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NORTH WAS pleased with the result of his use of Stayman on this deal after South had opened 1NT (15-17 points). It is certainly debatable whether it's sensible to explore with a 4-3-3-3 distribution - for his partner may have an identical hand-pattern - but 3NT might well have failed after a heart lead while South got home in Four Spades. But, as West pointed out, the spade game could have been defeated as well.

The bidding went 1NT-2C, 2S-4S; West led the eight of diamonds. Dummy played low; after winning with his queen, East switched to a heart. Declarer won, took a losing trump finesse, and won the next heart lead. He drew the remaining trumps, cashed the ace of diamonds, and led a diamond towards his jack. After East had taken his king, a club loser from dummy went away on the established diamond - so South lost only one trump and two diamonds.

Well, what was West's suggestion for the defence? If East reads his partner's opening lead as being from a doubleton, he could make the apparently foolish return of a low diamond at trick two. Then, as before, declarer comes to two diamond tricks, but now when East gets in with his trump king he can lead another low diamond for his partner to ruff. East still has the king of diamonds to take care of the jack and, unless South takes a most unlikely view in clubs (by leading the jack, running it if not covered, and finessing the nine on the return journey if it is) he will eventually lose a trick in the suit to end one down.