To cover or not to cover
As you know, there are several aphorisms about bridge. For example, “second hand low” and “third hand high,” which are right most of the time. This week, let’s look at “cover an honor with an honor.”
Today’s deal is a textbook example. How does the play go in three no-trump after West leads the heart queen?
South is loath to open one notrump with a low doubleton, but the bid describes his hand type and strength so accurately.
Declarer starts with seven top tricks: one spade, one heart, two diamonds and three clubs. If the clubs break 3-3, that will provide an eighth winner. Then, if the spade finesse works, the contract will make. With the heart suit wide open, South cannot afford to give up a diamond. So, declarer wins the second heart and cashes his top clubs. Now East must be careful, discarding a diamond. Has East made an error, throwing a diamond from an initial threecard holding (so diamonds are now 2-2)? South takes his diamond king, then plays a diamond to dummy’s ace. Again luck is out to lunch -- West accurately throws a heart.
It is time for spades. Declarer calls for dummy’s queen. Note that if East covers with the king, South wins with his ace, then leads a low spade to dummy’s nine. That finesse works too, and declarer makes his contract with three spades, one heart, two diamonds and three clubs. But if East plays low, the contract can be defeated. This is the rule that works most of the time: Cover not the first but the last of touching honors. East ducks dummy’s first spade honor, but if South continues with the second, East covers.