Here are some helpful guidelines to enable you to better find the location of cards when declaring the hand. This is part of my Novice to Intermediate Series. If you feel that you don't need it, ignore it.
1. If any opponent advertises length in any suit during the auction, he is the candidate to be most likely to be short in trump. Play accordingly.
2. Did anybody open the bidding? If so give him 12 hcps and total the three hands. How much can the other opponent have?
3. If an opponent has failed to open the bidding, then his hand is limited to 11 hcps. If he shows 10 or 11 hcps early in the play, then his partner probably has the rest.
4. If an opponent has failed to respond to an opening bid by partner, his hand is severely limited.
5. If one opponent overcalls and his partner fails to raise to the 2 level, assume he does not have 3 card support. Now count the cards in that suit.
6. If one opponent makes a take out double, your partner makes a response e and the other opponent does not respond to the double, assume that opponent has less than 6 hcps. In other words, opponents hcps are least divided 2:1 favoring the take out doubler. If you are looking for any key card put it in take out doubler’s hand.
Analyzing the Opening Lead Suit Contracts
1. Small card lead. This should show that the lead is either from some honor in the suit or it will be a lead from 3 or more small cards. Strong players are more likely to lead small from an honor. You can ask what they lead from 3 or 4 small cards, since they are required to mark the opening lead portion of the convention card if they lead top of nothing.
2. Medium sized card. If you can see several of the honors in the suit, it probably is a doubleton. If he has a doubleton, play him to be long in any other suit in which you have an interest. It is also a signal to get the trump out if there is nothing else you need to do first. It could also be a singleton. If the bidding has both sides competitively involved at high levels that is evidence of highly distributional hands all around the table. Watch out for short suit leads.
3. Lead of Ace. Check the convention card to see if they lead Ace from Ace King. It must be marked on the "leads" portion of the card. If they lead King from Ace King, then the lead of the King guarantees either the Ace or Queen of that suit.
4. The lead of a Q, J or 10, shows the honor directly below it. If it is a J or 10, it could be an interior sequence (e.g. Q109x, KJ10x). In a suit contract only good players will make an aggressive lead from a tenace in a suit not bid by partner. No trump leads are different.
5. Good players rarely lead an unsupported Ace in a game level contract. If it is a part score contract they very likely have the King, even if they don’t play it. If they don’t have the King, decorum dictates that you not say “Thank You.”
6. Good players do not underlead an Ace against suit contracts. Put the Ace in the other hand.
7. If the lead is a small card and you have KJx(x) on the board, put in the Jack, since the lead is likely from the Queen. (See above re under leading Aces). Likewise, if you have Q10, put in the 10, a good player is more likely to lead from a King that a Jack.
8. If an opponent makes a 2 suited bid and then is on lead, assume the card that he leads is a single if not one of the known suits.
9. If an opponents bid and raise a suit and then the original bidder lead a suit other than the one bid, assume it is a short suit lead.
No Trump Leads
1. In no trump, the standard is to lead from the top of 3+ small cards. A higher non-honor card (like the 9) usually means that he has nothing and is trying to find partner’s suit or that he doesn’t want to lead from his long suit (maybe our side already bid it). If Stayman has been used and opener has shown no major, many opponents will lead a major suit even if it is not 4 deep. Often they are hoping to catch partner with something in the major.
2. If the lead looks like 4th best, apply the rule of 11 to see how many higher cards the other opponent has in the suit. If he is marked with 3+ higher cards, he may have more in the suit than the opening leader, but cards may also be evenly distributed in numbers (4-4).
3. If you have a stopper and need to hold up in the suit to cut communication, subtract the total number of cards in your hand and dummy from 7 and hold up that number of times. So if we have 5 cards, they hold 8. We hold up twice and take the third lead of the suit. We have either severed communications in the suit (the cards were 5-3) or the cards were 4-4 and at most they can get three tricks in the suit.
4. If a low card is lead and you can see all of the other lower cards in the suit, then it is surely 4th best and you know he doesn’t have 5 cards in the suit. It is always reassuring to see a 2 on the opening lead.
5. If we open 1 no trump and an opponent makes an overcall and, on lead, does not lead his bid or indicated suit, it usually means that he has a suit headed by AQ or KJ and wants the lead in the suit to come from his partner through the no trump opener.
These are just some of the ways that you can play detective while you are declaring. There are no rules, just good guidelines to help you make better choices. If all this is too much to remember, just take a few key points that you can use and apply them. When you have that down, grab another guideline.
Feel free to send this to friends and partners and if they want to be on my mailing list, send me an e-mail address. If you print from my blog, be sure to select by dragging the cursor over the blog and print using the selection choice. Otherwise you will print multiple blogs. tommy