Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} 8 5

{heart} K 9 6 3

{diam} A Q J 4 2

{club} 9 7

WEST

{spade} K 10 7 6 2

{heart} Q 4 2

{diam} 10 7 3

{club} Q 8

EAST

{spade} Q 4 3

{heart} 8 7 5

{diam} 9 8

{club} A J 6 3 2

SOUTH (D)

{spade} A J 9

{heart} A J 10

{diam} K 6 5

{club} K 10 5 4

The bidding: South WestNorthEast1 NT Pass2 {club} Pass2 {diam} Pass3 NT All Pass Opening lead: {spade} 6

When I watched today's 3NT in a rough-and-tumble money game at the club, South captured East's queen of spades and impassively led a diamond to the jack, as if finessing. He next led a heart to his jack.

West took the queen but fell for South's small deception: West led a diamond, and South claimed nine tricks.

"Very nice," I remarked. "You finessed in hearts against East as an 'avoidance' play. Even if West won, you'd be safe if he also had the ace of clubs."

"Actually," South grunted, "I finessed into the weaker opponent. I thought even if West took the queen, he wouldn't know what to do next."

"Sez you," West roared, and the fight commenced.

If East had the king of diamonds, he'd grab it at Trick Two to return a spade, so West can count five diamonds, at least two hearts and a spade for South. If South has the ace of clubs, 3NT is cold. When West takes the queen of hearts, he must lead the eight of clubs. East wins and returns a spade, and South goes down.

Daily Question

You hold:

{spade} K 10 7 6 2 {heart} Q 4 2 {diam} 10 7 3 {club} Q 8.

Your partner opens 1NT, and the next player passes. What do you say?

Answer: Expert opinions would differ. Some would sign off at two spades (with a transfer response), others would be willing to try for game and might respond two clubs, Stayman. I would pass. Game chances are too slim to worry about, there are enough high cards to assure a plus at 1NT, and a bad trump break might sink a contract of two spades.

(c)2005, Tribune Media Services