Thursday, November 26, 2009

Slam tries

The Granovetters' column in the Dec 2009 issue of the Bridge bulletin affords a perfect illustration of the way I like to play control-showing slam try sequences – i.e. not the way Pam's partner did it.

Here's the hand:




The auction went as follows:

p1NTp2 1
p 3 p 4 2
p ?

1) game-forcing checkback
2) control-showing slam try

What would you bid with the North hand?  Pam, who was playing South, was bemoaning the fact that her partner did not bid 4 in response to her own 4 call – and she is totally right to complain!

There are two rational methods of searching for a good slam.  One method, generally favored by experts, is the so-called "serious 3NT".  After a three-level bid, and when a major suit has been agreed, a bid of 3NT says "I'm seriously interested in slam, please show a control".  Making a different control-showing slam try says "I'm somewhat interested in slam, please show a control, but only if you are now seriously interested".

The other method, which doesn't require so much memory work and uses less of a distinction between major and minor suits, is as follows:

When the first control-showing slam try (cuebid) is made, the response depends on whether responder has already narrowly limited his hand.  If he has so limited it, then he is required to show a control (the cuebidder already knows responder's hand strength and still wants to know about controls).  If he has not narrowly limited his hand, then showing a control implies enthusiasm for slam while signing off in the trump suit denies a suitable slam for hand, but doesn't deny a showable control.  A second cuebid by asker now demands responder to show a control.

Unfortunately for Pam, they were apparently playing neither of these schemes.  North thought that he had a "bad" hand and therefore should not show any enthusiasm for slam.  But he'd already said he had a balanced 12-14 and South knew that.  Within the context of a 12-14 point hand and the auction so far, North has a terrific hand.  The AK are golden (South hasn't shown shortness in hearts) as is the J. Only the J is of dubious value. We assume that the K is useful because partner has cuebid the A and since it's in the suit we opened and partner has shown interested in slam, it's extremely unlikely that he is showing shortness.

So, somewhat unusually, I'm totally in agreement with Pam this time.  I don't buy the argument that the strong hand (South) should make another effort beyond the safe haven of the spade game.

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