N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} A K 6 2

{heart} 10 9 3

{diam} A 7 3

{club} 8 6 5

WEST (D)

{spade} Q 10 9 7 3

{heart} K

{diam} K 10 5

{club} A Q 3 2

EAST

{spade} J 5

{heart} 8 6 5 2

{diam} Q 6 4 2

{club} J 10 9

SOUTH

{spade} 8 4

{heart} A Q J 7 4

{diam} J 9 8

{club} K 7 4

The bidding: WestNorthEastSouth1 {spade}PassPass2 {heart}All Pass Opening lead -- {diam} 5

If East had opened one spade, South wouldn't have risked an overcall of two hearts (barring the recent demise of a rich uncle). If West had some hearts and some points, South might play there doubled, and if North had nothing, as partners all too often do, South might lose 1,100 points when East-West didn't even have a game.

But after West opened one spade and North and East passed, South could afford to bid and couldn't afford to pass.

North was marked with some points since East-West hadn't bid any higher, so South could "balance" with a light hand to prevent his opponents from buying the deal cheaply.

If South had overcalled in the direct position, North would have invited game, but North knew South's balancing overcall might be based on light values.

Hence North didn't even try for game. He had 11 good points, but South had bid most of them when he balanced.

Even the modest contract of two hearts was at risk. Dummy played low on the first diamond, and East took the queen and shifted to the jack of clubs: four, three, five. The 10 of clubs also won, and East shifted back to diamonds: West's 10 forced out the ace.

South had another diamond and another club to lose; he couldn't afford a trump loser. He'd seen East play a queen and a jack, and East probably had a spade honor. If West had a spade suit headed by the Q-J, he'd have led the queen of spades, not a diamond from the king.

So South declined the trump finesse and led a trump to his ace. His luck was in: making two.

(c)2004, Tribune Media Services