~Journalist-type Leads


Against No-trump 

~A from AKJxxx or AKTxxx. Third hand is requested to unblock a high honor unless it will obviously give up a trick. Otherwise give count.

~K from AKxx, Q from KQT9x, assuming a high honor should be led. When the Q is led against a NT contract, third hand is requested to play the J unless that play will obviously give away a trick.

~J from QJ. The J promises either the Q or the T but not both.

~T from AT9, KT9, QT9, AJT, KJT. The T shows one or two higher honors. With only one honor higher than the T, it cannot be the J.

~Nine from T9. The 9 promises the T but no higher honor.
~Second highest or highest from lower spot cards to show weakness; i. e.; lead the 8 from 9832 or 8 from 8765 to show the weakness. With 5 small cards, lead fourth down.

~If leading from a four-card or longer suit with honors where the pattern does not fit the above examples, lead 4th from the top.

~Generally, the lead of a low card without a K or higher honor will cost a trick. With AJ942, lead the 4. Unless the suit is unbid, the lead of 4th best from a 4-card suit against a NT contract without the A, the K, or two honors will cost a trick by either finessing partner or making the enemy T, J, or Q good. Example: unless the suit is the only unbid suit, a lead from Qxxx or Jxxx will almost always cost a trick.

The purpose of these leads is to make it easier for the third hand to know whether to continue the suit or to shift. The following hand shows what can happen when Journalist leads are not used.

Dealer: North Vul: Both

H 5
D 74

S Q952
D A63
C Q5

Bidding: North: 1S; East: Pass; South:2H; West: Pass; North: 3C; East: Pass; South: 3NT; All Pass

Opening lead (standard): T of diamonds
from T985

Using standard leads, West led the T to East’s Ace, south playing the 2. If South started with QJ2 of diamonds, East must continue diamonds for the set. South actually held KQJ2. South won the diamond and took 10 tricks. Using Journalist leads, East would switch to hearts, setting the contract (West would not lead the T but would lead the 9, showing only the T higher in hand).

Against Suit Contracts

Against suit contracts, Journalist leads follow a similar pattern if not leading a suit bid by partner, except lead the highest card from a doubleton AK or KQ.

~Lead the K from AK32. Lead the A, then play the K from an AK doubleton. This tells partner you are now void.

~Lead the Q from KQxx. Lead the K from KQ doubleton. If the opponent takes the ace, partner knows you have the singleton Q left. If declarer ducks, lead the Q.

~From spot cards, the highest card below the 9 may be led to show weakness. Lead the 8 from 9863 (the 9 would promise the T).

By using Journalist-type leads, you tell partner where the key cards are. Note that this system of leads strongly suggests not leading the ace of a suit unbid by partner unless defending against a slam. Sometimes the lead of an ace is the best of poor choices. When partner leads the ace of a suit unbid by you, give attitude (not count). When partner leads a king, promising the ace, give count. Partner wants to know if you can ruff the third lead of the suit.

From QJT, lead the T. This tells partner you hold one or more cards higher than the T, and if you only have one higher card, it is not the A or J. From QJX, lead the J. This tells partner you hold either the Q or T, but not both. With these leads and a view of the dummy and his own hand, partner can usually determine what key cards you hold in the suit. Exception: you may lead a singleton G or J against a suit contract.

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