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A basic "Why?" question

For as long as I can remember, for over 20 years, I've played 3rd/low leads against suits. It's how I was taught when I first learned to play, and I've not bothered to change it. I recently started playing with someone who's always played 4th against both suits and NT. (I prefer attitude against NT, but I seem to be REALLY off in the wilderness there.) Both of us are experienced players, not terrible, but certainly not world champions.

Being a kind and polite partner, he was willing to switch, but he first asked why. He understood that it was "expert standard" and accepted that it was part of BWS, which I'm influenced by on issues where I don't have a strong bias, but wanted a bit more information. "Well," I said, "for one thing, with 4th best, you lead the same card from three cards as from four."

"So, too, with 3rd best leads. You lead the same card, 3rd best, with 3 or 4."

"Yes," I replied, "but you also lead the same from 4 as from 5. A lead which is the same from 3, 4 or 5 cards seems wrong."

"True, but it seems like a small window of advantage," he said. "And, you're now leading the same card from 3,4 or 6, an even greater disparity. Moreover, 4th best makes it easier to apply the rule of 11 than the rule of 10 or 12."

The more I thought about it, the less advantage I found to 3rd and low. I didn't find any particular DISadvantage to 3rd and low. But I don't like to play any agreement without having a good solid understanding of the advantages and disadvantages. I've thought through most carding situations, from suit preference to trump suit preference to upside down and standard to odd-even, etc. I've seen how they work in the real world, and have enough experience to have a definite preference.

But this isn't like that. I still don't know why I'm doing what I'm doing except that I was doing it when I had 40 MPs and it hasn't gotten in my way since, so I see little percentage in changing it. And if I want to continue to improve, I'd like to know why I'm doing what I'm doing, and why other players do or don't use it.

Thanks for any input.

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