«Counting the hands.» by W.M. McKenney Secretary, American Bridge League
«Counting the hands» that is, determining the distribution of a suit in all four hands, is one of the things in bridge play which the beginner finds difficult, and over which even the expert stumbles frequently, when the count is of vital importance in making or defeating the contract. No attempt should be made to determine suit distribution on every hand. Often it is important, but it is a good habit to form, for when you need an accurate count, it is well to know how to make it.
Today’s hand is an example where declarer, by using the means at his command, was able to count his opponent’s hands and instead of guessing a finesse, make the hand with mathematical certainty.
South Dealer – None Vul
Lead: Club 10
East led the ten of clubs. The first two tricks were won with the king and ace, and the third club round was ruffed by East. The king of hearts took the next trick, and it was necessary for North to take all the remaining tricks, to fulfill his contract. This was not a difficult task, if the diamond queen could be placed. The finesse could be taken either way, but fortunately declarer had a chance to be a little more certain. Four rounds of trumps were necessary to exhaust West, and on these cards East discarded two hearts and two diamonds.
Declarer dropped a diamond from dummy. Thus, there remained four cards in hearts and four in diamonds in the hands of the defending players. Declarer could not possibly go wrong, if he took the trouble to count.
All he neected to do was to lead a heart, win with the ace, and ruff the last heart with his last trump. Now he knew that West could have only one diamond, since he still held two clubs. The ace was laid down and the finesse taken with full certainty that it would win, an assurance that could not be had if the hands of the opponents had not been counted.