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“I know declarer must count the defenders’ hands,” a club player said to me. “I try, but I forget what’s been played. What’s the solution?”

“If I don’t want to forget something,” Cy the Cynic offered helpfully, “I stick it in my underwear drawer.”

Declarer doesn’t need a count in every deal, but when he has a crucial guess, a count may solve the problem.

North’s bid of 5NT invited a grand slam. At 6NT South counted 11 sure tricks. After winning the first trick, he led a diamond to the ace and back to his jack. West took the queen and led another club, and South won and cashed the king of diamonds.

When East pitched a spade, South took three spades (West threw a club) and his last club (East threw another spade). South then knew West had held two spades, four diamonds and five clubs, hence two hearts. So South cashed the K-Q of hearts and led to his ten to make the slam.

Counting requires practice and focus, but it’s easy in principle. Anyone can do it.

You hold: ´ A 8 6 ™ K Q 7 © A K 6 2 ® K 6 5. You open one diamond, your partner bids one spade, you jump to 2NT and he tries three clubs. What do you say?

A: Partner’s second bid is forcing. He has doubts about notrump (or may have slam aspirations) and is especially interested in having you show support for his first suit. Don’t disappoint; bid three spades. He can bid 3NT next if he wishes, but a bid of 3NT by you would be undisciplined.

South dealer

N-S vulnerable

NORTH

´ A 8 6

™ K Q 7

© A K 6 2

® K 6 5

WEST EAST

´ J 4 ´ 10 9 7 3 2

™ 8 5 ™ J 9 6 2

© Q 10 9 3 © 8 4

® J 7 4 3 2 ® 9 8

SOUTH

´ K Q 5

™ A 10 4 3

© J 7 5

® A Q 10

South West North East

1 NT Pass 5 NT Pass

6 NT All Pass

Opening lead – ® 3