Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} K Q 2

{heart} J 6 5

{diam} 8 6 3

{club} 7 6 4 2

WEST (D)

{spade} A 9 7 6 5 4

{heart} 7

{diam} K J 2

{club} Q J 10

EAST

{spade} J 10 3

{heart} 9 4

{diam} A 9 7 4

{club} 9 8 5 3

SOUTH

{spade} 8

{heart} A K Q 10 8 3 2

{diam} Q 10 5

{club} A K

The bidding:

West

North

East

South 1 {spade}

Pass

2 {spade}

4 {heart} All Pass Opening lead: {spade} A

Here's another item from a church newsletter that suggests the secretary was having an off day: "John Smith and Mary Jones were married at the church last Friday. Thus ends a friendship that began in their grammar school days."

Most people remain friends or even stay married if they become partners at the bridge table, but the defense today's East-West perpetrated would strain any partnership.

When West led the ace of spades, East thumbed the three to inform West that he hadn't made the most dynamic opening lead in bridge history. Unfortunately, East told West only what he already knew, not what he needed to know. West, facing a guess, shifted to the queen of clubs, and South took the king, drew trumps and deposited two diamonds on the K-Q of spades. Making five.

"Suit preference," the least-common defensive signal, is the unmistakable play of a strikingly high or low card to draw partner's attention to a high-ranking or low-ranking suit.

East should play the jack on the first spade. The defenders must rely on suit preference here because a simple "attitude" signal won't do. East can't merely tell West to shift because dummy is weak in both minor suits, and the winning shift is unclear.

If East plays his very highest spade at the first trick, West should shift to the deuce of diamonds, leading the higher-ranking side suit. East will win and return a diamond, and the defenders will get the four tricks to which they're entitled -- and should remain a partnership.

(c)2003, Tribune Media Services