I've always thought a good player gets more help from his opponents than lesser players get from their partner.

In today's deal, West did well to lead the ace of clubs, and East signaled with the nine and won the next club with the king. East then tried the ace of spades, and South tried to help East go wrong by falsecarding with the ten.

West followed with the seven, his lowest spade; but the seven looked pretty high to East, and nobody had played the three. So East led another spade; and South won, cashed the ace of trumps, ruffed a spade and finessed with the jack of trumps. The finesse won, and South claimed.

NO DOUBT

No doubt East's spade continuation was wrong; if West had the king, he'd find a higher spade to play at the third trick. But West could remove any doubt by following with the queen to deny possession of the king.

If East leads a third club at Trick Four, South goes down. No matter which trump South ruffs with, the defense gets a trump trick.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S K 10 3 H A K J 9 2 D A Q 3 C J 2. You open one heart, and your partner responds two clubs. The opponents pass. What do you say?

ANSWER: If the king of hearts were the queen, some players might have opened 1NT; but even if you're willing to open 1NT despite holding a five-card major suit, the actual hand is too strong. Jump to 3NT, suggesting balanced distribution with 19 or 20 points -- slightly too many for a 1NT opening.

South dealer

N-S vulnerable

NORTH

S 4 2

H 7 6 4

D K J 10

C Q 10 6 5 4

WEST

S Q J 9 8 7

H 10 3

D 9 8 5 2

C A 7

EAST

S A 6 5

H Q 8 5

D 7 6 4

C K 9 8 3

SOUTH

S K 10 3

H A K J 9 2

D A Q 3

C J 2

South West North East

1 H Pass 2 H Pass

4 H All Pass

Opening lead -- C A

Copyright 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate