Grand Slam

August 13, 2021

Brian Senior has written about a key board from the Mixed Pairs Championships.

 

 

There was a potential grand slam on this deal from Thursday evening's Mixed Pairs Championship, but it didn't prove to be easy for the field to get to.

 

Board 19. Dealer South. E/W Vul.

                                              Q 3

                                              J 9 7 6 2

                                              K 9 4 3 2

                                             7

                      9 8 5 4                                                          J 6 2

                      8                                                                   10 5

                      A Q 7 5                                                          J 10 8 6

                     J 8 5 4                                                         K 10 9 6

                                              A K 10 7

                                              A K Q 4 3

                                              –

                                             A Q 3 2

 

The boards were played not only in Eastbourne but also at several clubs around the country, bringing the field up to a total of 35 tables. Of those, only four reached the grand slam, where one was doubled, 14 reached 6, and the remainder languished in game.

You really shouldn't be scoring well above average on this deal for getting to the small slam. That should be automatic, with the issue being whether you can find a way to Seven.

Some Souths opened 1. The normal style now would be for North to raise to game, which usually shows a shapely hand with good trump support but limited high-card values – a perfect description of the North hand.

South will obviously be interested in slam now and should commit to at least the six level. The use of any form of Blackwood would be rather fatuous, as South knows that partner does not hold a useful ace. Equally, it won't be easy to get a cuebid out of partner, unless that cuebid is to show the ace of diamonds so will not be very helpful. I would jump to 6, showing a diamond void and asking partner to bid Seven if he has a bit of something outside diamonds. Give North the king of clubs, for example, instead of the king of diamonds, and he should accept the grand slam invitation.  Holding his actual hand, I would expect North to sign off in 6, as it's hard to play South for quite this much for a one-level opening, and the grand slam will be missed. Still, as we have seen, that scores well over average, in fact only just shy of 70%, and if that could be repeated on every deal it would be enough to win the majority of bridge sessions.

I have some sympathy with the 1 opening, as big three-suiters are tough to develop after an artificial 2 opening, which rather cramps the auction, often leading to one of the suits being lost. However, I'm sure that the majority opened 2, and that can hardly be criticised looking at the massive potential of the South hand if only a fit can be found.

On this deal South opens 2 and rebids 2 over North's 2 negative/relay response. North may raise to 3 or may make a 4 splinter bid to show heart support, some values, and a shortage in clubs.

 

(i)         North              South                          (ii)        North              South

            –                      2                                           –                      2

            2                    2                                           2                    2

            3                   3                                            4                   ?

            4                   ?

 

If North raises 2 to 3, we will have auction (i), where South will cuebid 3 and North 4. If feeling optimistic, I might just blast 7 now and hope that partner can offer a little help with the spade suit, but probably a better bid is a jump to 6, showing the void and inviting partner to judge whether to bid Six or Seven. Though the K looks to be wasted, the fifth heart and Q are enough to make 7 a reasonable decision, as to open 2 South pretty much needs all he has got – and the K instead of the K is also OK.

If North splinters, we have auction (ii). South is again in a position to invite Seven and, with no obvious way to do so via a simple cuebid, I again like a jump to 6 as being the best way forward. Once again, we see North with a wasted king, but five trumps and the queen of spades would be enough for me to bid the grand.

The fifth trump is really the key in both these auctions, as North should have sufficient for partner to be able to play a massive crossruff if need be. Anyway, while I accept that 13 tricks may not always be guaranteed, I like 7 with the North cards, Give North the same hand with only four trumps, and it would be a different matter, and he should settle for the small slam.

As for the play, West is almost endplayed at trick one, with the lead of any side-suit giving declarer a no-risk extra trick. Declarer can afford to draw two rounds of trumps and has five side-suit tricks and eight trump tricks for 13 in all.

The only lead not to give the thirteenth trick immediately is the singleton eight of hearts, and I am sure that this is the correct lead against Seven. Declarer will cover with dummy's nine and, whether or not it is played to this trick, that will trap East's ten, just making the crossruff a little safer. Declarer can cash four top tricks in the black suits and crossruff his way to nine heart tricks, again coming to the required 13.