N-S vulnerable


{spade} A 10 3

{heart} J 7 3

{diam} J 9 6 3

{club} Q 7 3


{spade} Q 9 8 2

{heart} Q 2

{diam} A 10 5 2

{club} K 9 4


{spade} 7 4

{heart} 8 6 5

{diam} 8 7 4

{club} A J 10 8 5


{spade} K J 6 5

{heart} A K 10 9 4

{diam} K Q

{club} 6 2

The bidding: SouthWestNorthEast1 {heart}Pass2 {heart} Pass3 {heart}Pass4 {heart}All Pass Opening lead: {spade} 2

Years ago, I was declarer at five clubs with a trump suit of A-J-7-6 in dummy opposite my 10-8-5-4-3-2. I cashed the ace, and my right-hand opponent dropped the king and made a surly comment about my good luck. At that moment, I knew his partner had the missing queen, and that information let me make my game.

"Table presence" really has two aspects. A player with good table presence notices his opponents' remarks and mannerisms. He also draws inferences from their bids and plays.

Today's declarer won the first spade with the jack and led the king of diamonds, and West took the ace and guessed well to shift to clubs. South ruffed the third club, cashed the ace of trumps, led a spade to dummy's ten, returned the jack of trumps . . . and finessed. West won and gave East a spade ruff for down two.

"Great table presence," North growled. "When the man didn't cover the jack of trumps, you might have put up the king."

Should South have guessed right?

South might play West for the queen of trumps but not because East failed to cover an honor. North-South had a tentative auction to game -- they had 26 points at most -- and dummy would have a weak hand. Hence West wasn't called on to make an aggressive opening lead. A good West would choose the safest lead available.

West didn't have a passive lead in clubs or diamonds, nor did he have one in spades. Still, he led a dangerous spade from the queen. If West had only low trumps, a trump lead would have been much more attractive.

(c)2005, Tribune Media Services