By Prof Tony Campbell

ON several occasions I have discussed the systems you need to bid slams effectively, and make either 12 or 13 tricks.

Like me, many of you will be playing bridge enjoyably online. Last week our team played a match on Bridge Base Online against a strong team, also from Penarth Bridge Club, with two Wales internationals.

As often happens, a slam hand was decisive. There are several interesting points to note in the bidding and card play.

The Auction

After two passes South opened the bidding. His assessment of his hand was somewhat generous as he neither had 20-21 points nor a certain eight tricks with spades as trumps. Nevertheless, it would have been difficult to show partner such a strong hand unless he opened with two clubs.

After showing he had eight tricks in spades, his partner made the imaginative bid of four clubs. This is known as a splinter bid, agreeing spades as trumps, and showing either the ace or a singleton club, as well as some points. South was now really interested in a slam, so bid four no trumps. As I have described in previous articles this is Roman Key card Blackwood, where there a five key cards – the four aces and the king of trumps. South showed one key card that must be the king of spades. So South was happy to bid six spades expecting to make twelve tricks.

The play

My partner led his singleton six of hearts. He expected there to be an ace missing. If I had the ace of hearts, then I would win and give him a ruff, taking the slam one off. But declarer won the trick with his ace and then played the ace of clubs, followed by a low club which he ruffed in dummy. He the ruffed a diamond in his hand and ruffed another club with the king of spades in dummy.

He then drew three rounds of trumps, followed by the rest of his spades. I, as East, had a dilemma. Was declarer left with the queen, another heart and a club, or the queen of hearts alone and two clubs? Judging that my partner must have led a singleton heart on the first trick, I discarded my king of clubs on the last spade.

So when declarer played the queen and another heart to dummy’s king, I won the last trick with the jack of hearts, preventing South making an overtrick. If declarer had both the queen of hearts and clubs I was squeezed anyway. At the other table, South correctly opened one spade. West then intervened with a pre-empt of three diamonds. South bid three spades, and East then bid four diamonds which South doubled. So East/West successfully messed up North/South’s bidding. The doubled four diamonds went three off for a loss of only 500. A bad result compared with six spades vulnerable which made 1430 points, for a swing of 15 IMPs.

What have we learnt?

1. When the opposition open with a strong hand it can be a good idea to find a way of disrupting their bidding system.

2. When you have a singleton or void in a suit and have support for your partner’s major the splinter system bid can be very useful, and help to find a difficult slam.

3. When you are defending, use the information from your partner’s card play to ensure you discard the right cards, and don’t discard one that will allow declarer to set up a suit.

Further information

In spite of many shops, restaurants and pubs opening, there is little chance of bridge clubs resuming in the near future. Penarth and other Wales clubs have many members over 60. We are the high risk group, and must be protected. Professor Brian Morgan of Cardiff Metropolitan University, and I are setting up a Wales COVID communication group between the business, education and science sectors to help find creative solutions to the restrictions the SARS-Cov2 coronavirus has imposed on us.

There is an urgent need to access expert virologist advice and utilise the existing infrastructure in our NHS and Universities to provide rapid testing to everyone for the virus, just as we do now for blood tests. We will be submitting articles to the press summarising the expert advice we have received and the need to find ways of safely opening up our economy and education sector.

I will also post some information relevant to bridge clubs on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me. Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is the best and may be open again for new registrations. As shown in this article Bridge Online Base (BBO) is also OK. BBO is still open for registrations. Contact for information. I hope you are able to keep copies of my articles as I build them up. Please let me know if they are useful. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.