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A week before Christmas, Unlucky Louie had to have an outpatient surgical procedure. He was annoyed when he found out that his insurer wouldn’t pay for some of the charges. He spent three days trying to get the matter resolved.

“Mary and Joseph probably had the same health insurance plan as I do,” Louie grumbled to me.

In a penny game, Louie was declarer at today’s six spades. He won West’s heart opening lead with the king, led a trump to dummy’s king and returned a trump. When East discarded, Louie had to lose two trumps to West.

Louie’s play would have been correct at a contract of seven spades, but at six spades he should take out insurance by cashing his ace of trumps first. When East plays the ten, Louie leads a second trump. Then if West follows with the six, Louie covers with dummy’s eight to assure no more than one trump loser.

If West had a low singleton trump, Louie could succeed by taking the king and returning a third trump toward his jack.

You hold: ´ A J 7 4 2 ™ A K 3 © Q 4 ® K 6 2. Your partner opens one diamond, you respond one spade and he bids 1NT. What do you say?

A: To try for slam is tempting, but partner has shown a balanced hand with at most 14 points, so your combined total is no more than 31 points – too few for slam. Settle for a raise to 3NT. To bid too much with a good hand is a common fault. Even if partner has K 3, 7 6 5, A K 10 7 6, A 8 7, he would still need luck to take 12 tricks.

North dealer

N-S vulnerable

NORTH

´ K 8 3

™ 8 5 2

© A K 10 2

® A Q 5

WEST EAST

´ Q 9 6 5 ´ 10

™ J 10 9 4 ™ Q 7 6

© 9 5 3 © J 8 7 6

® 9 3 ® J 10 8 7 4

SOUTH

´ A J 7 4 2

™ A K 3

© Q 4

® K 6 2

North East South West

1 NT Pass 3 ´ Pass

4 ´ Pass 6 ´ All Pass

Opening lead – ™ J