Main     Ask Richard 9R04 by Richard Pavlicek    

Slam Bidding

This page contains selected queries to “Ask Richard” about slam bidding, although discussion sometimes includes other topics. Presentation is reverse-chronological (most recent first). Queries and followups appear in this color, and Richard’s replies are in black. Names, greetings and personal messages have been removed to respect privacy and focus on bridge.

Too many waiting bidsOctober 19, 2012 (9S72)

West

Pass
Pass
AP
North
1 S
2 H
3 S
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 C
3 D
6 NT
IMPs
E-W Vul
S K Q 5 4 2
H A Q 8 6
D 9 3
C Q 5
 
 
 
 
Table



6 NT South
S A
H K J
D A K 7 2
C A K 10 7 6 4

Suggestions welcome; 7 NT anyone? I think North’s 3 S waiting bid is OK.

I disagree on 3 S. For me, 4 C is routine, as fourth suit after 2-over-1 implies 6+ cards in responder’s first suit (especially if 2 C then 3 C is NF as I play) usually with serious ambitions. See Pavlicek System.

No worry about passing 3 NT, as South could bid 2 NT (forcing) with a diamond stopper; so if that’s what he’s looking for we don’t have it. Three spades should show a meaty suit (at least K-Q-10-x-x). Opener’s bids should be descriptive; it doesn’t make much sense to follow a waiting bid (3 D) with another waiting bid.

Over 4 C South should bid 4 NT (BW) and eventually 7 NT after locating the C Q.

A tangled webOctober 6, 2012 (9S67)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
North

1 S
3 D
4 C
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 C
2 S
3 H
4 S
IMPs
None Vul
S A K J 10 4 2
H 4 2
D K Q 9 5 4
C
 
 
 
 
Table


4 S North
made 6 +480
S Q 8 6 3
H A K 8 7
D 8
C K J 9 3

I elected to bid only 2 S rather than 3 (close). Over partner’s 3 D (help suit) I wanted to bid 4 H, but that’s a splinter. I was too good just to jump to 4 S, so I came up with 3 H, which partner correctly interpreted as too good to sign off at 3 S, and maybe he can bid game knowing I have something in hearts. I now interpreted 4 C (4 D would show first-round control) to show worry whether my raise was based on 3 or 4-card support; so rather then continue with 4 H and risk hearing 5 C, I clarified by bidding 4 S. Partner would have interpreted 4 H as a mandatory response showing the H A, thus I denied that holding. Insights, please.

I would have bid 3 S, but I know many experts would go with 2 S, so the auction was fine through 3 H. Over 4 C you should bid 4 H, as there is no option but to play in spades. If North wanted to suggest clubs as an alternate contract, he should bid 3 C (forcing) over 2 S; i.e., once he bids 3 D, spades are it (except perhaps notrump). Over 4 H, North would have no concern about hearts and bid the slam.

I don’t care for North’s 4 C (I would bid 4 D) as I play that a control bid in partner’s suit shows the ace or king (never a void) but this is a matter of partnership style or agreement.

Quite right; 4 H is correct since 3 D eliminated the possibility of playing in clubs. I also wish partner had bid 4 D since that would be an unambiguous slam try, whereas 4 C to me was ambiguous (though it shouldn’t have been).

For slam to be good I need the H A plus a minor-suit ace (discoverable via RKCB) or H A-K, which is not such a good shot within the context of the total bidding thus far.

So how does partner proceed after the 4 H cue?

Had I bid 4 D, I would cue 5 C (hoping for 5 D) then 6 C (hoping for 6 H) to reach seven opp. S Q-x-x-x H A-K-x D A-x C x-x-x-x, but I’d never stop below slam after hearing 4 H.

And is a cue mandatory below the level of game? If it is, no upwards inference attaches to that bid.

Not in my view, but it’s subject to partnership philosophy. My feeling is that “extras” are not required, only that I don’t dislike my hand.

Obviously all of this would not arise had I jump raised to 3 S initially. But until a secondary fit is disclosed, I still prefer to bid this hand as a maximum-minimum rather then the other way around.

Reminiscent of the old days… Edgar Kaplan was well aware of my “other way around” style and would often jest with remarks like, “You know, Richard, the laws do allow you to have a maximum once in a while.”

Mysterious searchSeptember 9, 2012 (9S62)

West

3 D2
4 S
5 C4
 ?
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
East
2 C1
3 S
4 NT3
5 H5
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Matchpoints
E-W Vul
 North
 
 
 
S 10 7 6
H 5 3
D A 10 9
C Q J 10 9 4
Table
1. 4 losers or less, GF, asks for aces
2. diamond ace 3. asks for kings
4. no king 5. 1st or 2nd round heart control

What is East searching for, and what should West bid now?

While I’ve never played this method, it seems inconceivable that East is looking for a singleton heart or club. If West had that (along with 3+ trumps) he shouldn’t just raise to 4 S (I would jump to 5 C or 5 H as a splinter). Therefore, West’s doubleton heart may be the key to slam, and/or his clubs may come into the picture, so I would bid 6 S. East might have S A-K-Q-J-x-x H A-x-x-x D K-x C A, which is an excellent slam.

Minorwood voidJuly 28, 2012 (9S58)

West
1 S
2 H
4 D
5 C
7 D
North
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
East
2 D
3 C
4 NT
5 S
South
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
IMPs
E-W Vul
S J 8 5 2
H 9 4 2
D 4 2
C Q J 6 4
S A Q 10 9 7 6
H A K J 8
D Q 9 5
C
TableS K
H Q 7
D A K J 8 7 6
C 9 8 7 5


7 D East
made 7 -2140
S 4 3
H 10 6 5 3
D 10 3
C A K 10 3 2

This hand was reported in a quiz. The author explains: “West opens 1 S and rebids 2 H over the 2 D response. East tries a FSF 3 C, and West jumps to 4 D (RKC) and hears a 4 NT (two without) response; now 5 C shows one key card missing. East knows that West is short in clubs (he’s shown at least 5=4=3) so bids 5 S to show the king, hoping West will have a club void and be able to bid seven. Bingo.” Could this be duplicated by expert pair?

Who needs a pair? I copied it here by myself! Seriously, I am unfamiliar with continuations after “minorwood” because I don’t play it, so 5 C meaning “one key card missing” is alien to me. I would assume 5 C confirmed the void, though asking for key cards when holding a void is dubious to begin with.

Normally, key-card asker will not have a void. If responder (to the ask) has a void, there are various methods of optionally showing it. If 4 NT is the asking bid, one scheme if the void would be known is to bid 5 NT with one key card; 6 C with two, etc. If the void would not be known, some experts bid 5 NT with an odd number of key cards, and 6 of the void suit (or trumps) with an even number.

TopMain

Serious issuesJune 13, 2012 (9S38)

West

Pass
Pass
North

2 C
2 S
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 S
2 H
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
S 10 7 5
H A
D A 7 4 3
C A J 8 4 2
S Q 9 4
H K Q 3
D Q J 6 2
C Q 7 6
TableS 8 2
H 10 8 7 5
D K 9 5
C 10 9 5 3
S A K J 6 3
H J 9 6 4 2
D 10 8
C K

Would 3 H show 5-5 shape or be a cue-bid? Do you recommend patterning out as opener? And if so, what if the suit is lousy? We play “serious 3 NT” and non-serious cue-bids; so if South patterns out, North would bid 3 NT with slam interest or cue-bid as a courtesy.

My general rule is: After suit agreement in a forcing auction, bidding another suit is natural if the suit was previously shown by our side.

Hence 3 H would show 5-5, but it should also be helpful toward reaching the best contract. Partner would expect at least one top honor in the suit, so doing this on H J-x-x-x-x is counterproductive. I would rather bid 3 C (also natural) because the C K might be the key to slam, and showing a club fit is safe since I can always correct to spades.

With nothing significant to say, opener should just bid 3 S, which is probably the best bid here. The hands do offer a decent play for slam (probably about even money) which makes, but I wouldn’t get there.

My partner was very mysterious;
His bidding would make me delirious.
With support I would jump,
Then he’d bid three notrump.
Come on! Let’s try to be serious.

Come fly with meApril 3, 2012 (9S29)

Matchpoints
E-W Vul
S J 6 5 3
H Q 10
D K 10 6
C K J 10 8
S K 10 8 7 4
H K J 8 5 4
D 7 4
C A
TableS A Q
H A 7 3
D A Q 9 8
C Q 9 7 3
S 9 2
H 9 6 2
D J 5 3 2
C 6 5 4 2

How should the East-West bidding go?

A lot depends on system. In my methods it would go: 1 S 2 NT (15+ balanced); 3 H 4 NT (18-19 quantitative); 5 HH. West has good controls so makes another effort over 4 NT. Six hearts is slightly good (better than 50-50) with some interesting play options.

Easley doneDecember 7, 2011 (9S14)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

1 H
3 D
4 NT
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
South
1 C
2 NT
3 NT
IMPs
N-S Vul
S 2
H K Q J 9 8
D A K 5 4 2
C A 7
S Q 7 6 3
H 10 7 5 3
D 8
C 10 9 6 4
TableS J 10 9 8 4
H 6 4
D Q 10 3
C 5 3 2


4 NT South
made 7 +720
S A K 5
H A 2
D J 9 7 6
C K Q J 8

As South, playing with a new partner (a relative beginner who loves Gerber and just learned Blackwood) I flipped a mental coin and took her 4 NT bid as quantitative. Needless to say, 4 NT making six was not a great score. Obviously, if she had bid 4 NT directly over 2 NT, it would be quantitative; but what about here? Interested in your thoughts.

This problem has agonized bridge players since Easley Blackwood sprung his gadget loose in 1933 (no I wasn’t there, thank you). It’s mainly a matter of partnership agreement, but on your sequence I’d guess that 90 percent of experts play it as quantitative.

The main point is not what is right or wrong, but to have a firm partnership rule to prevent misunderstandings. A simple basic rule can be found in Slam Bidding, and my general rule is in Notrump Slam Bidding.

Wrong-sided slamJuly 14, 2011 (9RB4)

West

Pass
Pass
AP
North
1 NT
2 S
5 D
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
2 H
3 D
6 D
IMPs
None Vul
S Q 8
H K 10 6
D K Q 9 7 4
C A Q 2
 
 
 
 
Table



6 D South
S A K 9 5 4 3
H 7 3
D A J 6 5
C 3

How do you get to 6 D from the North side? We wrong-sided it, and West had an obvious heart lead; down one.

The bidding was fine and undeniably correct through 3 D, but 5 D was silly when a simple 4 D is routine. Over 4 D, South has too much potential for 4 S, so I would bid 5 C (implying no heart control). North should bid 6 NT (or perhaps 5 NT first) since the danger of a heart lead is significant. In contrast, the chance of needing a spade ruff in 6 D is low, because the S Q will often solidify partner’s suit.

There’s no way to reach 6 D by North in my methods. A few experts I’ve played against flip-flop the minor rebids after a transfer (3 C = diamonds, 3 D = clubs) which would work great here — though I’ll still take my 2 IMPs every time spades break.

TopMain

Off the spade suitJune 19, 2011 (9RA6)

IMPs
N-S Vul
 North
 
 
 
S 9 6 3
H A 9
D K J 9 3 2
C A K J
TableS Q 4
H K Q J 2
D A Q 10 8
C Q 9 7

Can the Pavlicek System get to 5 D? We actually gained 4 imps for 3 NT down one, as the other table played 6 NT down four.

No, and I’d probably be one of the fools to reach 6 NT. Curiously, 6 NT may be a better contract than 3 NT, as both make without a spade lead; and it wouldn’t be surprising to make the slam and fail in game, as leading from, say, S K-J-x-x-x is dubious against 6 NT but routine against 3 NT. This is offset by the chance of 4-4 (or blocked) spades, which allows 3 NT always to make, and the danger of being doubled in 6 NT when opening leader has S A-K. But five diamonds? Too easy! I like adventure.

Blackwood unsafeJune 4, 2011 (9RA1)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
North
1 C
3 D
3 NT
4 NT
5 D
East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
South
1 D
3 H
4 C
5 C
Matchpoints
Both Vul
S K J 3
H 4
D A Q 5 4
C A J 10 3 2
S A 7 6 5 4
H A 9 7 6 3
D 8 7
C 9
TableS Q 10 9 8
H Q J 10 8 5
D 6
C 8 7 6



5 D South
S 2
H K 2
D K J 10 9 3 2
C K Q 5 4

As South, I wanted to use Blackwood over 3 D but could not stand a two-ace reply, so I improvised with 3 H. After 3 NT, I don’t think either of us knew what we were doing. How should we bid this?

With no intention to play 3 NT, I don’t like 3 H (stopper showing) as it “improvised” only confusion. I would have bid 4 C, expecting to hear a major-suit ace; and when this proves fruitless, slam is ruled out. Few if any expert pairs would reach the top matchpoint spot of 3 NT by South (I see no sensible auction). Indeed, you did well to reach 5 D versus the disastrous 3 NT by North.

On the actual layout you were fixed by the E-W silence. An expert West would doubleD, which effectively takes notrump out of the picture. East would bid up to 4 H, which only a spade lead (or C K, spade) will beat, so 5 C or 5 D would be much easier to reach.

Valentine specialMay 12, 2011 (9R94)

West

1 H
 ?
North

Pass
East
1 D
3 H
South
Pass
Pass
Matchpoints
Both Vul
S 9 8 6 3
H K 2
D Q 7 2
C K 5 4 2
S K J 5
H A 10 9 3
D K 3
C Q 10 9 3
TableS A Q 10 4
H Q 8 6 5
D A 10 6 5
C A
S 7 2
H J 7 4
D J 9 8 4
C J 8 7 6

Should we reach 6 H? And what is the best way to play the heart suit?

East underbid with 3 H. By my evaluation (see Pavlicek Point Count) the hand is worth 20 points: 16 HCP + 3 for the singleton + 1 for four aces/10s. This may be a tad optimistic with the notorious 4-4-4-1 shape, but even 19 points is beyond my range (16-18) for 3 H. I would bid 4 C (splinter); some experts prefer not to splinter with a stiff ace and would just raise to 4 H. Either way would be enough for West to drive to 6 H, which is a slight favorite (about 55 percent) and the proper contract.

In 6 H, my plan would be to finesse hearts twice through South as I ruff two clubs in dummy. This nets 12 tricks (four spades, three hearts, two diamonds, three clubs) without a hitch.

Ruling the gameApril 20, 2011 (9R85)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
North

1 S
3 C
3 H
4 NT
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 D
2 D
3 D
3 NT
6 D
IMPs
S A K J 10 9 3
H K 8 4
D 6
C A Q J
Trick
1 W
2 N
3 S
4 S
Lead
C 10
D 6
D A
D K
2nd
J
2
4
C 2
3rd
3
J
H 4
S 3
4th
4
3
5
7
W L
1 0
2 0
3 0
4 0
S Q 8
H J 6 5 2
D 4 3
C 10 9 8 6 2
TableS 6 5 4
H A Q 9 3
D Q 7 5 2
C 5 3


6 D South
made 6
S 7 2
H 10 7
D A K J 10 9 8
C K 7 4

A top German player made this terrible slam thanks to a lucky lead. West was a believer in Richthofen’s Rule (never lead from a jack) and led a club, so declarer was able to get rid of his last heart as East ruffed with the D Q. How neat is that? How would you have bid it?

“Richthofen’s” rule, eh. Why do I keep looking around for Snoopy and the Red Baron? Making 6 D was neat, though 7 NT would have been neater on the same lead.

The auction is strange to me. North’s improvisation of 3 C may have been needed to create a force; but why not 3 S next? Or maybe this was Hoffmeister’s rule: Never bid a real suit when you can improvise. South’s bidding was routine through 3 D, but 3 NT is clearly off base without a heart stopper. Oh, I get it! Hammanschmidt’s rule. Apologies for getting carried away.

For the record my bidding would be: 1 DS; 2 DS (forcing); 4 S 4 NT; 5 DS. The last bid is pushy (North could have bid 5 H to ask for the S Q and passed the 5 S denial) but realistic with the disdain for playing five of a major. A case could also be made for North to bid 6 NT, which might roll without the spade suit, e.g., if South held D A-K-Q-10-9-8. But either slam is right-sided, so I don’t need Richthofen on lead to have a chance.

TopMain

Suit or splinter?March 20, 2011 (9R71)

West
1 H
North
Pass
East
 ?
South
Matchpoints
Both Vul
S J 10 8 7 4
H 8 4
D A 10
C J 9 5 2
S 3
H A Q J 9 6
D K 5
C A 8 7 6 3
TableS K Q 9
H K 10 5 3
D Q J 8 4 3 2
C
S A 6 5 2
H 7 2
D 9 7 6
C K Q 10 4

Should East respond 2 D, 2 NT (Jacoby) or 4 C (splinter)? And what bidding sequence do you recommend?

In theory it’s right to respond 2 D, as sometimes 6 D will be a better slam than 6 H; e.g., give West D K-x-x-x, and 6 H is likely doomed by a diamond ruff. Generally, an immediate splinter should deny a strong 5-card side suit or any 6-card side suit.

As to Jacoby 2 NT, I think it denies a splinter — but I don’t play it because I consider it a terrible convention. Giving up a natural 2 NT may seem innocent, but it corrupts all your 2-over-1 auctions with the necessity of bidding non-suits. When I bid 2-over-1 it shows five.

Virtually any natural bidding system would begin 1 HD; 3 C, then East will raise hearts; 4 H is probably the popular choice, but I reserve this to show concentrated values in my bid suits, so I would bid 3 H. Regardless, I think West should use Blackwood, not only because of the gorgeous D K-x but because East is likely to be short in clubs from the N-S silence; i.e., if East were short in spades, N-S would likely be in the bidding with 11 spades. When two key cards are found to be missing, the enthusiasm fizzles in 5 H. (East should not show the dubious club void in response to Blackwood.)

Hey, Joe! Have you ever played the Jacoby two notrump?
No, but I’m a blind paraplegic. Is that close enough?

Not pretty but luckyMarch 6, 2011 (9R67)

West
2 C
3 D
North
Pass
Pass
East
2 D
 ?
South
Pass
Matchpoints
N-S Vul
S Q 7 6 4
H 9 2
D 7
C A Q J 9 7 6
S A K J 3
H A 5
D A K Q 6 5 4 3
C
TableS 10 9 8 5
H K 8 6 4
D 10
C 10 5 4 3
S 2
H Q J 10 7 3
D J 9 8 2
C K 8 2

What should East bid now? And how should the auction continue?

These are awkward hands for standard bidding. East should bid 3 NT, which doesn’t promise anything in my methods, and West should bid 4 S, which is better than repeating diamonds. East is arguably worth a spade raise, but it seems wiser to pass (game bids are nonforcing) since the H K could be worthless (not). Hardly an auction to be proud of, but fortunate on the foul layout.

Both 6 D and 6 S are good slams but should fail; 6 D outright with two inescapable losers; and 6 S with normal play after a club lead, though makable at double-dummy.

Highly committedJanuary 30, 2011 (9R54)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
AP
North

2 C1
3 D
4 D
5 C
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 C
3 C2
3 NT
4 H
6 C
IMPs
None Vul
S Q 5
H Q 4
D A K 5
C K Q J 10 8 6
 
 
 
 
Table
1. inverted, 10+ 2. minimum opening


6 C South
down 1 -50
S K 9 7
H A 9 7
D 9 6
C A 9 7 5 4

As North, how can I show slam interest without committing us? South felt compelled to bid 6 C with the undisclosed spade control, but I needed more than just controls. How would you have bid?

My strategy with the North hand is to establish notrump as a viable strain early, especially in view of the two Q-x holdings, then raise clubs. In my methods: 1 C 2 NT (natural 15+); 3 NT 4 C (natural slam try); 4 NT (bare minimum) P.

On your auction South bid fine, and I agree with the 1 C opening. North probably should bid 4 NT over 3 NT, allowing South an easy out, though a heart lead against the wrong-sided notrump could be deadly.

Reaching 6 C wasn’t so bad. The S A might have been led; or if the S A and H K are in West (or in East without a heart lead) 6 C can always be made, though declarer may have to guess.

Dual defect disastrousDecember 11, 2010 (9R33)

West

Pass
Pass
AP
North

1 H
3 S
East

Pass
Pass
South
1 C
2 NT
3 NT
IMPs
None Vul
S K J 7 2
H J 8 5 4 2
D 6
C A 10 5
 
 
 
 
Table


3 NT South
down 1 -50
S A 3
H A K
D A 8 7
C Q J 8 7 4 3

As North, I might have bid 3 C at my second turn but chose 3 S to emphasize my shape, even though South would not have four spades in our methods (we rebid 1 S in preference to 2 NT). Obviously we belong in 6 C (making) rather than the doomed 3 NT (diamond lead, C K offside). How should we bid it?

South was to blame. Hand descriptions are often flawed in one way or another because of the limited number of bids, and it usually works out OK; but when there are two flaws, the odds mount against you. South chose to conceal his long suit and opt for notrump with just the ace in the unbid suit. This begged for trouble and he got it.

I would have bid 3 NT over 1 H, which states the nature of the hand and shows 6+ clubs. Yes, the clubs are usually stronger, but chances are good to survive a single flaw. (Also note that 3 NT might roll opposite C K-x and nothing else.) North would then bid 4 C (natural) en route to slam, or maybe just shorten proceedings with 6 C.

TopMain

Open your vestOctober 27, 2010 (9R14)

West

Pass
Pass
Pass
North

2 C
3 D
3 NT
East

Pass
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
2 D
3 S
 ?
Matchpoints
None Vul
S 5
H A 7 2
D J 10 9 7
C A K J 9 8
 
 
 
 
Table
S A K Q 3 2
H 9 8 6
D A K 6 2
C 7

Playing 2-over-1 GF, do you agree with the bidding so far? Should South bid again, and if so what?

I agree with the bids shown, and South should definitely bid again. Holding an ace more than a minimum, it is essential to make a slam move, and South has not shown any extras. I would bid 4 NT (natural invitation) to ensure playing the highest strain if partner rejects — especially at matchpoints. North should be delighted with his hand for diamonds and jump directly to 6 D.

It doesn’t pay to worry about the rare times that 4 NT puts you overboard, as there will be many more times where the bid is productive. You won’t win at bridge playing close to the vest.

Eight solid spadesOctober 2, 2010 (9R04)

West
North
1 NT1
East
Pass
South
 ?
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
1. 15-17
S A K Q 10 7 6 5 4
H
D K 9 7 3
C 3

Assume you are playing the Pavlicek System with your son. How should South bid?

Transfer to spades then jump to 4 H (splinter). If partner signs off (likely) an immediate 4 NT by splinter bidder is exclusion key-card Blackwood. If opener bids 5 C, sign off; over 5 D (one minor ace) bid 6 S; over 5 H (both minor aces) there is no certainty but 7 S should be a big favorite.

If partner (over 4 H) bids 5 C or 5 D, bid 5 H (void) and he should show the other minor ace if he has it. If instead he bids 4 NT, answer 5 NT (2 key cards + void) then with both minor aces partner should bid something besides 6 S to keep the grand alive.

Exception: When you were 11 or 12 years old, I would have jumped to 6 S to avoid having to play 4 H.

TopMain

© 2012 Richard Pavlicek