N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} A J 5

{heart} K 7

{diam} 6 4 2

{club} A 10 7 5 2

WEST

{spade} 9 7 3 2

{heart} J 10 9 6

{diam} A K 10 3

{club} 6

EAST

{spade} K 10 8 6

{heart} 8 5 4

{diam} 9 7 5

{club} Q 8 4

SOUTH (D)

{spade} Q 4

{heart} A Q 3 2

{diam} Q J 8

{club} K J 9 3

The bidding: South WestNorthEast 1 {club} Pass3 {club} Pass3 NT All Pass Opening lead: {heart} J

"Look at this," Unlucky Louie told me. "A baseball player gets to swing and miss three times before he's out. I get four swings and still can't get a hit."

West's opening lead conventionally denied a higher heart honor. Louie took the king and cashed the A-K of clubs. West showed out -- Strike 1 -- and East won the next club and led the nine of diamonds. Louie put up his queen, and West took the king -- Strike 2 -- and shifted back to hearts.

"I had eight tricks," Louie said, "so I led the queen of spades next, losing. That was Strike 3, but I was still safe if East had the ace of diamonds. When he led the seven, I played the jack -- and down I went."

Louie was unlucky, but his play was as poor as a relief pitcher's batting average. He should finesse with the jack on the second club.

As the cards lie, Louie makes an overtrick, but he would be safe even if West had the queen. East couldn't get in twice for diamond leads, and Louie would have time to force out the king of spades for nine tricks.

Daily Question

You hold:

{spade} A J 5 {heart} K 7 {diam} 6 4 2 {club} A 10 7 5 2.

You open one club, your partner responds one heart, you bid 1NT and he tries two spades. The opponents pass. What do you say?

Answer: Partner's "reverse" promises a good hand and commits your side to game. You shouldn't raise his second suit with only three-card support or return to hearts with a doubleton, nor should you try 2NT with no diamond strength. Bid three clubs.

(c)2005, Tribune Media Services