N-S vulnerable

NORTH (D)

{spade} A J

{heart} Q J 4

{diam} A K 4 2

{club} A J 9 3

WEST

{spade} Q 9 5 2

{heart} 10 9 8 7 2

{diam} Q 10 9 8

{club} None

EAST

{spade} K 8 7 3

{heart} K 6

{diam} J 7 5

{club} K 8 7 5

SOUTH

{spade} 10 6 4

{heart} A 5 3

{diam} 6 3

{club} Q 10 6 4 2

The bidding: North EastSouthWest 1 {diam} Pass1 NT Pass 3 NT All Pass Opening lead: {heart} 10

Having signed a few publishing contracts, I've learned to read the fine print. Most bridge-table contracts also contain some fine print -- and today's declarer signed on the dotted line too soon.

When West led the ten of hearts, South put up dummy's queen. East played the king, and South took the ace and thought his 3NT contract was written in stone: He led the ten of clubs, expecting at least four clubs, two hearts, two diamonds and a spade.

Alas, West threw a spade, and East correctly let the ten of clubs win. When South next led a club to the jack, East ducked again, and South could get only three club tricks and only eight tricks in all.

The fine print: East may hold all four missing clubs (he'll do so at least five percent of the time). To protect himself, South must play low from his hand on the first heart, preserving the ace as an entry to his hand. He wins the heart return in dummy, takes the ace of clubs and continues clubs, assuring nine tricks.

Daily Question

You hold:

{spade} A J {heart} Q J 4 {diam} A K 4 2 {club} A J 9 3.

With only your side vulnerable, the dealer, at your right, opens three hearts. What do you say?

Answer: The opponent's preempt has cut away all your bidding room, making precise accuracy all but impossible. You must take a guess at your best contract, assuming that your partner will contribute a few bits and pieces. Bid 3NT. If you double, you may hear an unwelcome spade response from partner.

(c)2005, Tribune Media Services