North and South vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} 8 4 3

{heart} 10 4 2

{diam} 8 7 4 2

{club} A J 10

WEST

{spade} 10 9 6 2

{heart} 9 8 7 6 3

{diam} Q

{club} 9 8 5

EAST

{spade} 7

{heart} J 5

{diam} A J 10 9

{club} Q 7 6 4 3 2

SOUTH (D)

{spade} A K Q J 5

{heart} A K Q

{diam} K 6 5 3

{club} K

The bidding:

South

2 {spade}

3 {diam}

West

Pass

Pass

North

2 NT

4 {spade}

East

Pass

All pass

Opening lead: {diam} Q

"The man took the ace of diamonds and returned the jack," one of the better players at the club, sitting south, told me. "His partner ruffed my king and led a heart; and there I was: two tricks lost, and two 'unavoidable' diamond losers.

"I took the king of hearts," my friend went on, "drew trumps and cashed the queen of hearts. When the jack fell, I overtook the king of clubs with dummy's ace and led the jack. If East had played low, I'd have discarded the ace of hearts! If West wins, he must return a heart or a club, I throw my diamonds on the ten of hearts and the ten of clubs."

"But when East covered the jack of clubs, you were sunk," I said.

South gets an A for imagination but let the prospect of a spectacular result cloud his judgment. When East plays the jack on the second heart, South has a complete count: East held one spade, two hearts and four diamonds--hence six clubs. Since the odds are 2 to 1 that East holds the queen of clubs, the play will fail twice as often as it works.

South should instead run all the trumps and hearts. With three tricks to go, South has two diamonds and the king of clubs, and dummy has the A-J-10 of clubs. East must save two clubs and one diamond. South then leads a diamond, wins East's club return with the king and takes the 13th trick with a diamond.

1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate