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Fifty one tricks in four boards!

Fifty one tricks in four successive boards! East/West had a memorable run of hands in the Axe Virtual Bridge Club Monday night session on February 8th when they were dealt four successive slams. One pair even made 51 tricks over the four hands losing only one trick to the ace of trumps on the 4th board. On the way, they bid and made three of the four possible slams. No pair bid all 4 possible slams.

Board 9

This was an easily bid grand slam. As West you are holding a balanced 25 points when partner opens a weak no trump. If partner has only 12 points you could be missing the king of hearts so you need Blackwood to be certain of the grand slam but an immediate 4NT would be quantitative and may be passed. If you are using 2 spades as a range enquiry you can ask with no fear of partner passing. This reveals a minimum opener but, more importantly, now sets up 4NT to be Blackwood rather than a quantitative raise. The response shows 2 aces of course but 5NT reveals 1 king so you know without any doubt that you have all 13 tricks. Despite this, the grand slam was only bid at 7 out of the 10 tables!

Board 10

This was a difficult to bid 6 spade contract which was missed by everyone. Playing 5 card majors, however, which rapidly locates the 5-3 spade fit, the slam may have been reached via the Jacoby 2NT convention (which shows a game going hand in opener’s major) since it allows opener to show a singleton or a void on their rebid. After East opens 1 spade and West bids 2NT Jacoby, then 3D from East shows a singleton or a void in diamonds. West should now realise that, with no wasted values in diamonds, they are effectively playing with a 30 point pack of which they hold between them probably 27+ points and a small slam is a strong possibility. With two losers in clubs, West should temporise with a cuebid of 3 hearts. When East cuebids 4 clubs then West can use RKCB to confirm that East has 2 key cards and bid the slam.

Computer simulations where West’s hand is fixed and East’s hands are those which would open 1 spade and rebid 3D over a Jacoby 2NT suggest that 6 spades can be made on 80% of such hands. (This is allowing opening bids on rule of 20 hands with at least 10 high card points.) I find this result remarkable but it was obtained from 40 deals, 32 of which were slams. A slam is certainly a better than 50% chance and this is without checking for aces. In reality, our lucky pair played in 4 spades but made +3 when a club was led allowing them to avoid the diamond loser.

Board 11

This was an easier slam to bid with East holding a balanced 21 points when West opened 1NT. Finding partner was minimum, many Easts subsided in 6 NT which fails on good defence since the king of spades is offside and you have an unavoidable heart loser. The two pairs who decided to play in their 4-4 heart fit were rewarded when they were allowed to make 7. Both declarers led trumps towards the ace but played the nine when North failed to split their honours holding QJ8. This partial safety play against losing 2 heart tricks when North holds QJxx actually yields an overtrick in this instance. Note, however, that if you lose a trick to the queen or jack with South then you must play the king of hearts next time. This will reveal if South is now void and allow a marked finesse against the remaining honour with North. If both opponents follow then the suit has split 3-2 and the ace will take the remaining card. Playing this way only loses two tricks when South holds QJxx. Personally, I would have laid down the king of hearts and then led towards the ace, playing it if an honour appeared or putting in the nine otherwise. This also guards against losing 2 hearts to QJxx with North but is conceptually easier for me.

Board 12

This was another distributional hand with only 25 high card points between the two hands but a 10 card diamond fit and an 8 card spade fit easily yielded 12 tricks in diamonds. Our lucky pair were the only pair bid the diamond slam. With West as opener, the actual bidding proceeded: pass – 1S – 2D – 4C(splinter) – 4D – 6D.

Playing pairs, there is an argument to be made for investigating the possibility of a spade slam. (Indeed, at the only other table to bid a slam, the bidding proceeded pass – 1S – 2D – 6S!) Playing 5 card majors we don’t expect partner to have 3 spades but there is a subtle way of finding out if they have 2. By cue bidding 4H over 4D we give partner the chance to bid 4S showing a control in spades. When they don’t do this but simply bid 5D we can infer that they don’t have a singleton or void in spades and hence must have 2. You might, therefore, decide to gamble 6 spades. This should fail on this particular deal since the hand on lead can lead their singleton diamond to partner’s ace and ruff the return. In the event this did not happen. The ace of clubs was led and 6 spades bid and made was the top score.

In my 60+ years of playing bridge, I have never before seen 51 tricks taken in 4 hands by the same pair. The only trick lost was to the ace of trumps.

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