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If it's true that the longest journey begins with a single step, the road to ruin must often do so as well.

Today's declarer played dummy's jack on the first heart, taking advantage of the "free finesse" the opening lead offered. East played low, and South put his foot upon the ruinous road when he let the jack win.

South next drew trumps, unblocked the ace of hearts, took the ace-king of clubs and the king of hearts to discard two diamonds, and led a diamond toward the K-J. West put South out of his misery by showing him the A-Q of diamonds. Down one.

South misstepped by playing too hastily at Trick One: he must win the first heart with the ace, saving a late entry to dummy. South next takes the ace of clubs, ruffs a club high, returns a trump to the ace and ruffs another club.

South can then draw trumps and get back to dummy with the king of hearts to discard three diamonds on the king, jack and eight of clubs. He loses one diamond but makes the slam.

You hold: 7 6 3 Q 8 5 3 2 A Q 3 7 5. Your partner opens one diamond, you respond one heart and he then bids one spade. The opponents pass. What do you say?

A: Since partner may have as many as 18 points, a pass would be slightly timid; but you can't keep the auction alive by bidding one no trump (horrible clubs) or two hearts (weak suit). Bid two diamonds. Even if partner has only four diamonds, you'll be at a playable contract.

South dealer

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

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