With no high card, give partner count
By Phillip Alder
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.
John Wooden was the first person elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame twice, first as a player, then as a coach. He said, “It is what we learn after we think we know it all, that counts.”
As we continue to look at third hand high, there is one situation when it is wrong that most inexperienced players do not know. It arises in this deal.
Probably a computer simulation would show that North, because his doubleton is so strong, ought to jump straight to three no-trump, not try to find a 4-4 spade fit. With, say, two low clubs and ace-queen-fourth of diamonds, Stayman would have a higher success rate. Remember, any time you do not find a 4-4 major-suit fit, you have given the defenders free information about declarer’s hand.
Play third hand high when your highest card is at least a nine. When your highest card is lower than that, give count: Play low from an odd number of cards or high from an even number.
Here, East must play the heart two at trick one.
South will win with his jack, play a spade to dummy’s queen, and run the diamond 10. Knowing declarer has a doubleton heart (it cannot be four, because he denied a four-card major in the auction), West should not find it difficult to win with the king and put the heart ace onto the table: down one.
Note that if East plays the heart eight at trick one, West would assume that is from a doubleton, giving South K-J-x of hearts. West would shift to a club at trick four, letting the contract make.