The main function of fourth-highest is to let partner know how many cards you hold in the suit led
Top-of-sequence shows the high cards held.
Fourth-highest shows the number of cards held.
|Lead : 2||A 5 4|
When the 2 is led, if this is fourth-highest, West cannot hold a fifth card in the suit. Therefore West has four cards and as East can see five others, South holds four cards in the suit.
When partner's lead is the lowest card, partner cannot hold more than a 4-card suit.
If partner leads the 2, partner cannot hold more than four cards in this suit. If partner leads the 3 and the 2 is visible, partner cannot have more than a 4-card suit. Once you know the number of cards in the opening leader's suit, add that to your cards and the cards in dummy in that suit, deduct from 13 and the answer is the number of cards held by declarer in that suit.
The fourth-highest lead allows both third player and declarer to apply the Rule of 11:
Subtract the card led from 11. The answer = the number of cards higher than the card led in the other three hands (dummy, 3rd hand and declarer).
|A J 8|
|Lead : 6||K 9 3|
West leads the 6. Assuming the 6 is fourth-highest, 11 - 6 = 5. Dummy, East and South therefore hold five cards higher than the 6. Yet East can see five cards higher than the 6 (three in dummy and two in hand). If the 8 is played from dummy, East should play the 9, not the king.
|A J 8|
|Q 10 7 6 2||K 9 3|
|The Full Layout|
After the 6 lead and 8 from dummy, if East plays the king, declarer makes two tricks in the suit. If East plays the 9, it wins and declarer makes only one trick in the suit. After the 9 wins, East should return the king (top from remaining doubleton) to help set up West's suit. If South is able to beat the 9, this does not mean the Rule of 11 has failed It means that West has not led fourth-highest.
The Rule of 11 is almost never useful when partner leads the 2 or the 3. There are too many higher cards missing for any helpful inference. It is useful only occasionally when a higher fourth-highest card is led (such as the 4,5,6 or 7). Still, you should do your sums and apply it each time so that you do benefit from those occasions when it does provide valuable information
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