In the example in Today's New York Post, the bidding went: S 1 spade, N 2 clubs, S 2 NT, N3 spades, S 4 Spades (East and West passed throughout).

West led the 9 of hearts, which as between these defenders, meant "top of nothing" in a two or three card suit, probably looking for a ruff. With A732 of hearts, East signaled with the 7, got a heart lead to the ace when West came in with a high spade trick, and led back a heart for a ruff.

North's hearts were KJxx. Suppose East had the QUEEN of hearts instead of the ace, but the ace of DIAMONDs instead. With a supposed "stranded" honor (assuming West's top of nothing lead denied the ace), should East have DISCOURAGED on hearts and have West lead a diamond?

  • 1
    It depends on the hand. This question cannot be answered without looking at the East/West hands. In general, you tend to discourage when you either don't want the suit continued, or want a shift (even though you might have something there). You tend to encourage if you want the the suit continued (or can stand it to be continued), or don't want a shift. In some situations, by implication you would have a honor in the suit.
    – Aryabhata
    Aug 10, 2012 at 15:42
  • @Aryabhata disagree that you need to see West's hand, if you are actually playing as East then you wouldn't. seeing North and East's hands would be useful though, but I think we can assume that either there is a better suit or defense has no hope
    – jk.
    Aug 13, 2012 at 9:29
  • @jk: Yes, the East hand, the bidding, the dummy, the scoring, the vulnerability are needed :-)
    – Aryabhata
    Aug 13, 2012 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


Yes I think hearts should be discouraged. Given West's lead is top of nothing then South must have the Ace and probably the ten too (if not its one of North's xs) so hearts are pretty disastrous, especially as West's lead has probably given declarer a free finesse.

Of course to really know we need to see the other suits in the visible hands (one would assume there either has to be a better suit to attack or defense has no chance)

It's also probably worth noting that top of nothing is usually a lead made when nothing better is available so we can probably infer that West has a poor hand to lead with.

  • If you had phrased your answer as, we really need to know the hands, but given the absence of that information, it is probably right to discourage, I would have upvoted it.
    – Aryabhata
    Aug 15, 2012 at 17:29

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