When todays deal occurred in a Swiss team match, both teams reached the routine four-heart contract and went down one when West ruffed the second spade lead. Three notrump is a better contract; but that is difficult to reach with a nine-card major-suit fit because the suit contract is usually superior. The actual bidding was sound and cannot be criticized.
Easts opening bid was a weak two-bid, showing about 6 to 11 HCP and a six-card suit. (In this popular method all strong hands are opened two clubs, which is artificial and forcing.) South overcalled in his long heart suit and North had ample values to raise to game. North thought about bidding three notrump, but J-x-x-x was a tenuous stopper.
The play was identical at both tables. The spade 10 was led to the ace, the return was ruffed, then West shifted to the club queen. The defenders eventually won the ace and king of diamonds to defeat the contract. The play seems cut and dried declarer could do nothing to avoid losing two spades and two diamonds.
Wrong. Declarer might have succeeded if he had made a clever play at trick one. The lie of the spade suit should be obvious from the bidding (the 10 had to be a singleton), so the only hope was to paint a different picture for East. Under the spade ace South should drop the king. The advantage of this is not immediately clear, but it should give declarer some time to maneuver. Indeed it should!
As East would you not assume that partner had led from 10-9 doubleton? In that case leading another spade would allow declarer to obtain a discard on dummys jack. Undoubtedly, East would shift suits probably to the club 10. South then wins the club king and draws three rounds of trumps ending in dummy. A low spade is led and
what would you do as East? Of course you would duck, and South wins the nine.
© 1986 Richard Pavlicek