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A FEAR of looking foolish set West off on the wrong track on this deal. For the sake of an overtrick or two he gave up any chance of defeating South's vulnerable game.

South opened One Spade and North responded 2NT (Baron, showing a balanced 16-18 points). With no slam interest, South ended the auction with a jump to Four Spades, against which West led the ace of hearts.

Now East-West were playing standard encouraging-discouraging signals rather than distribution-showing ones, so East followed suit with his nine. West continued with the king and a third heart to his partner's queen, but that was the end of the defence.

East studied the remaining cards. "If you lead a low heart at trick two," he observed, "a fourth round of the suit, which I trump with the jack, promotes a trump trick for us." "I saw that, of course," lied West immediately. "But you could have been signalling with a doubleton heart, and then we do not get our ruff!"

East maintained a stoic silence, but the point that West had missed was that, assuming East could ruff the third heart, where on earth would the setting trick come from? To give South an undeserved overtrick or two would cost at most 60 points - as the play went, a vulnerable game had been slipped through.

GAME ALL: dealer South


] K 6

_ J 8 6

+ A K Q J

[ K J 5 2

West East

] 10 8 2 ] J 4

_ A K 5 3 _ Q 9 2

+ 9 7 6 32 + 10 4 2

[ Q 7 [ 10 9 8 6 4


] A Q 9 7 5 3

_ 10 7 4

+ 8 5

[ A 3