"By the time the last ribbon on the last package is tied," a club player told me, "I'm fit to be. But at least I made sure our Christmas cards got sent. Last year I gave them to my husband, who never mailed them."

"What was your plan?" I asked.

"I sent one to myself. When it didn't come, I started asking questions."

Today's declarer didn't plan ahead quite as well. He won the third spade (dummy threw a heart) and let the queen of clubs ride. East took the king and led a heart.

NINTH TRICK

South had three clubs, three diamonds, a heart and a spade. He could get a ninth trick if the heart finesse won or if diamonds broke 3-3, but couldn't try both chances. Inevitably, he finessed in hearts, the better percentage play, and went down.

To try all his chances, South must cash the king, queen and ace of diamonds before he finesses in clubs. If diamonds broke badly and the club finesse lost, South would finesse in hearts as the last chance. But when diamonds break 3-3, South has his nine tricks.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S A 9 8 3 H A Q D A 5 3 C Q J 8 2. You open 1NT, and your partner bids three spades. You raise to four spades, and he next tries five clubs. What do you say?

ANSWER: Since you have sound values and good spade support, you might have tried an "advance cue bid" of four diamonds instead of bidding four spades. You must certainly make sure of slam now. Bid six spades or, to start the search for a grand slam, cue-bid five diamonds.

South dealer

Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

S 7 4

H J 9 2

D K Q 6 2

C A 10 9 4

WEST

S K Q J 10 5

H K 7 4

D 10 8 4

C 7 5

EAST

S 6 2

H 10 8 6 5 3

D J 9 7

C K 6 3

SOUTH

S A 9 8 3

H A Q

D A 5 3

C Q J 8 2

South West North East

1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead -- S K