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30 January 2020 board 28

Looking for a slam

How many points do you need for a slam? 33 points is generally enough for 6NT and you can often get away with fewer than that in a suit contract. So if your partner opens 1 and you've got a 19-count, you're probably going to end up in a slam. Probably, but not certainly. On this hand, your partner could have opened with as many as 13 points and still be missing the A and ♠A, so it's best not to be jumping straight to 6 or 6NT without checking things out.

What to do, then? Well, there are three possibilities ...

1  Go straight to Blackwood

It's the two missing Aces that you're mainly interested in, after all. If partner has both, you'll certainly punt a slam. But what if she only has one? You could still be missing up to 10 points. One unlucky finesse and you'll be down ... Maybe there's a better way.

2  The Jacoby convention

This is a popular 'slam-finding' convention (see below for details). Excellent if it's part of your armoury, but what if it isn't? 

3 Make partner bid again

This goes right to the heart of good bridge bidding. When partner opens 1 she could have any old shape and any old points from 10 to 19 points. Her second bid, however, is much more informative: does she just rebid her suit? jump rebid it? bid a different suit? rebid NT?  reverse? All of these give you a much clearer picture of her hand – and therefore of where you should end up.

And that's just what you want here: more information about partner's hand. Any direct raise in hearts is far weaker than you are (unless you simply punt 6, of course!), so instead you must bid another suit, just to see what she says next. Trouble is, you haven't got one!

Never mind. Make one up. Bid 2. If she replies 2, you know that she has at least 5 hearts and can fall back on Blackwood. But what she actually says on this hand is 2NT: she's got a balanced 15+ points, and you now know that you can bid the slam. 

There's a further decision to make, of course: do you plump for 6 (probably safer) or 6NT (worth the extra 10 points and so better in duplicate pairs scoring)? Either's fine, but with a flat 4-3-3-3 6NT is probably slightly better.

A pretty short auction, then: 1 – 2 – 2NT – 6NT.

But does it make?

Have a look at the whole deal. Let's say North leads the ♣10 ...

It's not easy. You have 8 tricks outside hearts, so need to make all four heart tricks. And whether you do or not rather depends on luck. If you start with your A, intending to finesse on the next trick, you've had it: North's singleton Q drops under the A and South's eventually going to make her 10. If you start with a low heart towards dummy, though, you're fine. You can cash your K, then the J, then catch South's 10 on the way back.

But hang on. North's opening lead has given you another chance. Suppose North's got the ♣Q? Then you can play low from dummy on trick one and your ♣J will win the trick. Now you only need 3 heart tricks, and will make your contract.

What happened in GD?

Just two of the 11 tables bid a slam, both 6 – one went off and one made an overtrick! Of the rest, the best scores went to the 2 pairs in 3NT (12 tricks each). And the rest were in 4, making 10 (!), 11 or 12 tricks.

You should be in the slam, but there's no disgrace in making only 11 tricks. Can't see how you only make 10 tricks, though.


* To see what happens with Jacoby, click below.

 

Using Jacoby

Jacoby is a way of looking for a slam after partner's opened 1 of a major. Responder bids 2NT: this means 'I have (at least) game-going points plus good (4+) trump support and I'm wondering if we have a slam on.'

With an ordinary weak opening hand, you'll simply sign off in game. Otherwise, there are a variety of other responses giving partner more information about your holding. *

On this hand, West will respond 3NT, showing 15-17 points with no singleton or void, and it's simple for East to bid the slam. So the auction goes:

1 – 2NT (Jacoby) – 3NT – 6NT (or 6).

 


* Opener's standard responses over 1–2NT are:

  • 3/3/3: a singleton or void
  • 3NT decent points (15-17) but no singleton or void
  • 4/4/4: a strong second suit
  • 3: strong (18+ points)
  • 4:  not interested – signing off in game.

If you'd like some more detailed notes on using Jacoby, email me at: chris@boxbridge.co.uk