Both sides vulnerable

NORTH (D)

{spade} A 7 3

{heart} A 10 7 4

{diam} A J

{club} K 10 3 2

WEST

{spade} 9 8 6 2

{heart} 8 5

{diam} K Q 10 3

{club} Q 9 8

EAST

{spade} Q J 10 5

{heart} 9 3

{diam} 9 6 5 4 2

{club} 7 6

SOUTH

{spade} K 4

{heart} K Q J 6 2

{diam} 8 7

{club} A J 5 4

The bidding:

North

1 NT

4 {heart}

6 {heart}

East

Pass

Pass

All Pass

South

3 {heart}

5 {club}

West

Pass

Pass

Opening lead: {diam} K

An ebullient novice came to me after a game and announced proudly that he had "brought off a couple of tough finesses." I never thought taking finesses was difficult; else why would so many players take them without thinking? In fact, even two-way finesses aren't hard if you can induce the opponents to take them for you.

Today's declarer took the ace of diamonds, drew trumps and tackled the two-way guess for the queen of clubs: He led a club to the king and returned a club to his jack. Alas, West produced the queen and cashed the queen of diamonds.

South would do better by trying to get East-West to take the club finesse for him. After South draws trumps, he can cash the top spades, ruff dummy's last spade and exit with a diamond. When West takes the queen, he may lead a club next to avoid giving up a ruff-and-discard, and South's problems are over.

A capable West won't be so helpful. West will know South started with two spades and five trumps. If South has three diamonds, West can safely lead a third diamond; and even if South started with two diamonds (hence four clubs), West can afford to lead a diamond: South gets a ruff-and-discard, but still has a club loser to worry about.

If West does lead a third diamond, South can ruff in dummy and pitch a club from his hand. This may help South in a way--he no longer must worry about a 4-1 club break--but he still has a tough two-way finesse to make his slam.

(c) 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate