Join Bridge Winners
To Slam or Not to Slam
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Match point. Neither vulnerable. At fourth seat you pick up

North
J108543
K
KQJ109
2

Partner opens 1 at second seat. RHO passes. What do you bid?

There are about a dozen ways to raise one of a major opening. With your hand, game is almost a certainty unless partner has no ace at all. You can bid a splinter, 4, if you have it among the agreements with your partner. Otherwise, a Jacoby 2NT would do. If you want to keep the suspense with a 2 game force -- have fun!

But wait -- with an 11-card fit, a solid helper suit and two singletons, all you care about is how many aces your partner has. Why don't we just ask?

You bid 4NT, key-card.

Partner responds with 5D, three key-cards. Now what?

If partner has three aces, then you should bid 6. But, if one of the three key-cards is K, then you are missing two aces and can only make 5. Do you want to take a chance?

This is match point, and the field will probably stop here, so you bid 5, which is passed to partner.

Let's hop over to the other side of the table.

South
A9762
J642
A7
A6
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
4NT
P
5
P
5
P
?

Do you bid or not bid?

When partner embarks on a slam try, she is in charge. When she signs off at 5, you generally oblige. But, this is perhaps one of the few times you should make your own decision.

When partner launches directly into key-card asking then signs off at five of your suit, she has a good fit, and only worries about your actual key-card holding. Despite your low HCP, your hand is actually the maximum as far as your key-card response is concerned -- you have three aces, one of them is the ace of trump.

You take a deep breath and bid 6.

The opening lead is a low heart. RHO captures K with A and leads back a low club. You win A and play A. When both K and Q fall, you claim.

Nice play! But could you have done better in bidding?

The answer is yes. On our convention card next to 4NT there are three check-boxes. Most of us choose one, often the 1430 box. There is no reason we must limit ourselves to one. In fact, Blackwood and key-card are not mutually exclusive. We can have both -- when we jump to 4NT without agreeing on a suit and NT is not an obvious option to play, we can define this bid as Blackwood, and partner responds with the number of aces. On the other hand, if NT has indeed been bid, you have a more economical Gerber for ace asking.

With this hand, when partner invokes Blackwood, there would be no ambiguity that your 5 response shows three aces, and partner can bid 6 confidently.

It is always nice to have an extra option.

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