North-South vulnerable

NORTH

(S) K 8 6

(H) K Q 7

(D) A K 6 2

(C) K 6 5

WEST

(S) J 4

(H) 8 5

(D) Q 10 9 3

(C) J 7 4 3 2

EAST

(S) 10 9 7 3 2

(H) J 9 6 3

(D) 8 4

(C) 9 8

SOUTH (D)

(S) A Q 5

(H) A 10 4 2

(D) J 7 5

(C) A Q 10

The bidding:

South West North East

1 NT Pass 6 NT All Pass

Opening lead -- (C) 3

When the U.S. and the Soviet Union negotiated arms reduction treaties, trusting his adversaries was half of President Reagan's philosophy. "Trust," he advised, "but verify."

South took the ten of clubs and cashed the three top hearts, trusting the jack to fall. When that trust proved misplaced, South tried the A-K of diamonds, hoping to drop the queen. Both defenders played low, and South got only his 11 top tricks.

Instead of trusting (to luck), South must try to verify the distribution of the concealed hands. He can start by leading a diamond to the ace and returning a diamond to his jack. West takes the queen and leads another club.

South takes two clubs (East throws a spade), three spades (West throws a club) and next the king of diamonds. When East discards another spade, the count is complete: South knows West had two spades, four diamonds, five clubs -- and two hearts.

South then cashes the K-Q of hearts and finesses confidently with the ten.

DAILY QUESTION

You hold: (S) A Q 5 (H) A 10 4 2 (D) J 7 5 (C) A Q 10. You open 1NT, and your partner raises to 4NT. The opponents pass. What do you say?

ANSWER: Your partner's raise is a "quantitative" try for slam, just as a raise to 2NT would be a try for game. If partner wanted to ask about your aces, he'd instead respond four clubs, using the Gerber Convention. Since you have 17 good points with a pair of tens, you must accept the invitation. Bid 6NT.

(C) 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate