Rules & Maxims
August 2014 English Bridge
The Rule of Seven
by Michael Byrne
What is it?
The 'Rule of Seven' is a much overused rule that helps declarer
work out how many times to duck an ace in a no-trump contract.
Add together the number of cards you hold in the suit with the
number your dummy holds and deduct the total from seven; this
is the number of times you (as declarer) should hold up. So with
A-4-3 facing 5-2 simply do: 3 + 2 = 5, 7 - 5 = 2 so hold up
twice. With A-4-3 facing 7-6-5, the calculation is 3 + 3 = 6,
7 - 6 = 1, so duck just once.
When does it apply?
It applies when the opponents have led a suit in no-trumps where
you hold only one stopper, and it only works when they have led
from a five-card suit.
It wouldn't apply if you had a second stopper such as J-9-3 in
dummy and A-4-2 in your hand, with the nine forcing an honour
from the defender on your right after a low card has been led.
How does it work?
If you have five cards between your hand and dummy's, the
opponents have eight between them. If they are split 5-3, you can cut
communication by holding up twice. Effectively for every card fewer
than seven that you have between your hand and dummy's, you have
to hold up a round to prevent the leader's partner from returning
the suit at a later stage in the play of the hand. He won't be able to
return the suit if he no longer holds any cards in it!
What are the problems?
Sadly the rule does not work when the lead is from a three- or
four-card suit. A simple example is A-4-3 facing 6-5-2. If the king
is led from K-Q-J-10, you want to duck twice to avoid losing three
tricks, but the rule of seven says to win on the second round! It is
best to use the rule of seven when there has been an overcall at the
one level (which is usually based on a five-card suit), as that gets
the most out of it.
Again, note: you can only use the Rule of Seven when you are
declarer - it doesn't apply when you are a defender.
What more do I need to know?
This may seem overly obvious, but remember that the purpose of
ducking is to cut communications between the defenders' hands,
and to exhaust one opponent of his holding in a suit.
The Rule of Seven is blind to the fact that a player might show
out of a suit. If you hold A-3-2 facing 6-5-4 and one opponent
leads the king and the other shows out (perhaps an opponent has
pre-empted), then you don't need to hold up, but the Rule of
Seven won't take this into account. r
by Barrie Partridge
BRIDGE CLUB LIVE (www.bridgeclublive.com) is an online bridge
club based in the UK but while most members are British, there
are enough members across the world to guarantee you a game
any time of day or night. While match-pointed pairs is the most
popular format, there are 18-board IMP pairs tournaments held
most UK evenings and these take just under two hours - much
faster than at face-to-face bridge.
Few made a slam on the board below from a recent IMPs
tournament. I was North and partner showed a balanced 24-25
HCP; I bid 3® as Puppet Stayman, which was doubled by East
before partner denied four cards in either major. With a known
combined HCP count of 32-33 and with missing honours surely
in the club suit, I bid what I considered the safer slam of 6´. It
wasn't, and on the ®K lead I went off, and I still can't see a way of
making it, despite having twelve tricks off the top!
6NT is where we should have been. Let's say you are South and
get the lead of a club to East's queen. How would you play to make
on the actual layout while also allowing for West's hand to have
longer hearts and shorter diamonds, say a 5-4-2-2 shape?
Because this was IMP scoring, making the contract is the allimportant
thing. At match-points, you want the overtrick and you
will go one off in 6NT, shrug your shoulders and move on to the
next board. But not at IMPs!
´ A K J 8 2
™ 8 7 5 2
t 6 4 2
´ 9 6 5 4 3 ´ 7
™ 9 ™ J 10 6 4 3
t J 10 8 3 t 7 5
® 8 6 5 ® K Q 10 9 3
´ Q 10
™ A K Q
t A K Q 9
® A J 7 4
The splits are, of course, dastardly - without them there would be no
problem. As you don't know how the red suits will be divided, a
practical squeeze solution is to rectify the count immediately by
ducking the first club trick and winning the switch - say, a heart.
Now you cash your remaining hearts in hand and the ®A, throwing
a diamond from dummy, and also cash the ´Q just to check that
they are no worse than 5-1. On the actual layout, you have now
squeezed West, who has had to throw a spade solving your blockage
problem, or a diamond to set up your t9. If West had started with
five spades and four hearts, you can squeeze him in those suits by
playing out diamonds as he has to discard before dummy.
If all six outstanding spades were in the West hand, it seems that
a red-suit squeeze against East would be the best line at this point.
Either red suit can be 3-3 and we are still there. r