A trump lead is simply an opening lead of a trump in a suit contract. There are four general reasons to leading a trump:

  • When the opponents have taken a sacrifice and suggested fewer high card points than your side. Sacrifices are usually bid on distribution; if the opponents don't have much distribution, they will usually just let you play your contract. Therefore, when the opponents do sacrifice, it is often vital to lead trumps early to cut down their ruffing potential.

  • When the opponents have bid three or four suits and wind up playing in one of them. If they can't reach notrumps, and they can't support each other's side suits, they usually have distributional hands that need to garner tricks by ruffs. Leading trumps in this situation is often best.

  • When partner has doubled the opponents' part-score contract for penalty. Low-level penalty doubles usually indicate a big trump stack and it is therefore very attractive, if not mandatory, to lead a trump when partner has advertised a powerful trump holding.

  • When a passive lead is desired but leading any of the side suits is too dangerous. For example, if the auction goes:

    RHOYouLHOPard
    1 1Pass3 2Pass
    4PassPassPass


    1 Promising 5+ spades.
    2 Limit raise, showing 10-12 points and 4 spades.

    It would probably be best to lead a spade from

    87
    Q953
    Q1042
    Q63

Note that the opponents' 9-card fit makes a spade lead totally unlikely to blow a trump trick, because you know spades are splitting 2-2 for declarer. If partner has Qx and a spade is not led, declarer's percentage play will be to cash the AK anyhow. If partner has Kx, he is either getting one trick or he isn't. No other trump holdings in partner's hand are of interest. It would be reasonable to lead a spade from this hand even if the opponents only showed an 8-card trump fit. If partner holds Qxx - bad luck.


When to Not Lead Trumps

When none of the above conditions are present, seriously consider NOT leading a trump, especially with a singleton which often costs partner a trump trick. Even leads from apparently safe trump holdings may prove painful. I once wanted to make a passive lead against a suit contract and decided the ace from the A2 of trumps was sufficient. The result was a game swing, for the trump layout was:

Dummy
K1043
MePartner
A2J95
Declarer
Q876


Had the ace not been led, declarer would have led a trump to the queen and ace, and then finessed into partner's jack later. The lead of the ace solved his problems.

See also

  • Standard Leads
    A table of standard leads against suit and no-trump contracts.

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