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How to bid slam? Let me count the ways!

This is in response to your question: Was this good bidding?


1H - 4N
5D - 6H

S  x
H  A Q x x x
D  A x
C   K J 9 x x

First, you were perceptive enough to realize a Slam was quite likely.  Skilled bidders prefer descriptive methods using "slow shows" methods to enhance communications and learn more about partner's hand before jumping into Slam - perhaps 13 tricks are possible!

Bidding Slams requires partnership agreement with a firm understanding of various bidding scenarios. Not knowing your partnership agreements, your approach may have been best at the time.

However, I'm delighted to see that you are seeking better methods to bid Slam -- I'll share some of the strategies better Bridge players use to bid Slam in your situation.

First, the general rule of thumb is that our partnership should have 33 points to make Slam an 37 points to make a Grandslam.  Of course, we must also have the necessary winning tricks (controls) -- the Aces, sometimes referred as first round of controls. And the second round of controls, Kings, are important, too.

In your case, when partner opens 1 Heart, we can bracket a range of 12-21 points. Now let's evaluate your hand.  You have 14 High Card Points. However, your hand has two wonderful features based on your partner's bid:

A 5-card Heart suit -- a 10-card fit or better!

Shortages in the "pointy suits" -- Spades and Diamonds. These will provide excellent ruffing opportunities for your partner to get rid of losers from your Dummy hand!

While counting Dummy shortage distribution points has several approaches, when you have good support it's safe to use a 5-3-1 method:

5 points = Void, 3 points = Singleton, 1 point = Doubleton

So, you have 4 extra points for distribution, giving you a total of 14 HCP + 4 distribution = 17 playing (Dummy) points.

Whenever your partnership has 30+ playing points and a trump fit, your side should investigate Slam. Why? Even though your side may not have 33 points, you have enough points to make a 5-level bid (29 points), so there is little risk of asking partner for Aces (controls).  If the Aces aren't there, you can still "signoff" at 5 Hearts and make the contract.

To find Aces, we use Blackwood or its variants (1430 or RKC).
I'll assume your partner used regular Blackwood, which works fine based on the auction at hand. Generally, when you are missing an Ace control using regular Blackwood, it's wise to consider signing off at the 5-level. However, let's look a bit deeper.

Let's look at your bidding style to look for areas of improvement. In your auction, the consequence of your immediate jump to 4 Notrump Blackwood meant you didn't want to find out any more about your partners hand. In retrospect, wouldn't it have been nice to know whether your partner had 12 or 21 points?  If it was only 12, you might not make Slam.  But if your partner made a rebids showing extra values, a Grandslam might be possible assuming partner had missing controls.  So I recommend that you use intermediate forcing bids, sometimes called "temporizing bids" that will allow you to get more information from your partner before making the 4 Notrump Blackwood bid.

With your hand, you could have made a 2 Club bid which would be forcing just to see what partner does next.  If partner bids 3 Clubs, then you are fairly certain your partner has some of the Honors you are missing (tenaces).  Conversely, partner might make a jump bid to 3 Hearts or 4 Hearts, showing a strong hand.  Knowing that would also have giving you additional information before you make your Slam bid and certainly allow you to consider bidding Grandslam.

A modern approach to slam bidding when partner opens a major suit and responder has a good trump fit with an opening hand or better is the Jacoby 2 Notrump convention.

Perhaps you have heard of, or use the "Jacoby Transfer" convention, used when partner opens 1 Notrump and you have a 5-card or longer suit. Well, Oswald Jacoby also gave us another very useful convention, his Jacoby 2 Notrump method.

In essence, Jacoby 2 Notrump is used when your partner opens 1-Major and you have an opening hand as well as 4+ trump.  Oswald reasoned these hands have a strong possibility of making Slam. The bidding begins:

1N - 2N

The opener then makes conventional (artificial) rebids to show a maximum/medium/minimum openers hand and can even show a short suit (singleton/void) in opener's response.   Please see BridgeHands website for details on Jacoby 2 Notrump.

As you become a more advanced player, you will discover other specialized bids are helpful when you have less than an opening hand with good trump support.  For instance, the "Splinter bid" can be used to find Slams when you hold a side suit singleton or void, a long trump fit (4 or more in major suits) and the partnership only has 26 - 32 points.  While this is an advanced discussion, suffice it to say that if you and your partner agreed to play Splinters, if you held a weaker hand (perhaps without the Club honors), you could bid 3 Spades with your hand to show a singleton Spade as well as a long trump suit and interest in exploring Slam.  If partner found your short Spade suit capable of ruff losers, partner might explore Slam.  However, such cuebids require considerable study so I wouldn't recommend it for occasional players.

Finally, I entered your hand in a Bridge simulator to determine how your hand plays opposite a 1 Heart opener:
Tricks Made 10 11 12 13
  100% 95% 81% 25%

In conclusion, I recommend you work with your partner to learn effective bidding methods, including Slam bidding.  After all, Bridge is a lifetime of learning.  Good luck on your journey.



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