By Prof. Tony Campbell CBE

WHEN playing the hand and an opponent leads the fourth highest of his best suit, is there a way of judging what the other opponent holds in that suit?

The answer is yes. The magic number is 11.

Here is hand based on one that turned up last week in the Penarth-Sully bridge clubs online bridge session. Using the number eleven helped declarer make overtricks in a three no trump contract.

The Auction

North opened his five-card suit, clubs. South responded wjth his five-card spade suit. North, with sixteen points and stops in hearts and diamonds bid one no trump showing 15-17 points. South now was in a dilemma.

If his partner, North, had 16 or 17 points they want to be in three no trumps. So how can South find out how strong North’s one no trump is? In fact, there is a very useful convention for this called Checkback.

The bid of two clubs is artificial. It does not promise any support in clubs, but asks two questions - first, have you three card support for my major, in this case spades, and secondly do you have a maximum or minimum point count? Here with no spade support North bids two no trumps showing a good point count. South, with nine points, had no hesitation in bidding three no trumps.

The play

East was on lead and had a choice of leading a heart or a diamond. With the king and ten of diamonds East opted to lead the six of diamonds. Now what should declarer play from dummy? If West held the ten, declarer should play the jack from dummy. If not, he should play the nine.

In fact, there is an easy way to decide. It is called the rule of eleven. When a card is lead as the fourth highest of a suit, you subtract this from 11.

The result tells you how many cards there are higher the lead in the other three hands. So here subtracting six from eleven leaves five cards higher in the South, West and North hands. Great. North/South held all five.

So, West cannot have the ten. Playing the nine from dummy won the trick and set up two more tricks for declarer in diamonds. North then took the club finesse by playing the jack, which won, followed by the eight, playing the queen from his own hand.

The ace of clubs then dropped the king. North then played his last two clubs, discarding two spades and a heart from dummy.

Declarer then played the eight of diamonds, East winning the trick with his king. East could now lead a heart, as this would allow North to make his queen.

So, he decided to lead another diamond, which was won by North’s ace. Declarer then won the next trick with the queen of diamonds, following this with the queen of spades, won by East’s ace.

East is now end-played. Leading the jack of spades would set up dummy’s ten. Leading a small heart allowed declarer to make his queen.

In the event, East led a small heart, declarer winning the rest of the tricks with the queen and ace of hearts and the king of spades, making eleven tricks in all – one spade, two hearts, three diamonds and five clubs for a top with a score of 460. Well played.

What have we learnt?

1. Checkback is a very useful convention to ascertain whether partner’s second bid of 1 no trump is maximum or minimum, and whether he has support for your major.

2. The rule of eleven can be used both by declarer and your partner to determine how many cards higher than the card led are to be found in the other three hands.

Penarth club results

Here are the results of last week from the Penarth-Sully online bridge, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. Click on Results and then the date.

Wednesday 9th June; 1= John and Roy Holloway with Joy Seculer and Meryl Skipper (66.7%); 3. Judy Collins and Janet Cunnington (33.3%).

Friday 11th June; 1. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (67.5%); 2. Anita Charles and Tisch Beere (61.9%) 3. Jim Elder and Meryl Skipper (57.9%).

Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join. Peter Sampson’s Spring ladder was won by Jenny Vaughan and Nalini Dewan who beat Angela and Rod Hudson 56.5 % to 43.5%. Well played.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are available online. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.