“Second hand low” is a basic rule of defence – but all bridge rules are made to be broken. On this deal from a league match, East opened light because he liked his distribution. When partner responded 2C he had to rebid his moth-eaten diamond suit, and when partner followed up with a responder’s reverse into 2H he had little choice but to bid 2NT. No-trump is often the best available spot on a misfit, but that does not mean that the contract will play well.
South led the queen of diamonds, and North withheld his king. Declarer feared a switch to a major so he won the ace to tackle clubs. Needing five club tricks he played a club to the nine – and things improved considerably when that scored. He returned to a top spade to play a second club to the ten and queen, then cashed the ace and cleared clubs. With the diamonds irretrievably blocked he had an easy nine tricks with five clubs, three aces and the king of spades.
South does better to lead a low diamond, hoping that partner has the king, or the nine, but even then he has just three diamond tricks to cash when he wins his club. His expensive error was not playing a higher club on the first round, thus ensuring two club tricks. Second Hand Low allows partner’s high cards to pull their weight. When partner cannot have any high cards you may have to split your honours so that declarer does not make a cheap trick.