Lunchtime riches: Bidding the right small slam

Phil “Mr. MasterPoint” Ahr got such good cards at the Thursday luncheon meeting of our office Bridge Club that he had to pause several times to count his riches, like rich Uncle McDuck counting his money of the old comic books. Joan “Not Miss Timid Anymore” Rightnour even offered to run to her desk to get her calculator to help him count it all up.

Phil was definitely getting the cards, but generally he got the most out of them, including a small slam in 6 , which he bid and which his partner, Pieter “Cy the Cynic” VanBennekom, made on the nose.

The Slam was the only Game made during the unfinished Rubber, and it helped Phil and “Cy” win the session, 1,250 points to 290, over Joan and her partner, John “Unlucky Louie” Walston. Most of the the losers’ points (200) came from setting Phil by two tricks — vulnerable but not doubled — when he misplayed a 3 No-Trump Game contract. Joan led a small Club on the opening trick and if Phil had correctly surmised that she was leading 4th longest from her best suit, and following the old adage of leading through heft when the dummy was on her left, he could have taken a deep finesse on her Queen and 10 of Clubs and made his contract. Instead, Phil went for the split and lost two Club tricks he needn’t have lost.

But the featured hand of the day was definitely that Slam. “Cy” had opened with a Spade (both opponents passed throughout) and as the responder, Phil was sitting there with a 19-point hand and a five-card Spade suit to the Ace-Queen-Jack. So Phil decided right away that he and his partner belonged in Slam (he counted a minimum of 31 points even though “Cy” had opened with 10 points and a singleton) and that the contract would be played in Spades.

So Phil used the Gerber convention to ask for Aces and found out that his partner had one Ace (that made three between them) and three Kings (that couldn’t be since Phil had two Kings himself, so obviously “Cy” was giving him a singleton as a King, too).

That’s when Phil almost out-thought himself and bid 6 No-Trump instead of 6 , to get the extra 10 points (990 instead of 980 in duplicate bridge). In the end, he played it safe and bid 6 . After two tricks and giving up the missing Ace of Diamonds, “Cy” claimed since the contract was pretty much a lay-down.

It turned out that 6 NT would have made, too, because Louie’s Ace of Diamonds was sitting in front of Phil’s King in the suit. That’s where “Cy” had his singleton, so if the Ace had been sitting behind Phil’s King in Joan’s hand, the NT contract would have gone Down by several tricks. In other words, since there was no way of knowing where the missing Diamond Ace was, for the extra 10 points, it wasn’t worth the risk bidding 6 NT.

It was the kind of hand where the Deep Finesse computerized hand records will tell you after a tournament that you didn’t get the maximum out of the hand, but you happily take the Small Slam and walk away with a top or a tie for tops anyway.

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