A.A. Milne wrote, “When late morning rolls around and you’re feeling a bit out of sorts, don’t worry; you’re probably just a little eleven o’clockish.”

This week, we are looking at declarer’s reading the opening lead. He works out what the lead is from and uses that information to influence his play.

Especially when declarer is in a no-trump contract, the opening lead is often fourth-highest from the longest and strongest. How would that help Pooh or a bingo caller?

In today’s deal, South receives the heart-seven lead against his contract of three no-trump. What should he do?

Declarer can see six top tricks: three spades, one heart, one diamond and one club. Maybe the clubs will split 3-3 to produce two more winners. First, though, what is the situation in the heart suit?

Assuming West’s lead is his fourth-highest, South can apply the Rule of Eleven. Seven from 11 is 4. So there are four hearts higher than the seven in the North, East and South hands combined. Note that declarer can see all four: dummy’s ace, queen and 10, and his eight.

So, since East has no high heart, declarer should play dummy’s three and win the first trick with his eight. Then he can return a heart to dummy’s 10, cross back to his hand with, say, a spade, play a heart to the queen and claim nine tricks: three spades, four hearts, one diamond and one club.

Then East will wonder if he should have risked doubling the final contract to ask for a diamond lead, the first suit bid by the dummy.

Get legs from the Rule of Eleven.

— Phillip Alder, NEA Bridge

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