Neither side vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} A K Q

{heart} K 9 5 3 2

{diam} 9 7 6

{club} 9 5

WEST

{spade} J 3

{heart} Q 10 7 4

{diam} Q 5 2

{club} Q 8 7 4

EAST (D)

{spade} 7 2

{heart} A J 6

{diam} A K J 8 3

{club} J 10 6

SOUTH

{spade} 10 9 8 6 5 4

{heart} 8

{diam} 10 4

{club} A K 3 2

The bidding:

South

1 {diam}

All Pass

West

1 {spade}

North

Pass

East

4 {spade}

Opening lead: {diam} 2

"I've heard it said that one out of every four players is hopeless," a reader writes. "That makes me nervous, since the other three players in my game seem to be pretty good."

My fan says he was dummy in today's deal, and East took two diamonds and led a third diamond. South ruffed and led a heart to the king, and East won and shifted to the jack of clubs.

"Declarer still had a chance," my fan says. "He took the top clubs, ruffed a club, ruffed a heart and ruffed a club. He then cashed the ace of trumps, hoping a defender had the singleton jack; but he actually lost a trump to West and went down.

"Nobody liked my raise to game, and now I'm wondering if I'm the dreaded one player in four."

Even if North's statistics are believable, he has nothing to worry about: his bid of four spades was reasonable; but South misplayed, and East misdefended.

After South ruffs the third diamond, he must lead a heart and play low from dummy; East, who opened the bidding, probably has the ace. If East then leads a club, South wins, leads a trump to dummy, ruffs a heart, returns with a trump and ruffs a heart to drop East's ace. South can then take the top clubs, ruff a club and throw his last club on the king of hearts.

As for East, he must lead a trump at Trick Three, killing an entry to dummy before South can work on the hearts. South's best chance would be to lead a low heart from dummy next, tempting East to play the ace; but if East ducks, South loses a club at the end.

1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate