Since football season's in full furor, I'm here to diagram the option play -- and how to defense it.

East signaled with the nine on the first diamond, but South ruffed the next diamond, drew trumps and took the A-K of spades. South planned to ruff a spade, lead a trump to dummy, ruff a spade (if necessary) and return with a trump to pitch the queen of clubs on an established spade.

West showed out on the second spade, but South had an option: he led a club to his queen next. The finesse won, and South claimed.

The best defense against an option play, at football or at bridge, is to take away one of the options. Let East overtake the king of diamonds with the ace and lead a club. (East knows South has only one diamond; South wouldn't use Blackwood with two low cards in an unbid suit.)

South won't be eager to finesse in clubs when a normal 4-2 spade break will see him home. He'll take the ace of clubs; but when the spades break badly, he loses a club.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S Q 10 8 7 4 H 5 D A 9 8 3 C K 9 5. Dealer, at your left, opens one diamond. Your partner doubles, and the next player raises to two diamonds. What do you say?

ANSWER: Partner promises opening values and help for the other suits. He's likely to have four-card spade support, and since the bidding marks him with a singleton diamond, you'll make game with fewer than 26 high-card points; the good fit will compensate. Bid four spades.

East-West vulnerable

NORTH

S A K J 9 2

H A 10 7 6

D J 10

C J 6

WEST

S 6

H None

D K Q 7 5 4 2

C 10 8 7 4 3 2

EAST

S Q 10 8 7 4

H 5

D A 9 8 3

C K 9 5

SOUTH

S 5 3

H K Q J 9 8 4 3 2

D 6

C A Q

North East South West

1 S Pass 3 H Pass

4 H Pass 4 NT Pass

5 H Pass 6 H All Pass

Opening lead -- D K

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate