"I think Christmas is getting too commercialized," Unlucky Louie remarked in the club lounge.

"There are rumors to that effect," I sighed.

Louie told me he had been at a department store with his youngest daughter, standing in line to see Santa Claus. The little boy in front of them had received a candy cane from Santa.

"What do you say?" the boy's mother urged.

"You know what the kid said?" Louie told me. " 'Charge it.' "

Giving Christmas gifts is a lovely gesture, but while some gifts can be treasured, others must be exchanged. In today's deal, West led the queen of trumps against four spades, and South took the ace and led a heart. West played low, and dummy's king won.

"Thanks for the gift," South said, gratified to have escaped a heart loser.

South then took the ace of diamonds and tried a crossruff: diamond ruff, heart ruff, diamond ruff, heart ruff. When he led a fourth diamond, West ruffed in with his eight of trumps and led the jack. South's king won, but the ace of clubs won his last trick: down one.

South needed to exchange his "gift." After dummy's king of hearts wins, South should reciprocate by leading the queen and pitching a loser, letting West take the ace but setting up winners in dummy. If West leads the jack of trumps next, declarer wins, takes the ace of diamonds, ruffs a diamond. comes to the ace of clubs and ruffs a diamond. He can then discard his remaining losers on the hearts, losing two trumps and a heart.