Relating two slam investigations from this past Sunday’s sectional Swiss team event, where I was favored with receipt of clues from the auction to enable me to infer useful information about the hands held by my partner:
In fourth chair I opened 1♠ on the following hand:
The auction proceeded:
Partner’s negative double implies ownership of at least four hearts. The auction engaged by the opponents, when considered in connection with my three-card holding in clubs, strongly suggests that partner has extreme shortness in clubs.
Partner’s hand can range from something better than this slam suitable two count: Qx, xxxxx, xxxxx, x, to this slam unsuitable eight count: xx, xxxx, AKJxxx, x.
I hoped to discover whether partner had spade values or diamond values by bidding 5♣. Of course, I had to hope that partner would treat 5♣ as a cue bid for his “bid suit” of hearts.
Partner bid 5♦.
That is not what I had hoped to hear. Either 5♥ or 5♠ would have suggested better slam chances than 5♦. I bid 5♥.
Time to show partner’s hand:
With two aces and a fifth trump, partner – wisely, in my opinion – chose to bid on. At the table, he chose to bid 6♦ rather than 5♠ and so the grand slam was not considered.
6♥ made easily: I ruffed the club lead in dummy, drew all of the opponents’ trumps in two rounds, and established the spade suit by playing the ♠A, ♠K and ruffing a spade in dummy. I pitched a club on the ♦A and ruffed a diamond to hand to claim all thirteen tricks.
On a totally different auction – one not providing my hand with the clues about partner’s club shortness – the other table did not reach slam. 13 IMPs for my team.
My partner and I are playing a weak notrumps (12-14). Accordingly, an opening bid of 1 of a suit will either be distributional (some 5-4-2-2’s or, more frequently, a hand with a singleton or void) or, if balanced, be 15+ HCP.
Partner opened 1♣ and my RHO overcalled 2♣, showing the major suits.
Surely the opponents have at least a nine card heart fit. I can, of course, infer that both partner and LHO are short in spades. Partner’s projected spade shortness suggests that he might have long clubs. Partner’s heart holding is unknowable. He might have four nice hearts. Or he might have poorer hearts. Either way, my hand looks reasonable for game: perhaps 3NT if partner holds adequate hearts; perhaps 5♣ if partner holds weak hearts.
Inventing undiscussed bids is not a productive habit, but, particularly in an irregular partnership, how can I convey my club support and heart shortness at the smallest risk of being misunderstood?
I chanced a 3♥ bid.
LHO doubled and partner bid 3NT.
I passed 3NT but LHO now bid 4♥.
Partner, with an opportunity to double 4♥, instead passed 4♥. I inferred that while he had a heart stopper, his hearts were not exceptionally strong and long. So thinking, I felt committed to playing in a club contract.
In retrospect, I think it is too aggressive – given the risk of a spade void by LHO and/or a club void by RHO – to consider slam, but 6♣is still possible opposite a hand such as x, Kxx, ATx/Ax, AKJxxx/AKxxxxx. At the table, I bid 4♠ (ah, I might be further torturing my poor partner) and partner closed the auction with a 5♣ bid. Partner’s distribution was 0=3=4=6 with ♥KQT, ♦A, and ♣AK. He might also have owned the ♦Q (but I think he held ♦ATxx) and the ♣J: I do not recall. At any rate, he did make twelve tricks, taking a winning heart ruffing finesse.
My teammates — bless them! — were +200 on the hand (I do not know the details) and so this hand also sent 13 IMPs our direction, in a different match.
Drawing inferences from the auction – inferences that can be used to project partner’s holdings and the play and defense of the hand – is among the more appreciated attributes of bridge.