This is a conventional lead method, by which a bridge partnership can exchange communication. It is an opening lead method in which the third highest card is led from a three-card suit or a 4-card suit, and the fifth highest card from a 5-card or longer suit. This is a deviation from the times of Mr. Edmund Hoyle, when it was tradition to lead the fourth-best from any suit.

Note: The student of the game should also review the short outlines of Opening Leads as published in the March and April issues of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin of 2009, namly Part 1:, and Part 2:

These leads are used generally against suit contracts, although some partnerships play this method against No Trump contracts. The practical purpose is to assist the partner in counting the distribution of the individual suits.

Note: The general but not absolute guidelines are shown below. They serve only as an easy memory guide.

1. With an even number of cards attempt to lead highest card affordable telling partner you have a suit with 2, 4, or 6 cards (or it could be a singleton).
2. With an odd number of cards attempt lead the lowest card telling partner you have a suit with 1, 3 or 5 cards.

These leads are per partnership agreement. The player on lead makes a decision to play from a certain suit. Generally the most preferred carding method is to lead a card, which communicates the most information to partner, be it from the top of a sequence or the top of an internal sequence.

Note: If the player on lead does not have such a lead, that does not fit the communicates the most information to partner, then the partnership agreement is to play Third and Fifth Lead Signals.

Note: If the lead is a card from the trump suit, then the Third and Fifth Lead Signals do not apply.

General Outline

If there is no suitable card to lead according to the general rules, such as fourth-best, rule of 11, or rule of 12, then the partnership can employ the third and fifth signals, to exchange information on the lead card.

Therefore, whenever employing the Third and Fifth Leads method, the card to be led is expressed in bold in the following examples.

xx   The lead of the highest card affordable is the preferred lead from a doubleton, or 4 cards or 6 cards.
xxx   The lead from a 3-card suit is the lowest card.
xxxx   The lead from a 4-card suit is the third card down.
xxxxx   The lead from a 5-card suit is the fifth card down.
xxxxxx   The lead from an even 6-card suit is the third card down or the highest affordable card. It is the quality of the suit, which determines this action.
AKx   Lead from the top of a sequence.
109x   Lead from the top of a sequence.
KQx   Lead from the top of a sequence.
KJ10x   Lead from the top of an internal sequence.
QJx   Lead from the top of a sequence.
Q109x   Lead from the top of an internal sequence.
KQ109   Lead from the top of a sequence.

Possible Advantages

On the positive side the same card is led from a 3-card suitor a 5-card suit, and this disparity makes it easier for partner to determine leader's length and choose the Rule of 11 or Rule of 12.

On the minus side the third-highest card may be a relatively high spot, which can cost a trick (for example, the 8 is led from Q1082). Some pairs try to avoid this problem by agreeing to lead fourth-best if the third-best card is an 8 or higher (and some partnerships agree 7 or higher), but the more exceptions the partnership builds in, the less reliable the spot-card leads will be.

Note: Those partnerships, who wish only to communicate information as to the length of the led suit, must consider that the led card carries at the same time no information about the attitude of the suit. This is an important consideration when selecting a leading method, since the partnership should make a distinction between length and attitude.

Note: Although the third and fifth lead signal is normally played in combination and in conjunction with the rule of 11 and the rule of 12 this does not obligate the partnership from employing exclusively the third and fifth lead signal.

Note: Some online sources may confuse this agreement also with the rule of 10, which applies to a competitive auction when one player contemplates to employ a penalty double even though the opponents have not bid a game contract, and which has no relationship with the third and fifth lead signal.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.


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