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Here's a bidding tip: When you have three low cards in a suit partner bids, avoid pushing past game; one or more losers in a key suit are all too likely.

Today's South should have stopped at four hearts because of his three weak spades; unless North had all three top honors, at least one loser was possible and maybe certain. Sure enough, six hearts was a terrible contract.

South took the king of diamonds and the king of clubs, led a trump to his hand, cashed his side aces, ruffed a diamond, got back with a trump, and led a spade. West carelessly played low, and South put up the king and led a second spade. West had to win and lead a minor suit, and South threw his last spade as dummy ruffed. Making six!

Since the defense clearly needs two spade tricks, West must take the first spade and lead his other spade.

South has a better chance if he leads a spade at Trick Two; but West should still win.

You hold: 9 6 4 K Q J 9 7 A K 3 A J. Dealer, at your right, opens one club, and you double. Your partner responds one diamond. The opponents pass. What do you say?

A: Bid one heart. When you double before bidding your long suit, you promise at least 17 points. If partner has any strength, he'll bid again; if he has little or no strength, you'll be high enough at the level of one.

South dealer

East-West vulnerable
K 8 5 3 2
A 8 5 3 2
8 6
A 7
Q J 9 5 2
9 8 7 6 3
Q J 10
10 6
10 7 4
Q 10 5 4 2
9 6 4
K Q J 9 7
A K 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2 NT Pass 4 Pass
5 Pass 6 All Pass
Opening lead -- Q

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