Slam Auctions
by Jim Munday


Exhibit 1

IMPs

Slam bidding is one of the more challenging areas of the game. If you can develop effective tools for finding good slams; you will have a chance to beat anyone. The following hands are some key slams from the recently completed Long Beach Regional.

Our auctions are shown --- how would you fare?

1.
S 3 2
H A Q 3 2
D K 3
C A Q 8 3 2
[W - E]
None Vul S A Q J 4
H K 4
D A 5 4
C J 9 6 5


West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass

North

1 H
2 D
3 C

East

Pass
Pass
Pass

South
1 C
1 NT
2 S
3 NT

3 NT by South
Made 6

1N showed 14 to 17-. 2 D was game forcing. The rest of the auction was natural.

These sort of slams are tough to reach; where each player has full values or maybe a little extra, but with flaws.

The South hand has poor clubs, the North hand has extras but can't be sure of a slam. It's critical to have an understanding with your partner in these situations.

I believe 3N should be used as a slam depressant (with rare exceptions). I also believe that bids below game are cooperative and do not promise extras, but at least constructive values. I also do not like the principle of fast arrival. Too often it preempts partner who will not know whether to proceed, just having a minimum is not reason enough to avoid slam.

If either partner had made one more cooperative step, slam would have been reached. Slam is not cold but it is one you'd like to be in. In practice, 12 tricks are easy.


Exhibit 2

Slam Auctions

IMPs

2.
S K 4 3 2
H A 10 8 6
D Q J
C 9 3 2
[W - E]
N-S Vul S A 8 5
H K Q J 7 5
D A K 5 4
C 8


West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass

North
Pass
3 D¹
4 H
5 D

East
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

South
1 H
3 S
4 NT
5 H
1. Limit raise in hearts

5 H by South
Made 6

This hand is very tough; needing every bit of both hands to make. This was one hand where an encouraging 3N (over 3s) would have been useful suggesting useful values but no minor suit controls. However, the minors could easily have been reversed and the 5 level becomes unsafe. If South had been able to show diamond length and/or club shortness that would have helped. Had North started with 2N (forcing raise) that would have been easier to show.

Once again, there is not much to the play. 2 spades are discarded on the long diamonds.


Exhibit 3

Slam Auctions

IMPs

3.
S 7 5 2
H A 7 4
D A Q 10 8
C A 10 5
[W - E]
E-W Vul S A 4
H J 10
D K 5 4
C K Q J 9 7 3


West

Pass
Rdbl
Pass
All Pass

North

1 D
Pass
3 S

East

1 S
2 S
Pass

South
1 C
Dbl¹
3 C
3 NT
1. Support double, showing exactly 3 diamonds

3 NT by South
Made 6

This is a hand that shows the importance of partnership agreements in competitive auctions. Should 3 C show extras or a weak hand? There isn't a right or wrong answer. This is a prime example that bids should SHOW, not deny holdings. What is the primary feature of the South hand? In my mind it is the club suit, and the 3 card diamond support is secondary. Supporting your partner is frequently the winning action however, North has a clear 4 C bid, not only because slam is in view, but 3N may not be the right contract. South could have the HK instead of the CK and then 3N will likely fail.

This hand is not laydown, but the odds are good for bringing in the diamond suit, particularly on the bidding.


Exhibit 4

Slam Auctions

MPs

4.
S A 8 5 4
H 2
D A J 10 3
C 5 4 3 2
[W - E]
N-S Vul S K J 9
H A 4
D 7
C A K J 9 8 7 6


West

Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass

North

1 S
4 NT?
5 NT¹

East

Pass
Pass
Pass

South
1 C
3 C
5 C
7 NT!
1. Able to show the cQ due to having extra length.

7 NT by North
Made 7

I see a lot of pairs misuse Blackwood for a myriad of reasons. 4N was not a good bid, responder doesn't have enough information to bid intelligently. 4 H (a splinter) would be a much better choice. With a slim chance to win, we were both trying for a big result. A useful follow-up, particularly playing RKC, is that 5N guarantees all keycards and the trump queen. This sometimes allows the responder to count 13 tricks and enables them to bid the grand. This hand is just such an example, with the extra club and SK, opener should bid the grand. It's important to remember that the Blackwooder is the captain. Opener cannot count 13 tricks in notrump and should bid 7C instead. Actually I prefer 6S (showing SK) followed by 7 C, which could allow responder to bid 7N. As often happens, when both partners push, the partnership often gets too high.

7c is a decent spot, but 7N really needs some help. We caught a break on this hand, the SQTx was onside and 13 tricks were duly recorded.


Exhibit 5

Slam Auctions

IMPs

5.
S A J 2
H Q 10 9
D A K J 7 4 3
C 5
[W - E]
N-S Vul S K 5 3
H K J 8 7 3
D 6 2
C A 7 6


West

1 S
Pass
All Pass

North

2 D
4 C

East

Pass
Pass

South
1 H
2 H
4 H

4 H by South
Made 6

This was from a KO playing with Bill Hall. Even playing 5 card majors, I strongly agree with 2 D. With a minimum, and no diamond help, I opted to show the 5th heart. The splinter fit my hand well but I didn't have a convenient cuebid. Concerned about a 2nd round spade loser, Bill opted for a conservative pass. Note that opener's hand is a bare minimum. Sometimes the right minimum is all it takes for slam.

In slam, drawing trump and playing for a 3-2 split in either red suit is the best chance. Trump were 4-1 but diamonds split and 12 tricks came in.


Exhibit 6

Slam Auctions

IMPs

6.
S K
H A K J 8 3
D Q 10 3
C J 9 8 3
[W - E]
N-S Vul S A 9 6 4 2
H 9 2
D A J 5
C A K Q


West

Pass
Pass
Pass

North

2 D
3 NT
6 NT

East

Pass
Pass
All Pass

South
1 S
2 NT
4 NT

6 NT by South
Trick
1. W
2. S
3. E
4. S
5. N
6. N
Lead
D 4
H 2
D 6
H 9
H A
S K
2nd
Q
4
J
5
D 8
3
3rd
K
J
7
K
S 2
4
4th
A
Q
3
6
H 7
5
Down 1

This was a 2/1 auction. Most 2/1 pairs play a jump to 3N by opener here shows explicitly a strong NT. This sequence shows 18-19. With a good suit and top of range, North has an easy raise.

This is a great play problem. Our opponent took the line shown above which failed. Which is the best line? With the opening lead, there are 11 top tricks, you need only 1 extra heart trick. Take a moment to decide how you would play it.

There are three reasonable approaches. Cash the HAK, take two finesses in hearts (for the HQ then HT), or the line declarer chose.

This hand is a classic example of the benefits of knowing suit break percentages. This is a complex example, but is the type of hand that is encountered often. This is a rare hand in that 2 of the lines are extremely close, there is usually one line that stands out. At the table, I favored the double-finesse. As it turns out, declarer's actual line was slightly better (cashing the HAK is the lowest of the three) but ironically was the only one that failed in practice.

Was declarer unlucky? Yes ... and no. When possible, it's best to obtain more information before making a key decision. The diamond play at trick 1 has created entry flexibility. Cashing three rounds of clubs cannot hurt and we may learn something. When West shows out on the 3rd round, the double-finesse improves to a near dead heat (West is more likely to hold heart length being short in clubs). Now the heart finesse (be careful to unblock the 9), the HJ losing to the HQ. Win the return in dummy, cashing the long club, remaining spade/diamond winner and return to hand with the 3rd diamond. 4 cards remain. Cash the SA and lead a heart. Decision time. We have a complete count in each minor and can make an informed decision. We have combined all of our chances (including a potential squeeze!) with our chosen line, and have a good chance of making the right guess in the endgame.


Exhibit 7

Slam Auctions

IMPs

7.
S 8 5 4
H Q 6 3
D A K 10 9 2
C K 7
[W - E]
None Vul S A 2
H A K J 9 4 2
D Q 6 3
C A 4


West

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
All Pass

North

2 D
4 C
4 H
5 D
6 D

East

Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass
Pass

South
1 H
3 H
4 D
4 NT
5 S
7 H

7 H by South
Made 7

A good example of tricks, not points, ruling the day. A 30 point laydown grand slam (if no ruff at trick 1). Hearts can overcome an adverse diamond break by ruffing the 4th round if necessary. 5s is the trump queen ask, and the 6d response showed the trump queen and DK. Music to opener's ears, and the great grand was reached.

Were you and your partner able to reach slam on the above deals? Congratulations if so; many of them were difficult to reach.