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.

Common examples:

  • 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
Q73
853
WestKQJ6East
J2K52K8
KQ96J102
85432SouthA107
73SA109654Q10964
HA74
D9
CAJ8

South declares the contract of 4S. West wants to lead a heart, but which one?

If West makes the Rusinow lead of the HQ, East can confidently encourage with the H10. 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 HK, though, East must weigh the possiblity that it's from a suit headed by the AK. In that case, East must discourage with the H2. East's hope will be to gain the lead with the DA and run the HJ 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.


Expert Opinions

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


Origins

Rusinow Leads are named for their inventor, American expert Sydney Rusinow, who created the convention in the 1930s.


References

1 Morehead, A. (1954, September 26). Bridge: The Rusinow Honor Leads. The New York Times.

2 Ashton, Glen (2008). The Eric Rodwell Interview. BridgeMatters.com.

3, 4 Bridge Winners Blog.

See also

  • Ace from Ace-King
    The practice of leading the ace when holding the ace and king of a suit.

  • Fourth-best leads
    The practice of leading the 4th-highest card from a 4-card holding or longer.

  • Jack denies, Ten implies
    A lead agreement whereby the jack denies a higher honor, but the 10 does not.

  • Journalist leads
    A conventional system of leads used against no-trump contracts.

  • MUD
    The practice of leading the middle card from three small cards.

  • Standard leads
    A table of standard leads against suit and no-trump contracts.

  • Third and fifth leads
    The practice of leading the 3rd or 5th highest card from a long suit.