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by Beverly Kraft -Eric Kokish


 Today's deal focuses on two important aspects of the game, competitive bidding and partnership defense.

Neither vulnerable
West deals


  K 10 9
10 9 8 3
K 10 2

A 7 5

Q J 6 3 2
6 5
A 7 5
J 4 3


West North East South
Pass Pass Pass 1
1 Dble(1) Pass 2
Pass Pass 2 Pass
Pass 3 Pass Pass


(1) Negative, 4+ hearts

Opening Lead:

 Put yourself in the West seat. You seem to have survived your frisky "modern" 1 overcall (even not vulnerable, it may not appeal to you and it doesn't turn us on either). East's delayed raise succeeded in nudging North-South up a notch to 3. Declarer plays the 9 from dummy and your Q holds the first trick, East playing the eight.


How do you continue?

There are two clues about the spade position. If East had ace-eight-small and the additional 4/5 points he must have on the auction, he would have raised to 2 directly. Support with support. As East knew that West's Q would win the trick, it was unnecessary to play high (the eight) to encourage; giving count (small from three) would have been more appropriate. That points to East's holding precisely A8 alone. The right course is to continue spades. The message you would like to send with your second spade play relates to the suit with which you might regain the lead, a low card for the lower suit (clubs), high for the higher (diamonds), a middle card to express no preference. Although it might seem like overkill, return the J, a "suit preference" signal for diamonds. This form of defensive play has many applications; effective defenders are careful to help each other with their carding when the information figures to be useful to their partners.

 Declarer covers the J with the king. East wins the ace and returns the
9 to your ace. Along the lines of "top of nothing to show a weak holding," East is trying to tell you that he has no interest in a diamond return, underscoring his interest in a spade ruff. With a "surprise" third spade, East would have returned his fourth-best diamond (a low card) to confirm his interest in having that suit continued.

 You return the 3 (neutral) for East to ruff. East exits safely with the
10 and eventually scores his Q to defeat the contract. East's hand:

K72 Q964 10982.