Updated: October 20, 2012 6:04AM
Stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg said, “My belt holds my pants up, but the belt loops hold my belt up. I don’t really know what’s happening down there.”
Sometimes a defender will be aware that he has to make a holdup play, but he won’t know for how many rounds. Then it is incumbent on his partner to tell him by making a length signal in this suit.
In today’s deal, how should the defenders play to defeat three no-trump after West leads fourth-highest from his longest and only just strongest, the spade three?
Usually, with 4-3-3-3 distribution, responder just raises no-trump. However, that North hand has three suits without a stopper. If South has a weak doubleton in any of them, it could well be fatal to no-trump. So using Stayman to try to find a 4-4 heart fit is reasonable, though far from clear-cut.
South starts with six top tricks: one spade, two diamonds and three clubs. He must get at least two heart tricks, and perhaps he can win three if an opponent takes his ace too early. And since hoping for a 3-3 club break can wait, declarer should attack hearts as soon as he is in.
At trick one, when declarer plays a low spade from the board, East must put in his 10. If South has only the spade queen, he is always getting one trick; and when South has the ace, East’s playing the king would cost a trick.
South takes the third spade and leads a heart to the queen. West must play his eight, starting a high-low (echo) to show his doubleton. East will then know to win the third heart trick. After that, as long as West stays glued to his four clubs, the contract will fail.