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The “Rule of Nine”

At the simplest level, the lead of a Low card conveys Liking for the lead, and the lead of a High (spot) card conveys Hate for the lead. For the opening lead, where you often do not know whether you like or hate your lead until you see dummy, there are more specific guidelines. When you have decided to lead from a suit with honour(s), lead fourth from the top; when you have decided to lead from a suit with no honour (from "rubbish"), lead second from the top.

One of many useful corollaries from this style of leading - by far the most common method the world over - is that the lead of a nine always signifies shortage. Either it is a singleton or it is top from a doubleton. Now cover up East's hand and see if you can defeat 4 :

South Deals
Both Vul
7 6 4
Q 10 9 8
A 7 6
K 8 4
9 2
K 5 3
Q 10 5 2
A J 6 3
A 8 5 3
J 9 3
Q 10 7 5 2
K Q J 10
A J 6 4 2
K 8 4
West North East South
Pass 2  Pass 3 
Pass 4  Pass Pass

West leads ♠ 9 and East immediately knows it is either a singleton or from a doubleton. But it cannot be a singleton from East's perspective - that would leave five ♠s including four honours for declarer who did not mention ♠s in the bidding. Given that it must be from a doubleton, East must arrange to be on lead with ♠ A on the second round of ♠s to lead a third round for West to trump. He must duck his ♠ A at trick one, playing ♠ 8 to encourage ♠s. Declarer crosses to  A to lead and pass  Q. West wins  K, leads ♠ 2 to East's ♠ A, and East triumphantly returns ♠ 3 for West to trump. West cashes  A to defeat the contract.

THE RULE OF NINE: The opening lead of a nine always signifies shortage - either a singleton or top from a doubleton.

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