Cover an honor with an honor is one of the aphorisms of bridge. Last night we had two examples of why it generally true but it isn’t always true.
Hand one: trump has been cleared. Dummy (south) has four hearts to the queen, West has four hearts king little. A small heart is lead from the dummy and declarer plays the jack which holds while East follows. Declarer crosses to the dummy and advances the queen. West should not cover because if declarer has four hearts then he is in a losing position. If declarer has some other number of hearts (declarer would be unlikely to risk it with two so it is almost certainly three) then West prevents a discard on the promoted heart.
Dealer passes and I’m next holding five hearts (AJ), five diamonds to the ten and nine, and three clubs A,Q, X with a void in spades. I open a heart, partner responds a spade, I respond two diamonds and partner picks four hearts and everyone passes. The ace of diamonds is led by West and partner (North) produces three hearts (Q,T,X), three diamonds (K,J,X), three ugly clubs, four spades (A,Q,J,X). Spades are a poor choice so west continues with a club. At first I do an internal happy dance. I have two club winners and the third goes on the ace of spades. I have two finesses but I don’t care if either of them work. I gotta make four and I could make six. Then my happiness recedes. West’s ace of diamonds was almost surely a singleton. If I lead a diamond it will be ruffed. The good news is that west did not lead a heart so the king of hearts might be there because I don’t want east on the lead. I lead the ace of hearts and a little heart so if west has two hearts he will be out. Semi bad news: West has the king but he has four of the five missing hearts. He exits with a heart won in the dummy. I take the ace of spades discarding a club from my hand and lead a club winning in the hand and take out west’s last trump. I lead a little diamond and west shows out as expected. I win in the dummy with the king and lead the jack of diamond. Here is east’s chance to be a hero. I have made all the right inferences but if east plays low I’m in big trouble because the four-one trump split has left me short of entries to my hand. My plan is a ruffing finesse if East plays low. East produces the queen and I ruff the black card that is led and table the two diamonds. Four of the six were set. We think they led a diamond at trick three.
So covering an honor is generally a good idea but it wasn’t at the first table last night. You still need to think at the table.