Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} K J

{heart} 7

{diam} A Q 8 7 5 2

{club} K Q 7 3

WEST

{spade} 8 3

{heart} K J 10 4

{diam} J 6 3

{club} A 9 4 2

EAST (D)

{spade} A 6 5

{heart} A Q 8 5 2

{diam} 10 9

{club} J 10 8

SOUTH

{spade} Q 10 9 7 4 2

{heart} 9 6 3

{diam} K 4

{club} 6 5

The bidding: East South WestNorthPass Pass Pass 1 {diam} 1 {heart} 1 {spade} 2 {heart} 3 {club}Pass 3 {diam} 3 {heart} 3 {spade} All Pass Opening lead: Choose it

In July I had the pleasure of attending the ACBL Summer Championships -- not to compete but to speak. I did play in a charity event and was today's West.

North was Larry Cohen, a fine player and a noted proponent of the "Law of Total Tricks" that players use to make competitive decisions. Since I've questioned the Law in print -- it is no substitute for judgment -- I hoped I wouldn't commit a bidding indiscretion and give Larry ammunition for his theory.

When South bid one spade, I might have jumped directly to three hearts, a bid the Law would support: Since we had nine hearts, we could safely contract for nine tricks -- and I might have shut out North-South.

But a jump to three hearts would have been preemptive, and my hand looked wrong to preempt. When I bid two hearts, Larry competed boldly. (North-South were playing "support doubles"; if Larry had held three cards in spades, he'd have doubled over my two hearts. His last bid showed a doubleton spade.)

I led a heart against three spades, and East returned a heart to force dummy to ruff with an honor. But South lost only a heart, a trump and a club and scored 170 points.

My bidding was on target: We can't make three hearts, and if I lead a trump and East ducks, we can beat three spades. If East leads a low trump at Trick Two, we hold South to nine tricks. If either of us had made a winning decision, we'd have won the event instead of finishing second.

(c)2005, Tribune Media Services