N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} A 5 2

{heart} K J 8 4

{diam} K 5 2

{club} J 9 5

WEST

{spade} 10 6

{heart} Q 10 7 3

{diam} 10 9 6

{club} K 8 7 3

EAST (D)

{spade} Q J 9 8 4

{heart} 9 5

{diam} A Q 8 7 3

{club} 4

SOUTH

{spade} K 7 3

{heart} A 6 2

{diam} J 4

{club} A Q 10 6 2

The bidding:

East

Pass

Dbl

All Pass

South

1 {club}

1 NT

West

Pass

Pass

North

1 {heart}

3 NT

Opening lead: {diam} 10

"You ever play hunches?" a pupil asked me.

"We all do occasionally," I replied. "But winning hunches are usually based on facts you filed away in your subconscious."

East's delayed double promised length and strength in spades and diamonds. At 3NT, South played low from dummy on the first diamond, and East signaled with the eight. South won with the jack and led a sneaky low club from his hand.

West could have beaten the contract by rising with the king of clubs to lead another diamond, and in view of East's signal, he probably should have done just that; but West played "second hand low," and dummy won.

South next led a heart to the ace and a heart to finesse with the jack. He cashed the king of hearts, the ace of clubs and the A-K of spades. South then led a third spade; and after East took three spades and the ace of diamonds, he had to concede the 13th trick to the king of diamonds, giving South the contract.

"How come you didn't try the club finesse?" the defenders wanted to know.

"I had a hunch," South shrugged; but the fact was that East, who had passed as dealer, was likely to have good distribution, the A-Q of diamonds and the Q-J of spades. If East held the king of clubs as well, he'd have opened the bidding.

Moreover, if East won a club trick, South wouldn't care. The defense couldn't run the diamonds, and when South regained the lead, he'd have nine tricks: four clubs, a diamond, two hearts and two spades.

1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate