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Fourth-best leads are a standard defensive agreement on the opening lead and on subsequent leads. They are made from suits that are four cards or longer, and do not contain an honor sequence. Examples:

  • KT53 - lead the 3.

  • J9652 - lead the 5.

  • T7542 - lead the 4.

Examples of when NOT to use fourth-best leads:

  • AT53 - lead the ace against a suit contract. Against no-trumps, the proper lead would still be the 3.

  • KQ93 - lead the king against a suit contract (i.e. the top of any honor sequence). Against no-trumps, the proper lead would still be the 3.

  • KJT5 - lead the jack (i.e. the top card of an interior honor sequence) against both suit and no-trump contracts.

  • 9872 - suit sequences headed by the 98 (or lower) require partnership discussion. Many players would lead the 9 instead of the 2.

Other Considerations

Fourth-best leads are used in conjunction with the Rule of 11. This mathematical formula is used by the opening leader's partner to count how many higher cards declarer has in the suit.

See also

  • Ace from Ace-King
    The practice of leading the ace when holding the ace and king of a suit.

  • Jack denies, Ten implies
    A lead agreement whereby the jack denies a higher honor, but the 10 does not.

  • Journalist leads
    A conventional system of leads used against no-trump contracts.

  • MUD
    The practice of leading the middle card from three small cards.

  • Rule of 11
    A mathematical formula used by the defense to gauge declarer's hand after a fourth-best opening lead.

  • Rusinow leads
    The practice of leading the second-ranking honor from any two honors like A-K or K-Q.

  • Standard leads
    A table of standard leads against suit and no-trump contracts.

  • Third and fifth leads
    The practice of leading the 3rd or 5th highest card from a long suit.