My readers probably have gathered a distinct impression over the years that I am less than enthusiastic about gadget bids. Every so often a gadget will score a spectacular success and win a flock of followers. Take, for instance, the two-diamond bid to announce a three-suiter. Several of our pairs in the last Olympiad incorporated this new wonder bid into their arsenal. When the Olympiad had ended, Coach Edgar Kaplan, who kept tally of the results, reported that the three-suited two-diamond opening had achieved five major disasters costing between 50 and 60 points. "However," he pointed out somewhat ruefully, "this was not entirely a net loss. Our opponents using the same convention achieved three major disasters of their own, so we got half the points back."
The machinery of the two-diamond bid sounds simple. The bid announces a three-suit hand, either 5-4-4-0 or 4-4-4-1. On his second turn, opener bids his short suit, and now all his partner must do is take his choice of the other three. Thus, in theory anyway, the partnership should reach the best trump suit and best contract.
Advocates of the two-bid showing a three-suiter point to a further advantage the system gives them. If the opponents overcall the two-bid and partner doubles, it is not necessary for the opener to yank the double merely because he himself is short in that suit. His opening bid has already advertised that fact, so presumably his partner is prepared to find him with a void. However, such a detailed description of the distribution can also help the opponents. At left is a historic hand that illustrates the case. It was played in the European Championships in Amsterdam in 1955 during a match between Norway and Italy.
It does not really matter that Mario Franco (East) and Michele Giovine (West) of Italy were using a two-club bid instead of two diamonds to show a three-suiter; the theory is the same. West's double of the three-club over-call clearly warned the opener that not one of his three suits would find support from West—a triumph for bidding clarity marred only by the net result.
Dummy won the diamond opening and led the king of spades. East took the ace and attempted to cash the king of hearts. South ruffed, cashed the spade queen, trumped a spade in dummy and ruffed a second heart in his hand. With five tricks in the bank, declarer needed only four more for his contract. He led to dummy's high diamond, returned a third heart and, of course, he discarded. West had come up with three spades, two hearts and two diamonds, and East had to have the rest of the cards in these three suits for his opening bid.
With nothing left but trumps, West had to ruff and twice pitch into South's major tenace in clubs. Three clubs doubled and made: 470 plus for Norway.
In the other room the Norwegian East-West pair had no three-suit bid to rely on. East opened with one heart, and South bid one no trump—which in the Italian system designated a shaded takeout double showing support for the other three suits and about 9 to 10 points, not vulnerable. North's hand was good enough to propose a no-trump game with a response of two hearts, but South retired to three clubs, and West liked this too well to double. With no blueprint of the distribution to guide him, South made only seven tricks for a loss of 100 points and a net deficit of 570 for both Italian bidding gadgets that showed their three-suitedness so beautifully.