Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pick a Slam

Here's your hand sitting third seat as South.

♠ K4
♥ AK732
♦ Q53
♣ T95

Here's the auction with North dealer:

West      North   East   South
               2N       P        3D*
 P            3H       P         ?
* Transfer

Wow! You have 12 HCP and your partner, North, opens 2N showing 20-21 HCP and a balanced hand. You know you should be in slam, but in what strain, hearts or no trump? You don't know if your partner has only 2 hearts or 3 or more. How do you probe with your second bid after you have transferred to hearts? A bid of 3N would surely stop the bidding if partner only has 2 hearts, when you would want to be in 6N. You could bid a new suit but that would misinform opener and could lead down the primrose path to the wrong bid. In the actual hand, South just made a unilateral bid of 6H, hoping opener had 3 hearts.

Here's the four hand layout:

                        North
                        ♠ AQJT
                        ♥ 65
                        ♦ A987
                        ♣ AKQ


West                                        East
9872                                     ♠ 653
♥ J84                                       ♥ QT9
42                                         ♦ KJT6
J872                                     ♣ 643

                        South
                        ♠ K4
                        ♥ AK732
                        ♦ Q53
                        ♣ T95

Alas, opener only had 2 hearts. There is, however, a perfect bid for South's dilemma. She jumps to 5N. This says, "Partner I know we should be in slam but I don't know whether you have 3 hearts or more or only 2 hearts. So if you have at least 3 hearts, bid 6H. If you only have two hearts, bid 6N. It's up to you. But please do not pass 5N!"

In the actual hand, I was playing in 6H. I got a club lead and took the Ace. I led a low heart to the dummy and ducked the 9, hoping for a 3-3 split. When East returned a club I easily made 6 when hearts split, taking 4 spades, 4 hearts, 3 clubs, and a diamond. It plays exactly the same way in 6N, which is the correct contract.

The only problem would come with a diamond lead. If East leads the diamond jack (which is a standard lead from KJTx against no trump), I have to play the queen. If I go low I have to take the trick with my Ace. Then when I lose a heart, which I must to set up 4 heart tricks, I lose the King of diamonds and it's down 1. But with the lead of the jack, I have to play the queen because if west has the king I have to lose a diamond either way, since it will set up east's Ten. Going low forces me to take it with the Ace regardless of where the king is. Going up with the queen and hoping east underled the king is the only way to make the slam with a lead of the diamond jack. That's why this is a less than 50% slam; it requires either a lead of something other than a diamond or that east underleads the diamond king and that hearts split 3-3.

So remember this when your partner has a big hand with a no trump opener and you have a five card major and want to be in slam. The only way to discover how many cards in your major that your partner has is to jump to 5N after you transfer to your 5 card major at the 2 level, Pick a Slam. Discuss this with your partner so she'll know what you're doing.