Slowly Slowly Catchee Monkey

Seldom do I write about slams but this deal was one that prompted me to discuss slam bidding, mainly because it is more about thought processes than straight out bidding theory. The latter is based on point count, the former more on processes of communication and fact finding.

Board 17 from 24/04/2019
Dealer N Nil Vul


When East opens 1H, West should be thinking about two things. The first one is the definite one: game in hearts is a certainty. A seventeen count opposite a twelve+ count and a fit in hearts should certainly produce game in 4H. But the second thing that West should think about is that 17 + 12 would equal game but 17+ 15 or equivalent by way of added distributional values equals slam. Is there any way that West could investigate, other than via the crude method of 4C asking for aces and then 5C asking for kings, which might still not give West the needed answers for a final decision?

Yes, there are some answers that West can obtain, by not rushing into anything. The first thing West should do is to bid a quiet 2C, which is 100% forcing and shows 10+ HCP. East bids 2H, which now shows a five card or longer heart suit and nothing to add. Not necessarily a bare minimum opening bid, though, because East could still have a reasonable hand and even a six card or longer heart suit. You should not make a jump rebid just because you have a longer suit, West can infer that East does not have a balanced 15-16 because East would have rebid 2NT.

How can West get any more information without rushing into anything precipitate? West can bid 3D, which, being a new suit at the three level, is forcing. East might now bid 3NT, having been forced to bid something, though the lack of any spade honour is a worry. At this stage, West might give up hopes of slam and just settle for 4H but 4NT would now be either Blackwood, asking for aces, or “Roman Key Card”.

Whichever you play, West might decide that it is worth investigating slam, I certainly would. When West finds that East has two aces, it is reasonable to bid the slam based on the known nine card heart fit and two aces with East. It is the investigative process that I think will be of interest rather than the slam itself, which as it happens, makes an overtrick thanks to trumps falling 2-2!

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