Third & lowest leads
NOTE Experts call the system described by Barry Rigal
‘Third and Fifth’, but the name Barry has given it
(‘Third and Lowest’) avoids ambiguity (— Ed). Barry Rigal
AT no-trumps, the defence seeks to estab- What about the four-/five-card problem?
lish and cash small cards. Against suits, the 10 9 5
main target is to cash winners. Determining N
W E A83
which winners will stand up requires both Q9 S
accurate count signals and leads. N
Fourth highest leads, leading high from W
A K 10 8 3
three or four small cards, is simplest and Playing fourth-highest, West leads the
best against no-trumps, by placing the four to the ten, ace, and two. Does South
honours for partner. Against suits, how- Partner has raised our overcall pre- have queen to three, queen-jack-small, or
ever, I advocate third and lowest leads. emptively, with four or five cards. There king-queen small? Contrast the position
They provide partner with what he needs, are six possible five-card holdings, fifteen when partner leads a third-and-fifth seven
the count in the suit led. four-card holdings. from length. West won’t have led low from
This means third from an even number Fourth highest will provide some help; touching honours, so he has K-J-7-4,
of cards (thus third from six, not fifth), the lead of the two (ten of the fifteen four- and East should continue the suit.
low from an odd number of cards, top of card holdings) gives us the count. But all Third and lowest lets both declarer and
a doubleton. Thus we differentiate by two the five-card suits might be four, if declar- the defenders work out more – but not
cards how we lead from an even and odd er does not play the two. Thus more than often. Indeed, sometimes declarer is more
number – high from even, low from odd. half the positions remain ambiguous. in the dark than before:
A two-card ambiguity will be very rare. By contrast, a third-and-lowest two clari-
As East we defend a high-level contract fies five of the six five-carders immediately
after our pre-empt has been raised: – and the potentially ambiguous J-7-6-5-4 10 9 3
is clarified when declarer produces the two.
Equally, in the four-card suits, when 64 W
Q9 declarer follows, he must reveal his shape.
When partner leads the four from J-7-4-2, KJ85
S A K 10 8 7 3 declarer must play either the six or five.
The lead can no longer be from J-7-6-5-4 –
it must be third highest from four. Playing third and lowest I lead the six to my
Should we switch or cash two winners? Note the exceptions to third and lowest. partner's ace, and he returns the two. Do I
West could have any of these holdings: When you have raised partner, you should have Q-7-6-4 or my actual holding? Fourth
lead top (not MUD) from three or four highest leads give the game away.
small to avoid this accident: Equally, sometimes the third highest
J65 J64 J62 J54 J52
card is not affordable – but that simply
J42 654 652 642 542 requires judgment from the player on
K74 lead as to when he should not waste a
J654 J652 J642 J542 6542
spot card. This is why these leads don’t
653 W E A J 10 9 8 2
S work against no-trumps: you frequently
Attitude leads leave us groping. But even Q
cannot afford to waste spot cards. In no-
playing fourth-highest, only J-6-5 is reveal- trump, who wins the third round of a
ing. All other holdings are ambiguous. By suit is far more critical than at suits,
contrast, if playing third and lowest the six Equally, give West East’s two, and the lead where the third round is likely to be
three-card holdings where the small card is of the six from 6-5-3-2 prevents declarer trumped by someone.
a 2 clarify the position. (Note: South must stealing a trick. (A MUD five from 6-5-3 In summary: the auction and his own
follow with the high spot-card from 5-2 and will not do the trick – it could be from cards will allow the opening leader’s partner
6-2, or East can decipher J-6-4 and J-5-4 as Q-6-5). to work out the leader’s precise holding
well.) A big edge for third and lowest. There are other benefits, as here: more often when playing these methods. r
www.ebu.co.uk October 2010 English Bridge 43