Main     Ask Richard 9R05 by Richard Pavlicek    

Contested Slam Bidding

This page contains selected queries to “Ask Richard” about contested 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.

Triple transfer caperSeptember 16, 2012 (9S65)

West

2 D2
Rdbl4
6 H
North

2 NT
5 D
Dbl
East
1 D1
4 D3
Pass
AP
South
1 S
Dbl
6 D
IMPs
N-S Vul
S J 4
H 3 2
D A K J 6
C A 10 8 7 6
S 9 6
H J 10 8 6
D 10 8
C K J 9 5 2
TableS 8 7 5
H A K 9 7 5 4
D 3 2
C 4 3
1. 4+ hearts, 0-11 2. transfer to hearts
3. transfer to hearts, believe it or not
4. transfer to hearts (what else)


6 H× West
down 4 +800
S A K Q 10 3 2
H Q
D Q 9 7 5 4
C Q

I was playing on BBO today with a “world-class” partner, and our E-W opponents were playing an artificial system. This was a pickup team game, and I had no agreements with my partner. So, 6 H× went for 800 and we lost 12 or 13 IMPs. Who would you say is at fault for N-S missing 6 S? (I better not tell you now whether I was North or South.)

Well, North is surely more to blame for the nonsense 2 NT (nice heart stopper) though I’m not sure I’d get there either against the timely East-West shenanigans. Double of 2 D (cards or responsive) seems normal, but the rest is murky. You did well under fire to reach 6 D.

OK, I was North and admit 2 NT wasn’t my finest bid. But playing on BBO you never know when your double might get passed. That’s my excuse! Still, do you not think that if South bids 6 D to make, he might as well bid 6 S? Especially since he has a great spade suit.

Definitely not. North’s most likely asset for a diamond contract is a stiff or void spade, plus the auction forebodes bad breaks. North in fact deserves a minor charge (you turkey) for not passingD to leave the option open.

Why didn’t you get 1100? (Two tricks in each side suit with the club ruff.)

I cashed two diamonds and shifted to the S J, and South played three rounds! Maybe I should’ve shifted to the C A.

No, you did right, but misbids can come back to haunt. South probably should have shifted to a club anyway but went for the overruff, expecting you to have the H J.

Josephine on the rocksSeptember 10, 2012 (9S64)

West

1 S
Pass
AP
North

2 S
5 C
East

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


7 H South
made 7 +1510
S
H A 9 8 7 6 5
D A K J 9 8 5
C 4

Should I have bid 5 NT over 5 C? Is this the GSF? It can’t be “choice of slams,” but every book says 5 NT must be a jump. Do you agree? I called my partner and asked what her response would have been, but she had forgotten them. In 12 years of playing, it’s not come up before. I checked in Lindkvist’s Bridge: Classic and Modern Conventions, and he calls the various response versions “Josephine.” He has a better one he calls “Nunes,” but that’s too much, since we would get it wrong the next time it came up for us in 2024. West led a diamond, giving me a lesson hand.

The term “Josephine” (named for Jo Culbertson) is seldom used anymore, and “grand slam force” is a misnomer, so I just call it “trump asking.” A simple rule is that 5 NT is trump asking if a major suit is agreed (like your case) or as a jump over partner’s major suit bid. Otherwise 5 NT asks for a choice of slams.

Yes, you should bid 5 NT. Simply played, this says bid 7 H with 2 of the top 3, or 6 C with the ace or king, else 6 H. Over 6 C, you can ask for extra length by relaying with 6 D. (Object is to find the 10-card fit missing the queen.) North should then bid the grand, assuming 2 S only confirmed three trumps. If 2 S showed four trumps, you would bid 7 H over 6 C.

Leading a singleton against a grand slam is pretty stupid, but you would have guessed it anyway after discovering the trump lie.

Over or underJuly 24, 2012 (9S56)

West
Pass
4 H
North
1 D
 ?
East
3 H
South
3 S
IMPs
None Vul
S K Q J 4
H 8
D A 9 8 6 3
C A J 3
 
 
 
 
Table

Do you consider this close?

Well, the page is right in front of my face. Is that close enough?

Three choices: 4 S, 4 NT (BW) or 5 H. The first seems more of an underbid than the others are a stretch, so I would go long. I definitely prefer 5 H to offer partner the decision, which he may be able to base on his diamond holding, perhaps avoiding a no-play slam.

Reach for the moonJuly 21, 2012 (9S51)

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


5 S× South
down 3 -500
S Q J 9 8 7 6 5 4
H 9 5
D J 7
C 9

Should West open 2 H? How would you bid as East-West?

Yes, I would open 2 H. While dubious at the vulnerability, the 100-honors suit reduces the chance of penalty; and if you don’t bid now, you may never get a chance. This may get you to 7 H, as East probably should bid 5 NT (trump asking) to locate the H K-Q.

On the actual auction East bid poorly. The hand is clearly worth a 6 C bid over 4 S. I would be worried about missing seven, but the interference leaves no way to find out. While 5 C might be justified as a tactical move, expecting more bidding and hoping to deter a 6 S save, the double of 5 S was terrible.

What is your suggested auction if West opens 2 H, with the agreement that a first-seat vulnerable two-bid has good intermediates, 2 of the top 3 honors and no flaws (no voids, no singletons, no four card suit, no outside ace)? We play Ogust.

With those conditions, 2 HH, but I’ve never seen an expert pair require 2 of the top 3 honors. Also, your “flaw” description is unrealistic, as it precludes all hands but 6-3-2-2 or 7-2-2-2 shape. Some experts forbid a side 4-card major, and a few forbid a void, but otherwise the tendency is liberal. Experience has shown that it’s better to bid than pass in controversial situations.

From East’s perspective 7 H is unlikely to require a club finesse (6 hearts + 6 diamonds + C A). If a spade is led, West will need either the H J (ruff high) or the D J for communication; but there’s no way to discover this and the odds favor it, so you just bid it — though in a weak field there’s a counter argument to bid only six.

Playing Ogust with normal style weak twos, East would respond 2 NT and West would make the rebid to show “bad hand, good suit”; then 5 NT by East.

TopMain

No way to stopMarch 8, 2012 (9S23)

West

2 H
Pass
Pass
North

3 H
5 D
6 S
East

Pass
Pass
AP
South
1 S
4 S
5 H
IMPs
N-S Vul
S A K 10 9
H 5 4
D A J 6
C K 6 4 2
 
 
 
 
Table


6 S South
made 6 +1430
S Q J 6 3 2
H A K
D K Q 4 3
C 9 3

This turns out to be a very good slam because of opener’s shape, but I dislike the way we bid it. We do open 1 NT with a 5-card major, so South can’t have that hand type but could still be balanced and out of range. I don’t see any alternative through 4 S, and South was limited by the failure to cue-bid before that. After I felt the need to encourage with 5 D, there was no way to stop, as subsequent bids were forced. I make us lucky to have landed on our feet. What do you think?

The auction was certainly reasonable (I assume 3 H could be a limit raise). Sometimes there aren’t enough bids available to make both quantitative and control-related slam tries — as here with North obliged to bid 6 S with club control despite having bid his all with 5 D.

Possible alternatives are for South to bid 4 H (aggressive) over 3 H, or North to bid 5 S (asking for heart control) over 4 S, but neither strikes me as better than the route taken. As you note, a little bit of luck never hurts. Considering that you don’t even need the H K (barring 4-0 spades) your auction is looking better and better.

I wonder if any experts could confidently reach this slam but stop short if West had preemptedH, making East a favorite to have C A.

Blasting areaOctober 21, 2011 (9S06)

West

3 S
AP
North

4 D
East

Pass
South
1 C
6 C
IMPs
Both Vul
S 5
H 9 6
D A Q J 10 7 5 2
C J 10 8
 
 
 
 
Table

6 C South
Lead: H Q
made 7 +1390
S 8 4 3
H A K
D 3
C A K Q 9 6 3 2

John Swanson held the South hand against me last night. Admittedly, he had no room to explore. What do you think of his 6 C blast?

I agree completely, and it’s not a “blast” as I see it. You have to bid your values first; control-showing is a luxury if space is available. Almost all would consider 4 D to be forcing, so 5 C could be a ton worse.

North, if anyone, took an aggressive course. Some experts might pass and bid later (e.g., 5 D over 4 S); or in this case, when South reopens with 4 C, cue-bid 4 S, which also gets to slam.

If South had bid seven clubs over 4 D, that would be a blast.

Splinter gone badAugust 7, 2011 (9RB9)

West

Dbl
2 S
AP
North

Rdbl
4 D
East

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


4 H South
made 6 +480
S 3
H A Q J 7 4 3
D K 3
C Q J 4 2

How do we get to 6 H, which is much better than 50 percent after West’s takeout double? Note that the S J threat makes it cold despite the bad club break. With three key cards, five trumps and a singleton, I think North is too good for an immediate splinter, unless willing to bid further after a sign-off.

South was conservative with 2 H (if nonforcing), and North slightly as well, but all bids were reasonable. Evidently this was a bad hand for splinter evaluation, as two blind men might have a better chance to reach the slam. Of course 6 H is only worth bidding because the C K rates to be onside.

The only bad decision in my view was by East for not sacrificing in 4 S (down one). Considering that the par score for North-South is only 500 (6 S× down three) your 480 isn’t so bad.

Curiously, you do not need the S J threat to make 6 H. The slam can always be made if West has the D A (and C K of course) even if your club spots were all low. An exercise for you.

Judgment dayJuly 31, 2011 (9RB7)

West

2 C
Dbl
North

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

5 D× South
down 2 -300

What is your recommended bidding? And would it be different if West were the dealer?

The only sensible call by East or West was 2 C. East was especially off base, as opening 2 H is routine; and having passed he should have bid 5 H over 4 NT — you have to bid what you’re looking at. Either of these actions should lead to an easy 7 H, or perhaps 7 NT if North is void in spades and doubles for the lead. If West is the dealer, 2 C 4 NT 5 H accomplishes the same.

West’s double of 5 D was terrible; he should pass (forcing) which implies short diamonds and offers the decision to East. With a lot more than expected, East should jump to 6 H. Of course the grand is missed because of East’s previous silence.

After this board the East-West pair appeared in court and implored, “Where did we go wrong?”
The judge could not decide exactly and ruled, “Approximately when you sat down to play.”

TopMain

Assign the blameJuly 21, 2011 (9RB6)

West

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


6 S South
down 2 -100
S 10 9 8 7 5
H 2
D A 9 6 4 3
C K 2

Playing teams with an international on BBO, we reached this horrible slam. Which of the N-S bids contributed most to the debacle?

North is the villain with 4 S. I would have raised to 3 S, as if holding H A-x-x-x which is surely what it’s worth. Also, any contract is likely to require a black-suit finesse, which rates to fail. Further, nonvulnerable at IMPs there is less reason to be aggressive toward game.

As South, I would have bid 4 NT over 4 S, as this might discover a tangible reason to stop (two missing key cards); whereas 5 D focuses partner on heart control which South already has. Of course this wouldn’t matter. I suppose South might have bid only 5 S over 5 H on your auction, but that’s being picky, especially since five of a major is a no-win venture versus four.

Ruff predicamentJuly 11, 2011 (9RB2)

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

Six hearts is a fair contract, but how do you reach it? I was stymied by East’s bid and settled for 4 H, with a bit in reserve. How do you handle interference that leaves no room except a game bid?

With no enemy bidding, 6 H should not be bid in theory, because it’s less than 50 percent, albeit negligibly, due to the possibility of a ruff. After East’s 3 S bid, it’s probably close to 10 percent, with the imminent danger of S A and a ruff. South could foil the ruff by bidding 6 NT, but then a club lead is fatal.

Over 3 S, I can’t imagine bidding anything but 4 H, so no expert would even sniff at the slam. Preempts, by definition, force the other side to choose a contract quickly, and this time it seems North-South guessed right.

A puzzle: Construct a layout where North can make 6 H against any defense with the S A offside, and not a blank ace.

Stayman doublecrossJune 6, 2011 (9RA2)

West

Dbl
North
2 NT
 ?
East
Pass
South
3 C
IMPs
N-S Vul
S A K Q
H K Q 8 2
D K 5
C A 9 7 4
 
 
 
 
Table
S 10 9 8 5
H A J 7 6
D A J
C J 5 2

Should North pass, redouble, or bid 3 H? And if North passes, how does South continue the Stayman sequence?

I would pass, which implies four clubs but not the club strength to redouble; however, I expect many experts would bid 3 H. My primary goal when Stayman is doubled is to exploit the opportunity; too many of these wanton doubles go unscathed in practice.

After the pass, South should picture the unlikelihood of slam with his duplicated club length and just redouble. Take your 840, maybe more on a good day, and worry about the next board.

If South elects not to redouble, the logical move is 4 NT (quantitative) over which North should bid 6 H (South should correct without four since North cannot have five hearts). The slam is hopeless barring a stiff C 10, but that’s often the price of poor judgment. Also note that if East had a singleton C 10 and 6 H makes, 3 C×× would probably score more (1640 vs. 1430).

Kickback kaperFebruary 11, 2011 (9R56)

West
Pass
2 S1
North
1 S
Dbl
East
2 H
 ?
South
Pass
IMPs
None Vul
 North
 
 
TableS
H K Q J 8 6 4
D A K 4 3
C Q 7 3
1. invitational with heart fit

What should East bid now? I suppose 4 S would be kickback RKCB.

You mean you don’t play PavCo-Roman exclusion kickback? I use it five times a session and have never missed a slam yet — or made one either. Seriously, I don’t play kickback because it’s disaster prone; I’ve seen too many accidents, some by top experts. I would bid 3 D, not so much to describe but to see what partner bids. I will cue-bid spades next and probably reach 6 H if I can ascertain club control.

System note: It is unrealistic for a cue-bid response to an overcall to promise a fit, as it is often required as a general force. For example, what should West bid with S x-x-x-x H A-x D Q-x-x C A-J-x-x?

TopMain

Impulsive notrumpDecember 11, 2010 (9R34)

West

Pass
Pass
AP
North

1 S
3 D
East
1 D
2 D
Pass
South
Dbl
3 C
3 NT
IMPs
Both Vul
S K J 7 2
H A 8 3
D 5 4 3
C J 6 4
Trick
1 W
Lead
D J
2nd
3
3rd
Q
4th
A
W L
1 0
 
 
 
 
Table


3 NT South
down 1 -100
S A 8
H K Q 10 9
D A
C K Q 9 8 3 2

I limited my loss by splitting the hearts and dropping the S Q, but I think I bid 3 NT too quickly. How should our bidding have gone?

Yes, 3 NT was terrible, achieving the inglory of failing in game when slam is cold. Three hearts stands out a mile. North would next bid 4 C, then two control-bids (4 DH) would lead to 6 C.

Even if North held the C A instead of the H A, allowing 3 NT to make, so would probably 6 C.

One more for the roadNovember 29, 2010 (9R25)

West
1 C1
Pass
AP
North
Dbl
3 S
East
1 H
5 C
South
3 D
5 D
IMPs
N-S Vul
S K Q J 9 8
H 10 8 6 3
D K Q 5 4
C
S A 10 5
H A K 5
D 8 6
C K Q 8 5 4
TableS 6 3 2
H J 9 7 4 2
D
C A J 9 7 2
1. 4+ clubs


5 D South
made 5 +600
S 7 4
H Q
D A J 10 9 7 3 2
C 10 6 3

What is your recommended bidding sequence?

East and South bid fine. North’s bidding is OK, but I prefer an immediate 1 S overcall with such a meaty suit, since the hand is not good enough to double then bid spades in my methods.

West is your fall guy. He never showed his extras, let alone that his hand was oriented to offense (extra club, strength in partner’s suit). Over 3 D, I would bid 3 H (what else?); then after 5 C and South’s 5 D, it is sound strategy in fierce competition to bid one more for the road, so 6 C. This would be cold opposite as little as S x-x H Q-10-x-x-x D x C A-x-x-x-x. If N-S press to 6 D, it would be bad to try 6 H, because the inevitable spade loser can be pictured. While 7 C makes, this feels like two more, so the road ends in 6 D.

Hope you weren’t West.

Splinter thisOctober 24, 2010 (9R12)

West

Dbl
North
1 D
4 C1
East
Pass
Pass
South
1 S
 ?
Matchpoints
None Vul
 North
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table
1. splinter
S A 5 4 3
H 5 4 3
D 6 5 4
C A J 4

Should South make a slam try or just sign off?

Aside from two aces the hand sucks: bad shape, bad trumps, bad diamond fit, no spots. With or without the double, I would sign off. Give North an ideal hand like S K-Q-J-x H A-x-x D A-K-Q-x-x C x, and you still need two 3-2 breaks for slam, which is odds-against, especially after the double. Even 10 tricks could be difficult against bad breaks, and it’s easy to imagine a slam being doubled.

My “duplication rule” also gives the answer (see Slam Bidding Judgment). In brief, slam requires 30 points, but only the ace can be counted in partner’s splinter suit. Figure North for about 20 (distributional points count) and South counts 8 = 28.

Cold slam missedOctober 3, 2010 (9R05)

West

2 H
North

3 H1
East

Pass
South
1 S
 ?
Matchpoints
Both Vul
S A J 7 6
H A 8 7
D A 6 5 4
C Q 4
S 5 4
H Q 10 6 5 4 3
D 3
C A K 3 2
TableS K 8
H 9
D J 8 7
C J 10 9 8 7 6 5
1. limit raise or better
S Q 10 9 3 2
H K J 2
D K Q 10 9 2
C

Since North is unlimited, should South show the diamond suit? An alternative is 5 C (splinter) which seems too aggressive.

Generally, you should always show a good 5-card suit before a splinter, let alone a splinter that could get you overboard; but I wouldn’t initiate a slam move with the weak trumps and ugly H K-J-2. The 5-5 shape certainly warrants bidding game, so a simple 4 S. This might spur North into a move, but it’s dubious. Reaching a 26-point slam is never easy, especially when opponents bid a lousy suit and keep their real fit hidden; and this one is painful, being laydown with a finesse for seven.

TopMain

© 2012 Richard Pavlicek