Neither side vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} K Q 5 3

{heart} K Q 10 6 2

{diam} Q 5

{club} Q 3

WEST (D)

{spade} 9 7 6

{heart} 5

{diam} A K J 10 9

{club} K 10 9 6

EAST

{spade} A J 10

{heart} J 3

{diam} 8 7 4 3 2

{club} 8 7 4

SOUTH

{spade} 8 4 2

{heart} A 9 8 7 4

{diam} 6

{club} A J 5 2

The bidding:

West

1 {diam}

Pass

North

Dbl

4 {heart}

East

2 {diam}

All Pass

South

3 {heart}

Opening lead: {diam} K

"I went down at four hearts, losing two finesses," a fan writes, "and later, when I mumbled that I was at my wit's end, my partner said it couldn't have taken me long to get there.

"I see how to make the contract with all four hands in view; I don't see how I could know to make it at the table. Can you help?"

South ruffed the second diamond, drew trumps and started the spades, leading to dummy's king.

"I expected West to hold the ace, since he'd opened the bidding," my fan writes, "but East took the ace and returned the jack, forcing out the queen. When I let the queen of clubs ride next, West won and led a spade to East's ten to beat me."

South is at risk of losing four tricks only if East has the ace of spades and West has the king of clubs. But that may be the case: once West shows the A-K of diamonds, East needs one of the two missing high honors for his raise to two diamonds, but West needs the other one for his opening bid.

To cope with the dangerous lie of the cards, South must lead a low club from his hand at Trick Five. If East could capture dummy's queen with the king, West would be marked with the ace of spades; and South would lead twice toward dummy's spade honors, losing a spade, a club and a diamond.

In the actual deal, West must take the king of clubs (otherwise, the defense gets two spade tricks but no clubs). So South wins a trick with the queen of clubs and later discards two spades from dummy on the A-J of clubs.

1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate