"I know they'll strike oil when they dig my grave," Unlucky Louie told me, "But I've given up on any good luck before then."

Louie took the king of clubs, drew trumps, led a club to the queen and returned a diamond to his king. West won and led his last club. Louie won with the ace and tried a heart to his king, but West took two hearts and led a diamond to East's queen to beat the game.

"You'd think one red ace would be onside," Louie sighed, "but not in this life."

Was Louie unlucky for once, or did he misplay as usual?

Louie can strike oil in this life if he draws trumps, takes the jack and queen of clubs, and leads a heart to the king next. This play offers an extra chance: West may have the ace of hearts, but if he has the queen as well, he'll be endplayed.

As the cards lie, West wins and cashes the queen of hearts; but then he must lead a diamond, letting Louie's king score, or a heart, letting Louie ruff in dummy and pitch a losing diamond.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S J 8 H 10 9 6 5 2 D Q 10 6 4 C 7 4. Your partner opens 1NT, and the next player passes. What do you say?

ANSWER: Bid two hearts, suggesting long hearts in a weak hand and asking partner to pass. Though your suit is flimsy, your 2-5-4-2 pattern suggests playing at hearts. But if your partner is the type of player who won't respect a signoff and may leap to 3NT or commit some other indiscretion, pass to avoid a major disaster.

Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

S 9 6 5 2

H J 3

D 8 5 2

C A Q 3 2

WEST

S 10 4

H A Q 8 4

D A J 9 3

C 10 9 8

EAST

S J 8

H 10 9 6 5 2

D Q 10 6 4

C 7 4

SOUTH

S A K Q 7 3

H K 7

D K 7

C K J 6 5

South West North East

1 S Pass 2 S Pass

4 S All Pass

Opening lead -- C 10

(c) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate