N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} J 10 9 7 4

{heart} J

{diam} A K J 9 3

{club} 9 2

WEST

{spade} K 6 5 3

{heart} 7 4 3

{diam} 10 8 4 2

{club} J 3

EAST

{spade} A 2

{heart} Q 10 9 8

{diam} Q 6 5

{club} K 10 8 7

SOUTH (D)

{spade} Q 8

{heart} A K 6 5 2

{diam} 7

{club} A Q 6 5 4

The bidding:

South

1 {heart}

2 {club}

3 {club}

3 NT

West

Pass

Pass

Pass

All Pass

North

1 {spade}

2 {diam}

3 {diam}

East

Pass

Pass

Pass

Opening lead: {spade} 3

A dispute was raging when Alice arrived at Wonderland's court: All four queens were arguing heartily over which of them was greatest, and other courtiers were taking sides. The King of Hearts finally decreed a bridge game to decide the matter.

Today's deal settled the issue, though not to everyone's liking. The Mock Turtle, West, led a spade against the Mad Hatter's 3NT. Alice, East, took the ace, and the Hatter dumped the queen, much to the chagrin of the Queen of Spades, who was unused to such disrespectful treatment.

As Alice pondered her return, the Queen of Hearts nudged her. "Lead me," she urged. "You'll pin dummy's jack and may set up the hearts." But Alice knew, on the bidding, that West wasn't likely to have the king or ace of hearts. Nor was a club shift attractive: The Hatter could grab the ace--he need not risk an immediate finesse--and set up the spades.

Then the Queen of Diamonds whispered in Alice's ear. "Even in Wonderland, my dear, diamonds are a girl's best friend." So Alice led the queen of diamonds!

The Queen of Hearts was incensed. "It's off with your head if you don't make this contract," she told the trembling declarer. But the Hatter was helpless: Since his link with dummy was gone, he could get only three diamonds, the A-Q of clubs, a long club and two hearts.

If Alice leads a low diamond, dummy wins five diamond tricks. The queen is the card to beat the contract.

1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate