Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} K 10 9 5

{heart} 9 2

{diam} A Q J 8 5

{club} J 5

WEST

{spade} 6 2

{heart} 10 7 6 5 3

{diam} 6 2

{club} A 8 6 3

EAST (D)

{spade} 8 4

{heart} A K Q 8 4

{diam} K 7 4

{club} Q 10 2

SOUTH

{spade} A Q J 7 3

{heart} J

{diam} 10 9 3

{club} K 9 7 4

The bidding: East South West North1 {heart} 1 {spade} 2 {heart} 3 {spade} Pass 4 {spade} All Pass Opening lead: {heart} 5

"The notes I handle no better than many pianists," said the great Artur Schnabel (1882-1951). "But pauses between the notes -- ah, that is where the art resides."

It's the same way in declarer play and defense. The simple act of placing a card on the table requires no skill. It's what you think about between your plays that matters.

In today's deal, East won the first heart with the queen and tried to cash the ace. South ruffed, drew trumps and led the 10 of diamonds to finesse. East took the king and saw that dummy's diamonds would provide South with discards. East therefore shifted to a low club to get what club tricks he could before it was too late.

South had to guess but knew East had started with the three top hearts and the king of diamonds. Since West needed the ace of clubs for his raise to two hearts, South played low from his hand, and when West took the ace, South claimed his game.

Before East rushes to break the clubs at the sixth trick, he should pause for thought. East knows South has five trump tricks and four diamonds, but that's only nine tricks. Since South needs a club trick to make his contract, East has no urgency to lead a club. Another way of looking it is that South has seven cards in the minor suits. After five rounds of diamonds, he'll still have two clubs left.

East should return a passive diamond at Trick Six. After South discards two clubs on the diamonds, he must lead a club himself. The defense then gets two clubs.

(c)2004, Tribune Media Services