Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Defines a Good Slam

Playing in our weekly IMPS game, you have this interesting hand come up. Vul vs Not, you hold KT93 T75 AKQ8 AT. Playing weak NT’s, you open 1D, and over partners 1H, you bid 1N showing a strong (15-17) NT. Partner bids 2D (GF Stayman) and you bid 2S, then over partners natural 3D, you show the 3 card Heart support with 3H. Partner bids 3S, now what?

It is starting to sound like partner has a near mirror image of your hand with 3442 (could be 3541, but will bid 4H later if that is so), presumably with a good hand, since he is taking the slow road to find out where we should play, but how good is his hand? Assuming a Spade card for 3S, along with good Hearts since he has nothing in Diamonds, and presumably not much in Clubs since did not hear 3N here. So can the Hearts be solid, which would be required to have any good play in a slam, something like Axx AKQJ xxxx xx, with this auction. Even Axx AKQx xxxx xx, would make 6D against the odds, with quite possibly 3 losers.

I think this is a very hard hand to get correct with any kind of reliability, since how do you find out what partners 4th round in a specific suit is like. At the table, I actually jumped to 5D at this point, hoping with the right hand, partner would go on. After the fact, I think that a bid of 4C at this point is better, since I do not have to have a control in that suit. And then over partners whatever bid, now bid 5D.

On to partners actual hand, and whether this counts as a good or bad slam. He held Qxx AKQJ xxxx xx, close to what I needed, but Q instead of A of Spades. So the slam depends on picking up either the J of Spades, or guessing an Ax with either opp once Diamonds are 3-2. So all in all, not a good slam, probably coming in around 26-27%. Turns out Diamonds were 3-2, and based on the lead and pitches, I played RHO for the length in Spades, and thus the J. All of this worked so we did make +620, and I am still happy I was not in the slam, since I would have had to think about that a lot more than it required in 5D. But the final definition that is sometimes hard to argue with is whether it makes, and since this one did, it is OK, not up to good, but not as hopeless as some I have got myself into.


  1. So I don't think I like your partners 2d. He knows you don't have 4 card heart support, he knows you don't have 5 spades, and he knows you have an otherwised balanced 15-17, likely with 4 diamonds. You aren't strong enough for slam (in which case 3d slamming in diamonds or 2d...3d might be ok), so going slow is going to pin point the problem suit for the opponents. There is a small chance you'll figure out that spades or clubs is wide open and be able to play 4-3 4 hearts (or 4s), and on some hands 5d might be better (especially if partner sometimes has 6 of them), but overall you will want to be in 3nt the vast majority of the time and it is better not to clue opponents in to if the clubs are the risk or the spades are.

  2. I actually agree with you, now that I think about it. I was thinking at the time he had a better hand, and then when dummy came down, all I was thinking of was could I make 12 tricks. But from his point of view, after 1D-1H-1N, 3N is probably the best bid to set the contact. If I happen to have 4 Hearts, I will usually convert to 4H anyways.

  3. At pairs, 3NT looks preferable to 2D as slam doesn't appear to be on the menu. At teams, I prefer 2D as game in either major or diamonds may be preferable to 3NT with clubs potentially wide open & 2-2. In a weak NT system, opener's 1NT rebid may have 5-6 diamonds or also 4-card heart support on occasion. In the auction in question, a club lead is likely in any event, so you might as well be in the safest contract. Opener still had 3NT available over 3S as a place to play. 4C does look like a superior bid to 5D if opener's interested in slam. From responder's POV 5D sounds like all of opener's stuff is in the pointed suits.