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Week 5 - Slam Hands
Week 5 - 21st April 2022 - Slam Hands

Our new 12-week program of Bridge continued this week with another successful evening. Thanks to everyone who came along and especially to those people who are new to the club.

We had seven tables playing 14 boards in a Mitchell movement using randomly dealt hands with a few boards designed to tempt you to try to reach a slam.

At the end of the evening, Sally led a discussion on some of the hands played and gave some tips on playing.

To see the full results and the hands click HERE, click on a pair to access the travellers and the hands. For Sally's commentary a couple of the boards from tonight, see below.

Next week - 28th April - we will play a set of random boardsNo need to find a partner as friendly hosts will be on hand. 

Board 1 - When to slam... I wanted to include this one because quite a few pairs got to 6H here, but few were actually making 12 tricks. A possible auction

N E S W
P 1H P 1S
P 2C P 2D
P 2H P 3H
P 4C P 4NT
P 5S P 6H
P P P  

This bidding is assuming you have some slam bidding tools in your bidding tool box - both control bidding and RKCBlackwood are extremely useful when it comes to finding good slams, but also staying out of bad ones.

2D = fourth suit forcing: this just sets up a game-forcing auction, and allows you to go slowly and explore. This is one tool most of you will be very familiar with, but it can be invaluable when it comes to exploring for slams as it gives you the control to keep things low and investigate possibilities.

2H ideally is showing extra H length, i.e., a 6th H. Sometimes you're a bit stuck for a bid in this situation and have to bid this with 5, but you'd really like a 6th one for this.

3H = going slow, keeping it open and allowing room to explore slam possibilities, you can do this because you are already in a GF auction, no one can pass 3H! Particularly if E is genuinely 6/4 then W has an amazing hand - the AKS and AD take care of the three cards E has in S & D, a 9-card fit with a doubleton in partner's second suit all look good. Once we are in a GF auction and have a suit agreed then we can start showing 'controls'...

4C = showing a 'control' in Cs, the A or K, singleton or void would all count as a control. However, here we know E has a C suit so it must be A or K. E is also denying a S control with this bid since he skipped over the 3S option. This is the one W needed to hear about, to be sure the defence couldn't take the first two C tricks. Now W can check on the 'key cards' with RKCBlackwood. Key cards = the four aces & the K of trumps.

5S = 2/5 of those key cards, and also the Q of trumps. W is now happy to bid the slam.

So, making it is next. Really important to count your winners and your losers - as always. 6H, 3S, 1D, 1C = 11 easy tricks. But, despite only having the one more obvious loser in the C suit, we are not at 12 tricks. We need to create an extra trick on this hand. When looking to create extra tricks in trump contracts the two most common ways are:

  • Setting up a long 2nd suit
  • Ruffing in the hand with shorter trumps

Both could be an option here. If the S suit splits 3/3 then extra S tricks are easy. If it splits 4/2 (more likely) then we could still set up that 5th S as our extra trick, but it will take a bit more work. And perhaps an easier choice here is to go with the ruffing in the short trumps option. Take the AC, lose a C and then you can ruff a C on dummy (ruffing high to be extra safe). That ruff is then your 12th trick. So, important to count your winners at the start and make a plan.

We discussed boards 9 and 10 on the night and talked a little about 'control bidding'. Modern thinking is very much that it's really important to include A or K, a singleton or void in this. I know this feels a little out of your comfort zone if you are used to the more traditional approach of just showing 1st round control initially, but trust it, it does work. Frequently it is clear, from looking at your own hand or from considering the rest of the bidding, exactly what your partner has, and you can also back up your control bidding with good use of RKCB - just to check that you do not have two key cards missing. There are two main advantages you gain from control bidding:

  • You're keeping the bidding at a lower level.
  • You're identifying whether or not there's a risk that you might have two immediate losers in one suit.

Unless you 'relax' your control bidding to show either 1st or 2nd round controls you really won't capitalise on these advantages. And it is so important not just for finding the good slams but also for knowing when to stay out of the poor slams. Let's see this in action below.

Board 13 ...and when not to slam

A possible auction:

N E S W
P 1H P 1S
P 2D P 3C
P 3D P 3H
P 4D P 4H
P P P  

A similar auction to the previous one initially, 3C = FSF, setting up that GF auction so you can then go slowly and explore. 3D = extra length in the D suit, i.e., 5+ H, 5+ D.

3H = agreeing Hs, but not closing it down as above, keeping it low and open. W has a lovely hand again and is very interested in the possibility of slam. So again, we have our two conditions met for control bidding to commence - GF auction and suit agreed. And E also has a pretty good hand if slam is on the radar, AK trumps and AD are great cards here. So E is happy to cooperate.

3S is available as a bid here, but it is good practice to not show controls in partner's suit with a singleton or void, stick with just showing a control if you have the A or K when it is partner's suit. Generally, a singleton or void in partner's suit is not a massive plus point. So here the lowest control we can show is 3D. As well as skipping over the S suit we have skipped over the 4C bid, highlighting the fact that we do not have a C control - no A or K, singleton or void, as far as E is concerned the opposition would be able to take the first two C tricks.

As soon as W hears this, they know they must put the brakes on pronto. It doesn't matter that Ds, Hs and Ss are all super solid, there is no slam here when the opponents can take the first two C tricks. So, W shuts the auction down with a 4H bid.

If E had the opposite shape in the black suits, then it would be a whole different matter. With a singleton C, E could then bid 4C to show that C control and W would happily explore further and ultimately bid & make the slam.

Hopefully this hand and the auction gives you a bit of a flavour of how useful it is to use your control bidding in this way; 1st or 2nd round control - A or K, singleton or void. It honestly does work - definitely worth embracing this style of bidding!