THE opening lead often decides the fate of a contract. Against a no-trump contract you might lead “fourth highest; second highest from poor suits; top of a sequence; top of touching honours in a broken sequence.”
Such agreements are useful but not binding; the auction may suggest an alternative choice.
Here West has two equivalent suits, and, other things being equal, he would lead the major. The normal card is the king, a strong lead that asks partner to unblock an honour if he has one, otherwise to signal count. But before choosing the normal card West should consider the auction. North’s double announced a balanced hand with the values to raise to at least 2NT. East seized the chance to use a Rosenkranz redouble, which says: ‘I have a top honour in your suit, ace, king or queen.’ South passed, to see if partner wished to defend 2S redoubled.
But North preferred to go after his own game. He hoped 3S asked partner for a spade stopper, but South interpreted the bid as showing a stopper. Knowing that East has the ace of spades West does not make his normal lead: he leads his fourth highest spade to the ace and the defenders cash the first five tricks. Here leading the king is disastrous: if East overtakes he creates a stopper for North’s Jxx and if he plays low the suit is blocked.