Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Raising partner to slam on a void

I've decided that the joys of raising partner to slam on a void are over-rated.  At least week's regional in Cromwell, CT (the A/X pairs), I picked up the following hand: ♠ –  T32 AKQ985 ♣ AQJ7.

Partner opened 1♠ (11-15 hcp and five or more spades) and I responded 2 (game-forcing).  Partner bid 3♠ showing a solid suit.  I was angling for partner to declare either 6NT or 7NT.  So, I started with a cue-bid of 4♣.  Since I had made a 2/1 call in diamonds I hoped that with a heart control, he would be the one to bid 4NT (our key-card ask) and therefore be the notrump bidder in a slam.  Instead, he bid 4.  I didn't know whether that was a the K or the A (or conceivably a singleton?), so I now bid 4NT to find out.  He responded 5♠ showing "two with".  That meant his heart holding was at best Kx.  I was pretty sure he didn't have a heart void because he would have jumped to 5 (exclusion keycard ask). I therefore had to give up on a grand, and since I couldn't guarantee the A was on my left, we would have to play in spades.  I therefore raised to 6♠ on my trump void.

Unfortunately, my good friend Bruce Downing was on lead and, as is his wont, he was listening to the auction.  He unerringly reached for a club (dummy's cuebid suit) and this was the layout:

Without a spade in my hand, there was no way to make the contract. There are a couple of ironies. First, the other eight scores were 980 (1), 490 (1), 480 (4), 450 (2). Those who didn't even try for slam generally scored 480 for 4.5 out of 8 because opening leader had no idea what to lead. One slam was successful and one pair got the next highest score by, presumably, protecting the HK from the lead in a notrump contract. Irony number two is that it wasn't hearts that was the problem. It was clubs! South (my hand) had to be the declarer (and since I couldn't declare spades), it was right as it turns out to bid 6NT myself. 990 would have garnered all of the matchpoints!


  1. I don't think your auction was bad. Some deals are meant to end up in the trash can.

  2. What happens if you declare 6NT from South hand and West leads a spade? Do you then have another, but different, tale of woe?

  3. Maybe a tale of victory if he reads West's discards correctly. 7 spades, 3 diamonds and a heart will probably score up the contract if West doesn't bare the club king calmly.

  4. There are two reasonable ways to play the hand on a spade lead: strip squeeze (i.e. a squeeze without the count) or cross to hand and finesse the HK. The latter risks going down a lot of course and, in any case, squeezes are more fun. As always with strip squeezes, the play requires careful card-reading given the inherent ambiguity that such a plan involves.

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  6. Coming down to a stiff CK, whether done with or without apparent angst, is likely a serious error.

    If you were declarer, what discards would you make on the run of seven spades? Surely, three hearts, two diamonds and two clubs would seem best: your best shot at a twelfth trick is certainly that diamonds split and so you would keep four diamonds (or five, to be mp greedy -- let's disregard that possibility and assume that declarer comes down, after being disappointed that diamonds do not run, to a losing diamond and CAQ). Ergo, you will have no small heart with which to endplay West or to take a heart finesse.

    You can either try to endplay East with DT into leading a club from his hoped-for Kx or you can play the CA hoping that West came down to a stiff CK and two hearts. Neither plan works ... UNLESS West has discarded to a stiff club.

    1. last line should have read hoping that "someone" (not just West) came down to a stiff CK.