Rusinow Leads are opening leads of the lower of two touching honors. The purpose is to distinguish opening leads from AKx and KQx. Using standard methods, the king would be led from both holdings. Playing Rusinow, the king is led from the first holding and the queen from the latter.
- AKx - lead the king.
- KQx - lead the queen.
- QJx - lead the jack.
- J10x - lead the 10.
- 109x - lead the 9.
The late Alfred Morehead provided the following deal as an argument for Rusinow leads.1
| ||North|| |
South declares the contract of 4.
West wants to lead a heart, but which one?
If West makes the Rusinow lead of the Q,
East can confidently encourage with the 10.
The defense will drive out declarer's ace and collect two heart tricks before declarer can set up dummy's diamonds for discards.
Should West make the standard lead of the K,
though, East must weigh the possiblity that it's from a suit headed by the AK. In that case, East must discourage with the 2.
East's hope will be to gain the lead with the A
and run the J
through declarer’s hypothetical queen.
When to Play Rusinow Leads
Rusinow Leads were originally designed for the following conditions:
- Against suit contracts only (although nowdays players also use them vs. no-trumps).
- Partner has not bid the suit.
- The holding is not a doubleton, e.g. AK or KQ. In those cases, the top card is led.
Additional considerations are explained below by expert players.
American world champion Eric Rodwell:
"I don't like Rusinow leads in situations where the leader could be short in the suit. Like, say it goes 1, Pass, 4, I definitely don't like Rusinow leads. Rusinow leads, if you bid the suit, make sense. Then partner doesn't have to worry about it being a singleton or doubleton 10 when you lead the 10. Rusinow leads in partner's suit clearly don't make sense either for the same reason. Rusinow leads against notrump make some sense since, presumably, you are not punting with a doubleton." 2
American expert Steve Weinstein:
"We lead Rusinow against NT from 4 card or longer suits. That in combination with the King being our power lead means that the Q is from QJX or KQ when you don't want [to] unblock or [give] count." 3
Venice Cup winner Kitty Munson:
"We play Rusinow against both suits and NT. When partner doubles for a lead, Rusinow is obviously off in that suit. We extend this to be off in any suit partner has implied via a takeout double. The idea of course is to eliminate the doubleton honor lead confusion. " 4
Rusinow Leads are named for their inventor, American expert Sydney Rusinow, who created the convention in the 1930s.
1 Morehead, A. (1954, September 26). Bridge: The Rusinow Honor Leads. The New York Times.
Ashton, Glen (2008). The Eric Rodwell Interview
3, 4 Bridge Winners Blog.