North-South vulnerable

NORTH (D)

{spade} A K Q 9 5 4

{heart} 8 4

{diam} K 4

{club} 10 7 3

WEST

{spade} J 10

{heart} A K J 10 5 3

{diam} J 8 7 3

{club} 9

EAST

{spade} 7 2

{heart} 6 2

{diam} 6 5 2

{club} A K Q 8 5 2

SOUTH

{spade} 8 6 3

{heart} Q 9 7

{diam} A Q 10 9

{club} J 6 4

The bidding:

North

East

South

West 1 {spade}

Pass(!)

1 NT

2 {heart} 2 {spade}

Pass

2 NT

Pass 3 NT

Dbl

All Pass Opening lead: {heart} K

When I look for antiques on the Internet, I sometimes see an item described as "in perfect condition, except . . . " Then the seller goes on to list the scratches, chips and cracks.

That's the way I felt after today's deal.

I was playing with Unlucky Louie in a club team event, and we were leading going into the final seven-deal match. For once, all went well for Louie, and we were confident as our teammates came back from the other table to compare results.

"We were perfect -- except for one deal," they reported.

"Uh-oh," Louie groaned at me.

At our table, North opened one spade, Louie overcalled two clubs and South raised to two spades. I tried three hearts, and North competed with three spades, passed out.

Louie cashed three clubs and led a heart, and I took two hearts for down one. We scored 100 points and were pleased: We couldn't make much of anything.

In the replay, though, our teammates, sitting North-South, risked 3NT. East doubled, and neither North nor South ran to the relative safety of four spades.

West led the king of hearts, and if he had misguessed by leading a diamond next, South would have racked up 750 points. Instead -- don't ask me how he knew -- West led the nine of clubs.

East rattled off six club tricks and then led his last heart, and West took five hearts.

South won the last trick, "escaping" for down eight, minus 2,300 points.

"It was a close match until the first deal," mourned Louie.

(c)2003, Tribune Media Services