Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} Q 7 2

{heart} A 7 3

{diam} Q J 10 7 4

{club} K 8

WEST

{spade} 10

{heart} Q J 10 2

{diam} K 8 6 3

{club} Q J 5 4

EAST

{spade} K 9 8 6 4

{heart} 8 6 5 4

{diam} 5

{club} 10 7 2

SOUTH (D)

{spade} A J 5 3

{heart} K 9

{diam} A 9 2

{club} A 9 6 3

The bidding:

South

1 NT

West

Pass

North

3 NT

East

All Pass

Opening lead: {heart} Q

Some bridge players have intelligence of the brain but aren't overly blessed with intelligence of the heart: that is, tact.

Today's North needed all the tact he could muster. South refused the first heart, won the next heart, led a club to the king and let the queen of diamonds ride. West played low. When East discarded on the next diamond, South took the ace and led a diamond to West's king. West then led the queen of clubs.

South might have succeeded by winning and exiting with a club; if East won with the ten, he'd be end-played. But South ducked, and West next led the ten of spades. South took the jack and cashed the ace of clubs--and West dumped his jack! South took the nine of clubs and ace of spades, but lost the last two tricks to East. Down one.

"What could I do differently?" South asked.

North, to his credit, found a tactful reply: "A couple of things maybe."

South must set his sights on nine tricks: He can simply win the first heart and lead the ace and a low diamond. He is sure of four diamonds, two hearts, two clubs and a spade.

1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate