Journalist Leads

It is assumed that the term journalist has been based on a series of articles in the respected The Bridge Journal published in the United States, issues January 1964 and October 1964, dealing with leads against No Trump, and then followed in 1965, dealing with leads against suits. This short-lived publication was co-founded by Mr. Paul Heitner, who also served as the Managing Editor, and Mr. Jeff Rubens.

The Bridge Journal was a magazine intended mainly for the edification and exchange of ideas by serious players, founded and first published in the beginning of September 1963 as a quasi-monthly magazine published by Mr. Paul Heitner and Mr. Jeff Rubens and aimed at improving technical and mechanical aspects of the game, especially at tournament level. The journal ceased publication in December 1966 following the publication of 30 issues. All copyrights to any published article is now owned by The Bridge World Magazine, Inc.

Note: For a more complete history of the evolution of The Bridge World and the bridge personalities involved with the creation thereof, it would be prudent of the bridge student to review the information provided by Wikipedia.

According to the publication The Bridge Bum: My Life and Play (ISBN-10: 0688031978 / ISBN-13: 978-0688031978) by Mr. Alan Sontag, Mr. Paul Heitner held the distinct nickname of The Whale owing to the fact that his physical frame constituted 6 feet and 2 inches and had to support more than 400 pounds. When Mr. Jeff Rubens became Associate Editor of The Bridge World in 1967, The Bridge Journal ceased independent publication and merged with The Bridge World.

Note: According to Mr. Alan Truscott, the bridge columnist for The New York Times, Mr. Lawrence Roslet and Mr. Jeff Rubens introduced Journalist Leads as early as 1964 in his column dated February 15, 1988.

Note: Much information has been provided by the research of Mr. Chris Ryall and posted on his website, which is presently off-line.

Although these leads were popularized by The Bridge Journal in the 1960s, they were described earlier by Mr. Helge Vinje of the Oslo Academic Bridge Club. The following publications contain reference and guidelines outlining such leads.

1. Det Norske Fordelingssignalet - n√łkkelen til godt motspill - The Norwegian Distribution Signal - the Key to Good Defense Play; Mr. Helge Vinje of Norway, 1959 - q.v. subsequent book with Terence Reece
2. Utspelet - Bridgeakademin, Tredje upplagan Avesta - The Lead; Mr. Jan Wholin of Sweden, 1964, 1977
3. Defensive Play in Bridge by Mr. Helge Vinje, Introduction: Mr. Terence Reese (English rework) 1980 Sterling Publication or Cornerstone Library, ISBN: 0806949384, LC: 79057541
4. New Ideas in Defensive Play in Bridge by Helge Vinje, English version edited by Mr. Terence Reese, 1979, published by R. Hale, London, England, ISBN: 0709177178, LC: 80468978; also published by Cornerstone Library, ISBN: 0346124948, LC: 82025101

Note: Presented on this web page are both versions for journalist leads, and the student must keep in mind that the two versions may differ.

The Bridge Journal

In The Bridge Journal, in issues published between 1964 and 1965, there were several articles recommended, especially suggested against No Trump contracts, which were called Journalist Leads. Basically, the leads were categorized into guidelines presented below.

1. Lead the Ace, usually, from A-K-J-x or more, or from A-K-Q-10-x or more, or from A-K-10-9-x or more.
  Note: The partner is requested to unblock a high honor, such as the Queen or Jack from this leading sequence if the partner has this card, but to otherwise give a length signal. A length signal is high from an even number of cards and low with an odd number of cards in that suit.
2. Lead the King from A-K or K-Q, if the assumption is that a high honor should be led.
3. Lead the Queen from Q-J-10 or from K-Q-10-9. The recommendation is that the partner should play the Jack to unblock, if he holds it.
4. Lead the Jack from J-10. Any lead of a Jack denies a higher-ranking honor.
5. Lead the Ten from A-10-9, or from K-10-9, or from Q-10-9, or from A-J-10, or from K-J-10. Leading the ten guarantees at least the Ace, the King, or the Queen.
6. Lead the Nine from 10-9. Any lead of a nine promises the ten, but no higher honor. From a sequence of 9-8-7, the lead of the 8 is correct.
7. Normally, the lowest card from a long suit headed by one or two honors is led to encourage suit continuation. The purpose of these leads is to make it easier for the partner to realize whether to continue the attack on this particular suit or to change suits.

An advantage of the journalist leads is to eliminate the ambiguity of leading from the top of an inner sequence such as K-J-10-9. Leading the ten guarantees any honor from the Ace, King, or Queen.

Note: Although journalist leads can be used against suit contracts, the preference is to use Rusinow Leads. However, if using journalist leads against suit contracts, the pattern is different.

1. From two touching honors, lead the second higher of the two honors.
2. From spot cards, the highest card below the 9 may be led to indicate a weak holding.
3. Otherwise, the third highest card is led from an even number of cards or the lowest from an odd number of cards.

Journalist Leads According to the Publication Journalist Leads

Journalist Leads Against No Trump Contracts

Mr. Lawrence Rosler of Murray Hills, New Jersey, United States, and Mr. Jeff Rubens of Scarsdale, New York, United States, published a book entitled Journalist Leads in the year 1987 (ISBN-10: 0944705022 / ISBN-13: 978-0944705025). To a certain extent this publication presented an updated version of journalist leads and separated the leads against No Trump contracts and the leads against suit contracts.

It is to be remembered that Mr. Jeff Rubens was a contributing editor of both The Bridge Journal and also co-author of the book Journalist Leads. The cover of this publication is shown below.


The main concept behind the lead against No Trump contracts is the factor of timing, meaning that the lead should indicate and establish the suit of the defenders, and the factor of safety, clarified as not providing the declarer, and thus the dummy, with any additional tricks, which could be avoided (avoiding free gifts). The opening lead should / must inform the partner whether or not the led suit should be continued.

Honor Leads or Leading an Honor

The standard lead of the highest of touching honors, as time and kept records have shown, bears favorable results. The standard lead from an interior sequence did not bring favorable results. This is the basis for journalist leads per Mr. Lawrence Rosler and Mr. Jeff Rubens. The clarification for either the lead from the highest of touching honors or from an internal sequence was essential. The following guidelines were established:

1. The lead of a Jack denies possession of a higher honor card.
2. The lead of a 10 promises an interior sequence in addition to a top honor such as an Ace, or King, or Queen.
3. The lead of a 9 promises s suit headed by 10-9.
4. The lead of an Ace requests partner to unblock an honor. If the partner has no honor card, then the partner must give a count signal, which will allow the opening leader to identify an insufficiently guarded honor card.
5. The lead an a Queen signifies that the lead is either from a usual sequence or from the sequence K-Q-10-9, and requests partner to unblock the Jack, if partner holds the Jack.

A Summary of the Journalist Leads against No Trump contracts is presented below.

Card Lead   Card Combination
Ace   A-K-Q-J-x, A-K-J-x-x
King   K-Q-x-x
Queen   K-Q-10-9, Q-J-10
Jack   J-10-9
Ten   A-J-10, A-10-9, K-J-10, K-10-9, Q-10-9
Nine   10-9-8

Journalist Leads Against Suit Contracts

When the lead is against a suit contract, then the first priority of the opening leader is to show the honor strength in order that the partnership knows whether to switch suits or continue the led suit. Such leads against suit contracts are categorized into three different groups followed by the specific guidelines for leading such a card. In this manner the element of ambiguity can be avoided in the communication of information.

Leading an Honor Card

1. Lead the lower of touching honors: Ace-King-x, King-Queen-x, Queen-Jack-x, 10-9-x
2. However, if the touching honors constitute a doubleton, then the higher of the touching honors must be led either against a slam contract or when leading the suit as bid by the partner in the auction.

Leading a Low Card

The standard and/or traditional lead of the fourth best as the opening lead is replaced or updated by the standard count signal employed during the play of the hand. The guidelines are as below:

1. The lowest card is led from an odd number of cards.
2. The third best card is led from an even number of cards.

The advantage of this method more often than not provides the partner with the count of the led suit, and this at Trick One.

Leading Trump

The opening lead of the trump suit, if no other lead is preferred or available, is governed by the following guidelines:

1. When holding an even number of trump cards, then the lowest card should be led. The lead of a 2 informs partner that either 2 trump cards or four trump cards are held.
2. When holding an odd number of trump cards, then the middle card is led followed by the lower card. To some degree this hi-low play of the trump suit indicates / implies the desire or ability for a ruff. This should be the first inference for partner.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.