Even More Defence: Third Hand Play

These lessons have been designed to build on the Online School Curriculum. They include Quick Tips to help you focus on the topic.
When you are the third hand to play, your decision can make or break the defence of the whole hand.

Play and review the lesson hands. If you have more time to spare, complete the earlier Defence lesson; Third Hand High.

Quick Tips

  • If partner leads low, third hand must play as high as possible to win the trick (if not won in dummy)

  • if third hand holds two or three honours of equal rank (eg QJ10) play the “cheapest” if the equal cards (here, the 10)

  • notice the smaller cards in dummy, and play only high enough to win the trick, eg if you hold the 1083, and you see the 962 in dummy, if dummy plays low, play the 8, not the 10

  • third hand should use the “Rule of 11” to advantage

  • third hand should unblock with a doubleton honour when partner leads an honour (eg Q is led, and third holds Kx, must play the K on the Q lead, unblocking)

This week’s hand:

We are focusing on defence this week (and month), so our panel have watched this hand and will tell you how they’d defend.
It’s hand 2 in the hands to play above, and watch the review afterwards.

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David Appleton

The rule of elven subtracts partner's pip from eleven (here, 11 - 6 = 5), and that is the number of higher cards NOT in their hand.
Since we can see the ♠QT98, declarer has but one higher than that. If the ♠A, ♠K, or ♠7, then playing the ♠Q or ♠T doesn't matter. If declarer has the ♠J, then we must play the ♠Q. If the ♠Q wins, then we return the ♠10 to pin the ♠9, letting partner run the suit.

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GeO Tislevoll

Play the ♠Q! You need to play “third hand high”, as you are the last one in the partnership to beat declarer's cards in the suit.

If the lead is 4th best you can find out a lot about the suit layout by using the rule of 11:
Subtract the number of the card led (4th best) from 11, and you’ll find how many cards higher than that card are in the three hands other than partner’s. On this hand it’s 11 minus 6 = 5.
You can see four of these cards, in your hand and dummy, meaning declarer has only one card higher than the ♠6. Only if that is the ♠J will it matter if you play the ♠Q or the ♠10. You don't want declarer to win the Jack if he has ♠Jxxx but he will win a trick he shouldn't if you play the ♠10.

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Matt Smith

Play the ♠Q then return the ♠10.

Using the rule of 11, we know declarer only has one card higher that partner's ♠6.

If declarer ever leads a heart, we should rise A♥️ to play another spade.


Joan Butts

As third hand to play, if dummy plays low, contribute the highest card you need to play to win the trick. It may be helping partner to promote an honour. The three panellists all advocate the benefits of using the Rule of 11 any time partner leads what appears to be a fourth highest card.

Related Workbook

The Defence Workbook contains hands analysis and lesson tips and tricks.

Eddie Kantar’s excellent site is http://www.kantarbridge.com

Test your knowledge

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