North-South vulnerable

NORTH

(S) J 9 5 3

(H) 9 8 5 2

(D) 8 4

(C) 7 6 4

WEST

(S) A 10 6 2

(H) A K Q J 7 3

(D) 9 5

(C) 10

EAST

(S) 4

(H) 10 6 4

(D) 7 3 2

(C) J 9 8 5 3 2

SOUTH (D)

(S) K Q 8 7

(H) None

(D) A K Q J 10 6

(C) A K Q

The bidding:

South West North East

2 (D) 2 (H) Pass Pass

2 (S) Pass 3 (S) Pass

6 (S) All Pass

Opening lead -- (H) K

When you're defending and declarer makes an early claim, do you accept the claim because you don't want everybody to think you're too slow to see that declarer clearly has the rest? Or do you look carefully to make sure he isn't pulling a fast one?

Let's see.

South ruffs the first heart and leads the king of trumps. You, West, take the ace and force him to ruff another heart. He cashes the queen of trumps -- and claims the rest, saying he'll run the diamonds. When you ruff, he'll overruff, draw your last trump and return for the rest of his minor-suit winners.

Do you accept?

If you do, you toss away 1530 points. As South runs the diamonds, you pitch your club. If dummy throws two hearts and two clubs, you ruff when South finally leads a club. If instead dummy throws three clubs and a heart, dummy can overruff when you ruff the club, but has a losing heart.

South is safe if he cashes one high club early; but he didn't mention that when he claimed.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: (S) 4 (H) 10 6 4 (D) 7 3 2 (C) J 9 8 5 3 2. Your partner opens 1NT, and the next player passes. What do you say?

ANSWER: Your best (or least worst) spot is surely two clubs, but you can't get there from here. If you bid two clubs, partner will think you're using the Stayman Convention. If you trust him, bid two clubs anyway. When he next bids a major suit or bids two diamonds to deny a four-card major, bid three clubs to sign off.

(c) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate