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Medieval alchemists wrote about the fabulous Philosopher's Stone, which would transmute into gold anything it touched. (We wonder: How could anyone use it without becoming a golden statue?) South's best chance at today's slam was to turn dummy's meager clubs to gold.

South took the ace of clubs, drew trumps, and led a spade to the queen. East won and returned a spade, and South then ran the trumps. At the end he cashed the ace of diamonds and finessed with the jack; but East had kept his diamonds, and South couldn't get a 12th trick.

South has a better play, but must realize the power of dummy's club honors. After South wins the first trick, he takes the top diamonds and a diamond ruff. When the queen falls, South needs no finesse in spades. He draws trumps and returns the jack of clubs from dummy to discard a spade.

West leads a spade next, but South puts up the ace and throws his last two spades on the jack of diamonds and the 10 of clubs.

You hold: A Q 4 Q 10 9 K J 8 3 J 10 3. Dealer, at your right, opens one spade. What do you say?

A: You'd have opened the bidding; but when your opponent opens in front of you it's more dangerous since the next player may have the balance of the missing strength, and it's less rewarding since your chances for game have declined. Pass and hope for a plus on defense.

South dealer

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

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