The letter from the Society of Finessers came, right on time. They write every month, chiding me because key finesses never work in my columns.

The letter began with the usual complaint that I've repealed the law of averages and then cited today's deal. At four hearts, West takes the top spades and gives East a ruff. East then leads a diamond: queen, king, ace.

South next leads a trump to his nine; that finesse works, amazingly enough, but West shows out. South then needs three more entries to dummy: two for trump finesses, one to pitch a diamond on dummy's good spade.

"The entries are there," the Society writes, "but only because South can take an unlikely finesse: he leads a club to the ten at Trick Six! He finesses in trumps, leads a club to the queen and finesses in trumps again.

"South can then take the ace of trumps, collecting East's king, and get back with the ace of clubs for the good spade. What do you say to that?"

Well played, I say.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S 10 9 4 3 H 8 5 2 D A 6 3 C A Q 10. Your partner opens one spade, and the next player passes. What do you say?

ANSWER: It's a close decision; but a raise to two spades wouldn't do justice to this hand. The hand contains four trumps, and its side values are aces and a queen whose value is improved because an ace accompanies it. Temporize with a response of two clubs. You'll support the spades as cheaply as you can next.

E-W vulnerable

NORTH

S 10 9 4 3

H 8 5 2

D A 6 3

C A Q 10

WEST

S A K 5 2

H None

D K J 10 9 4

C J 9 5 2

EAST

S 8 7

H K 7 6 4 3

D 8 5 2

C 7 6 3

SOUTH

S Q J 6

H A Q J 10 9

D Q 7

C K 8 4

South West North East

1 H Dbl Redbl Pass

Pass 2 D 2 H Pass

4 H All Pass

Opening lead -- S K

(C)1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate