"How should I have played the trumps?" asked South after going down on this deal from the Generali European Championships. "Differently, I suppose," was the reply. "You would have been OK if you had held the six of hearts instead of the five," he added helpfully. Not many textbooks on how to handle suit combinations go into so much detail.

After South and West had passed, (perhaps surprisingly, these days) North- South reached a perfectly playable game contract in hearts. West led a low diamond and, with two spade losers, everything depended on restricting the trump losers to one.

The hand was played at some 60 tables and, although game was not always reached, a heart contract was standard. Those declarers who started with a low trump to the 10 and king failed when it proved that East's pips were just sufficient for a second trick in the suit, whereas leading the jack initially would have proved the winning play. (Though it would have lost if East had been able to cover with a singleton honour.) It all seems to balance out and, indeed, there is no defence if, say, West holds the singleton !8.

Perhaps it was West's uncharacteristic silence that induced the declarer I watched to go wrong.