My friends Richard and Mary Oshlag, who proofread my columns, tell this story. One December more than 30 years ago, Richard and Mary, who was pregnant at the time, drove from their home in Memphis to a tournament in Jackson, Miss. Richard forgot to make a hotel reservation, and two conventions had booked every room in town. In a panic, he called the only local bridge player he knew, a fellow named Jay McKee.

McKee listened carefully. "Let me get this straight," he said. "It's Christmas, your wife's name is Mary, she's pregnant, you're Jewish and there's no room at the inn? You're staying at my house."

Today's South bid too boldly; he had no reason to think North would have enough values to make six diamonds a good spot. West led a spade, and East took the ace and shifted to a heart: ten, jack, ace. The slam appeared to need a miracle. South had to bring in both the trumps and the clubs.

South figured he had to find East with the king of clubs. But East had opened with a weak two-bid and held the ace of spades and, judging from West's lead, the queen also. So South couldn't give East the king of diamonds.

At Trick Three, South led a diamond to his ace. When the king fell, South led his eight of trumps to dummy's jack and returned the queen of clubs: king, ace, deuce. He took the jack of clubs, ruffed a club high, and got to dummy by leading his three of trumps to the four to discard his heart losers on good clubs.

When you need a miracle, make assumptions about the way the cards must lie.