Join Bridge Winners
Which Slam Is Best
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In a round robin match in the open trials, you are faced with a potential slam decision.

None vul, West deals. As South, you hold

South
AJ9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
?

Your bids here would have the following meanings:

3: Natural force. When partner overcalls an enemy weak 2-bid, a new suit response is forcing. It is more important to strive to get to the best game than to make a correctional call.

3: Transfer to 3. Part of transfer advances to overcalls, which apply at this level. This allows you to stop in 3 if you have something like QJ10xxxx in spades and out, as well as follow up with a descriptive call after having shown a spade suit without partner getting in your way.

3: This is a "cue-bid", but is really a try for 3NT. If you had club support and were not interested in 3NT, you could instead raise clubs.

4: Forcing raise! This facilitates slam bidding considerably. It doesn't pay to stop on a dime in 4 of a minor. In addition to being able to show club support and let the overcaller take control, this treatment gives more meaning to the cue-bid as a try for 3NT.

4: RKC for clubs. Normal kickback rules. When 4T+1 is not needed as natural, it is RKC.

4: Splinter, club support. Many pairs would play this as exclusion. We find that showing a splinter is more valuable, since singletons are more common than voids. This may help the overcaller judge whether or not to bid a slam.

4: Natural. Even though you have a way to make a forcing spade bid (via a transfer), we still play that if a major suit is or could be the bidder's primary suit that 4 of the major is natural.

4NT: Diamond splinter, club support. Since 4 is RKC, 4NT is the substitute for what 4 would have been if it weren't RKC.

Your call?

South
AJ9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
?

Your hand is so strong opposite partner's 3-level overcall that you almost certainly have a slam, and you might have a grand slam. Your focus must be on which slam, not on whether or not there is a slam. You could easily belong in 6, 6, or 6NT, as well as a grand in any of these strains.

There is a case for bidding 3. This will get diamond support out of partner, which would be nice. However, if partner doesn't have diamond support he will probably be bidding 3, 3, or 4, since he doesn't figure to have a heart stopper. If this happens you probably belong in clubs, but perhaps not. Also, you may lose any chance to bid RKC for clubs, since the club fit will not be established.

Even if you don't belong in clubs, getting a response to RKC will be very valuable. If partner has 3 key cards and the queen of clubs, you will be able to count 13 top tricks. If he has 3 key cards but no queen of clubs, that indicates that diamonds is a better strain since the club suit can probably be established with ruffs. If he has only 2 key cards you will know to stop in a small slam, and you can make an intelligent decision about which small slam.

You bid 4. The bidding continues

W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
?

4: RKC for clubs

5: 2 key cards with the queen of clubs.

5 by you would ask for specific kings, up-the-line coding. This would not guarantee all the key cards, so partner is barred from bidding a grand. If he thinks he has the cards for a grand, he will bid 6NT, which tells you to bid a grand unless a key card is missing.

Your call?

South
AJ9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
?

You know you are off a minor-suit ace. Partner has the queen of clubs and he almost certainly has a 6-card suit for his 3-level overcall, so your jack of clubs should solidify the club suit. The question is which slam is best.

You aren't going to play 6. Partner could have a singleton small diamond.

If partner has the king of spades, you certainly want to be in 6NT. This would avoid the danger of a ruff, and you might have enough tricks even if the clubs split badly. Picture partner with something like Kxx xx Ax KQxxxx and it is easy to see how 6NT might be best.

Suppose partner doesn't have the king of spades. 6NT could still be better, as there is the danger of a heart ruff in 6 if East has a singleton heart and West has the ace of clubs. A spade lead through your ace could be fatal. It is also possible that there are enough tricks in notrump when 6 would go down on a bad club split. If partner has the queen of spades, 6NT will certainly be better than 6.

If partner doesn't have the queen of spades, not so clear. 6NT will be defeated with a spade lead, but this might not be so easy for West to find. 6 will also be in jeopardy unless partner happens to have a singleton spade, and the spade lead will probably be easier for East to find. In addition, if partner does have a singleton spade that increases the chances that East has a singleton heart. Finally, partner has to have something for his overcall. He is missing one of the minor-suit aces, so if he is also missing the king of spades he is quite likely to have the queen in order to justify his overcall.

All things considered, there doesn't seem to be any reason to ask for the king of spades. 6NT figures to be better in all variations.

You bid 6NT, ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

West leads the 2 of spades.

North
5
Q86
A95
KQ7652
South
AJ9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

East plays the queen of spades, and you win the ace. How do you proceed?

North
Q86
A95
KQ7652
South
J9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

Your only hope other than a defensive error is the slim possibility that West has the ace of clubs along with a singleton spade. In addition, there are possible undertricks at stake if the clubs don't run. West could have a singleton ace of clubs. You might as well cater to that by leading a small club towards dummy.

You lead a small club. West grabs his ace of clubs and king of spades, and you are down 1. The full hand is

West
K762
J109743
8
A10
North
5
Q86
A95
KQ7652
East
Q10843
2
10764
984
South
AJ9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
5
Q
A
3
1
0
3
A
2
4
0
1
1
K
3

It turns out that 6 would also have failed, since East would have led his singleton heart and gotten a heart ruff. 6 is the winner, making an initial 3 call the successful action.

Do you think the spade lead is percentage?

West
K762
J109743
8
A10
North
5
Q86
A95
KQ7652
East
Q10843
2
10764
984
South
AJ9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
5
Q
A
3
1
0
3
A
2
4
0
1
1
K
3

If East has the queen of spades the spade lead will be a winner, and almost certainly will be necessary. South is missing the ace of clubs, and was still willing to drive to 6NT. If South is also missing the king and queen of spades, he pretty much has to have everything else which, with the help of North's club suit, will certainly come to 12 tricks. The spade lead also might win if dummy has the queen of spades, East has the jack, and declarer or dummy has the 10, since declarer might misguess. However, declarer will probably guess right, since leading from a random jack vs. 6NT is very unattractive.

South certainly has a double heart stopper. He is missing an ace, yet chose 6NT instead of 6C. If he didn't have a double heart stopper that would make no sense, since 6C might make if North is short in hearts while 6NT would fail on a heart lead. Therefore, the only reason for leading a heart is to make a safe lead, not to establish the setting trick.

If declarer or dummy has the queen of spades, the spade lead will give declarer a second spade trick. This will be costly only if declarer has exactly 11 tricks without the spade lead. Is this possible considering the auction? Yes, it is quite possible. Picture South holding something like AQJx AKx Kxx Jxx, with North holding the same hand. South would have bid exactly as he did, and the spade lead would hand him #12.

The odds are well against finding East with the queen of spades. In addition to the fact that N-S have most of the outstanding strength, South might have chosen 6 instead of 6NT if he didn't have the queen of spades.

On the other hand, there is a good chance that blowing a spade trick won't matter. Declarer probably has 12 tricks anyway, assuming the club suit comes in which is likely to be the case. For this reason, the spade lead is probably percentage. When it works it is very necessary, while when it doesn't work probably nothing will matter.

What do you think about North's 3 overcall?

West
K762
J109743
8
A10
North
5
Q86
A95
KQ7652
East
Q10843
2
10764
984
South
AJ9
AK5
KQJ32
J3
W
N
E
S
2
3
P
4
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
5
Q
A
3
1
0
3
A
2
4
0
1
1
K
3

North is very light for a 3-level overcall. It isn't so much the danger of going for a number. That can always happen any time you overcall, but it would require East to have both a strong hand and a club stack. The bigger danger is the third opponent. South might not take a joke, and bid a hopeless 3NT. Furthermore East knows where he is at, and he could easily be able to double 3NT.

The key question North should be asking before overcalling light is: If I pass, is there a danger that we will miss a game? The key is the length in opener's suit. If North had a stiff heart and 3 spades, there would be a real danger of missing a game. South might have some heart length with a fair hand, but no convenient balance. With North's actual distribution of 3 hearts and a stiff spade, there is little danger of missing a game. It is hard to imagine South being unable to balance with a takeout double or a 2 overcall if he has enough strength for game. Consequently, passing is relatively safe. If South sells out there won't be a game, and the best result might be from defending 2.

The question of whether to lead aggressively or passively against a slam is always a difficult one. This hand is no exception. It is necessary to add in all the relevant facts to determine the proper answer. West did so, and earned a big swing.

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