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Trump Quality Key to Better Slam

  by Richard Pavlicek

Good bridge players strain to play in a major suit, rather than a minor suit, whenever sensible. The obvious advantage is the higher trick score which allows game to be made with a bid of four instead of five. This distinction is most pronounced at matchpoint duplicate, where scores are compared solely by placement, not by the margin of difference. It is less pronounced at other methods of scoring, such as team contests or rubber bridge.

The prejudice toward major suits often leads to disappointment on deals like today’s. Holding eight cards in both spades and clubs, the tendency is to select spades as the final contract, despite the fact that the club suit is stronger. It takes a fine partnership to ferret out the superior slam in clubs.

6 C South
None Vul
S A 9 8 7 6 3
H 2
D A Q 5
C A Q 2


1 S
2 D
3 S
5 C

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

Lead: D J
S K 2
H A 8 6 4
D K 4
C K J 10 7 6

Rick and Anita Garber of Margate conducted the auction shown in a recent team event. After three routine bids, Rick, North, used the popular “new minor forcing” convention — two diamonds was artificial and asked South to clarify her distribution. Two hearts showed a four-card suit. North then jumped to three spades (showing six cards) and South raised to game. North next made the key bid of five clubs, and South exercised good judgment to bid slam in the right suit. As in most slam decisions, the quality of trumps is the top priority.

Six clubs was a breeze. Declarer won the diamond king, club ace, heart ace, and ruffed a heart with the club queen. All of West’s trumps were drawn, then declarer settled for 12 tricks when the spade suit could not be established with one ruff. Thirteen tricks can be made by winning the diamond lead in dummy and playing to ruff two hearts, but this involves additional risk. Anita’s play was correct. Her team gained heavily when six spades was defeated at the other table.

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© 1988 Richard Pavlicek