One of the most difficult aspects of playing bridge is defense. If you improve your defense, you will automatically upgrade your game.

Defense turns bridge into a full-time game – no sleeping until the next hand when you can be declarer.

Work as a partnership on defense and you will have a huge advantage over players who shirk this part of the game, thinking that they need to learn more conventions.

Defense involves logic, making the right lead, and signaling correctly to your partner. To be a good defender you have to look beyond the trick you are playing and look at the whole picture.

The most important part of defense is making the “killer lead.” Rules for leading to No Trump and to Suit contracts are different. The card you select as your opening lead is probably the most important card you are going to play during the entire defense – so give it a little thought.

A basic rule for choosing the opening lead is to lead partner’s bid suit, unless you have a lead that is clearly better. Suppose your partner bids hearts and you are on lead against 3 NT. You could have the following holdings in hearts: 92 J103 K76.

Let’s practice.

With 92, lead the 9; with J103, lead the J; and with K76, lead the 6.

Try one more:

The opponents are in a 3NT (1NT-3NT) contract with no bids by partner. You have A9742 of spades and K8632 of hearts.

With two long suits, both headed by an honor, it is best to lead the one without the Ace. This way if you manage to set up the hearts, then you will have the Ace as an entry to get in to play your hearts.

If you lead a spade and set up the spade suit, the King of hearts might not be an entry.

Dr. Kathie Walsh, an ABTA teacher of the year, teaches all levels of bridge at Hilton Head Island Bridge Club.