By Prof. Tony Campbell

SLAMS, where you need twelve or thirteen tricks, win team of four matches and often get you a very good result in a pairs competition, as many people may not have the necessary armoury to bid them.

Bidding and making a small or grand slam is one of the most satisfying results for a bridge partnership. Here is a hand that requires the use of cue bids to indicate to partner control in a particular suit, and the use of Roman key card Blackwood. It is hand aimed to provoke debate, as many players would not cue bid, but rather simply stop at game.

The Auction

South has a good hand, seventeen points, and opens one spade. They are playing Benji-Acol. After some thought North, with eleven points, bid three spades, showing four card spade support and 10-12 points. If the opener had a weak point count, then game in four spades would probably go down. But, if South has a big hand, then three spades leaves plenty of bidding space for cue bids. Cue bids are a vital part of your bidding armoury if you want to find slams.

So South, looking for slam, responded with four diamonds, showing the ace or king, or a singleton. North responded with four hearts, also showing the ace or king, or a singleton in hearts. Some people think that a cue bid should only show an ace or a singleton. But we shall see here how useful it is to cue bid a king. South is really interested now and bids four no trumps. When I first learnt to play bridge, this four no trump bid was Blackwood, invented by Easley Blackwood in 1933, asking how many aces partner had.

But the brilliant Italian team after the Second World War developed Roman key card Blackwood, where an extra key card was added to the system - the king of the agreed suit, or the king of the last proper suit bid, if a trump suit had yet to be agreed. North/South here played five clubs would show one or four key cards, whereas five diamonds would show none or three, known as 14/30. Some players play this the other way round, i.e. 30/41. Five hearts would show two key cards. But what about the queen of trumps?

The system copes with this as well. If you have two key cards and the queen of the agreed suit you bid five spades. South now can see that North must have the ace of clubs, i.e., his one key card, and his cue bid of four hearts showed the king of hearts. As North must have at least ten points for his three-spade bid, South argued to himself that his partner must also have the king of diamonds, otherwise he would have checked out with four spades. And there has to be a chance of a ruff in one hand or the other. So, South happily bid six spades.

The play

Now what should West lead? He only has one point. His partner on the bidding might have one ace, but where could they find a second trick to get the slam one down? In the event West decided to lead the jack of clubs, a suit not cue bid by North/South. Declarer looked carefully at the hand.

In his hand he has one club loser and two potential heart losers. But he has the capacity to ruff the heart losers in dummy, so long as he only draws two rounds of trumps. So, South won the first trick with dummy’s ace of clubs and then played the ace and king of spades. Leaving West with the nine of trumps, South then played the king of hearts from dummy followed by the ace of hearts in his own hand. He then ruffed a third heart with the five of spades in dummy. East has already shown out of spades. So, there was no chance of an over-ruff. South then returned to his hand with the ace of diamonds.

He ruffed his last heart with the dummy’s jack of spades. He followed this by played the king of diamonds from dummy and then ruffing another diamond with the ten of spades in hand, in case West was short in diamonds originally and could over-ruff a low spade with his nine of spades. South then drew the last trump out in West’s hand, followed by another spade, conceding the last trick to East’s king of clubs. Thus, South made the slam of six spades, twelve tricks - five spades in hand, two ruffs in dummy, the ace and king of hearts, the ace and king of diamonds and the ace of clubs. Well bid and well played!

What have we learnt?

1. Cue bids showing an ace or king, or a singleton, are very useful if you want to find a slam.

2. Following this up with Roman Key Card Blackwood will reveal whether the cue bidder has the ace or king in that suit.

3. Always count your tricks carefully when playing a hand and identify how many losers you have. You may therefore not always draw all the trumps immediately if you need to ruff losers using dummy’s trumps.

Penarth club news

Our membership secretary, Meryl Skipper, with the help of Sarah Amos at Cardiff, has setup a way of playing duplicate sessions using Bridge Base online (BBO) at 2pm on Wednesdays and 7pm on Fridays. Here are the results of the first week: Wed. 10th February; 1. Meryl Skipper and John Pikoulis; 2. John and Roy Holloway; 3. Megan Morley and Sally Livesey Davies. Fri. 12th February; 1. John Salisbury and Nalini Dewan; 2. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer; 3. Tim Barsby and Helen Houston. Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join. The current positions in Peter Sampson’s ladder are: 1. Angela Hudson and Rod Hudson; 2. Peter Millar and Mick Green; 3. Patsy Cohen and Peter Millar. Our weekly zoom bridge classes continue. Let me know if you would like to join us.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.