Bridge Slams that are too easy, and some that aren’t
I had a mediocre sectional at teams, hindered by the fact that the bridge slams were too easy.
Take, for example: S:AK H:Kxx D: AKQxx C:Kxx
Simply Monstrous. Too strong for 2N by most pairs, but our 2N opening shows 21-22 (not 20-21). I still considered upgrading with prime cards and my five card diamond suit, but in Polish the resulting auction would be somewhat tortuous and prone to wrong side the contract. So I opened 2N. Our auction wasn’t standard, but was simple.
Me Hank ------- 2N 3C* [* Romex Stayman] 3D* 3S** [* Denies 5S or 4H; ** Undiscussed, but logically shows 5S+4H] 3N* 4N** [* No major fit; ** Would you like to bid more?] 6D* 6N [* "Oh God, Yes! Also, diamonds are noteworthy."]
With partner holding S: QJTxx H:AQJT D:x C:xxx all roads led to slam. The other table was forced to open a strong 2C and 6N was inevitable. Push.
In fact, we had another 6N push the same round. This time (IIRC) we trotted out Romex Transfers over 2N.
Hank ------- 2N 3D* [* Romex Transfer, shows 5H and at least invitational values] 3N* 4N** [* No heart fit; ** Would you like to bid more?] 5N* 6N** [* "Borderline", "Eh, I'm going"]
(The advantage of Romex transfers is that with a slam hand we can start cue-bidding if partner accepts the transfer to show a fit. The disadvantage is that we can’t make garbage transfers to escape).
In fact, the only big slam swing was a huge loss by our team when I signed off in a small slam after partner showed all the missing key cards and I could have blasted the grand or even showed all the keys and partner could then count to 13, but I just quickly bid six and then realized my mistake. Ugh.
I had high hopes for a swing on the following —
S: Kxx H: AJTxx D:QJxx C:x
I opened 1 Heart (The point of playing Polish or Precision is to have some semblance of safety because partner knows you are capped in the opening. And, as 11 counts go, I’d open this at standard all the time. Good shape, easy rebid, lovely heart ten to help solidify the suit). Partner responded 2 Clubs (not game forcing, but 10+ HCP and often the prelude to a force). RHO bid 2 Diamonds and my double here would be penalty, but at IMPs I think I need a bit more, so I passed as did LHO and partner bid Five Diamonds.
Another Exclusion bid. After carefully counting out the steps (“five hearts is no aces outside diamonds, five spades is one….”) I bid Five spades and partner settled in Six Clubs, making exactly (missing only the club ace). But after the hand Hank shrugged and said “Lose 2.”
He’d held S:Axx H:KQx D:– C:KQJT98x (or some such) and had opted for the safer slam. A heart slam could be in trouble if I have a club fit (because it goes club ace/ruff) or have communication trouble if I have a club stiff/void. But with everything breaking smoothly, his prediction was correct, we lost two IMPs.
Now that I think of it, we did have one big slam swing in our favor.
I picked up: S:xx H:QTxxx D:T9 C:xxxx and (not vul against vulnerable) heard
LHO CHO RHO ME -------------- 1S 3C* 4N ??
Or perhaps RHO opened and LHO responded a spade, then 3C-4N.
Well, I wasn’t dealt four clubs and no defense white versus red to shut up. I bid six clubs and waited to see if our opponents could untangle their responses. (My RHO is an older gentleman who plays one of the older bizarre systems, but I’m not sure which one it is. I should ask. For example, earlier in their match my LHO opened 2C alerted as “17-20” and their weak two bids are “8-12”)
In fact 7S was reasonable, and made, so we got a swing when the opponents stopped in six spades.
During the prior day pair games, we did have one non-easy slam, for the story of the sectional.
I picked up S:ATx H:AKJxxxxx D:x C:x and partner opened a (vulnerable) Two spades.
I fell from grace by forgetting a convention that’s been on several of my convention cards, and that I’ve been aware of since Better Bidding with Bergen — “4 Clubs modified Key Card after preempts.”
In my defense, this is the first time it had come up in the 30 years since I read about it and nearly decade I’ve been playing it. All I care about are key cards, and it would have made the bidding easier and a level lower. But having forgotten, I decided to not barge into a slam knowing we only had 22 points tops. (But this is clearly a ‘Points-shmoints’ hand).
I asked partner how he liked his hand. He said he liked it just fine, with something in diamonds.
If partner had zero keys, he’d presumably have QJxxxx of spades and some kings, and (at worst) 5 spades would be a on a finesse. And would partner like a zero key card hand? Well, sure they exist. With 1 key, I’d stop short of slam, but it should be safe. Two keys makes slam reasonable. (And with three, he’d have opened one). So I bid 4 NT.
Partner now bid … six hearts. As we have a solid partnership, I knew exactly what he had. 1 Key card and a heart void. If partner’s key card was the spade king (which I considered likely) we’re missing two aces and already at slam.
I did toy with passing six hearts. It would go down less (IMO) if they cashed their aces and tapped dummy, and in any case it would annoy partner and be funny. But Six Spades might have a play (If partner has a side ace and QJxxxx of spades and the finesse is on, so I bid it.
After explaining, RHO led …. a spade! Partner covered with the ten and my LHO followed low.
Hank then roughed a heart (felling RHO’s stiff queen) and played the king of spades. I was about to shove the hand back into the board when Hank overtook with dummy’s ace, due to some mental lapse (kind of like my forgetting to bid the grand), probably due to the overwhelming relief at having avoided disaster coupled with the matchpoint greed to now try and make seven causing a miscount.
Since we are both to blame, We agreed to simply state that our opponents cashed their two aces on opening to explain our -50 …. an agreement I have not honored at all, since the story is too good.