Today's declarer captured East's queen on the first club and led the king and then a low diamond. West threw a spade, and South played the ten from dummy. East took the jack and led a club; and South claimed with four diamonds, three spades and two clubs.

"You know the clubs are no good," East chided West. "Throw a club on the second diamond, and I'll shift to a heart. You take the jack, return a heart to my ace and get two more hearts."

NO QUESTION

It seems to me East might have found the winning defense with no help; but there's no question South gave the defenders a chance: South is at risk of losing four heart tricks only if the first heart lead comes from East. South must develop four diamond tricks -- all he needs for the contract -- without letting East get in.

South should lead a diamond to the ace at Trick Two and return a diamond to his nine: an "avoidance" play. He's safe for nine or more tricks no matter how the East-West cards lie.

This week: Avoidance.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S A 10 7 H Q 10 4 3 D K 9 3 C A K 5. Your partner opens one diamond, you bid one heart and he rebids two diamonds. The opponents pass. What do you say?

ANSWER: Since a minimum opening bid from partner may produce 12 tricks at diamonds (give him 4, K5, AQ10652, Q643), you shouldn't settle for 3NT. Bid four diamonds, forcing. If partner then cue-bids four hearts, showing slam interest and the ace of hearts, you'll bid six diamonds.

South dealer

Neither side vulnerable

NORTH

S K Q 5

H 6 5

D A Q 10 7 6

C 10 9 6

WEST

S 9 6 4

H K J 9 8

D 2

C J 8 4 3 2

EAST

S J 8 3 2

H A 7 2

D J 8 5 4

C Q 7

SOUTH

S A 10 7

H Q 10 4 3

D K 9 3

C A K 5

South West North East

1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead -- C 3

(c) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate