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Two-Bid or Zoo-Bid?

I was West on this deal from the final of the Life Master Pairs at the Summer Nationals in Long Beach. My son Rich opened 2 H — not exactly everyone’s idea of a weak two-bid; but with a singleton spade and favorable vulnerability at matchpoints, it’s a winning tactic. The biggest downside is having to bear the chuckles if you put down the hand as dummy.

After South’s 2 S overcall, I bid 2 NT (forcing) to try for game. Had North passed, Rich would bid 3 C (artificial) to show exactly five hearts, a pet convention of mine; then we’d probably stop in 3 H. When North’s 3 S was passed around, it seemed the opponents had overstepped their bounds so I doubled. I couldn’t be sure of setting 3 S; but at matchpoints I also couldn’t settle for a mere 100 against a partscore, and game our way had to be odds-against. Yes, I’ve seen Rich’s weak two-bids before.

3 S× by South

N-S Vul
S K Q 7 3
H J 9 8 5
D 10 5 3
C 9 8
S A 6 2
H A 3
D A K J 4 2
C 10 7 2
TableS 8
H Q 10 7 6 4
D 9 8 7 6
C A J 5
Lead: D AS J 10 9 5 4
H K 2
D Q
C K Q 6 4 3

West

2 NT
Dbl
North

3 S
All Pass
East
2 H
Pass
South
2 S
Pass

Declarer ruffed the second diamond and led a spade to the king; then a club to the king. On the surface it may seem that 3 S is makable with clubs 3-3, but this is an illusion; the lack of entries and trump control make even eight tricks difficult. Another trump lead was futile, so declarer led a club from hand; then ruffed the diamond return, and ruffed a club in dummy.

Declarer next led the H 5 and, knowing Rich could not have two aces from the bidding, ducked hoping I had a blank ace. Rich was careful to cover with the six and won the trick (imagine carelessly playing low, ouch); then a heart return went to the king and my ace. The deal was now an open book, so I cashed the S A (declarer unblocked dummy’s queen) and returned a diamond to create another trick; down two.

While declarer could never make 3 S, it would have been better to start clubs from hand; then eight tricks would come home with routine technique. I suppose it could also be argued that South’s 2 S overcall was the real culprit. But it’s a big zoo out there.

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© 2003 Richard Pavlicek