The Count Signal 
          Preventing a Discard 
         The Uppercut 
         The Ruffing Finesse  

Defense often makes use of the little cards which played in a particular order, or on certain occasions, can convey vital information. These little cards  tell a story. And the alert Defender will listen very carefully to this story. Perhaps video tape it.
         In this month's hand we will also consider the UPPERCUT. This play uses one of the Defender's trump cards to promote a trump winner for the other Defender. 
         The Declarer has a few cool plays of her own. She can get a count of the suits in the Defender's hands and get to know their distribution. Once known, the Declarer can make the right percentage play. Remember: good Bridge players are Bridge players who count. 
        Another type of counting is counting Defenders' High Card Points (HCP). When Declarer counts Defenders' HCP and relates this to the bidding, some mighty important inferences can be drawn. In particular, the location of the Defender's honors can frequently be ascertained. 
        Bridge tip: 3 ways to improve your  game: Count, Count and Count. 

South opens 1 S and North responds 2 H, showing 10+ points and most likely a 5 card Heart Suit. 
       South described her hand with the opening bid of 1 S. SHAPE: 5 or more Spades; STRENGTH: 13+ points. South's rebid of 2 S further defines her hand. 
      By rebidding the Spades she shows at least a 6 card suit; and rebidding at the lowest possible level  she shows a minimum opening hand 13 to 15 points. (Count points for Distribution or length.) North with 13 points carries on to game by bidding 4 S. 26 points in the combined hands are needed to be in the game zone. North/South have a minimum of 26 points (13 + 13). Note: since South has at least a 6 card Spade suit, North needs only 2 Spades for support. 2 + 6 = 8. Eight cards in a suit in the combined hands is a good trump fit. (see GOLDEN FIT).

Not much difficulty here. West wants to have a peek at the Dummy and still maintain the lead. The best way to do this is to lead the top of a 2 card sequence headed by the Ace. This West does by tabling the A C. (Some teams by partnership agreement lead the King from the Ace/King combination.)
        Remember: if you are playing against a suit contract, almost never lead or underlead an Ace that is not part of a sequence. This might be the right lead once in 7 years, but who can wait? 

Here is a chance for East to make those
little cards do some talking. On the opening lead by West of the A C, East plays the 9 C. An excessively high card (usually one above the 6 spot) played by East in this situation means: Partner, this is the only card I have in the suit or I have an even number of cards in the suit (see Count Signal).
          The Count Signal is important because it will help West determine what card to play in the second trick. If Declarer has at least 2 Clubs then it is safe for West to continue with the K C. If not, then West will have to switch to another suit. 
      What does East's signal mean? It says that East has either a singleton or an even number of cards in the suit. In this case even means either 2 or 4 Clubs. 
       When Declarer follows suit with a Club, West knows that partner has 1or 2 Clubs. This is because if East had 4 Clubs, then Declarer would be void in Clubs.  Therefore, since East has 1 or 2 Clubs, Declarer started with 2 or 3 Clubs. This means that it safe for West to play the K C. That is, if the K C is played next, Declarer will not be able to ruff it; the K C would win the trick. 
         Even though the K C is a winner, the problem with playing the K C at this point is that subsequently the Q C in Dummy becomes a winner. 
         Is there a way to prevent the Q C from becoming a winner? Unless West knows the answer, he should refrain from leading the K C. But West has the answer. And the answer is. . .  make East ruff the Q C on the third Club trick. Even if Declarer can over ruff East, we will see below that this does not harm the Defense. 
        From West's point of view, if Declarer has the K S and A S in her hand, plus the Q S in dummy, then this means that the Defense does will not have a trump winner. The J S will fall on one of Declarer's high Spades. There is a way, however,  for the Defense to make a Spade trick. And the way is to make the Declarer  over ruff the third round of Clubs with a high trump (the A S or K S).
       This play is known as an UPPERCUT: forcing Declarer to trump with a high card, thus promoting a winning trump trick for the Defenders. For this to work East has to ruff the third Club with the 10 S. Then if Declarer is to win the trick, she has to over ruff with the A S or K S. This now promotes West's J S into a winner. Note: if East ruffs with the 5 S, South can over ruff with the 6 S. Then the A S, K S and the Q S will now drop the J S. So for the UPPERCUT to work East has to ruff high. East really has nothing to lose by trumping the third round of Clubs with the 10 S

West has just played the A C, K C and then the 4 C. On the 4 C, Dummy plays the Q C and East ruffs with the 10 S. Declarer over ruffs with the K S. But now besides the 2 Club losers, Declarer has a trump loser (to the J S) and 2 Diamond losers. Two losers too many. What to do? Concede down 2? Leave the room? No! Try to set up those nice Hearts and throw away those bad losing Diamonds.
          To be more specific, since the UPPERCUT was successful, the Declarer cannot afford to lose a single Heart trick. And the key to winning all the Heart tricks comes down to knowing where is the K H is? There are lots of clues around and Declarer being a good Bridge detective will make the most of these and solve the case of where is the K H?
         First clue. Let's look again at the previous play. East trumped the third round of Clubs, so East started with 2 Clubs and West 6 Clubs. If Declarer assumes that West has a Spade trick (due to the UPPERCUT), West probably started with the Jack and 2 additional Spades. Let's make this assumption. This means that West started with 9 cards in the black suits (6 Clubs and 3 Spades). Therefore, by subtraction West has 4 cards in the red suits. From the total of red cards in Dummy's and Declarer's hands we can then determine that East has 9 cards in the reds. (As an exercise check the math for yourself.)
        The chances are that the K H is in the hand that has the most red cards which is East. 
       Still, this does not guarantee that East has the K H. There is another clue that might enlighten the Declarer a bit further. That clue comes from the high cards played. West already played the A C and the K C and most likely has the J S for a total of 8 HCP. But West passed over South's opening bid of 1 S. Why? West has a 6 card Club suit headed by the Ace/King. Why pass? Possibly not enough points. But if West had the K H then this would bring his total points to 11. This would definitely warrant a 2 C overcall of South's bid of 1 S. Since West did not overcall, the K H must be placed with East. Again: if West had the K H he would overcall 2 C; and since West did not overcall 2 C, West does not have the K H. The K H is almost certainly in the East.
       So, after two rounds of trump are played, South plays a third trump which will be won by the Defense. South wins any return (preserving the K D in Dummy) and knowing where the K H is located, takes the RUFFING FINESSE in Hearts. Taking this finesse will enable Declarer to dump her losing Diamonds and make the hand. 

PLAY: West leads the A C; small from Dummy; 9 C from East; and South plays the 3 C. West continues with the K C; J C from the Dummy; 2 C by East; and South follows suit with the 8 C. Now West leads a small Club; Q C from Dummy; and East trumps with the 10 S; and South has to over ruff  with the K S or lose the trick. South now plays the A S and the Q S. Maybe the J S and the 9 S will fall. But this is not the day; the J S is a definite trump winner for the Defense. Since Declarer wants to run the Hearts undisturbed, she removes the Defender's last trump by leading a third round of Spades. West wins this trick and South wins any return. 
          Time for the Heart suit. Play the Q H to the A H in Dummy  Now for the RUFFING FINESSE: play the J H. If East puts up the K H trump it and return to Dummy with the K D. If East does not come up with the K H, dump a losing Diamond. Continue until the 2 losing Diamonds are dumped from Declarer's hand. Once this happens, Declarer has no losing Diamonds and claims the rest of the tricks. South lost 2 Clubs and 1 trump trick making 4 Spades. 

1. Why doesn't the Declarer try to counter the UPPERCUT by not over ruffing East?

2. Why is it crucial for Declarer to hold onto the K D until after the losing Diamonds have been dumped?

3. What happens if South takes the RUFFING FINESSE before playing the third round of trump?