Cy the Cynic says there are some things you just shouldn't do: Never hire a color-blind electrician, never hammer nails into an explosive, and never get a tattoo from a guy named Nervous Eddie. To that I can add when you're declarer, you shouldn't play even one card until you have an idea of how you will make your contract. Your plan may be imperfect, but any plan is better than none.

Today's West, having overcalled in spades, led the queen against six diamonds. South threw a club on dummy's ace . . . and then started to think. Finally he drew trumps and led a heart to the queen, winning, and another heart. West took the jack and led another spade, and South threw another club on the king, ruffed dummy's last spade and ruffed his king of hearts in dummy.

Declarer then faced a guess for the queen of clubs. He correctly placed West with 6-3-1-3 pattern and recalled that West had bid. So South led a club to his ace and back to dummy's jack. He thought he was playing with the odds, but East produced the queen.

South could spare himself some grief if he planned at Trick One. He must play a low spade from dummy, deferring his discards, and ruff in his hand. He draws trumps and leads a heart toward the queen.

West has no winning defense. If he takes the ace, dummy plays low, and South can discard a club from dummy on the king of hearts. If instead West plays low, the queen wins, and declarer discards his last two hearts on the A-K of spades and can afford to misguess in clubs.