I was kibitzing a friend when a married couple came to the table, and Husband went down in today's deal.

He won the first spade, led a diamond to the king and played low from his hand on the next diamond. West took the jack and led another spade; and South won and lost a diamond to the ace. West cashed two spades and exited with a club. South then took the A-K of hearts, but the queen didn't drop. Down two.

Wife was upset; she said Husband should lead the queen of diamonds at Trick Two. West would win to make sure of two diamond tricks, and Husband could concede the next diamond and eventually win nine tricks.

Husband protested. "When I want your opinion," said Wife, "I'll give it to you."

What's your opinion of South's play?

South can never make 3NT: if he leads the queen of diamonds, West can duck twice and win the third diamond effectively. Still, South should try that play: West might have A-x of diamonds or might err with his actual holding.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: S 5 3 H J 6 2 D K 8 7 3 2 C 6 5 2. Your partner opens two hearts (strong), and the next player passes. What do you say?

ANSWER: Your hand is slightly too weak for a "positive response"; hence you can't raise to three hearts. Bid 2NT, the negative response that denies as many as six points. If partner next bids three clubs or rebids three hearts, you'll jump to or raise to four hearts to tell him you have a few useful values.

North-South vulnerable

NORTH

S 5 3

H J 6 2

D K 8 7 3 2

C 6 5 2

WEST

S Q J 10 9

H 7 4

D A J 10

C 10 7 4 3

EAST

S 8 7 4 2

H Q 10 9 8

D 6 4

C Q J 9

SOUTH

S A K 6

H A K 5 3

D Q 9 5

C A K 8

South West North East

2 C Pass 2 D Pass

2 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass

Opening lead -- S Q

(C) 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate