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.
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.