What is it?
The Rule of Eleven is a great and very helpful rule to
aid you in working out what partner has led from. It
works in conjunction with the Standard English
leading style of leading fourth highest from an
honour and second highest from no honour.
The simple calculation is this: deduct the number
of the card led (so if it is the six of clubs deduct six)
from eleven and the answer tells you how many
cards higher than that card are in the other three
hands. Since you can see two of them (dummy and
your hand), you work out what is in declarer's hand.
Declarer can also see two of those hands (dummy
and his own hand), so the Rule also helps him work
out what is in you hand.
When does it apply?
You can use it in a suit contract but it is far more
useful in no-trumps, when you can be pretty sure
that partner has led from a long suit, as opposed to
a singleton or doubleton.
Let's say you hold A-10-9-3 and dummy on your
right has K-5-2; partner leads the seven through the
king on an auction of 1NT - Pass - 3NT. Declarer
plays the two from dummy and you play . . . ?
11-7=4; you can see all four cards higher than the
seven, so assuming a fourth-highest lead partner
must have the remaining three cards higher than the
seven, which are the queen, jack and eight. Let the
seven run and as if by magic partner is still on lead
to lead through the dummy. (If partner has led
second highest from a poor suit, ducking is still
Why does it work?
The Rule of Eleven works because when you lead
fourth best there are three cards higher than the
card led in your own hand. Since the highest card is
the 'fourteen' of that suit (starting at the two,
counting upwards the ace is the highest card
effectively ranking fourteen), that gives you 143=11,
so that's why you deduct from 11.
What are the problems?
The Rule of Eleven will sometimes give you an
impossible answer. For example it might tell you that
there are three cards higher than the eight in the
other three hands, yet you can see four of them
yourself. In that case it doesn't mean the rule has
failed: it simply means that partner has not led fourth
highest. He will either have led second highest from a
poor suit, or a short suit if it is a suit contract.
What more do I need to know?
The Rule of Eleven is based on partner having led
fourth best. If you switch to playing 'third and fifth',
or more likely play against people that use such a
method, you need to change your Rule of Eleven
into the Rules of Ten (fifth best) and Twelve (third
best). The easy way to remember is that it always
adds up to fifteen. The Rule of Twelve is helpful
when you have overcalled and partner leads small in
your suit in a situation where you are pretty sure he
has only three cards. r
66 English Bridge February 2015 www.ebu.co.uk
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The Rule of 11- by Michael Byrne
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