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"Of course it's the same old story," Margaret Thatcher once replied to a criticism. "The truth usually is the same old story." I'm obliged to agree; that's why I pound away at old themes.

East put up the queen on the first heart, and South took the king and knew enough to play the clubs to avoid letting East in for a heart return: South led a club to the ace and returned the jack to finesse.

West took the queen and led a spade. Since South had only eight tricks, he had to finesse in diamonds next. East won and produced the dreaded heart, and down South went.

It was the same old story: South misplayed at Trick One; he must let East's queen of hearts win. West takes the next heart and forces out South's king; but South can safely finesse in diamonds since East has no more hearts.

East wins and exits with a diamond, and South wins and leads a club to the jack. Even if that finesse lost, he'd have nine tricks; but as the cards lie, he makes an overtrick.

You hold: 8 7 2 A 10 8 3 2 6 4 Q 9 8. Your partner opens one diamond, you respond one heart and he next bids two clubs. The opponents pass. What do you say?

A: Pass. A bid of two hearts would promise longer hearts. With one more diamond or with a slightly stronger hand, you might try a "false preference" of two diamonds to give partner another chance; but your actual hand is so poor you don't want him to have a third bid.

North dealer

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

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