Source: Reading Eagle – Aug 6, 1934

There is probably no phase of card playing either to the Declarer or to the defense that is more important than counting. An accurate or even an approximate count on a hand almost invariably will give the Declarer the key to the right line of play, by indicating either whether to play for a finesse or for a drop, whether to try to set up a suit or to crossruff, or which way to take a two-way finesse. An interesting example of how a count is first obtained and then, played is shown in the hand below:

IMPs Dealer North. Both VUL

A K 6
Q 7
7 6 5 2
A J 9 3
10 8 4
J 8 5 2
Q 3
Q 7 6 4
J 9
A K 10 6 4
K 9 8 4
8 5
Q 7 5 3 2
9 3
A J 10
K 10 2

The bidding is immaterial. Suffice it to say that a sound contract of four spades was reached with South as the Declarer.

West”s opening lead was the heart deuce and the East player proceeded to cash the Ace and King of hearts. When, on the second round of hearts, West followed with the five spot, the Declarer knew that West had not led a singleton and accordingly must have held four cards in the suit.

At trick three, East returned the Four of diamonds —probably a fourth best lead— and South played the Ten-spot, West winning the trick with the Queen. West now returned a spade, which South won with the Queen in his own hand. South now led a low spade to Dummy”s Ace and then cashed the King. When West followed on all the three rounds of spades, South was able to tell that he had originally held seven cards in the two major suits plus at least one diamond, but the other five cards were as yet unaccounted for. A low diamond was now led from Dummy and South”s Jack held the trick. The diamond Ace was now played, West discarding a heart and East following suit. Of course, it is easily seen that had the diamond suit split three and three, the fourth diamond in Dummy would have provided a club discard, but such was not the case.

At any rate the Declarer now had considerably more information with which to complete his count. He knew that the West player had originally three spades, four hearts and only two diamonds. Therefore. the other four cards in the West hand must be clubs, and East must have only two cards in that suit.

Since it is much more likely that the hand with four cards of a suit contains one specific card—the Queen for instance, South accordingly decided to play West for the club Queen. He laid down the King from his own hand and then the Ten spot. West, of course, did not aid the Declarer by covering, but South permitted the Ten-spot to ride. When it held the trick, South was able to spread his hand, thus fulfilling the contract of four spades.

Without an accurate count South could have done nothing but guess as to which way the club finesse should be taken. With the count, South, of course, knew that the percentages heavily favored playing West for the club Queen.

Ely Culbertson

Wikipedia: Elie Almon Culbertson (July 22, 1891 – December 27, 1955), known as Ely Culbertson, was an American contract bridge entrepreneur and personality dominant during the 1930s. He played a major role in the popularization of the new game and was widely regarded as “the man who made contract bridge”.

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