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Grand National Slams, II
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Ron Smith and I had been successful in our (lack of) slam-bidding in the first part of our practice session with our Grand National Team: Drew Becker - Jeff Schuett and Steve McConnell - Larry Robbins (with Frank Pancoe - Joe Stokes filling out our second table). Our record took a hit as we missed the mark on this deal:

North
Axx
x
AKQx
AJ10xx
South
KQJ10x
x
xxxx
KQx
W
N
E
S
1
1
1
4
4
P
P
P

The auction was duplicated at both tables, so the board was pushed at +680. You can't get to every cold slam, but it felt irritating to miss this one. That said, it seems hard for either player to do more without risking going minus.

Next case:

West
J108xx
Kxxxx
x
KJ
North
Q9xxx
Axx
AQJx
x
East
QJ10x
xxx
AQxxxx
South
AKx
x
K10xxx
10xxx
W
N
E
S
 
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
4
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6
X
P
P
P
D
6X South
NS: 0 EW: 0

North-South bid aggressively but the slam they reached was a good one, needing little more than a 3-2 spade split, and even if that suit goes 4-1, 2-2 diamonds will see declarer home. 5-0 spades is another issue entirely. Ron doubled, and I led my lowest spade. Ron could have underled his A for down two, but he cashed it for down one: +200. I virtually had to have the K to have led my lowest spade (but I've been asleep at the switch before). As against that, South's 4 would be unusual lacking a club control, and without another high honor, his game-forcing 2 would have been awfully skinny. Plus, there's that old saying about a bird in the hand...

At the other table, East overcalled 2 over 1, and although everyone chimed in, the auction died at 4, which made. East-West had a good save in 5, which had a chance of being a very good save, for it takes a club lead and a subsequent diamond underlead to hold declarer to 10 tricks. Our teammates' result further supported Ron's club play. Collecting the extra undertrick would have gained only 2 IMPs, not exactly the compensation you're looking for when you risk letting a doubled slam through (however slight that risk is).

Next, a bidding problem:

South
KQJ
Jxxx
Kx
AKxx
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
?

You open 1NT in second seat, and partner bids Stayman. Your 2 rebid systemically denies 4-4 in the majors (you would rebid differently with both majors). Partner bids 4, a slam-try in hearts with no short suit (3 would have been a slam-try with some shortness, and 4 would have been keycard).

What now?

You're clearly going to accept the slam-try, and asking for keycards is a reasonable action, but there can't be any grand slam: partner would have asked for keycards directly with the four missing keycards plus the Q—that's a prime 17-count—and you aren't necessarily cold for 13 tricks on that layout.

Ron chose a thoughtful 5NT pick-a-slam, angling toward an alternative strain, perhaps 6 opposite:

North
A109xx
A10xx
AJ
QJ

or 6 facing:

North
Ax
A109x
Ax
QJxxx

The actual deal was:

North
Axxxx
AQ8x
Ax
Jx
South
KQJ
Jxxx
Kx
AKxx
W
N
E
S
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
4
P
5NT
P
6
P
P
P

I knew that we couldn't have a 5-4 spade fit, and I had decent hearts, so 6 seemed as good as anything. Kx was onside, so 13 tricks were there for the taking and +1010 was a push.

Last, another grand slam... at double-dummy, anyway:

West
Q10xx
8xxx
AQx
Kx
North
Axx
AQJ10
AJxxxx
East
Jxxx
x
KJxxxx
9x
South
Kx
K9xx
10xxx
Q10x
W
N
E
S
P
1
2
P
3
X
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

At one table, North opened 1, East overcalled 2, boosted to 3 by West. North doubled, and South tried 4. The hands fit very well together, and 6 was a great contract. Declarer ruffed the diamond lead, took the AQ, seeing the split, and then crossed to the K to run the Q. That got covered, so declarer had 13 tricks.

At my table, I opened 1 as West (our 1 can be short with this specific shape), and North chose an offbeat 1 overcall. Ron doubled, and South bid 3, showing 8-10 HCP with 4-card support, and North put it in game. The 9 lead accelerated the play: +710 and another flat board. 6 is an excellent spot, but difficult to reach with the enemy competition.

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