See if you can determine what went wrong and how to fix the problem in the hand pictured below. Playing at the Island Bridge Club on June 30, South was dealing, with no one vulnerable, on Board 30:

NORTH
♠ A Q 3 2
♥ K 10 8 3
♦ K 6
♣ A K 7

WEST                     EAST
♠ 7 6 4                    ♠ J 10 9
♥ 6 2                      ♥ 9 4
♦ Q J 10 7 4 3        ♦ A 8 2
♣ 10 5                   ♣ J 9 6 4 3

SOUTH
♠ K 8 5
♥ A Q J 7 5
♦ 9 5
♣ Q 8 2

The bidding proceeded as follows:

South         West         North         East
1♥              Pass         2NT•          Pass
4♥••           Pass         4NT•••        Pass
5♣ ••••       Pass         6 ♥              All Pass

• 4+ hearts, opening or better dummy points

•• Minimum opener

••• Roman Key Card Blackwood

•••• Showing 1 or 4 of the 5 key cards (four aces, ♥K)

Five of the nine declarers went down one, three others made bids short of slam, and the ninth bid and made an improbable 6♠ . Can you see any way around down one when a 6 ♥ contract looks inevitable?

When North learns South has only one ace, probably in hearts, trouble looms if there’s a diamond lead. Accordingly, North should bid 6NT to protect his ♦K at least temporarily by giving East the lead.

What is East likely to lead? An innocent might play the ♦ A, after which North can claim 12 winners with five hearts, three spades, three clubs and one diamond. It’s better to make a safe lead like the ♠ J.

No matter what East leads, North-South will make 6NT. Granted, spades have to break 3-3, but at least North gives the slam a chance. If spades don’t break, there’s always a lead to the ♦ K, hoping the ace is held by West, as a fallback.

Sitting South and dealing, with both sides vulnerable, you hold:

♥ K
♦ A K Q 10 8 5 3 2
♣ J 8
♠ J 8

The bidding has proceeded as follows:

South         West         North           East
1♦              Pass          1NT             Pass
?

What do you bid?

Go right to 4♥ . It doesn’t matter if partner is void in hearts, since you have a self-sustaining suit. With partner holding enough strength to respond 1NT, there’s a reasonable chance North will eat up two of your five losers. If you had seven hearts, it would have been better to rebid 3 ♥.