Time's as delicate as a snowflake: you can hold it for only an instant, and by the time you've decided what to do with it, it's gone.

Today's East-West bid boldly, pushing South to five spades. When West led the king of clubs, South took the ace, drew trumps and led another club.

West took the jack, and East helped his partner out by discarding the encouraging seven of diamonds. West then led a diamond, and East's queen forced out South's ace; and when West won the next club, he cashed the king of diamonds. Down one.

South might gain a moment of precious time if he refuses the first club, falsecarding with the seven. West can still beat the contract with a diamond shift; but since West doesn't know clubs is South's second suit, West will probably lead a second high club.

It doesn't help East to ruff, since he's only ruffing a loser. So South can take the ace of clubs, draw trumps, concede a club and later throw dummy's losing diamond on a good club.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S 3 2 H A 8 7 5 2 D Q 10 7 5 4 C 6. Your partner opens one spade, and the next player passes. What do you say?

ANSWER: You must respond; partner may have a good hand with length in diamonds or hearts as well as in spades, and six diamonds could be cold. Bid 1NT to look for your best spot. This is your only option even though your distribution isn't balanced; your hand isn't strong enough to bid a suit at the level of two.

North-South vulnerable

NORTH

S A Q 7 6

H Q 10 9 6

D 9 3

C 8 4 2

WEST

S 9 8

H K J 4 3

D K J 8 6

C K Q J

EAST

S 3 2

H A 8 7 5 2

D Q 10 7 5 4

C 6

SOUTH

S K J 10 5 4

H None

D A 2

C A 10 9 7 5 3

South West North East

1 S Dbl 2 S 4 H

4 S Pass Pass 5 H

5 S All Pass

Opening lead -- C K

(C)1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate