Cy the Cynic had suffered through another losing session in his penny Chicago game. As so often happens, Ed, the club expert, had come out the big winner.

"The man beats me up," Cy said. "He beats me down and he beats me into the ground. He beats me coming and going. He beats me like a rug, a drum and an egg. He beats me like he's a beating machine."

"I sense that you're not having too much luck playing against Ed," I said.

In today's deal, Cy had become declarer at a routine contract of 3NT, and Ed, West, led the five of spades. Cy played low from dummy hopefully, but East put up the jack. Cy played low and won the spade return with dummy's king. He next led a diamond to his queen, and Ed . . . followed low without so much as a flicker.

"When I led a second diamond, Ed played the jack," the Cynic told me. "I played low from dummy, of course. If 'East's' ace fell, I would make an overtrick. But East played the 10, and Ed then led a third spade to my ace."

Cy thought he was safe for at least nine tricks, but when he led a third diamond, Ed produced the ace - much to Cy's amazement - and then two good spades for down one.

"He defends to beat the devil," Cy grumbled.

Ed defended well by clinging to his entry. Cy would make 3NT if Ed won the first diamond. After Cy won the spade return with the ace, he could lead a diamond to dummy's nine, passing his second diamond loser to East, who had no more spades. (If East did have a fourth spade, Cy would lose only two spades and two diamonds.)