Find the discard that helps partner
By Phillip Alder
Students will occasionally ask me this question: Why use fourthhighest when it sometimes helps declarer instead of the defenders?
It is true that all of the defenders’ methods can be analyzed by declarer, and he may benefit from the “free” information. However, defense is so difficult that the defenders just have to accept those bad deals. With no leading or signaling agreements, many contracts would make that could have been defeated. For example, in this deal, how should the defenders card to defeat three no-trump after West leads his fourth-highest spade seven?
At trick one, East must put his spade jack onto the table, the bottom of equivalent cards when playing third hand high. (In general, assuming a defender can afford to do it, he plays the top of touching honors -- except when he is the third hand to play to a trick and is going to put up the highest card so far played -- he might even take the trick.) South wins with his spade king, leads a club to dummy’s ace, and returns a club. What should East discard?
It looks tempting to pitch the heart queen, but that isn’t right. East applies the Rule of Eleven to the opening lead. Seven from 11 is four. So, there are four spades higher than the seven in the dummy, his hand and declarer’s hand combined, and he has seen them all: dummy’s nine, his jack and queen, and declarer’s king. So, West’s spade suit is ready to run. But West doesn’t know who has the spade queen. East must clarify the position by discarding the aforementioned spade queen.