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The “Rule of Eleven”

The traditional favoured opening lead against a Notrump contract is the fourth from the top card in the longest suit. Subtracting the lead from eleven gives the number of cards in the suit higher than the opening lead that are in the three hands bar the opening leader's. Thus the declarer and the other defender can work out how many higher cards each other holds.

Suppose the opening lead is  5: there are six higher s than  5 in the other three hands; if dummy has two higher cards (eg  KJ3), then there are four between the other two hands; if declarer holds three then he knows the other defender has just one higher than the five.

Provided the lead is "fourth highest" the Rule of Eleven is mathematically foolproof.

South Deals
None Vul
A Q 10 5
10 8 4
K J 2
K 6 3
K J 9 7 3
K Q 2
10 8
Q 10 9
W   E
A 9 6 5
9 7 6 5 4 3
8 5
8 4 2
J 7 3
A J 7 4 2
West North East South
      1 NT
Pass 3 NT Pass Pass


West led ♠ 7 and declarer used the Rule of Eleven. Subtracting 7 from 11 told him that there were four higher ♠s than ♠ 7 in the other three hands. But because he could count three in dummy (♠ A, ♠ Q and ♠ 10) and one in his hand (♠ 8), he knew for certainty that East had no higher ♠ than ♠ 7. He played ♠ 5 from dummy and let the lead run to his ♠ 8. He then led ♠ 2 and when West followed with ♠ 3, finessed dummy's ♠ 10. He crossed to his  A and led ♠ 4 to ♠ 9 and ♠ Q. He cashed ♠ A and followed by cashing  KJ and ♣ AK.

Without the Rule of Eleven declarer might not have "risked" playing ♠ 5 from dummy at trick one, perhaps playing ♠ 10 or ♠ Q and then leading ♣ 3 to ♣ J. An alert West would switch to  K after winning ♣ Q and so sink the contract.

THE RULE OF ELEVEN: Subtracting the 4th from the top opening lead from eleven gives the number of higher cards than the lead held between the other three hands.

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