Bridge By The Lake
By Ken Masson
Slam hands crop up relatively infrequently so it is important not to miss those that do come your way. Alas, the North South pairs in the diagrammed deal let a golden opportunity slip by when this hand was played in a Toronto area bridge club.
North certainly did not have slam aspirations when he opened his modest collection 1 diamond, as I suspect would every player in the room holding that hand. East was happy with his cards and overcalled 1 heart, the same call with which he would have opened the bidding had North passed. Note that East did not jump the bidding with a pre-emptive 3 level bid as his hand was too good for such an action.
South had no problem finding a1 spade bid, guaranteeing at least a 5 card suit. This was duly raised to the 2 level by North and this in turn drew a 3 heart bid from East. Now South made the most crucial bid of the auction: 4 clubs. Since a 4 level call of any denomination was committing the partnership to at least a game bid, 4 clubs had to be an invitation to slam and asked North to describe his hand further. Unfortunately North was not on the same wavelength and, considering his hand to be a rock bottom minimum, quickly signed off in 4 spades.
North’s problem was that he didn’t pause to ask himself why his partner was showing a club suit at this juncture. If he had, he would have realized that his hand had grown in stature as his ace and queen of clubs would be immensely valuable to his partner. Instead of bidding a pedestrian 4 spades he should have made a cuebid of 4 diamonds announcing that he had first round control of that suit.
This would have been a very encouraging sign to South who would now have bid 4 hearts to show control of that suit. North should not waiver at this point but continue describing his holding by cuebidding 5 clubs. Now it would be easy for South to bring the auction to a close by bidding 6 spades.
There was very little to the play. West led a heart which declarer won in hand with the singleton ace. Crossing over to dummy with a diamond, South called for the spade 10 and it didn’t matter whether East covered or not as declarer could draw all outstanding trumps in 3 rounds.
With trumps taken care of, declarer turned his attention to clubs. He cashed the ace and queen, discovering that West had a club winner coming to him. After the club trick was conceded, South could win any return and claim 12 tricks.
Interestingly enough, when this hand was played in a club duplicate game, no North-Souths managed to bid the slam. There is no record of how the bidding went at other tables but if South managed to show a black two suiter at any table I would have expected some would have been rewarded by reaching a mathematically sound small slam which would have made with either the spade king onside or the enemy clubs breaking 3-2.