Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

(S) A 10 9 8 3

(H) 7 4 2

(D) A 5 4

(C) 7 5

WEST

(S) 7 4

(H) J 10 9 6

(D) Q 10 8 2

(C) K 9 4

EAST

(S) J 6 5 2

(H) 8 5 3

(D) K 7

(C) Q J 8 2

SOUTH (D)

(S) K Q

(H) A K Q

(D) J 9 6 3

(C) A 10 6 3

The bidding:

South West North East

1 (C) Pass 1 (S) Pass

2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead -- (H) J

A bird in the hand may get the cards a little messy; nevertheless, prefer a line of play that's certain over one that's speculative.

Today's declarer took the ace of hearts, unblocked the king and queen of spades, led a diamond to dummy's ace and tried the ace of spades. If the jack dropped, South would have nine birds in the hand plus an overbird.

When instead West threw a club, things got messy. Since it wouldn't help South to set up the fifth spade, he led a diamond from dummy. East won, cashed the jack of spades and led a heart, and South won and led another diamond. When West turned up with the ten and queen, South took only eight tricks.

A certain nine tricks are much better than a chance for ten. After South cashes the king of spades at Trick Two, he must overtake the queen with the ace next.

South then leads the ten to force out the jack and can return with the ace of diamonds to take the nine and eight of spades, fulfilling the contract.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: (S) A 10 9 8 3 (H) 7 4 2 (D) A 5 4 (C) 7 5. Your partner opens one club, you respond one spade and he next bids two diamonds. The opponents pass. What do you say?

ANSWER: Partner's "reverse" promises great strength. (If you wanted to return to his first suit, his bidding has obliged you to go to the level of three.) You mustn't pass, but you can't raise diamonds with three trumps or try 2NT. Rebid two spades and await partner's next bid.

Copyright 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate