Cy the Cynic, who distrusts marriage even more than most institutions, says that courtship has a lot in common with playing chess: One wrong move, and you may find yourself mated.

Most people don't get married on their first date, but when you're declarer, you may get checkmated on the first trick if you neglect to plan your play with care.

When I watched today's deal in a penny game at my club, Cy became declarer at four spades and proved yet again that he isn't the greatest at planning. When West led a trump, Cy won, took the ace of clubs and led a second club, pursuing a club ruff in dummy.

It was an imperfect plan. West won with the queen and led a second trump, and the Cynic won and conceded another club. West won with the nine and led a third trump, leaving dummy with none, and Cy was checkmated. His last club was a loser, and he also lost a diamond. Down one.

"We should have been at 3NT," Cy reproached himself. "If I bid three clubs over your raise to two spades, you can bid three diamonds next, and I'll try 3NT. We would have nine top tricks."

True, perhaps, but Cy could also make four spades by reversing the dummy. He wins the first trump with the ace, takes the A-K of hearts, leads a diamond to the ace and ruffs a heart with a high trump. Cy then concedes a diamond.

If West wins and leads a second trump, Cy wins in dummy, ruffs a diamond high, goes to the ace of clubs and ruffs a diamond high. He has won nine tricks, and dummy still has a high trump to fulfill the game contract.