An unusual Grand Slam: Down 6 doubled, but a great bid

Grand Slam bids are pretty rare in bridge. Bidding a Grand Slam with only 1 high-card point in your hand is even rarer — and few if any bridge players would even dream of doing such a thing.

But yours truly, otherwise known as the “bridge burglar,” did exactly that on Thursday night in a Swiss team game at the Delaware Bridge Studio. I put my partner, Christine Matus (subbing for John Walston who was recovering from a brief illness), into that Grand Slam, which of course immediately got doubled by my first opponent, Lou Tobia.

Christine went Down by six tricks on the hand to give up only 1,400 points because we weren’t vulnerable. But Christine was absolutely overjoyed that I’d made the bid putting her into that contract. It was the ultimate sacrifice because Lou had just bid a vulnerable Small Slam in 6 No-Trump, which would have given our opponents 1,440 points.

At the other table, our teammates did bid and make the Small Slam in 6 NT without crazy interference like mine, so because of the 40-point difference, our team actually won that board by one International Match Point (IMP) — and we took a great opportunity away from them to make a vulnerable Grand Slam in 7 NT, which would have made for a score of 2,220 points.

After Lou had made his 6 NT bid, Christine passed and Lou’s partner Bill Everitt passed, and I was the last to bid. Everyone was already in the process of picking up their bidding cards, assuming that I would pass, too, since I hadn’t said anything during the entire auction. But I motioned everyone to hold for just a second, and I obviously started some calculations in my mind. Christine said later she wondered what I could possibly be counting, but I was trying to figure out by how many tricks we could go Down for 7 Clubs to still be a good sacrifice. I was hoping my partner could limit it to Down 5, which would make it a very good sacrifice and would have earned us 8 IMPs on the board, but even Down 6 would still be a good sac, so I took out the 7 Clubs cards.
When I first made the bid, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Lou slapped that double card down on the table fairly contemptuously, and Christine wondered at first whether I’d gone completely bonkers — before she realized I was as crazy as a fox and started loving my bid.

It was one of our few highlights of the evening as we lost that head-to-head match against the Everitts with Lou and Karen Pollak. During the evening, we won only one match and lost a total of three others and earned only 0.09 MasterPoints, a pretty small haul for a Swiss event. A Swiss team event for a Non-Life Masters (NLM) Sectional was being held on the other side of the room and Judge Bob Schenkin and his wife Susan won that event to get almost 3 full Silver MasterPoints. But they left us Life Masters fighting for scraps.

The 7 Clubs sacrifice is too good a hand to pass up for a column, so of course I’ll have to become Smug Sam as North on the diagrammed deal. My partner Christine who played the hand will be Sam’s partner, Shy Shem, as South. Lou, who had the Small Slam taken away from him and failed to bid the Grand Slam, will play the East hand and will become my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo. The role of her West partner, Loyal Larry, will be played by Bill Everitt this time.

The hand

West Dealer; East-West vulnerable

10 3
10 6 4
8 7 5
J 9 7 6 5
West East
J 8 6 5 A K Q 4
A Q 9 7 5 2 J 3
A Q 3 K J 10 9 6 4
  9 7 2
  K 8
  K Q 10 8 4 3 2

The bidding

West North East South
1 Pass 2 3
3 Pass 6 No-Trump Pass
Pass 7 Double

Opening lead: 5

How Flustered Flo played it

The possibility of a Slam gives any bridge player a huge boost in adrenalin and Flustered Flo is no exception. Playing East on the diagrammed hand, she couldn’t believe it when her West partner, Loyal Larry, opened and and even re-bid his hand,

With her own great shape and 18 natural high-card points, she knew they belonged in Slam. Even though the South defender, Shy Shem, the partner of her nemesis Smug Sam who sat North, had interfered with a pre-emptive Club bid, Flo had no problem bidding 6 No-Trump because she had the Club Ace as a stopper.

Shem and Larry were already picking up their bidding cards to put them back in the box when Sam from the North position gestured all of them to hold on for just a sec — and he then he pulled out the 7 Clubs card. There were gasps around the table and strange looks. His own partner Shem looked at him as if he’d gone crazy. Flo thought there was nothing else to do but slap down the double card rather contemptuously.

After the opening lead, when Sam’s one-point hand came down, Sam got a second round of looks, some full of pity since Sam had now obviously taken leave of his senses, and some angry. Flo, for one, was miffed at Sam for having taken a Slam away from her. She wanted to get the thousands of points they were sure to score by playing and making a Slam contract, not by taking Down points.

Flo took the first two Spade tricks but Sam ruffed the third one in dummy. He then gave up a Diamond trick to Flo, who found the right lead with the Jack of Hearts to hook Shem’s King.

In the end, Flo and her partner Larry could take no more than 6 tricks, two Spades, two Hearts, a Diamond and the trump Ace to let Shem make one Club, which was Done 6 from his doubled Grand Slam contract. That gave Flo and Larry 1,400 points.

But it gradually dawned on Flo that the 1,400 wasn’t such a good score on the board.

“We would have made 1,440 for our vulnerable Small Slam in No-Trump,” Flo said. “So that’s not a good result for us.”

“You’re right about it not being such a good result for you,” replied Sam, smug as always, “but you’re wrong about what your score would have been if I’d let you play your Slam. You make an overtrick, so you get 1,470.”

“So I could have bid the Grand Slam and made it?” Flo asked.

“Yes, you could have — and that would have been 2,220 for you,” Sam replied. “So I was glad to give up the 1,400. I would have gladly bid 8 Clubs if the rules would allow me to that. I think I’m going to propose to the ACBL that 8 bids be declared legal.”

“You’re quite the jokester,” Flo said, “but I still can’t believe yo had the chutzpah to bid a Grand Slam on just one point. What on earth made you do that?”

“I knew my partner probably had seven Clubs for his interference bid, but I also knew he didn’t have the Ace — otherwise you would have never bid a Small Slam in No Trump,” Sam explained. “I was hoping to limit the damage to Down 5 for minus-1,100, which would have been a very good score, but I was prepared to go Down 6.”

“So you weren’t stark-raving crazy,” said Flo. “Or maybe you were just crazy like a fox.”

“Thank you, Flo,” was all that Sam had to say.

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