Column 7C31 by Richard Pavlicek
Todays deal occurred in a side event at the North American Championships held last December in Atlanta. Easts two diamonds was a weak two-bid not a textbook example, though the kind of hand with which we all like to bid. The presence of a four-card major should deter one from making a weak two-bid in first or second position; but once partner is a passed hand, the anything goes approach is effective. South overcalled in his long spade suit, West and North raised their partners, and South ventured to game with his excellent distribution.
The defense began with the diamond jack which held, then a another diamond to force South to ruff. Declarer led a low heart to the eight and nine, and East correctly returned a trump which South won with the ace. The goal of a defender is to counter declarers plan (apparently to ruff hearts in dummy) so this was sound defense. Declarer cashed the heart ace, ruffed a heart and returned to his hand with a diamond ruff.
When Souths last heart was led, West pounced on the trick with his spade queen after all, the queen was destined to fall under the king anyway. I suspect that most defenders and readers (come on; be honest) would do the same. West of course did make an extra spade trick; but he was forced to give the trick right back by leading a club (thats all he had left) which rode to Souths queen. This tit-for-tat exchange left declarer with the upper hand making four spades.
Lets back up a few tricks. Instead of ruffing the fourth round of hearts, West should discard a club and let declarer ruff with dummys last trump. Declarers only chance is to continue with ace and another club; but East ruffs the second club and returns a diamond which allows West to score his spade queen after all. So patience earns another reward, and the contract is defeated.
Defensive tip: Before you ruff, think about what you will lead next.
© 1987 Richard Pavlicek