CONCENTRATE ON WHAT REALLY MATTERS
In his introduction to “Keys to Winning Bridge” (Baron Barclay), Frank Stewart writes, “The intent of this book is to help aspiring players improve by focusing on the factors that really determine how well they do.”
He and I firmly agree that most players spend far too much time discussing bidding conventions and not nearly enough on defense and declarer-play. However, to pack in more example deals, the author leaves a fair amount of analysis to the reader.
In this example, how should the play proceed in two spades after West leads the heart ace?
Normally, West would be expected to balance over two spades. The mantra is not to let the opponents play at the two-level in a known eight-card or better fit. Here, if West had competed with three hearts, it would have been a disaster, going down 500 if doubled by South. A takeout double would have gotten East-West to three diamonds, which could have been made unless the defense started with three rounds of trumps.
Against two spades, at trick one, East would normally give an attitude signal. So, when East plays the two, a West who plays on autopilot will immediately shift to a minor, donating an extra trick in that suit to declarer and conceding the contract.
West should realize that if East started with three hearts, it cannot cost to cash the heart king at trick two. Here, East will discard the diamond four. Then, after West gives East a heart ruff, what should he do?
It looks best to play three rounds of trumps, but a diamond shift also defeats the contract.