Powerhouse hands come along infrequently, so the majority of players are relatively inexperienced at handling them. But that does not automatically entitle anyone to blame misfortune if, having been lucky enough to be dealt one, he winds up with a minus score. In some instances he may be guilty of contributory negligence, as was the case of the West player on this deal.

South made his dubious decision to "save" at five hearts look very good, thanks to some nice play and the favorable lie of the cards. He trumped the diamond in dummy, then had to decide how to enter his hand in order to take the heart finesse. Cashing the ace of clubs and then leading to his queen-10 would have been fatal. West could force declarer to ruff a second diamond in dummy and wait to trump the third round of clubs.

South avoided this pitfall by immediately leading a low club from dummy. His 10 forced West's king and, after ruffing the diamond continuation, he came to his hand with the queen of clubs and led the heart queen. West refused to cover, but the second heart lead picked up the trumps.

Now if clubs had split evenly, declarer could have discarded a spade on dummy's fourth club. But West showed out when dummy's ace was cashed, so South had to fall back on a maneuver called an obligatory finesse to avoid two spade losers. He ruffed the last club and led a low spade. West ducked (it would have done him no good to play the ace) and dummy's queen won. Spades were continued and when South played low, West's ace fell on air. Declarer lost one club and one spade trick, making his contract.

West had not erred in the play, so it seemed his only fault lay in doubling five hearts. But he was responsible for his side's debacle in another way. How? By choosing the wrong opening bid. According to the book, with a good seven-card suit you need only 21 high-card points for an opening two-bid in a suit, while an opening bid of three no trump requires 25 to 27. However, if West could rebid three no trump after the opponents had entered the bidding—and in this case he was certainly correct in doing so—then three no trump should have been his opening bid.

Had there been no intervening bid over West's opening of two diamonds, in all probability East would have responded two no trump, denoting a weak hand. East would then have become the declarer at three no trump, and an opening lead through one of West's kings—which might be disastrous on many hands—would certainly have been fatal here. After an opening heart lead, for example, the defenders could have held East to six tricks, for minus 300. If, however, West is declarer at three no trump, only the unlikely lead of the queen of spades by North, or his own careless discard of more than one of dummy's spades, could stop him from making nine tricks.

West might also have considered that the strength of his diamond suit suggested that his nonvulnerable opponents might have a good save, perhaps even a make, in any of the three other suits. His two-diamond opening made it easier for North-South to find that contract, but an opening bid of three no trump would have shut out any but the most reckless of opponents.

Why do I blame West when he followed the book to the letter? Because rules are not intended to be a substitute for thinking. When common sense dictates, they are meant to be bent a little.

ILLUSTRATION

East-West vulnerable East dealer

NORTH

[Queen of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]

WEST

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[King of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Queen of Clubs]
[10 of Clubs]
[4 of Clubs]
[10 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

EAST

[10 of Spades]
[9 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Jack of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[9 of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]

EAST

PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS
PASS

SOUTH

PASS
2 [Heart]
PASS
5 [Heart]
PASS

WEST

2 [Diamond]
3 NT
5 [Diamond]
DOUBLE

NORTH

DOUBLE
4 [Heart]
PASS
PASS

Opening lead: king of diamonds

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)