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IT IS NOT so bad if your partner does something dreadful early on in a hand - at least you have the feeling that the worst is over. The most depressing moments occur when he does nearly everything right, then blunders right at the end.

South opened One Spade, North raised to Three Spades, and South went on to game. West led the queen of hearts against Four Spades and, with three top losers, everything depended on how declarer tackled the diamonds. Appreciating that it would improve matters if his opponents opened the suit. South made an intelligent start.

He won the lead in hand, drew trumps, and followed with the king of hearts and a heart ruff. A trump to dummy was followed by another heart ruff, then declarer exited with a club. East took his two club tricks, but then had to lead a diamond or concede a ruff and discard.

East did well to lead the seven of diamonds. South played low and won with dummy's king. On the next diamond lead East smoothly played low, and faced with a guess, declarer tried the ten and so lost two tricks in the suit.

In effect, South had given himself only a 50 per cent chance. He should put in the ten on the first diamond lead, winning immediately if East has the jack. As the cards lie, the ten is covered by jack and king, but now South has no real option but to go up with his queen on the next round. This (successful) line of play effectively offered a 75 per cent chance.