By Prof Tony Campbell

SLAMS win matches. But, when bidding, it is often very difficult to be certain you have the right cards between you and your partner to make 12 or 13 tricks.

Here is a hand played in the East Wales team of four knock-out competition last week, where East took a risk and bid the small slam.

The Auction

East/.West were playing Benji-Acol. So, the opening bid of two diamonds was a game force showing at least twenty three points, or nine playing tricks in a suit. East knew he had eight certain tricks with spades as trumps, and, not unreasonably, decided to count his king of diamonds as the ninth trick, strengthened by the fact that he also held the ten of diamonds. South, trying to disrupt the bidding, jumped to four hearts to prevent East/West showing their hands to the full. Without the intervening bid by South, West would have bid three hearts, showing two aces of the same colour.

They were playing a convention where, after a game force opening by partner, you cue bid an ace if you have one, bid two no trumps with at least one king and eight plus points, or three hearts, three spades or three no trumps to show two aces, in the order - colour, rank, other (CRO).

After such a sequence, four no trump Blackwood asks for kings and not aces. But, unfortunately, South’s four heart bid prevented West showing his two aces at this stage, so he chose to double, telling his partner he had the heart ace, and some points. East now can see a slam as a distinct possibility.

So, he bid four no trumps, asking West how many aces he held. If a suit had been bid by East/West four no trumps would normally be Roman Key Card Blackwood, where there are five key cards – four aces and the king of the suit agreed or the last suit bid. But here it can only be normal Blackwood, as no proper suit had been bid by either East or West.

Five hearts by West showed two aces. East now knew that he can discard one of his losing diamonds or clubs on the ace of hearts. Eleven tricks were certain. But, should he risk the slam? After some thought East took the gamble and bid six spades. Since West had doubled the four heart bid, East thought there was a good chance he had another high card apart from his two aces.

The play

South began by leading the queen of hearts. East, as declarer, looked carefully at the hand. Six spades was cold, and seven would make if North held the king of clubs. East refused to put dummy’s ace of hearts on the first trick, just in case North was void, and South had nine hearts. Not impossible.

South was a top player and could be fooling him with the queen of hearts lead. Declarer ruffed the queen of hearts in hand, and played the ace and king of spades, drawing the two trumps that were held by North. East then played a small diamond to the ace in dummy. He didn't need the ace of hearts to discard a losing club, as dummy held queen, jack and ten in this suit. So, declarer played the queen of clubs from dummy. This won, as North refused to cover the queen with his king.

East followed this with the jack of clubs and a small club to his ace. He then played the king of diamonds followed by his third diamond, which he ruffed in dummy. Declarer then claimed the rest of tricks as he only had spades left in his hand, making thirteen tricks – seven spades in hand, a spade ruff in dummy, two diamonds and three clubs, for a score of 1010.

Well bid and well played. Some players as South sacrificed in seven hearts, which was doubled. This wasn’t too bad an idea. With proper defence this goes five off – the ace of hearts, two diamonds, a diamond ruff by West, and the ace of clubs for a loss of 1100, a better score for East/West than a non-vulnerable slam. But, in fact, at the other table seven hearts only went four off for a loss of 800, gaining five IMPS.

What have we learnt?

1. Slams are never easy to bid, especially when the opposition disrupt your system by bidding themselves. But at teams you sometimes have to take a risk.

2. Seven spades makes in this hand. But it is not usually a good idea to risk a grand slam that depends on a finesse.

3. Although it couldn’t be used here, a cue bidding system after an opening game force bid by partner can be very useful in finding a slam.

4. When you are considering a sacrifice bid take careful note of the vulnerability. If you are non-vulnerable and the opposition are vulnerable you can afford to go three down in a contract against a making game the other way, or even more if they can make a slam.

Penarth club news

Here are the results of last week from the Penarth-Sully online bridge, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site.

Just click on Results and then the appropriate date. Wed. 7th April; 1. Jane Greatrex and Carolyn Matthews (57.5%); 2. Meryl Skipper and John Pikoulis a (56.6%); 3. Pat James and Philip Bottrill (54.5%). Fri 9th April; 1. Peter Millar and Patsy Cohen (69.8%); 2. Justin Cooper and Tony Campbell (66.8%); 3. Roy and John Holloway (57.1%). 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. Val Hetheridge and Sean Macdougal 3. Carolyn Matthews and Patsy Cohen. 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 available online. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.