Jeff Lehman

Is this a lucky day for your slam bidding decision?

Off to a good start playing in the third round of an eight round regional Swiss, I faced a slam bidding decision.   Vulnerable, I opened 1 on AQxx, Axxx, –, AKQxx.  My partner responded 3NT, showing 13-15 HCP and a balanced hand.

As it turns out, my counterpart at my teammates’ table faced the same bidding decision after an identical start to the auction.

What should I bid?  Why?

I had two immediate reactions.  One, with a prime 19 facing 13-15, I was going to bid some slam.  Two, the space-usurping (but descriptive) 3NT call left me with little room to investigate.  Our partnership had discussed no follow ups to this auction start, meaning that any attempt to inject science could produce a misunderstanding.

What can I divine about partner’s hand?  Assuming partner has not chosen this moment to eschew exploration and hope to “steal” 3NT by choosing a call that hides his distribution from not only the opponents but also from me, I can expect that partner’s distribution is either 3=3=4=3 or 3=3=3=4. 

Partner’s distribution being 3=3=4=3 is more likely than his distribution being 3=3=3=4 for two reasons: (1) my void in diamonds portends his length in diamonds; and (2) partner might have chosen to bid an inverted raise of 2 if he held four clubs.

I think I can eliminate consideration of a major suit slam.  For a major suit slam to be the only slam making would seem to require a parlay to effect a dummy reversal, to choose a major suit where partner holds enough honors so that trumps can be drawn, and to find the trump suit to be split 3-3.  No, I think the choice of slam is between 6NT and 6.

Advantages of bidding 6NT are that 6NT scores more than 6, and that 6NT — being played by partner’s side — is more likely to produce a favorable opening lead (into a diamond tenace) than is 6.

However, I considered several potential advantages for choosing 6, even if partner holds only three clubs (and he might hold four clubs).

  • Ruffing a major suit loser in dummy.  Assume, for example, that partner holds KQx, that hearts split 4-2, and that clubs split 3-2.  If the hand with two hearts holds only two clubs, I will be able to ruff the fourth round of hearts after drawing just two rounds of trumps.
  • Dummy reversal.  Assume that dummy has sufficient entries and holds the J.  Then I might be able to ruff three diamonds in hand (two with low trumps and one with a high trump) and still be able to draw all the trumps of the opponents.  This would give me six trump tricks to add to 6 possible top tricks in the other three suits.
  • Ruffing finesse in diamonds.  Assume, for example, that partner’s diamond suit is something like AQJx.  If the K sits over partner’s holding, I can establish a second diamond trick without cost of losing a diamond trick.

All in all, I judged 6 to be the better bid.  My counterpart at the other table chose 6NT.

The opening lead at my table was the J.  Thankfully for the patient opponents, the play proceeded more quickly than my decision to bid 6♣:




Play proceeded: J, Q, A and ruff; opposing trumps drawn with AKQ; KQJ unblocked, reaching this position:




I now played a spade to my queen, being assured of twelve tricks whether the spade finesse won or lost.  +1370 at least.

Meanwhile, on best defense (the only kind one’s teammates give, right?), 6NT is dependent on the 50-50 proposition of the K being onside.  (Poor defense would be playing the A on air; or, should the K be offside, neglecting to return a diamond when winning with the K and then finding that spades can produce three more tricks for declarer.)

On my lucky days, the K is offside and my +1370 is matched with my teammates’ +100.  On my unlucky days, the K is onside and my +1370 is matched with my teammates’ -1440.

This was one of my lucky days!












BobliptonMay 2nd, 2017 at 10:28 pm

The IMPs certainly favor 6C: if the SK is offside you gain 16; if onside you lose 2. Offering 8:1 odds on an even-money bet is not a good idea.


Paul FlashenbergMay 4th, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Is it systemic that partner jump to 3NT with only a partial stopper in an unbid major? Sometimes it is actually correct to play 5 of a minor instead of 3NT. Should partner pull 3NT with x, Axxx, Axx, AQxxx?

Jeff LehmanMay 4th, 2017 at 1:21 pm

With respect to Paul’s comment on the 3NT response, we do not have any agreements. I would not be averse to an agreement that limits the 3NT bid to hands with at least Qxx in each suit. When responder has game forcing strength, he should have other bids available (either an inverted raise or a minimum bid in the other minor). Accordingly, a partnership would seem to be able to afford to have the 3NT jump be quite limited. That being said, surely partner felt, reasonably enough, as though when he had the opportunity to describe his hand range and distribution in one bid, he should take advantage of that opportunity.

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