"I'm mailing Christmas cards," a woman told a post office clerk. "Ten stamps, please."

"What denomination?"

The woman looked harried. "Baptist, I guess."

It amuses me how players cherish bidding ideas in the same way Protestants and Catholics hold to their views. Some players would open 1NT as today's South, but to suppress the five-card major would horrify others.

In a match, one South opened 1NT, and North passed. East tried two spades, passed out. South led the ace and a low heart, but East struggled hard and took seven tricks. North-South were plus 50.

In the replay, South got to four hearts. West led the ten of spades (covered), and South ruffed the third spade and drew trumps. He led a club to his queen, cashed the ace, and ruffed a club in dummy, but next tried the ace and a low diamond. East got two diamonds, and East-West were plus 50: Their team gained 100 points.

Would you ascribe this gain to the 1NT opening? After all, the first North-South avoided a poor game and got a plus score on defense.

South's proper opening bid is a matter of belief. But the second South makes four hearts by placing East with the missing high honors and guessing his distribution. After South ruffed a club in dummy, East had room for four cards. If he saved only the K-J of diamonds, South could win a second diamond trick. If East kept one spade and K-J-7 of diamonds, South could lead dummy's last spade at Trick 10 and pitch a diamond, end-playing East.