Main     Lesson 3R by Richard Pavlicek    

Notrump Slam Bidding

This lesson pertains to two related areas: slam bidding in notrump (6 NT or 7 NT), and investigating a suit slam after your side has already bid notrump. It is essential to have a firm understanding of the available tools.

You should be familiar with the point-count requirements of 33-36 points to bid a slam (any six-bid) or 37+ points to bid a grand slam.

Quantitative Bidding

An important aspect of bidding is the quantitative nature of notrump bids once your partner has already bid notrump (as a natural bid) and no major suit is agreed. These bids are summarized below:

Quantitative Notrump Bids
2 NTInvitational to game
3 NTSign-off
4 NTInvitational to slam
5 NTForcing to slam
6 NTSign-off

The point-count system is very accurate when balanced hands are concerned. This can simplify the bidding of many strong hands:

1.
S A K 7
H K J 4
D A K 3
C A Q J 5
TableS Q J 6 3
H Q 9 3
D 10 8 2
C K 8 3

West
3 NT
North
Pass
East
6 NT
South

The bidding may not be elegant, but there is no better auction. Opener shows 25-26 HCP and responder adds his own 8 HCP to determine that 33 HCP are held. The only thing easier than the bidding is the play.

It is interesting to note that if you replace the S J with the two, reducing the total to 32 HCP, the slam then becomes inferior — you would need a 3-3 spade break which is only a 36% chance. A similar case exists if you replace the C J or the H J with a low card of the same suit.

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Natural 4 NT Bid

Many players are brainwashed by Blackwood — whenever they hear 4 NT they answer aces — because they learned bridge by copying the bad habits of others. Unfortunately, the natural (quantitative) 4 NT bid is crucial to accurate bidding. If you belong to the “Blackwood camp” I suggest you repeat 100 times:

4 NT is not always Blackwood.

Even experts do not exactly agree when 4 NT should be natural. Here is the rule I use, based on 36 years of bridge playing:

4 NT is natural if your side has made a natural notrump bid and no major suit is agreed.

Conversely, 4 NT is Blackwood if your side has never bid notrump naturally or if a major suit is agreed. Exception: An overcall of 4 NT after an enemy bid is a special case (it is for takeout).

2.
S 8 4
H K Q 5 3
D K J 6 2
C A 7 4
TableS A K Q 2
H A 2
D 8 5 3
C K Q J 3

West
1 D
1 NT
Pass
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
4 NT
South
Pass
Pass

The 1 NT rebid shows 12-14 HCP and 4 NT is invitational to slam. Opener uses good judgment to pass.

3.
S A J 2
H K Q 8 6
D K Q 4
C A K 8
TableS K Q 8 4
H 4 3
D A J 6 2
C J 10 2

West
2 NT
3 H
6 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
3 C
4 NT
South
Pass
Pass

Responder first uses Stayman to check for a spade fit, then invites slam with 4 NT. Opener, having shown 20-22 HCP, has the tiptop maximum so he accepts.

4.
S K 8 3
H A K J 9 8
D 2
C A K 9 3
TableS A 10 4
H 2
D K Q J 10 9 4
C J 5 2

West
1 H
3 C
4 NT
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
3 NT
6 D
South
Pass
Pass

Opener invites with 4 NT. Responder is low on point count but high on playing strength, so he accepts the invitation by bidding slam in his self-sufficient suit.

4 NT Discouraging

In examples 2-4 the natural 4 NT bid was made by the partner of the original notrump bidder; hence it was a slam invitation. A different meaning should be apparent from the other side of the table:

If the original notrump bidder retreats to 4 NT, it discourages slam (assuming no major raise).

5.
S K Q J 7
H K 5 2
D A Q J 7
C A 4
TableS 4
H A Q 8 4
D 8 6 2
C K J 9 7 6

West
2 NT
3 S
4 NT
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
3 C
4 C
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

Responder first uses Stayman and then bids 4 C (natural) to try for slam. Opener’s bid of 4 NT suggests minimum values and no club fit. If opener wished to encourage slam, he could bid an unbid suit (a control-bid), 5 NT (pick a slam) or 6 C.

6.
S K J 10 8
H K Q J
D A 8 7 4
C A 5
TableS 2
H A 8 4
D K 9 6 3
C K J 10 8 2

West
1 D
3 NT
4 NT
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
4 D
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

Opener’s heavy values in the major suits make slam unlikely so he discourages with 4 NT. Note the importance of being able to stop in 4 NT rather than 5 D.

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Forcing 5 NT Bid

The classic meaning of a 5 NT response to a notrump opening bid is to invite a grand slam. Opener is supposed to bid 6 NT if minimum or 7 NT if maximum. Since I can’t remember the last time I used this bid, I will not waste your time with an example. (If you get these hands a lot, I recommend you play money bridge for big bucks.)

5 NT “Pick a Slam”

A far more practical use of 5 NT occurs when both notrump and a suit have been bid:

5 NT is forcing and asks partner to pick a slam, provided your side has bid notrump, at least one real suit has been shown, and no major suit is agreed.

7.
S K 10 9 6
H A K 9 3
D A 4
C K Q J
TableS A Q J 4
H 8 2
D Q 8 6 2
C A 8 2

West
2 NT
3 H
6 S
North
Pass
Pass
East
3 C
5 NT
South
Pass
Pass

After using Stayman responder has the strength to bid 6 NT, but that would preclude playing in 6 S if opener also held four spades. The problem is neatly solved with 5 NT.

8.
S A Q J 4
H 10 2
D K Q 10 3
C Q J 10
TableS K 8 2
H A K 9 7 4
D A 8 4
C K 3

West
1 NT
2 H
6 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D*
5 NT
South
Pass
Pass
*Jacoby transfer

After transferring to his five-card major, responder next bids 5 NT (forcing) to ask opener to choose between 6 H and 6 NT. Opener lacks heart support so he bids the slam in notrump.

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The Gerber Convention

In situations where 4 NT would be natural it may be possible to ask for aces with the Gerber 4 C bid. The following rule dictates when 4 C is Gerber.

If partner has bid notrump as a natural bid, a jump bid of 4 C is Gerber to ask for aces.

Important: The Gerber bid must be a jump. Hence, on some auctions there is no ace-asking bid available.

The responses to Gerber are by steps, as in regular Blackwood:

Responses to Gerber
0 or 4 aces4 D
1 ace4 H
2 aces4 S
3 aces4 NT

9.
S 4
H K 7 4
D A K J 9 8 6 4
C K 2
TableS K Q 8
H Q J 9
D 10 5 2
C A Q 9 3

West
1 D
4 C
4 NT
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 NT
4 H
Pass
South
Pass
Pass

Opener asks for aces with 4 C and discovers that two are missing. Opener could sign off in 5 D but prefers to play 4 NT to try for a better score at matchpoints.

10.
S A K 8
H Q J 6 5
D A 2
C Q 7 6 2
TableS 4
H A K 9 4
D K J 8 5 4 3
C K 3

West
1 NT
2 H
4 S
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 C
4 C
6 H
South
Pass
Pass

After finding the heart fit with Stayman, responder has enough distributional points to warrant a slam bid; but it is possible that two aces are missing so he uses Gerber to check for aces.

Gerber in Action:

West
1 NT
5 C?
6 C?
7 C?
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
4 C
5 H
6 H
Pass*
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
*resigned, not wanting to play eight clubs

Sorry, dear… you bid clubs first.
Geez!

11.
S A K 8 4 3
H A J 5
D J 3
C A J 10
TableS
H 4 3 2
D A Q 10 6 5
C K Q 9 5 4

West
1 S
3 NT
4 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
4 C
6 C
South
Pass
Pass

Not Gerber. Since 4 C is not a jump, it is a natural bid (forcing). Opener’s 4 H is a control-bid showing the H A, so responder is encouraged to bid the slam.

Asking for Kings

If the Gerber bidder continues to 5 C at his next turn, it guarantees that all the aces are held and that a grand slam is possible. This asks for kings in the same manner that 4 C asked for aces, except the bidding is one level higher. (Note that 4 NT by Gerber bidder is always a sign-off in notrump.)

Over 5 C the Gerber responder is allowed to bid a grand slam directly with an exceptional hand instead of answering how many kings.

12.
S A J 9 7
H A J 8
D K 3
C A J 8 7
TableS K
H K 7
D A Q 8 6 5 4 2
C K 6 2

West
1 C
2 NT
4 NT
5 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 D
4 C
5 C
7 NT
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

Responder’s 4 C bid is Gerber. Opener shows the three missing aces, so responder asks for kings with 5 C. The 5 H response shows one king. Responder now can count 13 tricks barring a 4-0 diamond break.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek