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Grand Slam Poses Complex Play

Today’s deal, from last month’s Southeastern Regional Tournament in Bal Harbour, contains interesting features in both the bidding and play.

7 S S K 10 2
H A
D A K 10 9 6 2
C J 5 4
N-S Vul

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass


North

2 D
3 S
5 C
6 D


East

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass


South
1 S
3 C
4 NT
5 NT
7 S
S 7 5
H Q J 9
D J 8 7 5 3
C Q 10 3
Table S 9 8 6
H 10 7 6 5 4 3
D 4
C 9 8 7
Lead: H Q S A Q J 4 3
H K 8 2
D Q
C A K 6 2

North’s two-diamond response followed by a raise of opener’s spade suit showed at least 13 points according to the modern philosophy of “two-over-one game forcing.” This prompted South to launch into Blackwood — not the ordinary kind but a variation known as Roman key-card Blackwood. The king of trumps (always an important card) is counted as an ace, making a total of five key cards. The five-club reply showed 0 or 3 key cards, which South knew to be three because of the strength of North’s bidding. (Other responses: Five diamonds = 1 or 4; five hearts = 2 or 5; five spades = 2 or 5 plus the trump queen.)

South could account for all five key cards so he next bid five notrump to ask for kings. Six diamonds showed one king (not counting the spade king which was already shown). Based on this information South could count 12 tricks, and a 13th surely would be available from a ruff in dummy; hence, the jump to the grand slam.

After the heart lead, declarer considered his plan which was complicated by the blockage in the diamond suit. If a heart were ruffed in dummy, it would not be possible to cash three diamond tricks after drawing trumps due to entry problems. Therefore, the choices were among trying for a second ruff (after discarding a club on the heart king); cashing the diamonds without drawing trumps; establishing the diamond suit; and other options, which added to the complexity.

After considerable thought declarer came up with a winning line: Spade ace; diamond queen; spade king; diamond king, ruffed (bad news) and overruffed; club ace-king; heart king (throwing a club); club ruff (good news); diamond ace (throwing a heart); and South’s hand was now high.

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© 5-10-1987 Richard Pavlicek