E-W vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} 10 8

{heart} 8 7 3

{diam} K Q 6

{club} A K 6 5 2

WEST

{spade} J 9 7 3 2

{heart} A

{diam} 7 4 3

{club} 10 9 8 3

EAST (D)

{spade} A K 6

{heart} J 10 6 4

{diam} J 10 9 5

{club} Q 4

SOUTH

{spade} Q 5 4

{heart} K Q 9 5 2

{diam} A 8 2

{club} J 7

The bidding: EastSouthWestNorthPass1 {heart} Pass2 {club}Pass2 {heart} Pass4 {heart} All Pass Opening lead: {diam} 3

Players often fall victim to what I call the "But what if?" syndrome. They adopt an inferior line of play because they start to worry about an unlikely lie of the cards.

Today's declarer won the first diamond in dummy -- East signaled with the jack -- and led a spade. East rose with the king and shifted to a low trump, and South paused but put up his king. West took the ace, and the defense got a spade and a trump later. Down one.

"East passed as dealer," North observed, "and showed the A-K of spades and jack of diamonds. West had the ace of hearts. Play low from your hand on the first trump, hoping East had the jack and ten."

"I didn't know he had the ace of spades," South protested. "If he had K-x-x, he'd lose nothing by playing the king on the first spade. If I had the A-Q, I'd win a finesse anyway."

South had a case of "But what if?": Few Easts would even think of playing second hand high with K-x-x in spades. South should have assumed East had the A-K.

Daily Question

You hold:

{spade} 10 8 {heart} 8 7 3 {diam} K Q 6 {club} A K 6 5 2.

You open one club, and your partner bids one spade. The opponents pass. What do you say?

Answer: Beginners often go wrong in this situation. They rebid two clubs "to show the five-card suit." The correct bid is 1NT to show a minimum balanced hand. A rebid of two clubs would suggest a six-card suit. Incidentally, this hand is a sound opening bid: It has only 12 high-card points, but their structure is good.

(c)2005, Tribune Media Services