THE AUCTION here had its amusing side, anathema to natural bidders as it must be, but the play had a practical point - first suggested, I think, in an article by Albert Dormer.

Playing a Strong Club system, South duly opened One Club and North responded One Spade. This showed a balanced hand with no five-card suit and at least eight points, but had nothing to do with his spade holding. South's next bid of 1 no-trumps may look cautious but the partnership was now in a game-forcing situation and this merely showed that he also held a balanced hand, as yet unlimited.

Now North, though his slam hopes were low, could not resist testing his partner's memory with a range enquiry of 2 no-trumps. Only after slipping off a shoe to assist his counting. South bid Five Clubs - exactly 27 points! Hoping for the best, North shot to 7 no-trumps and West gloomily led #10.

There were 12 top tricks and a 13th if either spades or diamonds broke evenly or the same defender held length in both suits. As you can see, nothing works. But declarer shrewdly tested the diamonds first - which of course contained four cards. West could part with a heart on the third diamond, but now came three rounds of hearts. Pity poor West! Should he throw a spade or a club? He parted with a spade, and it was all over.

Note that South's play did not jeopardise any genuine chances. Had he tested spades first, though, West would have known to save 4J and East would have had no trouble keeping all his diamonds.

Game all; dealer South


4Q 5 2

!Q 7 4

#A Q 7 3

27 5 2

West East

4J 8 6 4 410 7

!8 6 5 !10 9 3 2

#10 9 #J 9 6 2

2J 8 6 4 210 9 3


4A K 9 3

!A K J

#K 5 4

2A K Q