If you watch a World War II movie, you may hear someone say that they operate on a need-to-know basis. In particular, spies were told only the minimum to do their job in case they were captured. Then, under torture, they couldn’t jeopardize the whole network.

When defending at the bridge table, it is similar. It doesn’t matter which signaling method you use—the traditional high to encourage or the more high-tech low to encourage. It is most important that you give partner the information he needs to know.

In today’s deal, North-South bid aggressively to three no-trump. West led the club six: seven, eight, 10. Declarer continued with the diamond king. After winning with the ace, West switched to the spade nine. However, declarer won with his ace over East’s king and drove out the heart ace, establishing 10 tricks.

“Why didn’t you continue with the club king at trick three, partner?” asked East. “If declarer had three clubs, he was surely home as I was unlikely to have an entry.”

“But you told me you had only two clubs,” replied West. “As your cards were irrelevant to the outcome of the club suit, you should have given me a count signal at trick one, playing the three, not the eight. Then I would have known what to do. After you played the eight, my only chance seemed to be that you had the spade ace, instead of the king-jack, as an entry for a club return through declarer’s remaining queen-ex.”

Third hand gives count at trick one when his highest card is below the nine.