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THERE WERE some intricate possibilities on this deal, as South struggled with a 24-point 3NT. He got home; but a rather more subtle defence might have beaten him.

South opened 1NT (12-14 points) and, after an unsuccessful Stayman enquiry, North raised to game. West led the 10 of hearts against 3NT, and it was clear to declarer that there was a lot of work to be done. He made a good start by winning in hand and finessing the 10 of spades, losing to the ace. East returned the 10 of diamonds, South covered with the jack, and West won. He returned a diamond and East ducked.

There were now eight tricks in sight, and, after winning the diamond, declarer cashed his heart tricks and tested the spades. When they failed to break, he got off lead with a diamond. East could take two tricks in the suit but was then forced to open up the club suit. When South took the right guess (putting in the 10), it was all over.

Would it have been better for East to clear the diamonds instead of ducking the second round? No, because now West can be thrown in with the fourth spade and forced to lead clubs. The best defence - though difficult - is for West to duck the first diamond lead. Now if declarer tests spades the defenders have kept their communications open and can take five tricks. Ah, but South can counter, after winning with +J, by cashing a second heart and playing a diamond himself (I said it was an intricate deal).