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Not having goals is like moving the ball down the field but never scoring a touchdown. When you’re declarer at 3NT, your goal is to win nine tricks. Plan your play.

Against 3NT, West led a spade, and South won the third spade (not best defense) as East threw a heart. South next led a diamond and was relieved when East took the ace.

But then East led a heart, and South found himself in a dilemma. He could finesse with the queen for his ninth trick, or he could take the ace and rely on a 3-3 club break. But South had to commit himself.

Since the finesse was the better percentage play, South played his queen of hearts -- and was thrown for a 200-point loss when West took the king and ran the spades.

South’s plan was inferior. South must hope East has the ace of diamonds, but before South leads a diamond, he must cash his high clubs. When the clubs break 3-3, South can count nine tricks. If instead the clubs didn’t break evenly, South would know he needed the heart finesse.

You hold: ´ Q 10 ™ J 10 8 4 2 © A 6 2 ® 10 9 5. Your partner opens one diamond, you respond one heart and he bids one spade. What do you say?

A: Although your values are minimum, you mustn’t pass. Game is still possible, and a contract of one spade might be unmanageable. You have two reasonable options: a bid of 1NT, showing seven to 10 points with balanced pattern, or a return to two diamonds. A rebid of two hearts would promise longer hearts.

South dealer

Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

´ 8 2

™ 9 7 5

© Q 10 9 3

® A Q 4 2

WEST EAST

´ K J 9 6 3 ´ Q 10

™ K 6 3 ™ J 10 8 4 2

© 7 4 © A 6 2

® J 8 3 ® 10 9 5

SOUTH

´ A 7 5 4

™ A Q

© K J 8 5

® K 7 6

South West North East

1 NT Pass 2 NT Pass

3 NT All Pass

Opening lead – ´ 6