A little advice from a Director.

Be prepared so you can make an informed decision when you are the declarer and an opening lead out of turn is made by the defender. You have so many choices (five altogether) and at the time, this can be very confusing. Here is an explanation of the choices, with some tips for making the most advantageous decision in each case.

1. Declarer can accept the lead and become Dummy.

His/her hand goes down on the table and partner plays.


2. Declarer can accept the lead and remain Declarer.

Dummy goes down on the table and Declarer can look at it before playing a card from his/her hand.

TIP: The decision about whether to accept the opening lead is based on two things:

  • Can I win that trick or at least regain control in the second round? And:
  • Do I want the weak or the strong hand on the table? Usually, you want the strong hand OFF the table, so any weakness in it remains hidden from the opposition.

If the opening lead is in your weak suit (i.e. you have only losers in it), you would choose not to accept it. In this case, the lead must come from the correct hand and you have three further choices.

(a) You can require the lead to be in the same suit as the incorrect lead.

In this case, the incorrect lead is picked up and does not have to be played, as long as Defender follows suit.

TIP: This would be a strategic decision if you have a broken suit in your hand that you want the opposition to lead into. Not recommended unless you know what you are doing.

(b) You can forbid a lead in the suit exposed in the incorrect lead.

Once again the incorrect lead is picked up.Defender cannot lead from the forbidden suit as long as he/she retains the lead.

TIP: This is your best bet if you’ve got losers in this suit that you hope you will be able to throw away (pitch) on one of your strong suits.

(c) You can allow the lead from the correct hand to be in any suit.

Defender in this case must not be influenced by the card his partner has shown as it is considered to be ‘unauthorized information’ for Defenders. The Defender on lead must make a lead based solely on the merits of his/her hand and info from bidding. The incorrect lead remains on the table as a penalty card and must be played at the first legal opportunity. Not only this, but as long as this penalty card remains on the table, Declarer has the lead determining rights mentioned in (a), (b) & (c), whenever the offenders partner is on lead.

TIP: You need to be sure you can keep or get back control (i.e. have winners in all the other suits) to allow this option.

Some other things to keep in mind

  • Declarer alone makes these choices. Dummy isn’t allowed a say.
  • Declarer can’t ask Defender to lead a specific suit unless it is option (a).
  • Option (b): Once the opening lead has been lost and regained, the Defender in question can now lead the forbidden suit.

These choices were not invented by the Directors to make your life difficult. They come from the rule book.

The best thing to do when faced with this situation is take it one step at a time:

  • Will I accept the lead? – Do I want the Dummy to play the hand? – Do I want the lead of that suit?

How to avoid this situation altogether

Potential defenders can see from the above that they might be seriously penalized by making a hasty opening lead and giving Declarer all those extra rights. There is a rule or guideline that prevents this from happening:

“Always put your opening lead face down on the table and check that it is your lead.”