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Counting, my topic this week, has many applications in dummy play. Declarer must count winners, losers or both. He may need to count the defenders' distribution or high-card points.

Today's declarer takes East's queen of clubs and sees five possible losers. A diamond and one heart are certain and a trump loser is possible. South must avoid losing a club and a second heart.

South can set up a high diamond for a club discard but must do so quickly. If he finesses in trumps at Trick Two, East may win and return a club, setting up a club winner before South's discard is ready. So South leads a high diamond.

East wins and returns a club, and South wins and takes two more diamonds to pitch dummy's last club. He then lets the jack of trumps ride, and East wins and exits with a trump, leaving South to guess the hearts.

South should count East's points. South has seen East, who passed as dealer, play a queen, a king and an ace. So South must lead a heart to dummy's king.

You hold: A Q 8 4 K J 10 5 7 5 4 3 2. Your partner opens one diamond, you respond one heart and he bids two clubs. The opponents pass. What do you say?

A: Bid 2NT, promising 10 or 11 points, usually with balanced distribution. A bid of two spades would be unnecessary -- your partner would have bid one spade if he had a four-card suit -- and it would be an error. By "reversing," you'd promise longer hearts and enough strength for game.

East dealer

N-S vulnerable

A Q 8 4
K J 10 5
7 5
4 3 2
5 3
A 9 8 7
8 4 3 2
J 9 6
K 6
Q 3 2
A 10 9 6
Q 10 8 7
J 10 9 7 2
6 4
A K 5
East South West North
Pass1 Pass2
Pass2 NTPass3
Pass4 All Pass
Opening lead -- 6

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