Column 7C13 by Richard Pavlicek
The textbook requirement for a weak two-bid is a six-card suit, so it may appear that South on todays deal had trouble counting his cards. No, South was well aware that he had only five hearts. Tournaments are not won by textbooks; if you have doubts about this, kibitz a successful player sometime you might be startled.
South was an experienced bidder and his unorthodox opening was a calculated risk. Yes, it could result in disaster; but more often it would show a profit for his side. Getting in the first bid is a distinct advantage as the opponents are immediately put on the defensive.
North routinely raised to game and West led the spade king. South quickly grabbed the ace and cashed two rounds of clubs to discard a spade. Trumps were tackled by winning the king and finessing the jack oops, bad news when West showed out. A diamond was led to Easts ace, and two more rounds of spades allowed East to shed a diamond as South ruffed. Declarer could not avoid the further loss of two trump tricks for down one.
South mentally chalked up the result as unfortunate; the bad trump break clearly scuttled the contract. Not true. If South is going to bid like that, he had better improve his dummy play.
Declarers mistake came on the first trick. One spade loser could not be avoided, so he should have ducked the spade king and won the second round. The holdup play is routine at notrump but often overlooked at a suit contract as a means to break the enemy communication.
Declarer then proceeds as before: cash the clubs to discard a spade; heart king; heart finesse; diamond to East. The difference is that East cannot return a spade to his partner, so assume he returns a club (nothing matters) which South ruffs. Declarer leads diamonds until East ruffs, then the last two tricks are won with the A-10 of hearts over Easts Q-9 making four hearts.
© 1986 Richard Pavlicek