BAD, BAD SLAMS

Maritha Pottenger

Today, August 27, 2018, bad slam bidding was the norm at Soledad Club. Please remember that 33 HCP points are needed for small slams in NT unless someone has a long solid suit. You can make suit slams with a wee bit less IF you have a good fit and your doubletons are in different suits. (If you end up with mirror distribution, even the 8-card major fit may not save you.)

I am changing format slightly at Merrel Olsen's request. The two relevant hands will be listed in a line above the text that discusses them. Hopefully this will make visualizing easier for others among you.

North: 5 AQJ10652 A872 J

South: KQ1086 43 105 AKQ2

Hand #4 was the first of the Bad and Ugly. North opened 1 and South bid 1. North bid 3—a bid with which I disagree. Although North has a five loser hand (allowed to do Losing Trick Count with a self-sufficient suit or suit willing to play opposite a singleton or void), he does not have enough outside strength to have partner start dreaming of slam. The correct rebid with the North hand is 4—this shows the 5-loser hand with a self-sufficient suit, but not enough outside controls to be interested in slam. A 3 rebid should show lots of POWER—typically 16-18 HCP and a 6 card or longer suit.

South got excited and jumped to 4NT. This is Bad Blackwood. You do NOT ask for Key Cards with two quick losers in a side suit. If you find out you are missing one Key Card, you will not know whether you are missing the A AND K. The other BIG problem with South's bid is she did not consider all possible answers to her Bad Blackwood. North bid 5—two Key Cards plus the Q. Now South has to bid 6 whether she likes it or not—and they are missing TWO Key Cards. Of course the slam failed.

West: A7 AJ7 K7 KQJ1094

East: J6532 KQ103 J93 A

Hand #6 was another Bad Slam. East opened 1—yes it is only 11 HCP, but it is 5-4 in the majors and you has the two quick tricks that are mandatory for marginal opening hands. West bid 2 (game forcing) and East rebid 2, describing her shape. West fell in love with her club suit and 18 HCP and just bid 6NT. It was not a success. North led the K (from KQ9) and sat back and waited for his the A.

West's better rebid is 3 over 2, seeking more information about East's hand. East will rebid 3—which does not promise six spades—but definitely denies any useful diamond cards. It is now officially a misfit hand. Even though West has 18 HCP, East could have only 11 or 12 HCP and is making minimum bids. You need extra values to make slam on misfit hands. At this point, West should bid 3NT. If East does have a good hand, East will move over 3NT. By going through Fourth Suit Forcing (3) before bidding 3NT, West has shown extra values and slam interest, so if East has an excellent opening hand, East can take action. 3NT makes 5. (Ironically, against 3NT, some Norths will lead a diamond giving declarer 12 tricks.)

North: AJ2 AJ62 AK8764

South: 1093 Q84 QJ10 A1094

Hand #12 was Bad and Ugly. West passed and North opened 1. East (yours truly) opposite a passed partner and white versus red opponents, bid 3—for the lead. South fell from grace and bid 3NT when a red card was warranted—guess he doesn't like defending. His partner got excited with his 17 HCP and bid 6. Another slam that did not fetch. Yes, North has 17 HCP, but partner could have only 13 HCP (or even a 11 or 12 that he likes) because the 3 preempt has taken up room. Plus, partner has wasted values in clubs since he is promising a club stopper. Furthermore, suits are probably breaking badly, based on the preempt. If partner has only two diamonds without the Q, you have a sure diamond loser. If partner has three diamonds and diamonds are 3-1, you have a diamond loser and could easily lose a trick in one of the majors. Just Pass 3NT.

North: KQ2 K1054 A985 96

South: AJ3 2 K732 AKQ32

Hand #21 was Ugly and Bad. North opened 1 and South bid 2 (game-forcing). North rebid 2NT (usually 12-14 balanced), and South leapt to 6. There are a number of flaws in this bid. Yes, partner should have four diamonds (or more) on this auction, but your spots are horrible. If partner's diamonds are Axxx or Qxxx with no good spots, you can never make slam. Secondly, partner has bid 2NT which promises stoppers in the majors. She has wasted values in hearts (your singleton). Plus, South only has 17 HCP. Partner has 12-14. At most, they have 31 HCP. At least they have 29 HCP. These numbers do not make slams.

North: AK KQ103 K852 Q62

South: J8 A975 AJ87 A87

Hand #28 was bad and ugly. North opened 1NT (15-17) and South bid Stayman. North bid 2. South blasted into Bad Blackwood. (Again, if partner was short on Key Cards, you don't know if you are missing the A AND the K.) North showed two Key Cards with the Queen of trumps, so South was FORCED to bid 6. Now, note that South was lucky enough to catch North with a full 17 HCP (could have been only 15 or 16 HCP). And, even with their combined total of 31 HCP, this slam took TWO finesses to make. The K AND the Q have to be in the right place for this slam to make. That is a 25% slam—actually 17% (25% × 68%) because hearts have to break also (68%).

So, what should South have bid? South should have bid 3 over 2 if he wanted to make a slam try. This should show slam interest, and is EITHER a second suit or an advance cue-bid with hearts as trump. North would cooperate with a 3 bid. Then South can bid 4. North can bid 4 and South can try 6 if he feels lucky. However, if South really thought about what cards he needs North to hold for slam to be a likely prospect, he would just settle for 4.

When you are contemplating looking for slam, one of the things you should do is visualize the cards you need partner to have to make slam, and see if those are possible on this auction. Remember, if partner has to have a MAGIC hand, he doesn't have it! So the South hand needs North to have the KQ. You need North to have the A. You'd like North to have the K and the K. That is 15 HCP. Partner cannot have more than one queen or two jacks left. The Q won't help much, because you and your partner can still have two club losers. The Q means your partner needs a favorable position of BOTH the K AND the Q. And if partner has the J and the J, the chances of this slam are pretty much zero. If you give partner AQx KQxx Kxx Kxx, you still need the spade finesse and the diamond finesse. (If the spade finesse loses, a losing club gets discarded from Dummy.) Partner could have a good 16 HCP (not 17) and cooperate with your slam try. With the Bad Blackwood bid, partner could have had only 15 HCP, e.g., AK KQ10x Kxxx xxx, and you have forced yourselves to slam with two sure club losers EVEN IF the diamond finesse wins. The bottom line is: if you look at all the holes in the South hand, you will see, that North would need MORE than 17 HCP for slam to be odds on. [Odds on is 50% or better.]

If my partner bid this slam and it made, I'd tell her: I hope your always psychic and know when everything is in the right place for us, because that bid was not a good bid—it was against the odds.