Ring Out the Old

The countdown to 2000 is on: less than 48 hours to go!

North-South got to a good game, but South played the hand as if counting the seconds until it was over. East took two hearts and led a club, and South won and hastily cashed the A-K of trumps. West discarded, and the contract turned into a pumpkin.

Though South could have started to celebrate early if the queen of trumps had dropped, he does best to try for a count of the defenders' distribution before leading trumps.

FIRST CLUB

South wins the first club in dummy, leads a diamond to the queen and returns a diamond to the ten and ace. He wins the next club in dummy, cashes the king of diamonds -- and discards the ace of clubs.

South next ruffs a club, ruffs a heart and leads dummy's last diamond. If East followed suit, South would have a guess; but when East discards, South knows East's pattern was 3-5-3-2. South ruffs, leads a trump to the king and a trump to his jack, and pops open a bottle of champagne.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S K 10 9 5 H 9 2 D K 10 6 5 C K Q 5. Your partner opens one heart, you respond one spade, he bids two clubs and you try 2NT. Partner next bids three hearts. The opponents pass. What do you say?

ANSWER: Partner's three hearts is forcing; his sequence promises six hearts, four clubs and extra strength. If he had minimum values, he'd rebid two hearts at his second turn. Since you have a smidgen of heart support, bid four hearts.

North dealer

N-S vulnerable

NORTH

S K 10 9 5

H 9 2

D K 10 6 5

C K Q 5

WEST

S 4

H Q 7 3

D J 8 7 3

C 9 8 4 3 2

EAST

S Q 7 6

H A K J 8 4

D A 9 4

C 10 7

SOUTH

S A J 8 3 2

H 10 6 5

D Q 2

C A J 6

North

Pass

3 S

East

1 H

Pass

South

1 S

4 S

West

2 H

All Pass

Opening lead -- H 3

Copyright 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate