How weak can a Weak 2 be?

My colleague, friend and partner John Walston and I did pretty well in the Wednesday night pairs game at the Bridge Studio of Delaware this week (John subbed for my usual partner Arthur Zadrozny, who was having shoulder surgery to recover his powerful tennis serve).

Going into the last round, we were hovering around 60%, less than a point behind the eventual winning pair on the East-West side of Christine Matus and Pat Loeffelholz and within striking distance. Then we had a bad last round against the Everitts, Bill and Carole, and any hope of capturing first place went by the wayside, giving Chris and Pat an opportunity to rub it in, which they did not waste. Chris and Pat wound up first with a 60.5% game good for 1.22 MasterPoints and we had to settle for second with 56.5% and .92 MPs . (Overall winners were Herb and Kathy Chalek from the North-South side with a 69.5% game).

Even though Chris and Pat did exactly the same thing so we both tied for tops on the board, there was one hand we were particularly proud of, as it fits with the “bridge burglar” theme of stealing contracts. It came up in our first round against Jane Malloy, who was playing with Karen Pollak because her usual Wednesday night partner, Steve Blomstedt, was moving.

With only four high-card points, I put my partner John in a 3 Diamonds contract, which, according to the Deep Finesse analysis distributed later in the hand records, he should not have been able to make. He should have been Down One, but he made it for a positive 110-point score. Not only that, but we kept our opponents out of a makeable vulnerable 4 Spades Game that would have netted them 620 points, so we got a swing in our favor of 730 points.

The hand is worth a column because it highlights the debate about when you should open with a weak two-bid or when you should pass. If Jane had opened 2 Spades on her five-point hand, her partner would have raised her to Game in Spades at the first opportunity. But she didn’t. She passed, and that let the Game opportunity slip away from them.

Jane will assume the role of my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, with the East cards and her partner Pat Pollak will become Flo’s partner, Loyal Larry. I’ll be smug Sam with the North hand who raises the bid on just four points, and John will become Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, who gets to play the hand. We really played the hand as an East-West pair, but to make play easier to follow, I’ll turn the board around and my partner and I will become North-South. We’ll call the column: “How weak can a weak 2 be?”

The hand

North Dealer; East-West vulnerable

9 5 2
10 8 7 6 2
A 3 2
8 2
West East
A 3 K J 8 7 6 4
A K 9 4 3 J 5
5 4 10 7
A J 10 3 9 6 4
Q 10
K Q J 9 8 6
K Q 7 5

The bidding

North East South West
Pass Pass 1 1
Pass Pass 2 Pass
Pass 2 Pass Pass
3 All pass

Opening lead: Ace of Spades

How Flustered Flo played it

Flustered Flo had always been taught that you need two of the top three honors in your six-card suit and at least six high-card points to open the auction with a Weak Two bid. Since she had neither on the diagrammed deal, she decided to pass with the East hand in a recent duplicate game at her club.

Unfortunately for her, that passive action came against her nemesis Smug Sam, who sat North, and who took advantage of the opportunity handed to him by Flo to make a bid on an even weaker hand, with just four high-card points, and thus steal the contract away from Flo and her West partner, Loyal Larry.

After passing twice, Sam was not going to let Flo and Larry have the bid in two of a major suit, so he raised his partner’s Diamonds to the three level, making his South partner Shy Shem play the hand.

Larry dutifully led high-low from his doubleton In Spades, Flo’s suit, to take the first two tricks for the opposition. Flo returned a third Spade, only to see Shem ruff with the Jack and take the trick. Sam then led the Club King to Larry’s Ace, after which Larry collected his Heart Ace to drop Shem’s Queen.

Larry then shifted to a low Heart, but Shem ruffed Flo’s Jack, cashed the Club Queen, ruffed a Club, got back to his hand by ruffing a Heart, ruffed another Club with dummy’s Ace and claimed the rest of the tricks.

Sam was very pleased with himself for having made a 110-point positive score with the 3 Diamonds contract bid on his measly 4 points and smugly noted that he had his partner actually had the minority of points – 19 to 21 for the opponents.

“But there was nothing we could have done to stop you,” said Flo, rather defensively.

“Sure there was,” replied Sam. “You could have put us Down One. We should not have been able to make that.”

“How can we stop you?” Flo asked.

“By leading a trump,” Sam replied. “You should have sensed that with both of you guys bidding long suits in the majors, your opponents were very likely to be short in the same places and would want to use all available trump. So you start taking our trumps away. Then I can’t ruff two Club losers in the dummy and I go Down.”

“That’s a tough lead to find,” Flo said, sounding defensive once more.

“But that’s not even your worst mistake,” Sam said, never hesitant to pile it on. “You guys missed a vulnerable Game in 4 Spades. All you lose is two Diamond tricks and a Club – the rest is easy.”

“But how can we possibly get there with all your interference?” Flo asked.

“You’ve got to open 2 Spades with your six-card suit,” Sam explained. “Then, even after my partner interferes with 3 Diamonds, your partner will raise you to 4 Spades immediately with a good opening hand, and we can’t bid anything else after that.”

“But I thought the rule was that you need six points for a Weak Two opening and two out of the three top honors in the suit,” Flo argued. “I didn’t have either.”

“You keep following your so-called rules, Flo,” Sam replied with a big grin, “and I’ll keep stealing contracts away from you. My only rule is to ignore all those rules, and pre-empt whenever I can. I like my rules better than yours.”

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