South dealer

N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} 8 6 2

{heart} A J 8 4 3

{diam} J 7 2

{club} K 4

WEST

{spade} 7 5 4

{heart} K 10 7

{diam} 10 8

{club} J 10 6 5 3

EAST

{spade} K J 10 9 3

{heart} Q 9 5

{diam} K Q 9 6 3

{club} None

SOUTH

{spade} A Q

{heart} 6 2

{diam} A 5 4

{club} A Q 9 8 7 2

The bidding:
SouthWestNorthEast
1 {club} Pass1 {heart} Dbl
3 {club} Pass3 {heart} Pass
3 NT All Pass
Opening lead: {spade} 7

Unlucky Louie had been having a run of misfortune that was bad even by his standards.

"I lay in bed last night," Louie told me, "asking myself what I had done to deserve such bad luck."

"Did you get any enlightenment?" I asked.

"I heard a voice say, 'This will take more than one night.' "

Louie brings most of his "bad luck" on himself, of course. As declarer at today's 3NT, Louie won the first spade with the ace and expected an easy time. He led a club to dummy's king -- and East discarded a diamond.

When Louie continued with the A-Q of clubs and a fourth club, West took the ten and led another spade. He won the next club and led his last spade, and East took three spades for down one.

"Only a 5-0 club break beats me," Louie grumbled.

After East's double, which promised length in spades and diamonds, a bad break in clubs was likely. Louie should therefore play it safe by leading the seven of clubs at Trick Two, intending to let it ride if West plays low. (West can't gain by covering with an honor.)

If East could win, Louie would take the spade return, cash the king of clubs and return to his hand with the ace of diamonds to run the clubs, winning five clubs, two spades, a diamond and a heart.

In the actual deal, the safety play pays off. When East discards on the first club, Louie leads to the king of clubs, returns a spade to his queen, takes the A-Q of clubs and concedes a club. The defense gets three spades and one club.

2007, Tribune Media Services