Main     Lesson 3S by Richard Pavlicek    

Slam Bidding Judgment

Slam bidding is typically the weakest area of bidding for most players — not because of a lack of fancy conventions, but because of undeveloped judgment. You don’t need complicated conventions. What you need is to learn to evaluate hands better, and to be aware of the slam tools available in standard bidding.

This lesson explains the concept of “duplication” which allows you to diagnose the degree of fit with partner and consequently make better slam decisions. On Page 2 is an explanation of a helpful slam tool: bidding five in a major suit.

Duplication

Duplication is the presence of overlapping partnership values in the same suit. Duplication occurs in two basic forms:

The king, queen or jack (or any combination thereof) opposite shortness
Shortness opposite shortness

For example, if you count 3 points for the king and partner counts 3 points (as dummy) for a singleton in the same suit, the combined value is not worth 6 points — in fact it is closer to 3 points because one of the values is usually worthless.

Similarly, if you and partner are both short in the same suit, the real value is much less than the combined point total because you may not be able to ruff anything.

Fit evaluation

The general requirement for a suit slam (six of a suit) is 33 total points, which includes distributional points. This is approximate. The true requirement may be anywhere from 30 to 36 points depending on the amount of duplication.

To increase bidding accuracy, I recommend the following method of evaluation for suit slams:

If you find there is no duplication, the requirement for slam is only 30 points.
If duplication exists, still use 30 points as your goal, but do not count wasted honors or wasted shortness in the duplicated suit.
If you cannot determine whether duplication exists, figure on 33 points. This allows for an average amount of duplication.

Locating duplication

Every bid you and partner make conveys information, and this will often disclose the presence or lack of duplication. Always ask yourself, “What is partner’s most likely hand pattern? Which suit will he be short in?” Even if you cannot be sure, an intelligent guess is usually good enough.

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

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

West indicates short clubs by bidding the other three suits, so East does not count the C K-Q and settles for game.

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

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

Now East expects no duplication (note the perfect club holding) so his 16 points plus West’s likely 14+ should make slam.

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Understanding Duplication
Yup, I think I see it now.

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

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

West has shown extreme length in the majors so East’s secondary values in the minors are likely to be worthless.

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

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

Now every card in East’s hand is golden. He has 14 points and it is reasonable to assume West’s hand will revalue to at least 16 points. The stab at slam is justified.

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

West

Dbl
North
3 H
East
Dbl
South
5 H
None Vul

West must decide whether to bid a slam or double for penalty. The key consideration is that East is likely to be short in the same suit (hearts) so West takes his profit.

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

West

6 C
North
3 H
East
Dbl
South
5 H
None Vul

Now West can see that the partnership’s shortness will be in different suits so he takes the aggressive option to bid a slam.

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Bidding Five in a Major

For many players, slam bidding success is pitiful because they only know one way to bid: Blackwood. Good players, however, are aware of the other options and know when to apply them.

One of these lesser known slam bidding tools is the bid of five in a major suit. Remember this the next time you want to bid 4 NT.

The most important slam bidding tool is the control-bid, which is covered in my Lesson 3M (Suit Slam Bidding).

Basic meaning

Bidding five in a major suit as a voluntary action (not competitive) is a slam invitation. In the old days this was just a general slam try, but modern methods give it a specific meaning, according to the auction.

If your side has bid all but one suit, it asks for control in the unbid suit.

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

West
1 H
3 H
4 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
4 C
5 H
South
Pass
Pass

Responder goes out of his way to bid clubs so the unbid suit is diamonds, then 5 H delivers the perfect message. Lacking diamond control, opener should pass.

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

West
1 C
3 S
5 S
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
1 S
4 D
6 S
South
Pass
Pass

After responder makes a slam try with 4 D, opener jumps to 5 S to show a fine hand without heart control. Responder’s singleton heart is the key to the slam.

If the enemy has bid, it asks for control in the enemy suit.

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

West
1 H
6 H
North
3 D
East
5 H
South
Pass

The main concern for slam is the danger of two diamond losers (the chance of being off two aces is negligible in comparison). Opener bids the slam with a singleton.

Alternative follow-ups

After the bid of five in a major, partner will usually pass or bid six; but there are other options.

Holding the guarded king in the concerned suit, you should bid 5 NT to suggest 6 NT.

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

West
1 S
5 S
6 NT
North
Pass
Pass
East
3 S
5 NT
South
4 C
Pass

Opener asks for club control, and responder shows at least K-x. Opener then is happy to be the dummy in 6 NT. Note how foolish it would be to play in 6 S.

With first-round control in the concerned suit, you may make a control-bid as a grand-slam try.

11.
S A Q 8 2
H A K J 5 4 3
D 4 3
C K
TableS K 3
H Q 9 7 2
D A 5 2
C A 8 4 3

West
1 H
3 S
5 H
7 H
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
3 H
4 C
5 S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass

By bidding 5 S, responder guarantees two things: first-round diamond control and second-round spade control, which is just what opener needs to bid seven.

Asking about trumps

In the preceding cases there was exactly one unbid suit, or an enemy suit, of concern. In other situations, bidding five in a major (voluntarily) is still a slam try, but it asks about the trump suit.

If a single suit cannot be pinpointed, it asks for good trumps relative to the previous bidding.

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

West
1 D
3 H
North
Pass
Pass
East
1 H
5 H
South
Pass

After the jump raise, responder bids 5 H to indicate that trump quality is his main concern, and opener should pass with such mediocre support.

13.
S K Q J 9 8 7 6
H 5 4
D 6 5 4
C 3
TableS 2
H A 10 3 2
D A K 3 2
C A K Q 2

West
3 S
6 S
North
Pass
East
5 S
South
Pass
Both Vul

Responder has enough side tricks to bid a slam, but the danger is that two trump tricks may be lost. With a broken suit (e.g., K-J-10-x-x-x-x) opener should pass.

Exception

If your side has made a weak bid and either opponent has acted, bidding five in a major is not a slam try. It is an obstructive bid.

14.
S 3
H 10 9 8 5
D A 7 2
C K 9 7 5 2
TableS J 4 2
H A Q J 7 6 4 2
D 4 3
C 3

West

5 H
North
1 D
Pass
East
3 H
Pass
South
Pass
Both Vul

Because of the enemy bid, the raise to 5 H is not a slam try but an attempt to shutout the opponents. Note that they can make at least 4 S, probably more.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek