"Third Hand High" is a guideline for the defender in the third seat to follow suit with his highest card.

Here's an example. Playing 4th best leads, partner leads the

Dummy | ||||

♠ J 5 | ||||

Partner | You | |||

♠ K 10 6 3 | ♠ Q 7 4 2 | |||

Declarer | ||||

♠ A 9 8 |

If you have two touching honors, as in the following layout, you should play the lower one.

When partner leads the **might** have the higher touching honor as well. (Do not play the queen; this would deny the jack.)

Dummy | ||||

♠ 7 5 | ||||

Partner | You | |||

♠ K 8 6 3 | ♠ Q J 4 2 | |||

Declarer | ||||

♠ A 10 9 |

Let's rearrange the cards one more time. Partner leads the

Dummy | ||||

♠ J 5 | ||||

Partner | You | |||

♠ K 6 4 3 | ♠ Q 10 9 | |||

Declarer | ||||

♠ A 8 7 2 |

You have a tenace over dummy's jack and should play accordingly. Observe what happens if you mistakenly rise with the queen. Declarer can take his ace and establish a second spade trick for himself.

The Rule of Eleven is a mathematical formula used after partner leads his 4th best card in a given suit. It has implications for when to actually play "third hand high."

In a nutshell, when partner leads 4th best, you should subtract his spot card from 11. Then subtract the number of cards higher than his spot card in your hand and dummy's.

The final number equals the number of declarer's cards that are higher than partner's spot card.

Let's count this suit:

Dummy | ||||

♠ J 6 3 | ||||

Partner | You | |||

♠ 5 | ♠ K 10 9 | |||

Declarer | ||||

♠ ? |

- Start with the number 11 and subtract partner's 5-spot. The result is 6.
- There are 5 cards in your hand and dummy that are higher than 5. So 6 - 5 = 1.
- Thus declarer has exactly 1 card higher than the
♠ 5.

What does this mean for you? If dummy plays low, should you follow with the

Here are all the possible layouts, assuming partner's lead was the lowest from a 4-card suit.

Dummy | ||||

♠ J 6 3 | ||||

Partner | You | |||

♠ A Q 8 5 | ♠ K 10 9 | |||

Declarer | ||||

♠ 7 4 2 |

Your side takes 4 spade tricks no matter what you do.

Dummy | ||||

♠ J 6 3 | ||||

Partner | You | |||

♠ A 8 7 5 | ♠ K 10 9 | |||

Declarer | ||||

♠ Q 4 2 |

Your side takes 3 spade tricks no matter what you do.

Dummy | ||||

♠ J 6 3 | ||||

Partner | You | |||

♠ Q 8 7 5 | ♠ K 10 9 | |||

Declarer | ||||

♠ A 4 2 |

Here's the layout that matters. If you follow suit with the

However, if you follow suit with the

While "Third Hand High" is often a valid rule, there are times where it's important to count the hand as best as possible and play intelligently in third seat.

- Fourth-best leads

The practice of leading the 4th-highest card from a 4-card holding or longer. - Rule of Eleven

A rule used to deduce declarer's holding when partner makes a 4th-best lead in a suit.

© Jeff Tang. All Rights Reserved.