The Rule of 11

At first glance, this rule sounds rather complicated!  Don’t worry, if you are the defending partnership it’s just a useful little technique to help you decide which card to play in the opening round of a game.

There are several “rules” that the opener can use to help decide which card to play when opening the first round in a game of bridge.  The Rule of 11 is used by the third player (the opener’s partner) to help him/her decide which card to play.

When To Use The Rule Of 11

It is usually used when the game is being played in a no trumps contract.  You use the rule if you think that your partner’s opening lead was the 4th highest card in their longest suit.  (You have no way of knowing if that is actually the case – you just have to hope that you are correct!)

Once partner has played the opening lead, the cards in dummy’s hand are laid on the table so all players can see them. At this point you know the cards in your own hand plus the cards in dummy’s hand.  You also believe that your partner holds 3 cards higher than the one they played.

You can now use the Rule of 11 to work out if the fourth player holds any cards that are higher than the card led by your partner. If you believe that they don’t AND dummy played a low card, then it isn’t necessary for you to play a higher card than your partner for your partnership to win the trick. The rule helps you win the trick as cheaply as possible – keeping your higher cards for later rounds.

How to Use the Rule of 11

To help you understand the rule, let me show you an example.

Your partner has opened the game with the 7 of a suit.  Dummy played the 3  and you can see that dummy also holds K and 9. You hold A, J and 4.  Do you need to play the J or the K for your partnership to win the trick?

Remember, this rule applies when you think your partner played the 4th highest card of their longest suit.

  • Subtract the number of the card played by your partner from 11.  In this case partner, played 7.
  • 11 – 7 = 4 .  This tells you that there are four cards higher than 7 NOT held by your partner.
  • You hold A and J and dummy holds K and 9 – so you can see all of those four cards.
  • This tells you that the declarer doesn’t hold any card higher than 7, so you can play your 4 and your partnership will still win the trick.
If you decide to use the Rule of 11 in the opening round, just remember that you could be wrong!  Your partner might not have led with the fourth highest card.