Learn to Play Bridge Like a Boss

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H. Anthony Medley is an Attorney, an MPAA-accredited film critic, and author of Learn to Play Bridge Like A Boss,Sweaty Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, and UCLA Basketball: The Real Story. He is a Silver Life Master and an ACBL-accredited Director and the author of a bridge column for a Los Angeles newspaper.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

How to Find Slam With a Distributional Hand

Here’s your hand sitting South, North dealer, nobody vulnerable.


West          North         East         South
                  1C           P              1S
2H              Dbl*        P              ?

*Support Double

You’ve got a huge hand now that you know you have a double fit (you know that North has at least three clubs). You know that you and partner have two suits in which you have at least nine cards. You have to make a forcing bid, but what?

Any bid of one of your two suits would be non-forcing. If you jump to game, the bidding will probably be over if partner has a simple 12-14 HCP opener. You want to look for slam. If she’s got both black aces, six spades should be cold. Lacking one of them, though, it would be down unless she’s got the diamond ace or the heart ace and gets a heart lead.

Your best bid here could be 3H, but that could be ambiguous because partner could interpret it as Western Cue, asking for a heart stopper to play in no trump instead of showing first round control and telling partner you are interested in slam. If it were Western Cue, North would bid 3N showing a heart stopper. So this depends on partnership understanding. If it’s Western Cue, North’s response of 3S would simply deny a heart stopper. Because most pairs play Western Cue, 3H is not a good bid.

Here are the four hands:

                        ♠ A85
                        ♥ K1032
                        ♦ J95
                        ♣ AJ4

West                                        East
♠ 97                                         ♠ J10
♥ AQJ854                                ♥ 976
♦ A873                                     ♦ KQ1042
♣ 5                                           ♣ 1086

                        ♠ KQ6432
                        ♥ Void
                        ♦ 6
                        ♣ KQ9732

Here’s how the bidding could go with an advanced pair:

West          North         East         South
                  1C                P              1S
2H              Dbl*             P              4H**
P                 4S***          P               5C****
P                 6C*****     P                6S
All Pass

*Support Double showing three spades

**Big hand implying but not promising first round control of hearts, confirming spades as trump, looking for slam

***Cue bid showing the spade Ace but this could be an ambiguous bid and partner could just be signing off in spades.

****Regardless of North’s ambiguous bid, I’ve got a great club suit and fit for you and worst case it’s a three loser hand! Even if you were signing off in 4S I still think we might have slam because you opened and you should have at least two tricks for me. If not, bid 5S and I’ll pass.

*****I’ve got the Club Ace but you pick the slam, clubs or spades

This bidding shows how an experienced pair can reach a difficult-to-find slam with cooperative bidding.

This hand was played 12 times. One pair got to 6C, two pairs got to 6S. Confirming the difficulty in bidding this hand, 4S making seven was an average board. Two pairs were in 6N, a ridiculous contract, but one made it, and it was played by south!

West, on lead, has two aces. How could this possibly have made 6N when West can take the first two tricks? Even if north plays 6N, the standard lead would be the diamond queen or partner’s suit. If the diamond, West would overtake with his ace, take the heart ace, and return a diamond so EW should take the first six tricks for down five. But even if East leads his partner’s bid suit, hearts, west should take his two aces for down at least one.

That’s what makes bridge such a challenging game. It’s not so much who is playing the hand as who is defending!

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