Monday, January 17, 2011

Journalist Leads

A while ago I posted about Rusinow Leads and mentioned that they only apply to suit contracts (and then only when leading a suit your partner didn't bid). Standard leads suck as much in no trump contracts as they do in suit contracts so is there a way to improve there too? It turns out there's a system calls Journalist Leads for just such an occasion. Again, these only apply when you're leading a suit your partner didn't bid and their usefulness is questionable against slams.

The basic idea here is more that if you're leading a strong suit yourself you care more about what's in your partner's hand than he cares about what's in your hand. As such, many of the powerful leads demand your partner react in a certain way. To whit:

Lead the Ace - Shows a very powerful suit (AKJT, AKQT, AKT9x, etc...) and demands your partner unblock his highest honour if he has one. The idea being if he unblocks on the first trick you may well be able to run your suit, and if he doesn't unblock you now know declarer has the highest outstanding honour. If partner doesn't have an honour to unblock he signals _count_ and not attitude on the first trick. This was you can tell if declarer's known honour is going to drop or not. If it isn't you may try to find an entry to partner so he can lead the suit back, which he should since your initial lead of the ace promised a powerful suit.

Lead the King - Promises either AK or KQT. Requests partner signal attitude. This lets the leader avoid getting caught in a Bath Coup.

Lead the Queen - Demands partner unblock the jack if he has it. Most likely you have something like KQT9 but you could also have QJT. If partner doesn't have the J then he should signal attitude.

Lead the Jack - Flatly denies a higher honour. (You should still have a good reason for leading high though, so you probably have at least the T and maybe the 9. Partner can do what he thinks is best since you're clearly not leading a powerful suit here.

Lead the Ten - Promises an honour higher than the jack, so you have something like AT9, KT9, QT9, AJT, or KJT. Partner can again do what seems best knowing you might have the J and definitely have a higher honour and a touching honour.

Lead the Nine - Promises the ten and nothing bigger. (With the JT9 you lead the J, with AT9 you lead the T, etc...)

Anything else - 4th best, or 3rd/5th best, or top of garbage. Whatever you and partner want to do.

There are two main advantages here. The first is you clear up leading from an interior honour sequence. (Playing standard leads if you lead a J and partner has Axx should he return the suit? If you lead from JT92 then the suit is probably dead and continuing it likely won't help. If you lead from KJT92 then returning the suit gives you 5 tricks off the top. Standard leads there's no way to tell the difference. Using Journalist you'd have lead the J from JT9 and the T from KJT so he knows right away to win his ace and shift if you lead the J and to win and return the suit if you lead a T. The second is the previously mentioned information to the leader when it comes to the unblocking and count/attitude signal demand from playing specific honours.

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