N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} 10 4

{heart} K 6 5

{diam} A J 10 3

{club} A K 8 3

WEST (D)

{spade} K Q J 9 6 5 3

{heart} 4

{diam} 7

{club} 9 6 4 2

EAST

{spade} 8 2

{heart} J 10 9 3

{diam} 8 6 4 2

{club} Q J 10

SOUTH

{spade} A 7

{heart} A Q 8 7 2

{diam} K Q 9 5

{club} 7 5

The bidding: WestNorthEastSouth 3 {spade} Dbl Pass6 {heart} All Pass Opening lead: {spade} K

Let's say North-South had the auction all to themselves. South would open one heart, North might respond in clubs, South would bid diamonds and North would raise vigorously. North-South would then cue-bid controls, learning that no key honors were missing, and might conclude a precise auction at the reasonable contract of seven diamonds.

Real-life bridge is seldom so serene. In real life, West's preemptive opening cuts away North-South's bidding room and makes them grope. That's why preempts are popular: They work!

An expert North-South might still reach slam in diamonds. When North doubles three spades for takeout, South can cue-bid four spades, and North can next bid 4NT, asking South to choose between the minor suits. But the actual South simply leaped to six hearts, bidding what his hand was worth and trusting North to have good heart support.

When West led the king of spades, South took the ace and cashed the A-K of trumps. West discarded, and South sighed and conceded a trump and a spade.

"The preempt nailed us," he shrugged. "I'd make six diamonds."

How would you play six hearts?

South gave up too quickly. After he takes the ace of spades and the three top trumps, he cashes the A-K of clubs and ruffs a club. South then takes four diamonds, as East must follow suit, and leads dummy's last club at the 12th trick.

If East discards, South ruffs. If instead East ruffs, South discards his losing spade and wins the last trick with his last trump to fulfill the slam.

(c)2005, Tribune Media Services