North-South vulnerable

NORTH (D)

(S) 5 3 2

(H) A K Q 3

(D) A K 7 5

(C) 7 4

WEST

(S) 7 4

(H) 10 9 8 7 6

(D) Q J 10

(C) J 9 8

EAST

(S) K Q J 10 9

(H) J 2

(D) 9 8 6 2

(C) K 5

SOUTH

(S) A 8 6

(H) 5 4

(D) 4 3

(C) A Q 10 6 3 2

The bidding:

North East South West

1 (H) 1 (S) 2 (C) Pass

2 (D) Pass 2 NT Pass

3 NT All Pass

Opening lead -- (S) 7

When a columnist writes up a deal to emphasize a single point of technique, it's easy to overlook the forest for the trees.

South wins the second spade, leads a heart to dummy and returns a club. If East plays low, South finesses with the ten. West takes the jack and, with no more spades, leads the queen of diamonds. South wins, leads another club and makes two overtricks when East's king appears.

The "trees" in this deal: East must play the king on the first club. South can't afford to play low, else East will run the spades; but if South wins, he gets only two club tricks.

The "forest": South can make 3NT anyway. After taking the ace of clubs, South cashes dummy's winners and exits with a red card. After West takes a diamond and two hearts, he must lead a club from the jack.

To avoid the forest (a "cooked" deal that has a concealed subsidiary point and will bring mail from a bunch of sharp-eyed readers), West should have diamonds such as J-10-2.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: (S) A 8 6 (H) 5 4 (D) 4 3 (C) A Q 10 6 3 2. Your partner opens one diamond, you respond two clubs and he raises to four clubs. The opponents pass. What do you say?

ANSWER: Your partner promises extra strength with excellent club support; hence slam is quite possible. A direct leap to six clubs might work; but if you prefer to probe, cue-bid four spades, promising the ace of spades and slam interest, and leave the next move to your partner.

Copyright 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate