N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} A Q 10 7

{heart} Q 10 7 4 3

{diam} 7 4

{club} K 5

WEST

{spade} 6 3

{heart} 5 2

{diam} J 9 8 6 5

{club} J 10 8 3

EAST (D)

{spade} K J 9 5

{heart} 6

{diam} Q 10 3 2

{club} A Q 9 2

SOUTH

{spade} 8 4 2

{heart} A K J 9 8

{diam} A K

{club} 7 6 4

The bidding:

East

1 {club}

Pass

South

1 {heart}

4 {heart}

West

Pass

All Pass

North

3 {heart}

Opening lead: {diam} J

Many players labor under a misconception about defensive signals. Cover the East and South cards to see if you have the right idea.

You lead the jack of clubs against South's game: five, deuce from East, four. What next?

The first question: what does East's deuce of clubs mean? He had several clubs with which to signal (he opened one club, but the auction marks him with a singleton heart; hence he has at least four clubs). Since East would have played a higher club if he liked clubs, he wants you to lead something else--but what?

Some players would wrongly treat the deuce as "suit preference": a low club to suggest a shift to the lower-ranking remaining side suit. They'd shift to a diamond; but South would win, concede a club, win the next diamond, ruff a club, draw trumps and lead a spade to the 10. East would have to lead a minor suit, letting South pitch a spade as dummy ruffed, or return a spade into the A-Q.

Here's the misconception: You must interpret your partner's signal as "attitude" unless it's unmistakably "suit preference." East's deuce of clubs simply asks West to shift--to the logical suit. If East liked diamonds, he could overtake the first club to lead diamonds himself; hence the logical shift, the one that must come from West to be effective, is to spades.

If West leads a spade at Trick Two, South plays the 10 from dummy; but East wins, cashes the ace of clubs, exits with a diamond and gets another spade. Down one.

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate