that holding, and either a 4-4 or 5-3 opposition, what’s the right play?

You have ten HCP. S has say fifteen. N has five. Partner has ten also.

You also have likely four or five tricks in your hand - all three K are odds on to win, and one or two spade tricks also - likely two. The question is what to lead, to not cost you one of those trucks?

Leading away from any K is probably going to cost you a trick - odds are 60% or so that declarer has that ace. Partner might have a Q, but who knows?

That makes the spade lead seem like the clear winner, even if it weren’t for the bidding. And leading the J is the clear choice (assuming that’s how you lead away from JTxxx in your partnership).

Don’t overthink things!

Now, if you did have a safe side suit lead, do you still lead spades? I still like the lead - with that 8 it probably won’t cost you a trick, and they may well be ruffing (and you might have a shot to lead another trump before the ruffing). Even if sunny has 3, it’s still a good idea - avoid short suit ruffs. It’s riskier though because you do have two likely winners as it stands in tromp, and you could be giving one away- but I still like it on balance if there’s not a specific reason to leas something else (and as long as you still feel P has only ten or so points).

  • So if Declarer holds AKQ7 of Spades as OP imagines;:what will you lead at trick 4 if Declarer reads the situation and leads Club Ace and a small one at tricks 2 and 3? Opening lead is as much about getting off future endplays as anything else. Even when the Spade opening lead is correct (and we don't have near enough info yet about Opponents bidding style and agreements to know), your reasons here are very dubious. Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 14:31
  • By trick four, my partner would have told me what to lead back, one would hope…
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 4, 2021 at 19:44

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