The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

A typical slam

Playing on BBO with my normal partner against two local experts, I pick up a perk-me-up.

S: Ax H:AKQxx D:AT C:J8xx

I open 1 Heart and hear a surprising bid from partner …. 2 NT, which is our strong and game forcing raise in hearts. (Jacoby 2NT)

There are a number of responses, but this is easy enough, I bid 4 Spades, which is our “ace” asking bid. (Kickback Roman Keycard Blackwood). Partner bids 5 Clubs, showing one ace.  Now comes the important part of the auction — I bid 5 Spades, the king ask. Importantly this promises possession of all the key cards partner doesn’t have. He’s shown the ace (of clubs). I’ve shown the other four aces (the heart king counts) and the heart queen.

A fairly descriptive bid for one supposedly asking.

Partner shows a king (we play specific kings rather than number of kings) but I’m done and bid 6 Hearts. If partner can’t count thirteen tricks knowing about my five cards, I have nothing else to say.

I get the Spade Ten lead and the following dummy.

          S: KJ H: JT9xxx D:Q5 C:AK3

ST Led

          S: Ax H:AKQxx D:AT C:J8xx


I cover the ST with the SJ (why not) and RHO follows low. Trumps break 1-1, so now its just a question of which line is best. In both cases I cash a spade first to eliminate the suit.

Line 1 — I lead the queen of diamonds hoping that RHO has the diamond king and doesn’t cover.

Line 2 — I cash the ace of clubs then lead ace of diamonds and lose a diamond. Whoever wins the diamond king will have to lead a club, and I can play my jack (if RHO won) or let it ride to my jack (if LHO won).

Line 3 — I can cash AK of clubs and then lead towards the jack.

Which line is best?

Line one is a swindle. It starts at 50% (RHO has the DK) but it requires a mistake. RHO is an expert and will never make the mistake looking at the DJ, and will rarely make it not. Call it 5%

Line two works if the DK and CQ are in the same hand, which is slightly less than 50/50 (~48% due to the law of vacant spaces, not bothering to modify it for cards played). It also works if the DK is stiff or if the DK only has a single club and has to give me a ruff and sluff (Clubs are 5-1). Those are pretty small chances, so a touch better than 50% feels right.

Line three works on any 3-3 club break (I lose to the CQ but can pitch dummy’s losing diamond on the fourth round of clubs). If RHO has the long clubs it also works (either the club queen falls or I can set up the jack for the diamond pitch). If LHO has 5 or 6 clubs I have to switch gears and play the diamond ace, diamond queen and hope that RHO wins and has to give me a ruff and sluff. Only if LHO has four clubs am I down. Clubs break 4-2 (either way) 30% of the time, but that is just for either 4-2 split. LHO having four clubs is 15%. And 1/3rd of the time, RHO will have the doubleton queen. In fact, there are 15 possible cases of LHO having four clubs. I win in six of those — RHO having T9 (the 8 sets up) and all the Qx cases.

Line three must be north of 75% (even ignoring that I still have the stiff diamond king shot if all else fails). I didn’t work the math out at the table but I played Line 3.

Of course this was LHO’s hand

S: QT952 H:5 D:K74 C:Q9xx

Down one when line two works. My first thought (and second) was “Typical slam. Inferior line works.” But now, in the cold light of day…

Maybe I should have known this. The Spade Jack won at T1. RHO would have to be playing a deep game not to cover (since the lead of the ST shows the 9), so that card is confirmed. That’s a mildly attacking lead against a strongly bid slam …. why not a passive lead? A stiff trump lead is normally frowned on as it may finesse partner. Perhaps the reason for the mildly aggressive spade lead is that the other two suits looked even more aggressive? Perhaps because LHO was looking at a choice of bad leads?

How much should that change the odds? I don’t know. A stiff trump lead is normally frowned on as it may finesse partner, but in theory partner should have Jxx or worse on this particular auction. (But one of us may have stretched and Jxxx is possible). I don’t know if the lead changes the odds around enough to make Line two more attractive than line one. That’s a table feel issue. But against expert opponents whatever the base numbers say Line two has a “plus factor” because of the lead….ah well.

Written by taogaming

September 16, 2020 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Bridge

%d bloggers like this: