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NORTH-SOUTH bid their way to an excellent slam on this deal but, as the play developed, declarer found himself left with an unenviable decision. If he had got it right, the hand might have passed unnoticed, but after his failure the post-mortem suggested a better line of play altogether.

South opened One Spade, North responded Two Clubs, and East overcalled in diamonds. Over South's next bid of Two Hearts, North gave jump preference to Three Spades and, after an exchange of cue-bids, South ended in Six Spades.

West led the seven of diamonds and declarer won the first trick to avoid the danger of a ruff. It was clear that to make 12 tricks, he had to ruff two of his losers on the table. He started with three rounds of hearts, discarding a diamond from the table and breathing a sigh of relief when all followed.

Declarer next gave up a trick in diamonds. East won and returned the suit for dummy to ruff. The ace of clubs and a club ruff followed, but when South led his last loser, the eight of hearts, West followed with the nine. Problems] Who held the missing jack of trumps?

As the cards lie, South gets home if he ruffs with dummy's seven, but in practice he ruffed with the king. Yes, the jack would have dropped, but instead he finessed the ten of trumps to lose to West's jack.

A better approach would have been not to concede a diamond at trick 5 but to lead a fourth round of hearts, discarding dummy's last diamond. Now South's two losing diamonds can be ruffed low on the table in complete safety.