Can the auction make a difference in holding up versus winning a trick?
How can I tell the difference?
Sometimes the bidding will give you a clue about whether you should hold up or win a trick.
South plays 3NT with the ♥Q lead. West’s 2♥ was defined as weak, so South has some hints as to how to play the hand. Note, by the way, that players have their own ideas about what a weak jump overcall looks like. I have seen players bid 2♥ with six to the jack and out, and I have seen players bid 2♥ with ♥A Q J 9 8 4 and a side king. What this means is that you have to keep an open mind about what West may or may not have.
On the ♥Q, East plays a low one. You ask if East would give a count card here and are told that they do not use this kind of signal.
Do you win the first heart and if so, what do you do?
Do you duck the first heart and if so, what is your intent?
When you are thinking of what to do, you must consider the consequences. Let’s say you win the first heart and decide that you want one spade trick to give you the nine you need for your contract.
You play the ♠9 toward dummy. West plays low. Do you play low from dummy or do you play the king?
There is a possible bad scenario for each choice. If you play low, East wins the queen and plays a heart. This sets up West’s heart suit, and he gets in with the ♠A, which means you are down.
If you play the ♠K, East turns up with the ace and he leads a heart, setting up the suit for West. West gets in with the ♠Q and you are down.
You can see that winning the heart and playing on spades is not a sure thing. Is there a solution? There is one that adds a lot to your chances. Try this: Let the ♥Q win. You expect West to have six of them, which is useful information. West continues the suit, East following, and you win. Now you play a spade.
If West has six hearts, one thing you can reasonably count on, you are safe. Say you finesse the ♠9 and it loses to the queen. East has no more hearts to lead, so you can win any return and set up more spade tricks. Similarly, if you lead to the ♠K, losing to the ace, East won’t have any more hearts, and you can set up the spades, giving you 10 tricks.
Here is one of many possible layouts:
It is true that you can make a winning guess on the first round of spades, but ducking the heart gives you a better result in most cases because it shuts out West’s heart suit and gives you the likelihood of 10 tricks.
For the record, the West hand is about par for weak jump overcalls when not vulnerable. I have seen worse, much worse in fact, and I have seen significantly stronger.