Ted's Bridge World Simulatron

The Opening-Lead Premium

It is well-known that, at least for most players, defense is the most difficult aspect of the game of bridge.  At the table many defenders flounder helplessly, seemingly devoid of ambition or a plan.  A significant portion of their problems lies in relatively ineffective choices of opening lead, which frequently is the most important of all 52 plays.

It occurred to us to attempt to assess the actual value of the opening lead in terms of tricks.  SIM accomplished this easily by generating 10,000 random deals, then simply declaring contracts of the same denomination from all four compass positions.  On average, the four plays of each board would yield an equal number of tricks for offense and defense — 260,000 each.  The actual results are quite interesting:

That second number is incredible; it indicates that, versus notrump contacts, the defense could average nearly 7 tricks per hand, solely on the basis of being able to make the first move.

And there you have it — numeric values for the opening lead — and you heard it here first!  More about OLP in future studies.

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Food For Thought:  Many players like to sit "behind" their opponents' perceived stronger player, judging (possibly inaccurately) that they — not their partners — would be better-placed to handle anything that their RHO might throw at them during the bidding.  If they are a moving pair, they tend to sit east on the basis that the better opponent is more likely to sit north, and so forth.

The late, great Giorgio Belladonna maintained that this notion was misguided.  He preferred to sit in front of the stronger opponent, claiming an advantage to having the initiative that is, being able to act first.

Well, on the basis of the Opening Lead Premium, I propose that the mainstream strategy might be best, but not for the conventional reasons.  It could well be strategically superior — not to have your better bidder sitting 'East' — but to have your partnership's better opening leader sitting behind the better or more frequent declarers!  A potential one-half trick per hand is worth serious consideration.

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