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Very slow suit preference signals

I played 1NT after RHO had opened and I played a small heart from 432 in the hand vs QJ105 in dummy. Lefty hesitated for 20 seconds, played the 9 and righty took the queen with the king. RHO then played a small spade through my (declarer) AKxx towards dummy´s J10xx.

From the 20-second hesitation, I placed the A with left-hand opponent, and then RHO (who had opened) had to have Q to justify his opening bid, so I ducked. Alas, LHO took Q from Q-doubleton and it turned out that he had played 9 from 98xxx in the previous trick.

When I asked LHO about his long hesitation, he responded that the 9 was meant as suit preference. I am 100% sure that this was a bona  fide response. Still, I was not happy with how things went.

I am NOT interested in this particular hand (therefore I do not give the hand diagramme). I am interested in cases where a defender after long thinking follows suit with a high card from, say, 9xxx so that (i) defender´s partner will ´know´ that the card is not a count signal but suit preference and (ii) declarer will place honor cards wrongly.

I am aware that opponents are allowed to think and conclusions from hesitations are at my own risk.

I invite comments on behaviour like this.

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