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The “Rule of Seven”

When declaring Notrumps with just one "stopper" in the suit led, typically an ace, you must decide when to win it. The "Rule of Seven" assumes the dangerous division of the suit and ensures you win the stopper on exactly the right round to exhaust one opponent of their cards in the suit.

Add up the number of cards in the suit led (in which you have just one - certain - stopper); subtracting the total from seven tells you how many times to withhold your stopper.

South Deals
Both Vul
8 6 4
A 8 7
K J 8 7 4
K Q
Q 10 7 3
Q 5 2
6 3
10 8 5 4
N
W   E
S
K J 2
K 10 9
A 5 2
7 6 3 2
 
A 9 5
J 6 4 3
Q 10 9
A J 9
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 3 NT Pass Pass
Pass

 

West led ♠ 3 to ♠ K and declarer ducked. He erroneously ducked ♠ J return and now East shifted to  10. Declarer ended up losing two ♠s, two s and  A. He would have succeeded by applying The Rule of Seven - he has six spades so should only duck his ace once. He wins ♠ A at trick two and flushes out  A. East has a third ♠ to lead, but the defence only take three ♠s and  A.

The point is that ♠s only represent a risk if they are 5-2 in which case ducking once is sufficient to exhaust East of ♠s. The contract will only fail if West has five ♠s and  A, in which case there is no winning line.

THE RULE OF SEVEN: When holding just one - certain - stopper in the suit led (in a Notrump contract), add up the number of cards in your hand to dummy's. Subtracting the total from seven will tell you how many times to duck.

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