Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

For a bridge player, the more often he plays his honor cards, the more winning tricks he can count.

When I am teaching inexperienced players about signaling on defense, the first class is usually about playing spot cards – high-low to encourage and low-high to discourage. But the next week I encourage playing honor cards whenever possible. Even the sleepiest of partners will notice an honor card appearing unexpectedly on the table.

There are several reasons for putting up an honor card when you could have played a spot card. This three-no-trump deal features one of the rarest. What was the key honor play after West led the spade queen to South’s king?

Declarer had eight top tricks: two spades, three hearts and three diamonds. He had to establish a club trick. He was in danger only if West had five spades and a high club after both of South’s spade honors had been removed.

To try to make it hard for the opponents if the club honors were split, declarer played a heart to the king and called for a club.

Luckily for the defenders, East knew that one time to play second hand high is when a defender has one card left in partner’s long suit, and declarer still has a stopper in that suit. Here, East played his club king.

When East held the trick, he returned his second spade, establishing his partner’s suit while West still had the club ace as an entry.

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