A Minor Suit Slam Try

How do you bid this pretty hand held by my partner, Dave Cantor, at a recent club game?


Your RHO (right hand opponent) passes.  Do you open 2♣?

Well, this hand certainly qualifies in terms of trick taking power for a 2♣ opener, but Dave followed Julie’s sage advice to avoid opening two suited hands with a 2♣  bid having a very strong two-suited hand.  (See blog Jan 21, 2018 — a Note on a Strong 2♣ Opening).  Not only will 2♣ likely deprive Dave of the opportunity to play this beauty (given the expected 2♦ response) but (more importantly), we may forever lose the heart suit.

So Dave opened the hand a gentle 1♦ .  With opponents passing throughout, I responded 1♠, Dave made a forcing reverse of 2♥ (showing 17+ HCP, longer diamonds than hearts, and forcing for 1 round), and I jumped to 3NT (showing 10-12 HCP, stoppers in clubs and spades).

Here is a recap of the bidding:


What does Dave bid now? Slam is certainly in the picture but is not a sure thing.  We would play 4NT here not as blackwood, but as a quantitative bid inviting a 6NT slam.  Gerber players have it easy here, but we only play Gerber over JUMPS of a first and last no-trump (more on this topic in a later blog).  A bid of 4♣ here in our methods would be natural and show a 0-4-5-4 hand.

Is there any way to explore for slam without undue risk of getting too high?  Click on “more” to read on.

After some deliberation, Dave passed, not seeing a safe way to figure out whether I had the cards he needed — two aces in any two suits.  After some discussion, we decided that his best bid would be 4♦.  Why?

There is no way to ask for aces in this sequence and so Dave can only make a general slam try and hope I will figure it out.  4♦ here is such a bid.  The guiding principal here is that after the partnership has bid 3NT (a game), a four-level bid of a naturally-already-bid minor suit is absolutely 100% game forcing, and since the partnership just left 3NT, shows slam interest with a minor suit monster and is a slam inquiry.   Never use this bid as an “escape bid” because you are worried about making 3NT (holding a club or spade void, for instance).  Trust your partner’s 3NT bid.  And, if you hate 3NT with a burning passion, just jump to 5♦.  Save 4♦ as a slam try.

Had my partner bid 4♦ in this case, what would I have done?  Since partner opened diamonds, reversed into hearts and then rebid his diamonds, partner is showing at least 6 diamonds and 4 hearts with a solid or near-solid diamond suit and good hearts.  He is asking me whether I have the cards he needs to go to slam.  With two aces worth their weight in gold and other potentially useful cards, I would have bid 6♦, confident that partner had at least AKQxxx of diamonds, good hearts and a monster.

Here are all for hands:


Here 6♦ makes while 6NT from the East position does not.  Playing in 6♦ on a club lead by North, West must play the ♣A and then immediately lose a heart to engineer a diamond ruff in dummy before defenders have a chance to play a trump themselves.  Drawing even one trump first would generally be fatal, although on this particular lie of the cards with ♥98 in dummy, West could finesse the ♥9, the  ♥10 being onside.

Any opening lead other than a club gives declarer the tempo to draw trumps, cash the ♠K, go the board with the ♣A, and pitch a heart on the ♠A.

6NT played by East goes down on a heart lead, and a club return (as happened at our table, my partner fortunately having passed).  East can not untangle his spade tricks, his club entry having been knocked out early, before the ♠K was unblocked.

What if I did not have those two magical aces?  5♦ would be a diamond sign-off. 4NT would be natural, and to play — we play keycard blackwood and we never agreed on trumps so 4NT can not be ace-asking.  4♥ would be a preference showing 3 hearts and likely a diamond void.  4♠?  Since I never rebid my spades and partner obviously does not have many, it can not be natural.  But I leave it to another day to figure that one out.

The moral of the story is this:  once the partnership has freely bid a natural 3NT, a subsequent bid of 4 of an already-naturally-bid minor suit (diamonds in this example) is a slam try and can never be passed short of game.

— Tom Hunt



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